Today we went to a funeral and I met a young man I hadn’t seen for fifteen years. I received a wonderful blessing from God when I heard about his new life. We had walked together with his grief, and today he has joy. Once again he thanked me for my help in the past. Once again I experienced the privilege and honor of being part of another persons pain and joy. God’s call to me to serve through loving my neighbour was amazing. Saying yes, has filled my cup to overflowing. I am truly blessed.
Yesterday’s Bible was titled Jesus Calls the First Disciple (Mark 1:16-20). Even as a teenager this simple well known passage always presented problems for me. After all, what self-respecting fisherman would just drop his nets, give up his livelihood and take a chance on an unknown itinerant preacher. With some research and some thinking, I began to see this scene with new eyes. First of all, Simon, Andrew, James and John were probably Jesus’ contemporaries and maybe even his friends. Chances are they had heard Jesus preach often. Together they may have laid plans for travelling together. Often when we read the Bible, or any news story, we get the end result of a long process. Probably the hardest part of leaving to follow Jesus, would be accepting this Jesus whom they had known for a long time, as their leader.
In the church we use this passage to talk about following Jesus today. Can we answer God’s call? What is God calling us to do? Most of us tend to clutch tightly the net of our lives as they are. Our fingers are entwined the nets webbing and we struggle with letting go.
I remember my call to write, publish books and tell stories. First, God pushed me to tell stories as a break from the regular sermons I was preaching each week. Then my congregations pushed me to gather my stories together for publication. I thought about that and prayed about it for several years. Finally, I took half a step, let go of the net with one hand, and accepted a part time position so I would have more time to write. Five years later I was ready to let go both hands and move into this new ministry of writing. For some of us it takes many years of hearing God’s call before we finally relinguish our hold on our lives and say yes to God. When the yes finally comes, suddenly it feels as if we have literally just dropped our nets to follow Jesus. It is only then that this scripture passage makes sense. Although the process was long, interesting, and often challenging, the final yes just blends it all together. In many ways we feel as if God called and we dropped our lives and followed.
This morning I read Deuteronomy 6:1-12. It reminded me to remain focused on God, in all that I do and think. Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love God with all that’s in you, love God with all you’ve got. That sounds so simple, and yet it is profoundly difficult. Like everyone else I get focused on what I am doing or worrying about and I leave God behind. With something as simple as preparing a meal, or walking the dog, we can forget God.
Every morning for several years I read from a book titled “Simple Abundance”. One of the best meditations spoke of preparing your family’s meal as an act of worship. This is what I gleaned from that reading. As I peel the potatoes, I need to ask God to peel from my being all the mistakes I have made this day, all the times I have lost my patience, been cross, wished I were somewhere else. My prayer is, “As these potatoes cook, God, cook your love into me that I might be tasty nourishment for my family and friends. With each item I prepare for tonight’s dinner Lord, I offer you a prayer for someone I love deeply.” Preparing a meal can be an act of love for God and for others if I want it to be. It requires God’s help, God’s reminder.
Living with my focus on God, requires intentionality, at least at first. Like everything else, we get better at it with practice. One thing I have learned over the years is that remembering God in all I think and do brings God’s peace into my life.
When I first started this blog I planned to write a daily reflection on scripture or some other thought or event. So today, I am stepping onward to that purpose. This morning I focused on Psalm 16. It is a Psalm of celebrating life with God. Today, these two lines stood out for me.
“You show me the path of life.
In your presence there is joy.”
Lately I have been feeling overwhelmed. I see all the stuff I want to do – write, sell my books, enjoy my family and husband, play with my friends, support anyone I know who is hurting, care for myself physically and mentally…the list is endless. So this morning I prayed, “You show me, God, you show me what you want for my life. Lay out my days.” or as this Psalm says, “You show me the path of life, God. In your presence there is joy.”
Jesus said,”I am the way…follow me…and I will give you rest.” What was Jesus’ pattern? What is Jesus’ way? Immediately into my mind comes, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbour as yourself.” Jesus clearly said that all people were our neighbours, not just the people like us. And so I say to myself this morning, I will love and care for all people, one at a time as I encounter them. I will love my wonderful grandchildren and the ‘brat’ at the library, church, school…who won’t sit still, won’t listen, continually pokes and pushes the other children. I will love the teen I see volunteering at the hospital and the teen that throws stones at the streetlight just to hear the glass break. I will love my long time neighbour and the Moslem stranger the world has taught me to fear. In doing this I will become aware of God’s presence and experience joy, not happiness necessarily but joy. Joy because for a few moments I will have let go of myself, my fear, my judgment, my anger and I will have rested with God.
These are the thoughts I wrote this morning as part of my daily prayer time. I offer them to any who wish to read.
Home is wonderful. Framed by my dining room window are vivid splashes of gold waving in the wind against the glistening black tree trunks. The rain has made everything more vivid. God’s amazing creation is magnificent. Each morning Tom and I give thanks to God for the privilege of living in this place.
Note from Connellsville, Pennsylvania
We had a short time at home before we were on the road again. This time we were called south of the border to Connelsville, Pennsylvania. The mother of my bestfriend, (a fifth sister)died on Tuesday evening. We got here Monday night. Already it’s Saturday night, and we’re leaving for home tomorrow. I’ll write more about this trip tomorrow.
This is the last instalment of our trip. We’re traveling down highway 69 south. Just like a pair of horses that have been turned toward the barn, we’re going home. The last five days have been grand, just like this whole trip.
Wednesday morning and afternoon we stopped at several churches in Sault Ste Marie. They received us joyfully buying books and telling us about their ministry. The Bible Book store down town gave us the brush off. They weren’t interested in books written by a United Church Minister, but this lovely little bookstore in the Wellington mall understood the ministry of hospitality and acceptance.
Most of our customers are Roman Catholic, the owner said, a loving smile shining from her face. We’ll buy two and see how they do. Give me your business card, we’ll be glad to order more.
We followed that pleasant encounter by visiting one more United Church, and discovering that this pastor had been at General Council too. After sharing memories and hopes, she bought the books and sent us on our way.
The distance to Sudbury seemed much greater than I had planned. We arrived at my sister Sharon’s at 7:00 p.m. “I don’t cook,” she said, “as she popped rolls into the oven, “but supper’s ready.”
We enjoyed lasagna, Caesar sald, rolls warm from the oven and tarts. Everything tasted scrumptious. For the last three and half days, we were wrapped in the Sharon’s loving arms. I felt as if I had come home. We visited and walked, sold books around the city, went to the Imax theatre and relaxed on her balcony.
This morning, I read Spectacular Stella for the Children’s time and told “An Ancient Love Story “ as the message at St. James In the Valley United Church. Tom sang a solo that went with the theme of the service. This congregation supported me as I became a candidate for ministry twenty years ago. We ended our journey surrounded with old friends. Acceptance and love surrounded us. Of course, we sold books.
We’ve been taking orders for Can I Hold Him, during the last week or so, as all the copies we had with us are sold. There are still a few copies of Stella but very few. We left home with two cases of Can I Hold Him and one case of Stella (held more than the other two since Stella is thin). We’ve left books in book stores in the cities that we visited. Afew are out on cconsignment but not many. Our book trip is a resounding success.
We’ve had a wonderful time together. Tom and I are truly partners and friends. Now, we are anxious to get home. Tomorrow life begins in a new way. I’ve a golf game scheduled weather permitting, and Tom’s Bethel course starts in the evening.
Hallelujah! Thank You God. We’re home.
It’s been a long drive to Sault Ste Marie through rugged mountains and past trees and sparkling blue lakes. Lake Superior is another sacred place. For most of the journey to Wawa, we glimpsed the shining lake waters through the trees. We stopped for a late lunch at a roadside park just past Rossport. The road led us down to the shoreline, where we found picnic tables and the essential outhouses. It was easy to say thank you to God for this place. Like Moses, we took off our shoes, rolled up our trousers and waded into the lake. Expecting the water to be frigid, we were surprised to find it quite comfortable.
“Look at all the pretty rocks. Let’s collect some for Ellie,” I said.. “Well, probably the rest of the grandchildren will like some too. We’ll have to get lots.” What followed wwas a delightful half hour gathering stones and talking to the other people who had broken their journey in this beautiful spot.
Refreshed and fed, we traveled on. Five p.m. found us driving into Wawa.
“We’ve gone far enough,” Tom said as he rubbed his eyes. The first motel had no pet free rooms so we took a room at the Sportman Motel. It’s just fine. Of course, not posh like the Sleeping Giant B&B, but quite adequate. At the restaurant down the road, Tom was complaining a bit. I reminded him that we were back in our own territory now. We can’t travel with the rich every day. When our dinner came it was scrumptious. Once fed we felt much better. We took a drive through town and found a big United Church as well as three other churches, and a beautiful lake and beach. The Laundromat was closed. Guess we’ll just carry our dirty clothes a little further. We might have enough clean stuff to get to Sharon’s.
Tonight there is a chill in the air. “I think fall must finally be starting to come,” I said.
Tom replied, “Don’t be too sure, I think it’s just the wind blowing across the water.”
Sept. 12 & 13
We spent two full days in Thunder Bay. Saturday morning I wandered and meditated in Sonja’s garden. We took pictures of the seven different garden rooms she had created with flowers, trees, and arbors. Sonja is an artist. She and her partner were friendly, welcoming and interesting. Breakfast was fabulous. We decided the experience was well worth every dollar. In the end it was no more expensive than an reasonably priced hotel when we considered the breakfast. In conversation with our hosts we mentioned our love of dancing.
“I’ll call my friends Daniel and Michelle. They’re going dancing tonight. I’m sure they’ll be glad to take you with them,” Sonja responded.
We spent the afternoon downtown at the sidewalk fair. We found a wonderful Christian Book store called Hull’s Family Book Store.
“We’ve been in business here for 91 years,” Sarah the owner said. (She looked to be about 30). “We like to support Canadian Christian Authors. Yes, I’ll buy your books, just four of each to start. When they sell I’ll order more. I own two other stores, one in Winnipeg and one in Steinbach. I’ll see about getting some for them too.”
Sarah was friendly, helpful and affirming. We went to Staples for more business cards, had supper, and returned to the B&B happy with our day, and excited about going dancing.
Danielle and Michelle were great. We had a grand evening and were ready for sleep.
Sunday morning we drove out to Camp Duncan where four downtown United Churches from ThunderBay were gathering for worship. Tom had talked with Janice Stevenson one of the ministers involved on Saturday. He brought along his guitar and helped with the music. The service was meaningful and fun. The sun kept trying to shine and God’s Son did shine through the people of the four congregations. We were welcomed and fed both spiritually and physically. And we sold books as well as recommending that people go to Hull’s.
On the way home we went to the Amethyst Mine Panorama. A tourist trap yes, yet interesting and fun. We did some mining for amethysts and got a handful of unpolished stones to bring home. We also sold the store clerk two books. All in all it was a good day, and it wasn’t over yet. Daniel and Michelle had invited us to go dancing with them again that evening. This time it was a dancing lesson. Tom and I learned a bit, got some exercise and enjoyed ourselves. Afterward we went for coffee with our new friends. Michelle even bought a copy of “Can I Hold Him?”.
This morning I was up early to do my meditation in the sun room and watch the sunrise. Once again we had a scrumptious breakfast. It was time to load the car and head towards the Sault. The Sleeping Giant B&B has been a fabulous experience, the house the garden and especially Sonja and Dick. The wonder of this journey is that the blessings never end.
By eight a.m. today, we were on the road heading for Thunder Bay. I had been dreading this part of the drive. Trees, I thought, it will be eight hours of trees. Well, there were trees, yes, lots of trees. The trees came in every shape and shade imaginable. Around almost every corner the trees opened up to a beautiful blue lake, sparkling in the sunshine. Then the trees would close in again. There were miles of rock cuts, some 30-40 feet high, revealing every colour – pinks, blue greys, rusts, even blacks. Once again God overwhelmed me with the beauty of creation. We stopped in Kenora at Ho Jo’s coffee shop and bookstore. It’s owner bought my books outright (Hallelujah), and we bought coffee, a delicious muffin and a Kenora Misty Tea Latte. That was a huge improvement on my milky tea and only half the calories of a cappuccino.
In Dryden we were directed to a wonderful book and gift shop called Inspirations. The owner, Holly, said “This store is my ministry, and I love it. It’s like being surrounded with candy. I’ve got my dream.” Holly also bought my books outright. Her enthusiasm for my books and for her store was catching. The visit certainly gave us a blessing from God.
Arriving in Thunder Bay at supper time, we decided it would be best to get our motel room and then eat. I got out the list and we tried to call. The cell phone acted strange. We went to a shopping centre looking for a pay phone. We stopped at a Kiosk that sold cell phones (not Telus of course). A very pleasant, friendly, helpful young man informed us that Telus had no contract with the Thunder Bay Cell System. He loaned us his phone. We started with B&B’s. After two “no answers” and one “no vacancy” our frustration level on an empty stomach was rising. Tom dialed the “Sleeping Giant B&B”. They had space and the price was manageable. “She sounds nice,” Tom said, his hand over the phone. “Let’s take it.” The same helpful young man got out the phone book map and explained how to get to the B&B and to Montana’s. We took a deep breath and went to eat.
God must have been smiling on us. Supper was good and the B&B wonderful. Our hostess showed us our room – the Green room with pictures of Anne of Green Gables here and there, a wonderful ensuite bath, a sun room to relax in and beautiful flower gardens to enjoy in the morning.