Category Archives: Tips for Grace-Filled Living

Airports and “Old Folks”

Day Two

Flying is amazing and can be tough. Assigned the middle two seats in a row of four in the centre of the plane,  we slid our sceptical bodies into place. One saving Grace was the 1/2 inch of clearance  forTom’s knees with the seat ahead. Our dreams of Tom pacing up and down the 18 inch aisles every time his hip started to complain, were the first to take flight. The youngish man, who sat on my left, smiled and said hello, as he sat down. So far, so good, I thought. He took one look at both of us and said, “Just wake me up anytime you need to  get up. I’m going home and I don’t sleep much on planes anyway.  He did get up willingly and with a smile, each time we asked. Now that’s an angel. I’m sure the quiet young man seated on Tom’s right  who slept for most of the flight, would have wakened If we had asked. Thankfully, we didn’t need to disturb him. We scouted over to my left and stood up as needed.

We arrived in Frankfurt, Germany at 11:05 Frankfurt time on Friday. We had lost 6 hours in real time. Neither of us had slept for even five minutes. Maybe it was excitement about the trip or maybe not. Regardless we felt like we were about 110 years old.

Tom hobbled off the plane and sank gratefully into the wheelchair.  We piled a carry-on and a knapsack on Tom’s lap. A friendly and strong young man, pushed Tom’s wheelchair and pulled a carry-on, down the endless corridors to the elevator. I limped along beside, my knapsack secure on my back. At the elevators, our wheelchair angel, passed us on to another angel, Katie, an enthusiastic youngish woman.  She looked at our papers. “Shaking her head,” she said, “You’ve ten hours to wait! We’ll go to the wheel chair lounge.”

“But we’re flying economy,” I answered.

“No matter.” She helped us settle on the two lounge chairs, organizing our luggage.  She pointed at the corner, “There’s coffee and tea right over there.  I’ll be back to take you for supper. If you need anything just ask at the desk.”

God’s angels certainly are caring for us, I thought.   The chairs were made of plastic wood, a little hard, at least we could stretch out. We slept for about an hour. My trip to the washroom revealed the children’s corner and a small bed. It was just big enough for me to curl up. Best of all, it had a slightly soft, one  inch thick cushion on it. I slept another hour, at which point both of us woke. Once again, Katie the wheelchair angel appeared. This time she whizzed us off in a golf cart, gave us a riding tour of that part of the airport and finally, deposited us at a Bavarian restaurant.

Of course, I took pictures of both food and restaurant. The meal was good, sort of. I ordered the traditional meatloaf slice and potato salad. The slice tasted a great deal like a giant hot dog. Tom, of course, reminded me that hotdogs are skinny frankfurters. Tom fared a little better with his pig’s knuckle. The best part of the meal was a sweet mustard sauce that transformed everything.

Our meal over, we retired to the nearby movie lounge. The big soft chairs, and charging station meant we could power up our technology and connect to the internet. Several hours passed. Tom laid down on the floor to sleep with his legs up on the chair, as he does sometimes at home.  I posted yesterday’s blog and answered a few emails. I couldn’t stay awake any longer. We gathered up our luggage and started to walk back to the lounge.  In less than a minute, angel Katie appeared, her golf cart a gift from heaven.  Two solid hours of sleep in the kid’s bed helped a great deal. When I woke up, I noticed a sign: “This area is only for unattended minors.” I chuckled and thought, that might describe the state of me at the moment.

At 9:00 p.m,. Katie ushered us to the gate for our flight for Johannesburg. We flew off into the sunset. This flight was longer, but more luxurious. We even had real stainless-steel cutlery with our late night dinner. It reminded me of flying Ward Air years ago. Of course, there was wine, beer and liquor aplenty to drink. The meal was served on formica dishes, not plastic. It tasted pretty good, too. International flights are radically different from Air Canada’s domestic ones.

David will pick us up at the airport in Johannesburg. I think I’ll sleep all day Saturday. It’s not the jet lag it’s the inability to sleep. Years ago, when I was flying to New Zealand the seats were bigger and the flights weren’t full. Yes, it was forever on the plane, but I could stretch out across three seats.

More angels tonight. They lifted and lugged suitcases, brought us headphones that actually worked, and helped us work the controls on the on-board entertainment system. I watched a movie, wrote this blog, read my book and just stayed busy instead of sleeping. At that point, I had become to tired to see the angels that surrounded me.

“A Gift of Love”

I offer you these thoughts for Mother’s Day.  As I post this I am very aware that not all women become biological mothers. Some are not able for many reasons. Some do not want to be mothers. Some take the place of mothers who for whatever reason are unable to fulfil their role as mothers. I was blessed with three fabulous children, and two mothers – one through adoption, and one biological. I needed to write this.

A Gift of Love

At the first of our Easter family gatherings this year, our niece told me she was pregnant. Her face radiated with joy as she shared her dreams and plans. Her youthful innocence and joy reminded me of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Like all young Jewish women of her time, Mary dreamed of being the mother of the Messiah. Her “yes” must have felt wonderful.

Being a mother comes with exhilarating, all-encompassing joy. Our hearts have moments of such intense feelings of love, purpose and caring that we have no words to express them. AND juxtaposed beside that joy are excruciating moments of pain, beginning with labour and delivery, continuing through the long nights of babyhood, the trials and worries of youth and more. Yet most of us in our darkest times would never give up being mothers.

In the Christian Easter story, the preciousness of the role of mother is lived out. Jesus spoke to his mother, Mary, from the torture of the cross, “Mother, here is your son.” And to his best friend, John, “Here is your mother.” In his culture, Jesus’ mother, a widow, needed her oldest son to survive. Even from the cross, Jesus ensured his mother’s security. Mary, her heart breaking at his suffering and death, receives also the joy of his love and caring.

Too many mothers, like Mary, have watched their child, ravaged by illness, physical and mental, for days, months and years. They know Mary’s pain. They understand the strength that Mary gained as she received her son’s gift of caring.

As Mary stood at the base of the cross, Mary still didn’t know the future. She didn’t know about the resurrection. She didn’t know that Jesus would still be living now, more than two thousand years later in the hearts of men and women who have come to love him.

We, Mothers, today, don’t know the future either as we live on the mountaintop and in the depths of despair. As I congratulated my niece that Sunday afternoon, I prayed that whatever the future holds for her and her child, she would always know the gift of love that comes with motherhood, precious beyond measure.

Who Am I????

All of God’s Children Are Loved, Even Me!

Modern theologian, Henri Nouwen says, “We are not what we do. We are not what others say about us. We are not what we have. We are each simply, like Jesus, God’s beloved child.” The main message of my three children’s books is “You are God’s precious child.” My goal is to plant seeds in the minds of my readers, children and parents, seeds of believing that they are loved unconditionally.

The first time I truly understood what this meant, I was speaking at the baptism of my Wfriend’s adopted child. I talked about the amazing joy that this child had brought into my friend’s home and how precious he was. As those words flowed from my heart, I heard for the first time that I had brought amazing joy as an adopted child to my parents. I had always been grateful to have a good home. Somehow, in my childhood l had missed the message that just by being alive, I had brought overwhelming joy – I had been God’s precious gift.

The second time that lesson was given to me, my supervisor in a unit of clinical pastoral education asked me to spend an entire week reading and praying with Isaiah 43: 1-4a. By the end of the week that last verse was written on my heart, “You are my precious child and I love you.”

When I fell and crushed a vertebra in my back, I received yet another opportunity to absorb God’s unconditional love. For nearly a year, I spent most of my time sitting in a zero-gravity chair, in order to manage the pain. Unable to care for others, unable to do, I learned that I was precious and loved just because I existed. At that point I was truly glad, “I was not what I did.” for then, I would have been nothing.

Never forget that both you and every person you meet – the gal with pink hair and a ring in her nose, the man with the swarthy skin, long black beard and a turban, your grandchild – each and every one of us is first and foremost God’s beloved child. Give God thanks.

Yea!!!!!! I’m Seventy-Five

“YEA!!!! I’m Seventy-Five

Today’s my birthday. I’m seventy-five. Friends tell me that is a special, milestone birthday. For me, each day is a milestone and a gift. This morning, “Our Daily Bread” book of reflections asked me, “How has the light of Christ turned my life from darkness to light?” I could fill a book with answers to that question. This is what my response was several hours ago.

Tom and I start each day with prayer together. He begins with, “Thank you God for our life of faith together.” I am so grateful that we are together and that we share a life of faith. Tom has been God’s gift of Grace for me since we met.

After my divorce, I spent five years in counselling. It takes two to build and two to destroy a relationship. It was easy to see my spouse’s responsibility in that destruction. I wanted to understand my responsibilities as well. I wanted to learn about them, accept them, accept God’s forgiveness and grow past them. And I did. Then I spent another seven years learning how to love myself and others in a healthy way. All of that prepared me for God’s precious gift of Tom. After nearly 16 years of marriage, he is and always will be God’s gift of love and Grace in my life.

God has been my companion since birth. I have been blessed with the love of two mother’s. Today I am so grateful that I have learned beyond doubt that I am God’s precious child and so is absolutely everyone else.  That is such life-giving knowledge. It changes my perception of every moment of every day.

I know that my next 25 years (?) will have challenges for sure. AND for sure God’s love will be with me, comforting me, guiding me, empowering me. I’ll have lots of love and laughter. I’ll have tears and frustration. And I know that with God all will be well.

What a delightful gift this morning, to have this blog and the opportunity to share my faith and delight in living.  For me, the light of Christ, my belief in the presence of God’s love with me and with the world, brings light to the darkness of my world every day. I am truly grateful.

” Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28: 19-20

Easter Joy

Easter Joy

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Easter Joy

When Mary Magdalene woke that first Easter morning, she and all of Jesus followers, first thoughts were, Jesus, our precious friend, our beloved teacher is dead. They killed him, crucified him. Our dreams, his dreams of transforming the world with God’s love, are destroyed. Her grief was total.

We can identify with Mary’s grief. We too have felt loss. For six weeks, I sat with my mother, held her in my arms as she suffered excruciating pain and the humiliation of a body ravaged by disease, on her journey to death. I wanted her agony to end. Yet, with her death, I felt deep, deep sadness knowing I would never again hear her voice on the phone, feel her loving arms around me. Grief is a terrible, aching, empty feeling. Anyone who has experienced the death of a child, a partner, a parent, a dear friend knows Mary’s desolation on that Easter morning.

It’s harder to identify with Mary’s joy, mostly because we come to Jesus’ story already knowing the ending. At the Good Friday service we knew we would be here this morning, singing Easter songs, shouting Hallelujah! Mary, knew the only ending for crucifixion was death and death was forever. On that morning, at the tomb in the garden, Mary experienced the overwhelming, unexpected joy of the miracle of the resurrection. She had been given back her beloved friend and teacher, her dreams, her future. She had been given new life.

What does Jesus’ resurrection mean for us, for you and me as individuals and for our world? Is there any unexpected overwhelming Easter joy for us? Or is Easter just a good story, a special church service, a wonderful family meal, the Easter bunny.

My understanding, my Easter joy, is based on my belief that God loves us so much that God chose to come and live among us in our limited human form, in a man named Jesus. God walked this earth feeling our temptations, our pain, our grief, our joy. In Jesus’ gifts of preaching and healing and loving, God taught us about God’s unconditional love, God’s forgiveness would always be there waiting for us. In Jesus resurrection God gave us the most precious gift of all, an unexpected gift, the understanding, the illustration that God’s love for us cannot be defeated or destroyed.

We repeat our Easter story year after year because we need to relearn that lesson, to receive that gift over and over again. God came in Jesus, living free and unconditional love and we object. Mistakes, failures, must be punished. Maybe  not an eye for an eye, but for sure punishment for ourselves and for others. We say the words, God’s love is unconditional, but in our hearts too often we believe God’s love must be earned. God can’t be always waiting to forgive. That’s just too easy. Cheap Grace we call it.” And yet from the agony of the cross God spoke through Jesus, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

I have Easter joy, because I know my need for forgiveness, for God’s unconditional love. There have been times when I have done things I’m ashamed off, or not done things I should have done and others have suffered. And there will be times, hopefully different times in the future when I need God’s forgiveness again.

AND, I play my part in humanity’s collective sins. I am blessed to live in this beautiful country with abundant water, and I waste some almost every day. I know there are people right here in Canada who have been under a boil water warning for years. Do I do anything? Do I even ask questions? I have a warm lovely home and I am grateful. Still, I know that our country has a housing shortage. There are people living under bridges, in hostels, safe houses. Am I doing anything to help?

As a society some of us eat until our tummies aches while others are hungry.

Many of us stand by while others suffer injustice. Most of us add to the pollution of our beautiful planet every day.

The list of our sins is endless. Our need for God’s unconditional love and forgiveness goes deep. Yes, knowing our Easter story. Knowing that God already has defeated death. Knowing God’s forgiveness is waiting for us, waiting for us to wake up and turn our lives around is wonderful.

AND even more than that, knowing that new life, transformation is happening is spectacular. We receive unexpected glimpses of the resurrection every day. Every day, someone somewhere loves as God would have us love.

The unexpected Good News is that God is overcoming the cruelty, the violence of this world, one person at a time. Goodness is happening. Transformation is possible. Dreams of a world of peace and love, where we share and care are possible. Easter tells us to wake up, hear and live the Good News, God loves us unconditionally, God empowers us to transform the world. And God will not be defeated. Hallelujah. There is hope. Thanks be to God. Amen

 

Me Compete? Really?

Me Compete? Really?

Today I am competing in a slam. I’m not a competitor at least not in a formal way. I love to play games and enjoy winning. Still I enjoy losing as well. I play for the fun of it. I’m not interested in prizes. Games are more fun without them. There’s no stress or pressure. I seldom send my manuscripts into a publisher because I don’t like rejection. For me there is no thrill in the competition. Yet for some unknown reason I voluntarily entered this slam. No one suggested I enter, or coerced me.

Last month I went to my writer’s group meeting in Whitby and heard, for about the third time, about this slam competition. Tell a story from memory in no more than three minutes. The thought entered my mind,  maybe I could do that. That thought took up residence, surfacing now and then, every day. Finally, two weeks ago, I filled out the registration form and sent the email. Why not? What do I have to lose?

When thoughts like that persist in my mind, I tend to listen to them. Usually I blame God for them. This time I just doggedly prepared and practiced my three minute story. As the days have passed my stress level has risen. I’ve spent the last few days wondering why am I doing this, especially now as I am preparing for the Easter services at Lakefield United Church? What kind of a masochist am I? I hate this kind of thing.

This morning I rose earlier than I needed. Good I thought. I’ll do my morning devotions. I opened “Our Daily Bread”. Today’s reading affirmed the assurance of God’s presence in all we do.

I chuckled and said thank you. Of course, you’re with me in this foolishness God. Of course, you will support me. I truly believe in your presence always. Yes, I was foolish to enter. Yet, I am as ready as possible. Yes, stress my turn me into a stuttering idiot. Does it matter? No God is with me. God will use this, is already using this experience to teach me and others. The teaching is not my job. My job is the doing.

So I ask you my followers. pray for me this morning. I’m going to need your support.

Have a blessed day. Remember you will be a blessing to others whether you know it or not.

What Are We Eating?

                                               What Are We Eating?                                                     (Image by Geralt on Pixabay)

At this point in my life, I am blessed with nine grandchildren, ranging in age from twenty-eight to three. They are all wonderful of course. As I interact with them, I am aware that there is one principle about relationships and facilitating another’s growth that is universal.

We all grow best when we are fed healthy, positive thoughts. What a difference it makes when we envelop a child or an adult in praise. I remember years ago when my own children were young, we arrived at a point where we were experiencing problems with our middle child. Each morning, when I placed my feet on the cold floor, I would promise myself – Before I scold my beloved son today for doing something wrong, (for I knew it would happen), I will find something positive to praise in what he has done or who he is. Some days that was a difficult promise to keep. Once I got started, I discovered that gradually the task became easier. As I fed my son healthy positive statements, his behaviour began to improve. The reality is we all respond better to love and praise than to criticism and denigration.

Today, I’m considering this principle in relation to our world. For the last decade and longer, the news media has fed us mostly information about the violence and destruction in our world. Many of us have reached the point that we try not to listen to it anymore. Some of us seem to delight in repeating the horror that is happening. WE ARE BEING FED HOPELESSNESS.

I believe it’s time to introduce some healthy, positive knowledge into our diet. It’s time to hear about the good things that are happening in our world. It’s time to be presented with the love and generosity, the random acts of kindness, the loving responses to disaster, the goodness that is present in our world. I believe that over time, the people of our world will hear the good, take it in, and rise up to become the people that God created us to be.

How can this turn-around happen? Once again, it will take each of us to promise to to search out and identify the positive things, the moments of honesty, caring, compassion, generosity that are happening. We can do it, because God is with us, and nothing is impossible with God.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things… And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9 NIV)

Computer Overload!!!

Image by Geralt

Last Wednesday, people gathered at our church in Keene from many of the area churches. My job was to check off the names as people arrived and to collect their payment for lunch. I sat behind a table ready and willing to do this simple job. I knew most of the people on my list. Welcoming them was fun at first.

Very quickly a line formed in front of me. The sound of many people talking and laughing kept increasing. As the line grew longer, and the noise grew louder, my stress level rose. My brain reacted like an overloaded computer. The names of people I knew well totally disappeared from my mind. I was embarrassed and frustrated. Why doesn’t God help me, I thought.

Sometimes our lives are like that. When the going gets tough, the noise of pain, illness, stress, worry, fear, overloads our heart and we cry out. “Why don’t you help me God?” Our minds fill with questions like: Does God truly care? Does God even exist? We feel as if God has disappeared. We’re lost and alone.

Last Wednesday, during a break in the line, I reached out to Joan who was helping with the name tags. I told her of my distress. God’s love shone through Joan’s smile and her words of comfort as she shared similar experiences and gave me encouragement. She told a funny story. We laughed. Our brief break ended as another big group came through the door. This time I felt just a little different, more relaxed, more able to admit my brain overload. People shared their stories of senior moments. God cared for me through Joan and the people in line.

Once again I was reminded, when we feel overwhelmed and God seems to have disappeared, all I need do is reach out. Share my story with someone. The Good News is that God is with me, always. When I open up, God can use the people around me to help.

“The Fitzgeralds” in Concert

The Keene United Church Concert Committee is pleased to announce that “the Fitzgeralds” are coming to Keene on Sunday afternoon, March 31st at 2:00 p.m.

This fabulous family group offer fabulous fiddling and amazing stepdancing. Tickets are just $25. Come fora chile lunch at 12:30 in the church hall. And no night driving. By March 31st the snow will be gone as well. Get your tickets from Linda at 705-295-4770 for Bette at 705-295-6203 or click the contact me on my website. Hope to see you there. Janet

Love Covers A Multitude of Sins

Unconditional Love

On Valentine’s Day we talk about love, especially love for spouse. The stores tell us to buy a gift – usually an expensive gift – but at least a card for that special person in our life. Over and over, and not just at Valentine’s Day, we are encouraged to speak words of love to our children, our spouse, our friends. “Tell them you love them before it’s too late,” is the command.

The Bible adds another dimension to the discussion about love. “Above all love each other, because love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)

“Love covers a multitude of sins.” What a beautiful thought. St. Paul is speaking of unconditional love. It’s not that love wipes away those sins. It’s that we love anyway. As human beings we are aware of our child’s, our spouse’s failings. Often those failings are aggravating, frustrating. We worry about their consequences. We believe this child has to learn another way. Sometimes those failings cause us or other’s pain. This short bible verse tells us that our love continues to flow in spite of what we do or say or think.

For me, this verse speaks about forgiveness – not forgetfulness, not acceptance – but forgiveness. I remember hearing a story long ago about a conversation between two people – Linda and George. They were discussing their spouses.

George said, “How do you cope with the fact that your husband squeezes the toothpaste tube in the middle. My wife does that. It drives me crazy.”

Linda answered, “When we got married I decided that every time I was irritated I would write down the irritation and at some point I would discuss it with Lenny. Once the irritation is on the list, I let go of it. Over the years, I’ve discovered there are many more important things to discuss, than some of the ones on my list. Important things like how we spend our next vacation, which house to buy, the time he lost his job through downsizing, my mother’s illness. That list of irritations never seems important enough to give it air time. Loving, caring for each other always takes precedence.

“Love covers a multitude of sins,” is a very important principle. It carries us through to forgiveness so that bitterness does not spawn and grown.