Category Archives: courage

It’s Hard To Trust!

Lent is the Christian season that leads up to Easter, in which we examine what we believe and why. This year I am focusing on “Trust”. Experience has taught me that I can trust in God’s care for me always.   When life is good, the sun is shining, and my life feels under control, it is easy for me to trust God with my life. When the going gets tough for me, I know that nothing I can do and nothing anyone or anything else can do to me, can separate me from God’s love. (Rom 8:38-9)  I can look back over my life and see God’s strength protecting me, and pulling me back to the “Way of Christ”. I am grateful for that trust, that security.

Still my trust wavers when I am faced with the traumas, the illnesses, the poor choices of my loved ones. These are the times when I cry out to God, “fix them”, “give them a miracle”, please, please, please.” These are the times when I lose patience and question God’s existence as well as God’s loving care.

Yet, even with my questions, my anger, my pleading, I never totally give up on God. Why? It’s more than the feeling that God is my last resort. Despite all my fear and worry for others, I cling to the fact that God is at the base of my life. My foundation of faith holds me up when I waver. These are the moments when I cry out to God, “I believe Lord, help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)

We all have times when the road is so dark we can see nothing, absolutely nothing. It is in those times when our faith wavers, we can turn to the wisdom of our Bible, and the strength of our Christian friends to hold God’s light for us. God never leaves us to struggle alone. Thanks be to God.

 

 

Thought for Today

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I Can Trust in God’s Extravagant Love.

My daily reading tells me to trust in God’s extravagant love. That sounds simple but I know it’s not. This Christmas, in our family, the fear that comes with serious illness is threatening to wipe out our joy. I know we are not alone. There are many among us who are afraid. Illness, loneliness, violence, grief – Christmas is often laced with fear.

Our precious Christmas story is filled with angels saying, “Don’t be afraid.” Over and over again in the stories of Jesus we hear his message, “Don’t be afraid.” Our faith tells us we can trust in God’s extravagant love. Yet as we journey to Bethlehem this year, many of us are afraid.

Years ago, I read these words in a tiny tattered book that has long since disappeared, “Pray as if.” At 3:00 a.m. yesterday morning I heard this message, “Listen to the angels of Christmas. “Do not be afraid. Come and experience God’s extravagant love in baby Jesus. ‘Pray as if’ you trust in God’s extravagant love”.

If fear threatens to take over your life this Christmas, I offer to you what I am doing. I am praying “as if”. I am leaning on the love and faith of friends. Some days, trusting in God’s extravagant love feels solid. Some days my faith feels based in quick sand. Still, I will continue to pray. I will pray “as if” I am without fear and wait. I can trust in God’s extravagant love. I will open my heart to God’s peace for today.

Thought for the Day

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O God, help me rest in your peace today.

During this advent week of peace, let’s begin each day seeking God’s peace for our individual lives. To be a channel of God’s peace for others, we need to know at least a little of God’s peace for ourselves.

Each day, we wake with our minds full of all the things we must do, all the people we must worry about, all the problems that surround us as individuals and as part of the world. A little stress is good. A lot of stress can be debilitating.

Today, take a few moments to imagine handing over to Jesus, each task that lies ahead, each loved one about whom you are concerned. Pass them into God’s hands one at a time. Feel the weight on your shoulders lift just a little.  Let’s exhange our worries for God’s peace. We can trust if only for a few minutes or an hour. Each time the flood of worries, the chaos returns, stop, take a deep breath and hand them over in your imagination once again. Ask God to open you to God’s gift of peace.

Then keep your mind, heart, eyes open to see and receive the triggers of peace God has sent to you. Give thanks.

This is your goal for today, walk with this prayer “O God, help me rest in your peace today. Thank you.

Success – Wow! I Feel Great!

National Novel Writing Month Winner Certificate

On the first of November I made the commitment to myself and online to write 50,000 words of the sequel to my novel Fireweed in 30 days. Fireweed’s 65,000 words took three years to write. Granted at that time I was working full time. Now I am retired and like many retirees my days are full of family, friends, activities, church, and more. Still I wanted to get this second novel started. I told myself 25,000 words would be a beginning.

I also knew that I wasn’t going to stop my other activities and I didn’t. Tom and I continued to enjoy our dancing twice a week. I spent Wednesdays with granddaughter Ellie and Fridays with granddaughter Vanessa. I went to church, talked with friends, went to yoga and the list goes on.

Tonight I am pleased to announce that “I Did It!” Tonight I submitted my 50,672 words to the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writers Month) Website. My word count was validated. I’m a winner. The novel is not quite finished. The ending isn’t there. I’m thinking it will take another 15000 words. At this point that will be easy. Of course, this is only a first draft. The working title is “One More Step”. That will probably change. There will be four or five more drafts and then the professional editor will begin his/her work. For tonight, I am thrilled.

 

We Can’t Let Fear Overwhelm Us!

 

Let's Give Our World a Vigorous Scrub
God Give Our World a Vigorous Scrub. God says, “Good idea. I’ll start with you.”

 

On Remembrance Day 2015, we stepped beyond past memories to the immediacy of war’s devastation in today’s world.  We are increasingly aware of civilian casualties. The devastation in France last Friday brought this home to all of us. Our TV and computer screens reveal waves of desperate refugees trying to cross national boundaries to safety. While we observed two minutes’ silence,for the chaos of past wars,  churches of every denomination, individuals and community groups around the world were reaching out to embrace these refugee families. In their homelands, mass graves for civilians are common, the wounded overwhelm the hospitals, and homelessness has touched everyone. The United Churches of Shining Waters Presbytery have just welcomed a Syrian Refugee family to Peterborough. The fire in our local Mosque, considered a hate crime by police made the pain and misery of war step out of faraway places and into our community. I am glad God is calling Canadians to do more than lament the hatred and violence. We are taking action.

I believe that every time we step past our fear and reach out with love, we add another piece to the jigsaw puzzle of peace in this world. Each family we receive is one less family left vulnerable to those who teach hatred and violence. Hunger and hopelessness are fertile grounds for recruiting suicide bombers. I am grateful that many in the world are responding to this refugee crisis with love. Maybe participating in our Remembrance Day rituals over the years has incited individuals in Canada to respond. We don’t want to forget the people of the past or the present. All are God’s cherished children.

Years ago, Walter Farquharson and Ron Klusmeier collaborated on this children’s song that I offer you with Ron’s permission:

I SAT IN THE TUB

I sat in the tub till I looked like a prune.  My mother told me to get out soon,but I love to sit in the tub and think. I like to float and I like to sink!

REFRAIN:

I prayed to God from right there in the tub, to give this whole world a vigorous scrub, to clean away what does not belong, to get busy right now and fix what’s wrong!

I thought about children that I did not know, who never play and who just don’t grow. They haven’t food or a place on this earth, no one who knows just how much they’re worth. (R)

I wondered why God let them suffer like that, why all of their enemies aren’t laid out flat, and I thought that all things could be more fair, if the rest of the world could just learn how to share. (R)

And then I heard God’s voice way down inside. The voice spoke to me and I almost died! It said, “The idea’s right! — I’ll start with you. You’ll be surprised at what caring can do!”

 

 

Thoughts For Today

It’s easy to accept the inheritance of physical traits because we can see them. Friends tells us, “your daughter looks so much like you.” When it comes to character traits the old nature/nurture debate comes into play. As an adopted child who found her birth mother,  I can tell you that our genes play a part in how we approach problems, our resilience in the face of adversity, our inner strength, and our attitude toward life. I lived with my birth mother for only the first year and a half of life yet I have developed many of her character traits, even my extreme determination to walk with as straight a back as possible came from her. Her characteristics that I treasure most were her resilience and her acceptance. They carried her through a tough life, and they have helped me in tough times as well.

Last week, once again we said goodbye to my son David, his wife Joanne and teenage daughter, Jenna. Although I tell myself how fortunate I am that they return home every summer and for most Christmas holidays, saying good bye gets harder every year. I hear my mom’s spirit speak, “You can’t change it. Accept it. Find the goodness in it and carry on.” I know she’s right.

Their travelling life has given them opportunities the rest of us only dream about. Our granddaughter Jenna has been on real African safaris. She understands the need to stop hunting for sport and poaching for greed. She has seen the animals in their natural habitat and experienced the beauty of their freedom. Her last two years in Ethiopia have shown her what true hunger and poverty looks like.

My main desire is that the three of them will find peace and joy in this new part of Africa and that their amazing experiences will strengthen them.  I have Mom’s spirit of acceptance, yes. And still, I can’t keep back the flood of tears that are pouring down my face today.

Holy Saturday

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Today as part of my morning prayer and meditation time, I read Stan McKay’s reflection in the Bible Study book Longing for Home.  Stan based his thoughts on Psalm 127:2-3  The psalmist is remembering the exile of the children of Israel. “On the willows there we hung our harps. For there, our captors asked us for songs and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion.”

I had been thinking about Jesus’ friends as they lived through that “inbetween” day we call Holy Saturday. Their sadness, their questions, their anger, their fear – it would have been overwhelming. How could they sing and dance in the midst of their grief. How could they continue to live.

Stan McKay ends his reflection with the story of one of the hymns in our United Church Hymnbook – “Many and Great, O God, Are Your Works” I have felt God’s push all day to share his story with you.

“The Dakota (Peoples) resisted the expansion of settlement into their territory, the north central plains of what is now the United States. The U.S. cavalry hunted Dakota warriors, and on one expedition, 18 men were captured. They were brought back to the fort and sentenced to death by hanging. In the morning as they walked across the compound to the gallows, the Dakota men sang a chant which the soldiers believed to be pagan. The army’s linguist later translated the song to what is now # 308 in Voices United.” (Stan McKay)

For those who don’t have access to Voices United here are the words of that hymn:

“Many and great O God, are your works, Maker of earth and sky. Your hands have set the heavens with stars, your fingers spread the mountains and plains.  Lo at your word the waters were formed, deep seas obey your voice.

Grant unto us communion with you, O star abiding one. Come unto us and dwell with us, with you are found the gifts of life. Bless us with your life that has no end, eternal life with you.”

Their song did not change their execution, just as our statements of faith, prayers and songs don’t remove the cause of our grief. Holy Saturday, is the the “inbetween” time, the time when we face the pain in our lives and wait on God. It’s the time when we focus on God’s promise of new life. It’s the time when we see the buds on the trees and give thanks that there is a light on our horizon to guide us home.

Blessings to all of you.


Let’s Fly

Let’s Fly!

Years ago I enjoyed watching a television show starring a secret agent named MacGyver. Each episode opened with MacGyver receiving an envelope containing a special assignment. The source of that assignment remained a mystery, although we heard a voice at times. MacGyver’s courage in tough situations and his amazing ability to convert everyday articles into the things he needed for escape caught my imagination and love of adventure and creativity. MacGyver never refused an assignment although he knew the risk. He trusted in his skills and abilities. He believed passionately in the world’s need for him to accomplish his task.

As we step into 2015, we need the MacGyver approach to our lives. Each of us has a special assignment from God, unique to us, that is full of risk and adventure. We too have to trust in our ingenuity, our skills, our abilities. Like MacGyver we need to let go of questioning the integrity of God, the giver of our life assignments and focus on the world’s need for us to accomplish our tasks.

Unlike MacGyver, we do not have a choice to accept or not the task of life. God has given us the task of living. We can let fear of failure or even our own safety, or another’s judgment of our journey steal the adventure of living, or we can step forth trusting in God’s guidance, God’s strength and our God-given gifts. St. Paul said “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2Timothy 6-7)

This year, let’s consider ourselves to be God’s secret agents. We can soar on God’s Spirit through our life journey. We can feel the fun. We can bring our creativity to the challenge. We can enjoy our God-given adventure. LET’S FLY!

 

 

Do You Operate Out of Scarcity or Abundance?

Do You Operate Out Of Scarcity Or Abundance?

By Janet Stobie

Abundance or Scarcity
Abundance or Scarcity

For the first time in years, we have a garden. Early last spring in my four-by-eight garden plot, my granddaughter and I planted a package of lettuce and a package of pea seeds. My friend said, “You’re wasting your seed. It’s too early. Those seeds will just rot in that cold ground.” As usual, God gave us the miracle of new life, and we’ve had lettuce and peas to share with family and friends. As I munch on God’s abundance, I’m aware of our attitude to people.

Sometimes we think that a person is too cold, or too stubborn, or too angry, or whatever, for our seeds of love to germinate. We make our judgment and move on to look for better soil for our precious love.  We don’t want to waste our time or our energy.

Jesus told a story about a farmer who sowed his seed on the hard path, on rocky soil, among thorns, and on fertile ground. This farmer worked with an attitude of abundance. He didn’t judge the quality of the soil. He spread the seed indiscriminately, even though only one in four would bring forth fruit for the harvest. Jesus said, God is like that. God spreads love to everyone without judging who is fertile soil.

This is good instruction for living. God gives us an endless well of love. We’re called to spread that love without judgment to all we meet and welcome the harvest that comes. Remember this may be the time, and you may be God’s choice for planting  God’s love in this particular person.

“But some seeds fell in good soil, and the plants bore grain; some had one hundred grains, others sixty, and others thirty.” And Jesus concluded, “Listen then if you have ears.”

 

Which Choice Do I Make?

Which Choice Do I Make?

By Janet Stobie

Decisions, deccisions!
Decisions, deccisions!

This spring I turned seventy. I look around at my friends who have happy lives. They’re enjoying their homes, their families, their church. They have gardens and volunteer work. Their lives look good to me right now. I too have a life much like theirs, but with something added. I write – this newspaper column, short stories and books. At the moment, my supply of my latest book “Fireweed” is dwindling. It’s time to order another batch of 500. My website needs updating. It’s time to book speaking engagements for the fall and winter. I am poised between truly retiring and continuing my ministry.

I discussed my choices with Tom. I wondered if those greener pastures in which my friends live are what I want and need. I heard his encouragement for carrying on. He spoke of his willingness to continue being the supportive mate and his enjoyment of “our” ministry. I spent time in prayer. I wrote my daily letter to God with the pros and cons and the question, “God, what do you need of me?” I wrote some more and slowly the words came into my mind, “Use your gifts. That’s why I gave them to you. Enjoy, you’re not quite finished yet.”

I picked up a book, And Not One Bird Stopped Singing, by D. M. Jones, and read the words, “You cannot choose how you’re going to die, but you can choose how you’re going to live.” I thought, already, I’m the first customer in Greg and Andrew’s new website marketing business www.4hundred4.ca . OK, God, I hear you. Maybe next year or in ten years, maybe then I’ll slow down, actually retire. This is my choice, a good choice for me. Like many seniors, who keep on into their eighties and nineties, I choose to live to my fullest ability, to accept the joy of spreading God’s message. I choose to fly on God’s Spirit, to trust in God.

That’s how I make decisions. Try it.

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”    (Deuteronomy 30:19)