I posted this on Facebook and then remembered the only way I knew how to post it on my other social media places was to post it on my website. Therefore, my Facebook friends received it twice. My apologies.
Celebrity for a Day
Last Monday was a special day for me. Emmanuel College, University of Toronto, Alumni Association presented me with a service award for my writing and speaking ministry. I was humbled and delighted. As all of you know, I have been writing and publishing my books for the last fourteen years. I love the writing and publishing. Speaking engagements are great fun as I fly on the Spirit. The messages both in my books and my talks are peace, love, and acceptance of self and others.
Selling the books is not quite as much fun. One of the blessings of this award, is that the general public tends to buy books written by an award-winning author. So, I remind all of you who have enjoyed my books and my speaking over the years, to tell your friends about my books and my availability as a guest speaker. Of course, don’t forget that my books make good gifts for your friends and family. They will entertain and could begin a journey of faith.
I’ve posted a few pictures from my day. Years ago, there was a TV show called “Queen for a Day”. Well the name was something like that. I have titled this blog, “Celebrity for a Day”. I did feel like a celebrity. Everyone was wonderful. Best of all, my daughter and grandson, and three of my friends came to celebrate with me. It was truly a day to remember.
All of us. It was a great day. I am truly grateful.
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.
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.”
It’s Easter Saturday. At our house we’re preparing for our Easter family gathering and my birthday. In the quiet of work done, and services ready for tomorrow, I have paused to think again about our Easter story.
In three of the gospels there is a small detail buried amidst the story of Jesus’ crucifixion. When Jesus says, “It is finished.” And hangs his head in death, the story says, a darkness descended and the curtain that separated the outer temple, where people came to worship, from the “holy of holies” that only the priest with the sacrifices was allowed to enter, that curtain was torn in two. According to scholars, that meant the separation between God and the ordinary human person was ended.
In Jesus’ day, people brought animal sacrifices to the priest. The priest’s role was to present the sacrifices to appease God’s anger with the people’s sins. There was an entire culture built around this practice. With Jesus’ death, came the belief that sacrifice was no longer needed. His death was the last and only sacrifice. From this comes the understanding that Jesus died for our sins.
For me, understanding God as angry and needing to be appeased by Jesus’ horrible and tragic death has always been difficult. Over the years after much discussion and study, I have come to believe that Jesus died because of our human fear, greed, and lust for power. God, in Jesus, loved us so much that Jesus was willing to give his life, not to appease God’s anger, but to show us God’s unconditional love and forgiveness. For me, the significance of the temple curtain torn in two is, God gave us a new understanding of God’s love and forgiveness. We no longer needed a priest and sacrifices to feel God’s love. God’s love is there for us no matter what. There is nothing we can do to drive God’s love away. Most of the time we don’t deserve God’s love but God loves us anyway.
Even in today’s society, we like to think in terms of guilt, judgment and punishment. But God’s thoughts and ours are different. God’s love is bigger than any of that. God has loved us from our beginning. God will love us through our foolishness, through our cruelty, through our goodness. God just loves us.
Because of that unconditional love, I do my best most days to love others as I know God loves me. When I fail, I know I can pick myself up and try again. God is with me as my support, coach and parent, God wants me to be the best I can be. God celebrates with my success and cries with me in my failures. Always God loves me as God loves all of God’s creation. That is the blessing of our Easter story.
Tomorrow I will post my sermon that will be delivered at Lakefield and Young’s Point United Churches.
In the Bible St. Paul says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances.” (1Thessalonians 5:18 ) “Give thanks in all circumstances?” Impossible! Wrong! I can’t give thanks when I lose my job, my loved one dies. How then do we follow St. Paul’s words?
Check the prepositions. St. Paul says, “Give thanks IN all circumstances,” not “FOR all circumstances.” Search for the goodness of God, IN the midst of grief, fear, disappointment. There will be goodness.
When my daughter was badly injured, I wasn’t grateful for the accident. At first, I could only be grateful she wasn’t paralysed, and for the ER doctor who consulted the specialist in Kingston as soon as he saw the X-rays. As the days passed, I gave thanks for the young Mom who brought her two-week-old twins to my daughter’s hospital bedside. As Mom laid her baby on my daughter’s chest, I saw her first real smile, and knew healing would come. My gratitude list from that accident is long. When I opened my heart to the blessings, they were there.
In tough times, the search for blessings is easier if we have already developed a “gratitude habit” – a habit of seeking out and giving thanks for the blessings in our lives every single day. Internet research reveals the following two principles concerning developing a habit.
New habits require over two months of repetitions and still they are fragile, easily discarded. Therefore, forget about the time required and do the repetitions.
Make the commitment. Then failures won’t matter because you will just resume doing it. Neither your financial resources, your health, nor your age, nothing can steal your ability to give thanks once you’ve made the commitment.
Seeking out and recognizing our blessings is worth the effort and practice. This Thanksgiving, I suggest you develop a gratitude habit. It may not mean more money, or things, or success, but it will mean more joy in your life. The gratitude habit will shift your focus from not enough to counting your blessings.
This is day five of our sister’s week. Each year since our Mom died, my three biological sisters and I have gathered to spend a week together. We add spice to our laughing and talking, by enjoying a bit of sight seeing. This year we’ve expanded the family circle to include our aunt and her four girls as well as a family reunion that lasted all last weekend. What a fabulous time we are having. Each day, I have given God thanks for helping me find this wonderful family, seventeen years ago.
Families sometimes have struggles, for sure. As human beings we can be mean, spiteful, even cruel at times. Yet when we focus on love, joy, & acceptance, as our crowd has been doing this week, joy explodes and pours out all around us.
Today God has reminded me that the whole world is our family. We are not called to judge people as enemy/friend, useless/valuable, different/equal. Instead, God has given us millions of brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, sons and daughters, we haven’t yet met. All we need do is open our hearts to embrace all people and watch love explode into the world.
Today, let us give thanks that we are all God’s children, one family. Offer your love to the world. Trust that God will make it grow.
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 mustardseed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
The last few days, my thoughts have focused on Jesus’ story of “The Lost Son.” In movies, books, and life, I seek happy endings. I smile when the lost son realizes his folly and returns home. I nod when the grieving father runs out to meet him when he is still a long way off. The elder son’s response of anger and righteous judgment feels good and proper. The father’s response also feels good. Will the elder son understand his father’s plea for love and mercy? We aren’t told, so I can fill in my happy ending. Both sons have learned how to love. Father is wiser.
How does Jesus’ story end today? Too often today, addiction swallows us up leaving us lost, sleeping on the streets, even murdered. Sometimes it’s our commitment to overwork, an extramarital relationship, total self-indulgence, that carries us away from family, loved ones, God. Unlike the lost son in Jesus’ story, we don’t return home. We may have started home many times but we stumbled again and again and again. We can’t stay on that homeward path.
And so, too often, as parents, spouses, children, friends, we are left sitting at the gate, still loving, still praying, still hoping, still weeping. The opportunity to run down the path, arms open wide, love pouring forth, never comes.
Too often, as elder siblings, we keep plugging away, doing our best, resentment hidden and growing, judgment made. We want to hang onto our rage, our self-righteousness. We’re sure we are right. We don’t want help forgiving those who are unforgivable. We don’t want to face God’s unconditional love, God’s endless mercy, let alone participate in it.
Today, whether we are the lost son, the elder brother or the loving parent, we go to our death still paralysed, still lost on life’s journey. And so we think there is no possibility for a happy ending.
For me, the Good News, the “happy ending” comes when we learn to trust our Christian story which tells us that the power of God’s love is so strong, God’s plan for each one of us so flexible, so creative, that even death cannot keep us paralyzed. In fact, death, in whatever form it comes, opens the way for “new life,” the happy ending.
Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)
Jesus’ own life story tells us that whether our death brings forth the possibility of new life, transformation, abundance.
Today, whether we are facing the loss of a beloved person, the ending of a life-long dream, the closing of our precious church,– wherever we find ourselves present in Jesus’ story, we can trust that the resurrection will come. God will not be defeated. We may not see the transformation, but it will come, if not in this world than in the next. Weeping will end. Joy will come with the morning. We are not truly paralyzed. We can open ourselves to understanding, forgiveness and love. We can receive God’s peace that is beyond our understanding because we can trust in God’s transformation, whenever it happens.
We have hope, for God has assured us there will be “a happy ending” in this life or the next. Our transformation is guaranteed through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
We can hear and live Jesus’ words: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27) For this, I am truly grateful.
Just a note to tell everyone that I’ve started taking pre-orders for my new novel, “To Begin Again”. The plan is to have the books in my hands by April 23. That’s my birthday and it will be a scary present to receive the shipment of 1000 copies of To Begin Again. It will be a fabulous present to have at least 100 of those books sold before they arrive. Preorders will give my courage a boost. That’s for sure.
Writing and publishinga novel is a humungus leap of faith and a huge investment of time and money. Today, I was at a UCW gathering with my books. When I asked the group to raise their hands if they owned a copy of my novel Fireweed and my worship resource Dipping Your Toes, nearly every one in the room raised their hands. There were 70 wonderful women present.
I took pre-orders of To Begin Again. Ten people invested in my book, even though I didn’t even have a picture of the cover to show them. The affirmations that I received for my writing from so many people was great. I know I’ve been called by God to spread the message of God’s love through my books, but sometimes human confirmation of that call helps. This was one of those times.
I am grateful for the support of the United Church Women of Shining Waters Presbytery. If any of you are wanting to preorder To Begin Again I will give you a 20% discount. That means the book sells for $16 rather than $20 it will cost on April 23rd. Just send me an email email@example.com and we will organize the transfer of money and the shipping of the book. Blessings to you all. Janet
The Christmas season is over. We’ve said good-bye to wishing strangers Merry Christmas. Spontaneous generosity is tucked away with the decorations for another year. For some of us, we’ve made our yearly pilgrimage to church for the Christmas Eve service. No need to go again ’til next Christmas.
Does it have to be over? Do we have to let go of that Christmas Spirit? That’s a familiar lament. As I wrote these words, I looked up to see the quizzical face of George the Giraffe peering back at me.
George the giraffe came, as a special gift of love last summer. Every time I look at him, I think of my son, Dave, our daughter-in-law, Joanne and our granddaughter, Jenna. I hear their words to me as they handed me the package.” When you came to visit us in South Africa, we went on safari. You wanted to see the giraffes. When we returned, you were fascinated with the beaded giraffes made by the African people. Instead of getting one for yourself, you bought one for Vanessa. We decided you needed a giraffe, too.” They handed me George. He’s adorable. With his face full of curiosity, George is my precious reminder of the love of this part of our family living far away in South Africa.
Christians over the centuries have used icons – images, things and even people, sometimes – that help us remember God is the source of everything and that God loves and accepts us just as we are. That’s what the Christmas tree, the songs, the decorations, do for us. They remind us of our Christian story, and Jesus’ lessons of love and forgiveness. This year, I’ve decided that George the giraffe, with his rainbow coloured beads, his big ears that stick straight out, and his long neck and legs, will be my icon to help me remember to live God’s Christmas Spirit all year long. I see George every time I sit down with my computer on my knees. Every time I walk past the living room and see George, peering at me with his quizzical expression I will think of God’s call to love and forgive others as God loves and forgives me.
As you start another year, I suggest you identify something in your home that is connected to love, something that you see every day. It could be a family heirloom (Mom’s china cabinet, Grandpa’s favorite chair), a gift you’ve received (a painting, a bowl, a knick knack). Choose something to remind you daily of the many blessings you have received, something to trigger words of thanks for your abundance, something that brings to your heart a response of love. That icon can help you keep God’s loving Spirit that thrives at Christmas time, with you all year long. You see, we don’t intend to pack away our love and acceptance, our joy in living with the Christmas decorations. We lose our Christmas Spirit in the busyness, the sadness, the craziness of everyday living. Let your icon be the reminder you need for 2018.