Category Archives: courage

God Works in Mysterious Ways – Monday, we arrive.

It’s hard to believe that I haven’t written all week. Well I have but only in my journal. Tom and I are enjoying London at our leisurely pace. We get up when we naturally waken, enjoy breakfast and then we’re off – 10 a.m.  We return here after supper. Yes, we could see more but this pace suits us. Now for the last few days.

God Works in Mysterious Ways

God’s angels have literally surrounded us.  We ended up taking a taxi from the airport to our Air b&b. Not our intention of course. We started by having a caring London information agent at the airport setting up an Uber ride for us. Tom and I are obviously not suited for Uber. The first one cancelled. The second one we thought was booked wasn’t. We gave up after an hour of failure, and called a taxi. The info agent was an angel for sure, but this taxi driver must have had direct instructions from the Almighty. He had to park his unmarked cab (Mercedes) and come searching for us, as we stood their waiting for a SkyX taxi. He loaded us and all our luggage and we finally pulled out of the airport, travelling in total luxury.

Tom looked around the cab, saw no credit card signs and said, “You do take AMEX or VISA, I hope. That’s what the cab company said.”

At the next traffic light and our driver looked around at us. “You paid over the phone?”

“No.”

“I have no way of processing a card in the taxi.”

“We have no English money.”

“Can we stop at a bank?” I asked.

“Certainly.”

“We stopped at a bank fairly close to our Air B&B. I hopped out. The bank machine defeated me. I went inside and waited in line. (Always lots of lines in London). At the wicket the clerk callously said, “you have to go outside to the machine. We can’t take your cards – not any of them. Even though I was desperate for the “loo” at this point, I had the sense to say, “Is there a limit on withdrawals.”

“Yes, 300 pounds.”

I returned to the machine and requested only 300 pounds. Almost immediately the paper money spewed forth. I tore back to the car, well aware of the cost of keeping a taxi waiting in Canada.

Problem number two – we couldn’t find the Air B&B. We found the street and drove back and forth. No sign of number 19. By this time Tom and I were both desperate for the Loo.

“We’ll check at this hotel,” the driver said.

“Good,” I replied. Throwing caution to the wind, I added, “Can we go to the ‘loo’ here.”

“Certainly,” he replied. “I need to go too.”

He shepherded us into the hotel and helped us find the appropriate places. By the time I returned to the foyer, the driver had instructions.

He parked the car, unloaded us and then dragged our two biggest suitcases, with a carry on top of one, to the bottom of 25 steps. We all looked up. “I’ll help,” he said.

He took us to our building. We had no key. We called. The person who answered said, “follow the instructions in the email, I sent you.”

We had no email. We, of course, were not yet on wifi and not using our cell phone because of roaming charges. “Please send it again.”

We turned on our phone and got the email.

“You’ll be ok then,” the driver asked.

“Yes,” I replied. “How much do we owe you.” In my head I was expecting the entire 300 pounds. Uber was supposed to cost between 60 and 70 pounds from the airport. This accommodating driver sighed and said, “Would 70 pounds be okay.” I grinned and handed him 80 pounds and we thanked him profusely. We even told him he was our angel for the day.

Eventually, we got keys, got inside and said, “We’re here, in London, a dream come true.”

 

An Amazing Opportunity!!!!

Hi Friends,

As you know, we are in Johannesburg, South Africa with my son Dave and his family. Dave and Jo teach at the international school of Johannesburg. Granddaughter Jenna graduates grade 12 this year and will be returning to Canada to study at Queens in Kingston.

This letter is about one of Jenna’s classmates and sports teammates, Noni   Dube .

Noni is an amazing young woman. At the end of grade 7, in her township school, Noni earned a scholarship to the International School of Johannesburg. Her courage, intelligence, enthusiasm and hard work, have now earned her a 4 yr. tuition scholarship to Trent University in Peterborough. For a foreign student to study in Canada, they must have the money up front to cover accommodation, food, return flight, books etc.  Noni lives in one of the “townships” of South Africa.  Although her single parent Mom, is hardworking, she could never amass that kind of money.

Noni wants to study overseas because she understands that an international education will empower her to help her people. Already she is part of a program to help young girls from her township stay in school. Obviously a top student, excellent athlete and team player, Noni is loved by everyone around her.

I believe that education is the first step to world peace.  As Mother Theresa so wisely said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.  This is our opportunity to share our abundant blessings through supporting Noni.

Noni’s teammates have opened a “Go Fund Me” site for Noni.

Please click Noni’s page  .  Read about Noni and her accomplishments. Please contribute to this beautiful young woman’s future. She needs your help, to help others.

 

 

Flying on God’s Spirit

Flying on God’s Spirit

I’ve been reading The Piano Shop on the Left Bank by T.E.Carhart. It’s not an exciting adventure story but it is a fascinating presentation of piano’s and playing them to make music for your soul. In the Chapter called The Master Class, a famous pianist, named Sebok, speaks, “The best technique is one that does not exist, a kind of disappearing act so the real focus is on where the technique comes from: an inner calm…not the same as relaxation…” rather from all human emotions but not fear. “Music is blocked by fear…There is no such thing as music note by note just as there is no such thing as a book, word by word. There is no perfection, just a life long process of making music; once technique and commitment have been suitably mastered, you have to decide for yourself the right interpretation. It is a complex message.”

As I read this today, I realized that for me, Carhart was giving words to my understanding of faith and life. The Bible like a musical score is a document not to be understood word by word, but as a whole. It gives direction for me to interpret for my life. I can master the techniques it gives – the commandments and the teachings of Jesus. I can make the commitment to knowing them so completely that they disappear and my life becomes God’s song through the interpretation of my living.

I call it “flying on God’s Spirit”.  Others call it “letting go and letting God.” Occasionally, I achieve that amazing interpretation. Usually those moments come when I am loving someone, caring for someone, preaching, mentoring, and writing. Worry about self, and how I am doing and what is right totally disappears. I get out of the way and God’s Spirit shines through. Theologians call it becoming “the Christ” for that moment.

As Carhart says, “there is no perfection” in making music. My thought is that there is no perfection in living. There are “moments”, wonderful, spectacular moments when my soul is at peace, and my interpretation of God’s music reaches out and touches souls – mine and others – through my writing, my preaching, my living. For those moments I am truly grateful.

Let’s Take the Plunge

Let’s Take the Plunge.

Christmas Day is over, but for Christians, the celebration is truly just beginning. The Good News of God’s presence in the world is a miracle. We have stories of the wonder of creation that take our breath away. Whether it’s a beautiful snow-covered landscape sparkling in the sun, or the sacredness of holding a new born child, we know that God is at the source of all beauty, love, peace. We’d like to tell the world, but it’s embarrassing and scary to speak about faith in God.

We see the judgment in people’s eyes. We feel the skepticism, mockery, disgust. Pushing past those feelings to offer the comfort of prayer when someone is hurting takes great courage and determination. It’s so much easier just to give a hug, then go home and pray. For me, Christmas helps me to feel more confident in speaking of my faith. I watch the generosity of people as they drop dollars in the Salvation Army buckets. Their sharing encourages me to take the plunge and risk sharing. Now the season has passed. Do I have to wait ’til next Christmas?

It’s January, the beginning of another year. Maybe now is the time for risk. After all, in today’s world where some are willing to risk being openly racist, surely we can risk being openly faithful. After all, what we are doing is telling stories; stories that let our faith shine. Our job is not to tell others how to think or act. Our job is to share that God is with us, giving us comfort and courage in the tough times, celebrating with us in our joy. We can speak of our alternative lifestyle. We do not live alone. We know God’s presence within our hearts and through our church family. Maybe if others see and hear us, they might just get curious. They might ask questions, like what is this Christian faith thing all about? Once the questions begin, sharing our faith becomes easier.

Give it a try. Own up to your faith in 2019. Enjoy the difference it makes for you and for others.

God said, “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.” (Deuteronmy 11:18)

 

Trust – ‘Cause God Don’t Make No Junk!!

Image result for god makes no junkYears ago, I had a form of this poster in my office. I wanted people to know, that regardless of society’s judgement, or yours or mine,  that all human beings are valuable because God made us. No one is junk to be thrown away in the trash.

Today, as 2018 slips away, and I pray for family members who are walking the home stretch of their journey with cancer, these words carry an additional meaning. They bring the assurance of a new life beyond death. Faith in a loving God tells us that death is not the end, not the relegation of our beings to the trash heap.

My faith tells me that death is a transition into something new. Some faith traditions speak of reincarnation – an opportunity to return to this life as someone else – animal or human depending on how we have lived this time.

My christian tradition speaks of death bringing a new form of life with God where there are no more tears, sickness, hunger, thirst.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)

Although none of knows exactly what is ahead, today this poster reminds me that we will never become trash. There will be a new life. I think about this next life as a new adventure filled with forgiveness, understanding, and joy. We are God’s precious children, conceived in God’s love, carrying a spark of God’s love within us. The future, like the new year brings mystery, for sure. We can step out in trust, knowing God is with us, creating us and God doesn’t make junk!

” For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:12-13 NIV)

“The Back Story”

 

The Back Story

For the last  14  years, I’ve been writing and telling stories. Two of my books are short story collections based on Bible stories I learned as a child. My stories are a form of Midrash in the Jewish tradition. For thousands of years, Rabbinic scholars have studied holy scriptures and discussed them with others in order to interpret them for daily living. Undertaking a similar process, I’ve learned that the context of the story – the culture of the time it was written, the setting, the participants – what story tellers call the “back story” – is absolutely essential for us to hear God’s word with understanding today.

Amy Peterson contributed the October 10th reading in Our Daily Bread. With it, she taught me something new about our Easter story. Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples was a seder, a Jewish Passover meal. This celebration gathering is filled with ritual, traditionally ending with the singing of the Hallel, which we know as Psalms 113-118. Jesus, although facing almost certain torture and death, would have sung the Hallel that Passover night, singing about the goodness of God. Jesus would have chanted his willingness to complete the task of loving us even unto death. My imagination tells me that Jesus sang from his heart, not as ritual, but pouring forth a statement of trust and commitment to his calling from God .

In our United Church hymn book are songs of commitment that bring tears to my eyes every time we sing them. As I write this, I remember singing at my ordination:

“Here I am Lord. Is it I Lord? I have heard you calling in the night.

I will go Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart.”

(Chorus of “I the Lord of Sea and Sky” Words & Music by Daniel L. Schutte)

Even as I type out these words, I recommit my soul, my life to serving God.

Knowing that Jesus sang the Hallel at the end of the Passover meal brings me a new perspective to our Easter story. In my imagination, I can hear Jesus’ willingness to commit as he sang.  Today, as I prepare to lead my workshop on Midrash Storytelling at the Canadian Festival of Biblical Storytellers in Burlington, ON,  I reaffirm my commitment to “telling the stories of Jesus” to the best of my ability.  Once again, I hear God’s call to bring the “back story” to our beautiful Biblical stories.

Listening for God?

WROTE THIS YESTERDAY.

I was thrilled yesterday morning to sit in our home with a group of friends at the end of a journey of listening, trusting, and persistence. We joined together at what became the beginning of a new path for everyone present, through using technology with all of its failures and wonders. The story is long, too long for a blog. I want to share the faith, the excitement, the learning.

I begin with my own practice of listening. For forty years, I have practiced listening for God and learning to trust that it really is God I am hearing. After all, my life like yours is filled with the noise of living. I call it every day static. In today’s world, it’s not easy to admit that I truly believe God speaks to us. I deeply fear scepticism and ridicule. Only fanatics claim, “God said to me…” Yet God does speak, and occasionally I hear and trust. The weekend of April 25-29 was one of those times.

In the midst of the most amazing church Conference Annual General Meeting I have ever experienced, God spoke, and I heard. I was sure God wanted me to put Rev. Wanda Stride forward as a nominee for Moderator of our United Church. Her gifts for leadership and inspiration surrounded me. I spoke out. There were complications. It was too late. Life is never simple. My motion was cast aside. I was sure of God’s Word to me but still, true to my personality I accepted defeat. God wasn’t defeated. God moved through others. My friend and colleague, Paul Reed brought his gifts of persistence and knowledge of church structure to the situation. Rev. Wanda’s home presbytery passed the motion anyway. Mine affirmed it. The obstacles persisted. Again, the Holy Spirit moved. The seed grew. More joined in. They listened. They trusted. They acted.

Yesterday morning, thanks to modern technology with all of its failures, frustrations and wonders, the procedural issue was resolved. God’s word to me has brought forth fruit. Whether or not Rev. Wanda is elected as Moderator at the upcoming national United Church meeting is up to God and those attending. For me, this journey has affirmed my faith. Over the years, my practice of trying to listen has changed my life. I’ve offered the words I was sure I heard to a few. This time, that message went out to many.

This morning I am cheering, laughing, excited, thrilled with God’s persistence and the faith of others. Thank you, God. Thank you, Wanda. Thank you, members of Bay of Quinte Conference. You have lived out Jesus’ mustard seed parable:  Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

 

 

 

Is God a Helicopter Parent?

There’s lots to read about parenting today. In the news media we hear about “helicopter” parents. The metaphor is perfect. These parents hover over their children, sometimes nearly suffocating them with kindness, help, and protection. Up until two weeks ago, I too judged today’s “helicopter parents.” I was  never that kind of parent when I raised my children,, I thought. I gave them lots of room to try things, to live and figure life out without me hovering over them.

In less than one second, Saturday morning, May 11, my smugness evaporated. My strong, healthy daughter slammed onto the ground in a fall from a horse. Our lives changed. Her fall was no one’s fault. The accident happened. One of her vertebrae exploded as it crushed from the impact, and now protrudes into her spinal canal. The good news, the blessed news, is she has no paralysis. For that we are grateful. The orthopedic spinal trauma specialist said if the damaged vertebra remains stable she won’t need an operation. In twelve to eighteen months, she will recover.

Since the accident, I have been a total “helicopter” parent. With no thought of shame, I hovered at the hospital. I fretted as they fitted the brace on her body. I stood close when she stood for the first time, nurses right beside her to help.

It’s been nearly three weeks now. She’s walking with a walker. The brace supports her in the same way as a full body cast. Both she and I look ahead to the months of pain she will endure as her body inches toward recover. I realize I cannot remain the helicopter parent. I must give her room to heal both in body and soul. I have to trust that as a mature woman she can make wise decisions about the amount of activity she can do.

Once again, I am learning to trust in God’s goodness and love. As both my daughter and I face the journey ahead, one thing I know, “God’s goodness enfolds us regardless what happens. God’s strength and wisdom empower us. God’s love can bring joy even in the midst of our struggles.

Today, I consciously choose to trust in God, to give thanks that we are not alone. God is with us. Today, I cry out with the biblical father seeking healing for his child in Mark 9:24 “I do believe, Lord. Help me with my doubts and fears.”  (Mark 9:24)

April Fool’s Day: An Interesting day for Easter Sunday

 

THE CROSS IS EMPTY. JESUS LIVES! HALLELUJAH!!!

Believing in the resurrection of Jesus is certainly considered foolish by some people. Even more foolish is my belief that Jesus still lives today. I don’t mind being foolish. I do believe that God calls us to be the hands and feet and heart of Christ, to be Christ alive and well in this world.

I believe in God the Creator, the beginning of all things, the parent of us all. I don’t know exactly how that works. The overwhelming beauty of our world, the amazing work of art that is a human being, an animal, even a tiny bug, all support my belief in God the source of creation. A leap of faith like that is foolish by today’s standards. I really don’t care. I believe it.

I believe that Jesus rose from the dead 2000 years ago. When Mary went to the tomb, on what we call Easter morning, Jesus wasn’t lying there dead, wrapped in a shroud, his body badly mutilated by his crucifixion. Jesus was alive and well, able to talk with her. I’m sure that is foolish too. yet I believe it. I know that Jesus is alive and well today because I believe in the Holy Spirit, that part of God that lives in each one of us. I have experienced that Holy Spirit often. How do I explain to you what I mean? Over and over again I have experienced the presence of Jesus (God’s Spirit) in others. I have seen God’s goodness, joy, compassion shine through friends and strangers alike. Yes, I believe in the Holy spirit. If that makes me foolish, that’s okay.

I find the story of Jesus’ arrest and death troubling. I know we are capable of such inhumane cruelty. I know fear and greed for power will lead people to do horrible things. That’s why I’m grateful the Easter story ends with Jesus’ resurrection. It’s a story of love conquering evil. My faith tells me that God will not be defeated. There is nothing that I or anyone else can do that God cannot use to bring goodness to this world. If that’s foolish in another person’s eyes, so be it.

For me, my faith gives me strength and courage for living. Every time I face a tough decision, I can trust that God will bring something good out of it. Every time I’m afraid, I can trust that God’s Holy Spirit is within me holding my hand. Every time I make a mistake, sin by commission or omission, I can trust that God’s forgiveness is waiting for me to change my ways and begin again. There is new life for all of us.

As St. Paul says, I can be a fool for Christ. I can love the unlovable. I can forgive the hurt that others cause. With God, I can be so much more than when I walk this road of life alone. With God I can be foolish enough to be the best I can be.

Yes, I think Easter on April Fool’s Day is just great. Let’s celebrate the foolishness of faith. Let’s have a party for Jesus this Easter.

It’s Not Our Call

As seniors, we hope we have learned a few things about life. Most of the time these learnings have come to us the hard way. Our wisdom is precious. we would like to share it and save our children and grandchildren from going through the same trial and error process that we did.

Occasionally, the urge to offer advice becomes overwhelming for me. Still, I know it’s not my call. When advice is requested, I can share my knowledge. Otherwise, my call is to give support and pray. Fulfilling that role requires patience, trust and even courage.

As Easter approaches, I’m thinking about Jesus’ mother. When Jesus headed for Jerusalem that last time, I can only imagine the worry and possibly anger his family experienced. They would have wanted him to stay in Galilee where he was relatively safe. Still it wasn’t their call. Even after his resurrection, I’m sure there would be some friends that still vibrated from the pain and yes, anger with Jesus. If he had only stayed home. If he had only listened to me. Their feelings may have even got in the way of fully experiencing the joy of his resurrection.

For me, one of the resurrection messages for parents, grandparents, friends and family is:  it’s not our call to totally protect our children or any of our loved ones. Like Jesus, they have to make their own choices. The wonder of the resurrection is that we can have patience trust and courage, because we know that God’s miracle of love for them will be far better than anything our precious knowledge can do. In the end they too will have new life.