Category Archives: Blog

A Challenge for you!

Seeing with my heart.

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.

Failure is not an option.

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.

2020 A Year for Trusting

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.

Who or what gives you direction?

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)

Myth or Reality? Your Choice

Stars and Angels on Christmas Eve

Myth or Reality? Your Choice.

Is Christmas just a myth, an ancient story of something that maybe happened long ago and far away? Is the traditional story of God taking on human form just a repeat of the Greek myths from the past.

Not for me. I believe that the message of our beautiful and tough traditional Christmas story is true, not just for back then but for today as well. I’m not sure about all the details, but I truly believe that God, our Creator, did join the human race, did become human flesh in Jesus. God came as Emmanuel, God with us, to teach us how to love one another, to save us from ourselves.

Our Christmas story is so much more than a story of the past. God is born in each and every child all over the world. That means that, even in you and me, there is a spark of God. We have this camp song:

                It only takes a spark to get a fire going.

                And then all those around can warm up to its glowing.   

                That’s how it is in God’s world.

                It’s fresh like spring. You want to sing. You want to pass it on.

Our traditional Christmas story carries this truth of Christmas. God was born in me and everyone at our birth. That spark is so strong that nothing can put it out. I believe the angels rejoiced and sang at our birth. We did nothing to earn that spark of God. Our job is to fan the flame. Last Sunday, Rev. Nancy reminded me of an ancient Cherokee story.

A young boy and his grandpa were talking. “Why is there evil in the world?,” the young boy asked.

Grandpa thought for a long time and then he told this story. “I believe there are two wolves within each of us. One wolf leads us to be selfish, to lust for power, to lie, to be greedy, mean and cruel. The other wolf leads us to kindness, sharing, loving, caring. These wolves are always fighting each other.”

“Which wolf wins?” the boy asked.

“Well, you see, son, the grandpa said. “The one you feed becomes the strongest and wins.”

Our Christmas story tells us that God is born within us. When we feed the spark of God’s Spirit with kindness, sharing, loving, caring, the spark becomes a flame and brings light to all we meet. As each of our flames grow, peace and love grow in this world.

I encourage you to fan the flame that is growing within you. I remind you that nothing you can do or say, or anyone else can do or say, will ever be able to completely kill that spark within you. It may seem very tiny at times, but it will always be there, waiting.

Come Join the Advent Adventure

Come, Join the Adventure!

Flying standby can be an adventure. It’s Friday. You’re flying standby into a busy airport. You find yourself watching plane after plane take off without you. That’s when your mind needs to shift to adventure mode. What new and exciting things are happening around you? After all, you will eventually get on a flight, today or tomorrow.

December’s here. Many of us are “flying standby,” hoping to catch the “right plane” to be ready for Christmas. As we scramble around, shopping, cooking, cleaning and more, it’s easy to lose touch with the amazing adventure that is the Christmas journey to Bethlehem. 

Our traditional Christmas story celebrates the birth of the baby Jesus, who came as God to walk beside us, to live within us, to teach us how to love this world. I know that’s a miracle.

As I prepare for Christmas, I’m asking that mysterious Christmas Spirit to lead me to hope for your life and mine. I know the gifts I give can bring joy and love into the darkness of this world. With each Christmas light I see, I can remember that kindness and generosity do exist. I can remember my experiences of them. Kindness and generosity don’t often make the headlines of newspapers, but these acts can remain headlines in my heart.

This Christmas, I invite you to join with me on an adventure to Bethlehem. I offer you this prayer of hope and love to guide your journey. Print it out and tape it to your fridge or mirror. Pray it every day.

Loving God, open my heart to pour love into this world. May every decoration I set out, every gift I give, every party I attend, every cookie I bake, bring love’s light. May our home be filled with the joy of love and laughter to all who enter. Focus my mind and heart on the adventure of loving this year. Thank you for this season of light. Amen

Even if we’re “flying standby,” we can live an adventure to Bethlehem. There is hope for a new tomorrow.

“God’s light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

 (John 1: 5)

Christmas is coming.

And many more.

November 30, from 1-4 p.m. I will be joining a group of local authors at the new Peterborough Library. The library has opened its doors to showcase our books, invite people to come and meet us and discuss them, and allow us to sell them. Books are a gift of literacy, not just for children but for people of all ages. There will be lots of variety. Please come join us. An autographed book makes a wonderful gift at Christmas and anytime throughout the year.

On Saturday December 14th from 9-3, I will be joining with a group of other vendors at Keene United Church. It is the annual Christmas in Keene event. Come to the parade and then over to the church to get warm, and to do your Christmas shopping. I will have all eight of my books there. In honour of Spectacular Stella, one of my favorite children’s books, you can sample a gluten free shortbread star cookie. Come, taste and see how could gluten free can be, while you shop for my books. An autographed book makes a great Christmas gift. Besides, I’ll enjoy visiting with you. Blessings to you all. Janet Stobie

Give a Gift of Faith

Marketing is not my strong point but it’s Christmas and time to sell my books. Friday evening I was at Maple Ridge Senior’s Centre here in Peterborough and Saturday I drove to Fergus, ON to attend the inaugural meeting of the Western Ontario Waterways Region. Between the two, fifty books flew off my shelf. Can I Hold Him? was my best seller at 16. The two children’s books Elizabeth Gets Her Wings and Spectacular Stella came in second. Grandma’s, parents, some of whom were church people, wanted my Christmas books, either as gifts for family or for use at Christmas events. It’s wonderful to know that my books, and my message of love and acceptance and faith would be in fifty new homes.

I forgot to take a picture at either place, which of course is what a good marketer would do. So I’m suggesting that even without the picture you consider giving a gift of faith this Christmas to family, friends and even a stranger. Tuck one of my books into the church baskets that go out to families in needs or as part of the church gifts for shut-ins. All you need do is email me. If you live in the Peterborough area I could deliver at no charge. Further afield, you can do an etransfer and I’ll mail them. My email address is info@janetstobie.com If you’d like to sample my books just check them out here on my website www.janetstobie.com Christmas shopping couldn’t be easier. Besides I sign them at no extra charge. Blessings Janet

It Was Good.

Last Sunday, I brought a new friend to church. Back home, she attended a different church. My mind focused on “What will she think of us?  Will our kind of church touch her heart?” Seeing our church family through what I thought might possibly be her eyes gave me some new insights.

We sing a lot during our worship service. In today’s world singing together is almost foreign to us. We might sing in the shower or along with the car radio. But singing together? Not so much. Therefore, many of us are very tentative about our singing. We go through the motions. We stand up. We hold the heavy hymn book. We sing, carefully, making sure our voices cannot be heard, hardly moving our lips with the words.

Why do we sing at worship? There are denominations who don’t. I am sure there is lots of science about singing but here is what singing does for me.

  1. First of all, the standing up to sing is good. If I was getting dozy, I wake up a little.
  2. Singing requires breathing more deeply. The more enthusiastic I am about singing, the deeper my breaths. I know deeper breathing is good for me. Increased oxygen in my bloodstream will help me think more clearly, have more energy all day.
  3. I have to pay attention. Singing requires that I look at the words. My mind cannot wander to my worries, what’s happening at home or with my friends, and still sing the words.
  4. The better I know the tune, the more attention and energy I can give to the words and the singing.
  5. The energy we give to singing warms up the room. A lively tune often brings smiles.
  6. Singing is something we do together. In the past, families traditionally gathered around the piano, or the family musician and sang. Those moments brought laughter and tears. We opened our hearts to one another
  7. Singing requires an action on our part. We’re not just sitting, trying to listen. We are participating.  
  8. When we sing God’s Spirit is released to grow in our being and fill the room.                               

No wonder we sing. I’ve learned that when we sing together, we open our hearts and invite God in. Maybe that’s why we’re often so tentative.

Even more important than our singing, I learned last Sunday, that I love these people. I may not know many of them very well, but I love them. I was proud of their generosity of spirit and their welcoming hearts. For me, church has always been a warm welcoming place. And last Sunday, IT WAS GOOD!

Today I want to tell the world. Being part of a church family is GOOD! Ignore the criticism you have heard. Choose a church. Make it your own.  You will be blessed.                                                  

Leaders for Peace

Tomorrow is Remembrance Day. Whether or not we go to a local cenotaph and participate in a Remembrance Day ritual, all of us can take two minutes to Remember. Two minutes to remember and give thanks for the soldiers – many of European descent, some First Nations, some Asian, some African… who fought in wars in other countries on behalf of Canada. Two minutes to remember and give thanks for our peace keepers, who have risked their lives in so many countries. Two minutes to remember that we are blessed to live in this country called Canada.

Tomorrow and every day thereafter, I encourage you to think about your role. We may not be soldiers, but we can still contribute. For some weeks, I have been working on a children’s picture book. My working title is “Leaders for Peace.” Today, I am so aware that God is calling us all to be leaders for peace, in our communities and beyond.

Today, I listened to the radio and heard one of our government leaders shouting his demands for his province. Is that being a leader for peace, or is it sowing discord, inciting violence? In Canada, we have freedom to be who we are, to live our lives without fear of bombs. We have freedom to be different, to think differently, to worship differently, to look different. As long as we don’t bring harm to others, we are free. That is an amazing blessing. We give thanks for our freedom in that two minutes of silence. Tomorrow, take that opportunity to ask God for help in being a leader for peace.