Category Archives: courage

Can You Make A Difference

Can You Make A Difference?

by Janet Stobie

Refugee Camp
Refugee Camp

The news is full of misery. Because millions of people are displaced by the Syrian chaos, the United Nations is asking free nations to commit to accepting refugees, not by the tens and twenties, but by the thousands. Our world is on a direct path to destruction, and there is nothing we can do to stop it. Or is there?

Stone Soup

The last few weeks, I have been reading “Stone Soup for the World.” This book is a collection of stories about people, individuals who have stepped beyond the paralysis, the hopelessness of seeing the need of the entire world. For me, reading these stories is my first step in believing I can make a difference. Each day for a few minutes, my mind is focused on hope.

Two weeks ago, I was at North Bramalea United Church for the United Church’s Toronto Conference Annual Meeting. While talking with church members, I learned about the community program Bramalea United runs for children and adults in one of the nearby neighbourhoods. A colleague from Midland spoke of her congregation’s record of welcoming and settling refugees. “We’re only about four weeks away from getting yet another family,” she said, her face radiating delight and excitement. Their words and emotions took me beyond reading about others who are transforming our world, to seeing the possibilities and joy that come with taking action.

Some assure us that simply thinking positive things will draw good things into our lives. I know it takes more than that. I know also that filling my mind with stories of hope will open my heart to see hope in action and eventually lead to seeing my own action or lack of it.

A song says, “Go make a difference. We can make a difference in the world.” I want this song to be my mantra. I truly believe that we, together with God, can transform the world, one step at a time.

Together we create peace.
Together we create peace.

This week read Jonah’s story in the Old Testament. Jonah reluctantly brought God’s message to the people of Nineveh, and surprise! The Ninevites were transformed. Jonah made a difference.

Decisions! Decisions! Decisions!

Decisions! Decisions! Decisions!

by Janet Stobie

Decisions are a part of living. We teach little children to practice the art of decision-making by offering them choices they can handle.

What shirt would you like to wear?

Do you want broccoli or carrots for dinner?

The older we get the more serious our decisions become.

Will I do my homework?

Will we have children?

Is it time to move?

Life changing decisions can be paralyzing for me. My decision-making track record is far from perfect. Yes, I’ve made some great choices in my life time – like answering God’s call to ordained ministry, having my three wonderful children, and choosing Tom as my life partner. I’ve also made enough poor choices – learning to smoke, taking dad’s car down onto Sauble beach when it was forbidden, teenage marriage, to name only a few. That’s why I want desperately to follow God’s will when I am making life choices.

But how do I know what is God’s will? The following are my steps.

1.  Research:

  • talk with professionals in the field.
  • draw from my own experience.
  • consult friends and my spiritual leader (pastor)
  • write down all the pros and cons I can find for both sides of a decision.

2,  Prayer

  • light a candle, Play quiet music, Tell God my dilemma.
  • read relevant scriptures (given me by my pastor).
  • listen in silence for God’s Word.

3.  Make the decision and trust.

TRUST THAT GOD CAN USE YOUR CHOICE OR MINE, WHATEVER IT IS, TO BRING GOOD FOR YOU AND OTHERS.

That’s the secret. I do my very best to make the wisest decision possible and then I trust in God’s power and love.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.       (Jeremiah 29:11)

 

 

 

 

 

Flashing Neon Sign

Flashing Neon Sign

No Matter What
No Matter What

When I fell and damaged my back, the stairs in our home became obstacles. My husband found himself solely responsible for our beautiful flower gardens. We asked ourselves, “Is it time to move to a smaller place in town?”

I sought God’s help with the decision. “Surely, my back will heal and the move won’t be necessary,” I pleaded. “Besides, how can my husband get us packed by himself? Do you really want us to move, God?” I prayed. I tried to listen. I wanted to follow God’s will. I needed a flashing neon sign telling us what to do.

Friends came for a meeting. I told them my dilemma. They responded, “We’d love to help get your place ready to sell.” Immediately they started making two piles – stuff to keep and stuff to give away. Two hours later, our living room and kitchen were ready for viewing. Was this God’s sign to move? We looked for a condominium and found nothing in our price range. Was this God’s sign to stay?

My daily scripture reading was Psalm 23. The last two lines flashed like a neon sign. “Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord, forever.” I knew this was God’s message. Whatever our decision, God’s goodness and mercy were with us. We would dwell with God in whatever house in whatever place.

When life decisions are difficult, pray, consult friends, look at all the options. Make your best informed choice and then, trust that God is with you and will bring goodness and mercy to your life.

 

“Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord, forever.”

The Mystery of Money


When my children were young, my husband and I both returned to university. For three years, the five of us lived on student loans and bursaries. Money was extremely tight. We had no extras: no movies, no coffees at the cffee shop, no dinners out.

Still, I wanted to be able to share with others. We looked at our meager income and decided to give a tenth to Missions. Faithfully, at the beginning of each month, we set the money aside. Some went to our little church, some to the cancer society, some to others in need.

The strangest thing happened. We never missed that money. I still scrambled to stretch the dollars, but by the end of the month, the bills were paid and we had enough to eat. Giving didn’t destroy that. Yes, the loans piled up, but they would have anyway.

Just when I thought we weren’t going to make it, an unexpected check from a friend arrived usually for more than we had given away. At Christmas, we received the benevolent offering from our home church. Maybe those extra funds would have arrived anyway. I don’t know. What I know for sure is that being able to share gave me dignity. I learned the mystery of giving.

Over the years, because of that education, my life circumstances have changed. Ten percent of our income today amounts to much more money. Still, I don’t miss it.

When we face a charity canvasser or the offering plate with our wallets open searching for leftovers from our week, we seldom have much to give and often we’re resentful. Once we’ve made the commitment and set the money aside, we find pleasure in giving and there is enough left over for us. When caring for others becomes a priority in our money or our time, what’s leftover is enough. That’s God’s mystery.

“He brought us to thi place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; and now I bring the first fruits of the soil that you, Lord, have given me.”

(Deuteronomy  26:9-10)

 

Life Happens!

Oops!

On January 30th I slipped on a pool of water in my kitchen. Although no bones were broken, I was sidelined for more than a month with soft tissue injury in my back. I’m still not 100% healed. God did not cause me to fall, but has certainly used the accident to teach me a great deal.

  • Good health is vital. Without it my life is severely limited. I must care for my body with plenty of rest, good food and exercise.
  • I read Brian McLaren’s latest book in which he gives a sound theological basis for my belief that learning about other faiths can strengthen my Christianity.
  •  I had hours to spend working on my next book and learned that I can make it a priority in my life.

I don’t like being limited. Impatience and frustration often overwhelm me Yet, as I lay confined to my zero gravity lawn chair, I didn’t waste my time. God enabled me to use it creatively. It seems to me that’s the way God would like us to look at all the difficult, even tragic disruptions in our lives.

Some say these difficult things are God’s punishments for our wrongdoing. I don’t believe that God causes them at all. I do believe that when these things happen, God is right there with us, holding us, and helping us, bringing healing and offering us learning. Our job is to accept God’s healing and support. God offers us creative learning from the experience so that we can do more than just survive. We can begin to live a new life. I’m sure that with God’s help I’ll have a long list of learnings before my body is totally healed and I’m out dancing comfortably again. I can trust in God and I am grateful.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not un your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.  (Proverbs 3: 5-6 NIV)

 

What Will We Do Differently in 2013?

A New Path

What will I do differently in 2013? Is there anything I can actually change? The Biblical story about the Wise Men seeking Jesus is often the topic for the first Sunday of the New Year. If you know the story, you’ll remember that after giving their gifts to Jesus, “and having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” I smile when these wise men do as they’re asked without even one question.

Most of us are not nearly as compliant as those wise folk. When the suggestion is made that we do something differently, we often refuse. After all, we’ve always done it this way. Why change? Even when what we’re doing is unsuccessful, we find trying something new difficult.

Still, as we open our calendar to January, we hope that this year we’ll do better. Maybe we’ll eat less, exercise more, and lose a little weight. Possibly, we’ll read our Bible regularly, or join a Bible study group. For me, in 2013 I’d like to be in bed by eleven most nights. I plan on spending several hours a day just writing. We all have our list, but we’re not like the Wise Men of the Bible. We get busy and forget. Change cramps our life style. We don’t go home a different way.

In 2013, I suggest that we try one small change. Do one random act of kindness every day. Remember to thank the clerk who helped you find something in the store or send a card to tell a friend you care. One tiny act of kindness as you hurry through your day will make a difference in your life and someone else’s.  The ripple effect will change the world.

 

“And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.”  Matthew 2:12

 

For more of Janet Stobie’s reflections go to www.janetstobie.com

Why speak out?

The United Church’s official position on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict was discussed at great length during the Church’s National General Council Meeting this past summer. My first thought was:  Will the position our church takes here in Canada make any difference in a war oceans away?

Yes! I believe my church’s statements, as well as mine as an individual, do have significance for our world and for me. It’s just too easy to accept that violence in this world is inevitable, that there’s nothing we can do.

In my lifetime, the Berlin Wall became a source of pain and violence in Germany. Like many other individuals and groups, I prayed and spoke out at the injustice it created. I remember the amazement and joy when that wall started to come down. I believe that prayers and expressed opinions of people all over the world prepared the way for God to bring forth that miracle.

When you and I join with others to declare our disgust and anger at violence and express our desire for peace, change does happen. People are set free from prison. Refugees are cared for. Even wars will cease. Together we can be catalysts for change.

I encourage you to take time today and everyday to pray, to send your love and desire for peace to one of the “hot spots” in our world. I believe our prayers are like a drop of water hitting a stone. Eventually, a depression is made, and then a hole. We can make a difference. Thanks be to God.

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:9-10)

 

Worry

I’m good at worrying. At night, sleep eludes me as I conjure up scenario after scenario. What if this happened? Or that?  I’m like a dog chewing at a bone, a relentless and determined worrier.
            Friends tell me to “let go and let God.” I know that’s good advice, but it’s not easy to follow. How can I trust God? God has given us the gift of free will? Free will means that my loved one can refuse God’s help. What then?
Because we love, we envision chaos that may never happen. It’s hard to accept the fact that we can’t make all the decisions for our precious child. When children are little, we can rush in and fix things.  Once they are teenagers, our fixes are unwanted. Teens, in their desire for independence, can be cruel as they reject our well-intentioned efforts. They leave us with no alternative but worry. But we don’t have to worry alone.
            I get up in the middle of the night, harassed by my fears and write a letter to God. I dump on God all my worries and all my wise solutions. The page full, I sit quietly waiting, waiting for help. It amazes me that God always answers. I hear. “Keep on loving. Love that child or friend, no matter what. You may have to declare some behaviour unacceptable, for it won’t help to be walked on. Still, keep on loving. Entrust the future to me, your God. I have a plan. Trust in me to work out that plan. I will never leave your loved one.” So I return to bed. In the morning, I may pick up that worry once again, but at least for a few hours, I have received God’s peace.
I give thanks to God that my worries draw me to prayer. The cycle of worry-prayer-peace has value for it keeps me in contact with God.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6)