Category Archives: Joy

We Can Walk together in Peace and Love

 

This month, we were blessed with the opportunity to celebrate fifty years of marriage with our friends, Nancy and Richard. We wanted to bring them something special because they are treasured friends. We knew of their respect and valuing of our First Nations people, so we went to Hiawatha, to the Mississaugas of Rice Lake, to look for a gift at their Old Railway Stop Store. We had a wonderful time soaking in the beauty of the work of local First Nations artists. Among a collection of prints by Barbara Edwards, I found the perfect painting, titled “Love in Twilight.”

I wanted to add the story behind the painting as part of the gift. It took a few weeks, but eventually, we connected with Barbara at the Hiawatha PowWow.

“Please tell me the story of your painting,” I asked.

Barbara responded, “I was asked to paint a picture as a wedding gift for a young couple. To me, it was an honour and a privilege. I painted them in each other’s arms, dressed in white buckskin, their eyes filled with love. When I finished the painting, my thoughts went to the young couple’s future. What would their lives be like in fifty years? I wanted to paint them looking back at all they had achieved over those fifty years, so I painted, “Love in Twilight”.

For Tom and me, Barbara’s beautiful print, “Love in Twilight,” speaks of being together, sitting side by side, legs and arms touching, soaking in the beauty and the stillness of a moonlit night. The couple have exchanged their white buckskin garments for the beauty and durability of the brown, undyed skin. In our minds, the two people in the painting represent our dear friends. Together they too have walked through many years and reached the peace, trust and safety that comes with mature, married love.

Our First Nation’s people are talented artists, a blessing to us all.

 

Welcome Home

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This year as Mothers’ Day approaches, Robert Munsch’s poem keeps running in my mind, “I’ll love you forever. I’ll love you for always. As long as I’m living, your mother I’ll be.” Our role as Mom continues as it changes over the years.

A month ago, my oldest grandson moved to Vancouver to begin a new life as an adult. My daughter shared, “I love receiving one line texts from Chris. I understand now what it’s like to have your child grow up and move away.” I nodded and thought about son, Dave and his family in Ethiopia. Even when being Mom of adult children brings challenges, I treasure the privilege.

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I remember being filled with wonder as my children returned home as young adults at the end of their first year at university. Lively conversation entertained us at our dinner table. I was proud and happy. By Mother’s Day two or three weeks later, the edges of that joy had frayed a little. This new adult, who had experienced eight months of total freedom from mother’s concerns, questions, advice introduced a new challenge to motherhood. Divorce, job loss, sickness, grief, and more drive adult children home to live, not just for the summer, but sometimes for years.

The challenges of motherhood keep changing. The continuous process of letting go requires the love described in 1 Corinthians 13, “Love is patient. Love is kind… It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” This Mothers’ Day, I offer the following prayer for families at every stage in a child’s development.

“Loving God, you created us to live in relationship because you know we need one another. Turn our minds and hearts to seek out and savour the moments of joy in every phase of our lives together. When tough times come, help us soak in your wisdom, patience and strength. Enable us to let go when necessary and to gather in and comfort when needed. Help us to let go of the guilt from past mistakes and begin each day anew. We want to love well. We want our relationships to be healthy. Help us to remember that with you there is hope. You are always with us, wanting and planning a future filled with joy and laughter. Amen”

 

 

“What Was That, Anyway?”

Can You Recognize God’s Spirit?

Tears of Joy
Tears of Joy

At choir practice a number of years ago, my good friend, Cathy had the seat beside me. We giggled and laughed and enjoyed our friendship even as we worked hard at singing. One night at practice, we stood up and sang with great gusto the African hymn, “We are Marching in the Light of God.” I felt tears of joy fill my eyes as our voices filled the sanctuary. When we sat down, Cathy leaned over and said, “Wow, that made the hair on my arms stand up. What was that, anyway?”

My immediate response, “God’s Spirit just joined in our fun.”

She looked at me and frowned, but said nothing more. After practice we went for coffee. As soon as we sat down, Cathy asked, “What did you mean by, ‘God’s spirit just joined in our fun.’?”

I shared stories with her of other special moments when I had felt the Spirit’s presence. I told her of the tears of joy that came with my child’s first step, my daughter’s marriage, when I first held in my hands a book I had written and more. Each time, God’s Spirit came it brought a physical response – tears of joy flowed down my cheeks, the hair on my arms stood up, or a shiver ran from my toes to my head. The Bible tells us we cannot control God’s Spirit; she comes when and where she chooses. Our job is to recognize her presence. “Thank you,” was all Cathy said.

On Sunday morning two weeks later, one of our choir soloists sang, “Mary Did you Know”. When she finished, Cathy leaned over and said, “Did you feel it? Did you feel God’s Spirit. Look!” She touched a tear on her cheek. “I think God enjoyed Linda’s solo as much as the rest of us. Thank you for naming God’s Spirit for me.“

God had used me, not to preach, but to share my faith stories. Together we made a crack and God seeped in. I am grateful.

The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3: 8)

Dipping Your Toes

Tonight I finished the first draft of my new book, “Dipping Your Toes in small group devotional worship planning.” At least that’s the working title. I will probably shorten it to “Dipping Your Toes” and then add a second sentence in slightly smaller print. I’m totally excited about this book. I know it is wanted and needed by lay people of every denomination. Already, I have had amazing feedback from those who have read the first few chapters. “Dipping Your Toes” is due at the editors on January 16th so I still have time to review, rework and revise. When I have the first service in close to final form I’ll send it out for all as a sample. This is a marvelous way to begin the new the new year. Thank you God.

Book Signing at Soul Feast, Junaluska, North Carolina

Yesterday I was blessed with the opportunity to join with a number of Upper Room authors at a book signing at Soul Feast, in Junaluska, North Carolina. The Upper Room Publishing Team were extremely gracious in allowing me to participate as the only self-published author present. In fact their marketing director came over to give me tips on how to draw people to my books. It was fun and exhausting.

Book Signing is fun!
Book Signing is fun!

Goodness and Mercy? Fun and Laughter? My choice!

We were enjoying Sunday brunch with a group of friends from the church, when one asked, “Does anyone have suggestions for something Brian and I could do today?” After several suggestions from others, I blurted out , “Come to our house for dinner.”

Tom and I prepared a simple dinner of grilled veggies, salad and fresh catfish. Our friends brought an ice cream cake. We had a relaxed meal and good conversation and several euchre games, all of it laced with laughter. My spontaneous invitation resulted in a blessed evening for the four of us.

With a full calendar, I don’t often do spur of the moment things anymore. When I have an afternoon or evening with nothing already planned, I try not to fill it up with more busyness. Spontaneity has disappeared. I’ve lost track of the fact that Jesus enjoyed a good time. I believe that God has fun and fellowship waiting for us always. Consider the last few lines of the Twenty-third Psalm, “Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  Maybe God enjoys the freedom of last minute plans as much as we do.

One thing I know for sure. If I had stopped to consider the state of my house, or what was available in my freezer and fridge, or that this was the first day with nothing in it we’d had all week, I wouldn’t have extended the invitation, and the four of us would have missed out on enjoying God’s goodness. So, I encourage you to open your eyes to the unexpected. God’s goodness and mercy does follow us. All that is required is our choice to turn and receive it.

 

A Child Speaks

My first ebook. Amazing

I’m feeling great. I’ve managed to make my way through all the forms, click on all the right boxes, and send my book “A Child Speaks” to Smashwords. I’m still floating from the experience of seeing my book listed with millions of others. My next task is to organize a blog tour or book launch.  I’ve still got to work my way through the U.S. tax forms in order to receive the money, when the book sells. But, I belief in jumping one hurdle at a time. I’m truly grateful to Kimberly Payne for her help in navigating, to Maureen Cutajar for formatting the book and Donna Casey for designing the cover. It’s easy to purchase just go to www.smashwords.com and type in the title. It’s only $5.99. If you already own the print version, I’d be thrilled if you checked into Smashwords and left a review.

Just Plunge Right In

Living close to SturgeonLake means that I can find relief from hot weather with a daily dip in the lake’s cool water. On busy days, it can be nine at night, before I think, “Oh yes, I haven’t yet had my swim.” Still, I grab my towel and trot down to the beach. At night, the mosquitoes make sure I don’t stand on the shore cautiously dipping my toes to see if the water’s cold. With their help, I plunge right in. As I stretch out in that cool refreshing water, all the cares of the day recede. I turn my eyes to the stars glistening in the sky, and the moon’s silvery path across the water. God is good, I think.

In some ways, our attitude to God’s call is a lot like my attitude to swimming. We know that doing God’s work daily will bring joy and refreshment, but far too often, when God calls on us with a leadership role, we hang back. Whether it’s chairing a committee, organizing the strawberry supper, teaching Sunday School, or joining the church visitation team, we’re afraid. Will we be able to do it? Do we have the skills?

God doesn’t use mosquitoes or any kind of force to get us to choose God’s way. God does promise to be with us, giving us the strength, the wisdom and the help we need. When we set aside our fears and plunge in, we’re often amazed. Before long, we’re doing the job and enjoying it.

The bottom line is that we cannot enjoy the cool refreshing water as long as we stand on the sea shore. We cannot receive the joy of growing and learning with God without conquering our fear of what lies ahead. We can say yes to leadership. We can plunge right into the water because God is with us. Remember God doesn’t call the equipped. God equips the called. Thanks be to God.

 

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.  For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”  (2 Timothy 6-7)

God’s Amazing Grace

The picture is at the end. It seems to be the best I can do tonight.

I have a friend who greets the question, “How are you today?” with this response. “Well, I woke up this morning on the right side of the grass. I’m grateful.” I usually chuckle with him because he reminds me that being alive is a gift.

I believe that each day, God gives us twenty-four hours in which to be the best we can be. And God doesn’t abandon us to struggle with that gift. God fills those twenty-four hours with moments of “Amazing Grace”. This time of year, God’s daily package often includes blessed sunshine dancing from flower to flower, or refreshing rain washing the world clean.  Regardless of what is happening in my life, I can look out my living room window, and give thanks for God’s beautiful world. Some days, I wake up excited about a party planned for a friend, a new job, a grandchild coming to visit. On those days, it’s easy to be aware of God’s Amazing Grace.

The problem is that every day is not filled with joy. April and May for my family and me were filled with tough days. As my sisters and I walked with our precious mother on her cancer journey to death, there were days when I didn’t want to open God’s daily gift of life. Exhaustion made the simplest task difficult. My heart ached for my Mom, who endured excruciating pain. Looking back, I know those days were also filled with “God’s Amazing Grace”. Those weeks were a “Holy Time”. God filled them with the privilege of physically caring for my Mom, with laughter in the midst of misery, with conversations about life and death, with strength to continue.

A parcel, no matter how beautifully wrapped, is not truly a gift until it is received and opened. Some days we want to refuse God’s gift of life because it’s difficult. Those feelings are natural and normal. On those days, we need to remember that always, God is with us. Trust that even when life is messy God has given us a day filled with “Amazing Grace”. Make a point of opening your eyes and heart to the Grace God has in store for you on even the greyest of days.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”  (Philippians 4:4)

My Flight Home

A Day Filled With Angels.
Today I left Tucson after six weeks of caring for my Mom who has cancer. I dragged myself onto the full plane this morning, exhausted after six weeks of little sleep. Emotionally depleted, I wanted desperately to go home, and desperately to stay. I didn’t want to give up the privilege of caring for Mom, yet I knew it was time to share with my aunts. I worried that the next time I came would be for her funeral.
I stepped over two absolute strangers, and dropped into my seat for the first leg of my day long journey. Never doubt that God will give us, who and what we need. Those two strangers, Sherrie and Dick were wonderful. Starting with identifying our destinations, the three of chatted about our lives. In three and a half hours we built relationships. Some people would say, that I just happened to sit beside two outgoing people. It was just a coincidence that Sherrie was a woman of faith, and Dick a man of ideas and questions.
I believe, our meeting was a God-incident. I was blessed by God with exactly what I needed today. We talked of our past and our future. I received affirmation and peace. As the plane landed in Atlanta, Sherrie said she would email me about her trip to Milan. Dick asked, “What plane are you flying to New York?” It turned out that we were once again on the same plane. We had only forty minutes to our next flight. “We may have to go to a different terminal,” Dick said. “I’ll help you figure it out.” And he did. We caught the shuttle train, and were at our gate with nearly 30 minutes to spare.
            What had felt like climbing Mount Everest when I got up with Mom and Aunt Shirley at 3:45 a.m., had been transformed into joy. And it didn’t end with that first leg of the journey. On the second plane, I overheard the stewardess telling a mother and young boy that she would try to find them two seats together. This time the seat beside me was empty so I volunteered to be moved. The stewardess found me a place beside a pilot, commuting to work in New York. In the midst of our conversation, he described the La Guardia Airport in New York so that I was able to find my way easily to a second terminal and my third plane of the day. The other passenger in that seat was a woman my age, whose mother had died within the last year. Once again God had given me the people I needed to find joy and peace.
            On the final leg of the journey, my fellow passenger was a young mother who as the CEO of a large investment firm, was flying to Buffalo to welcome a new company into their organization. As she talked about her family and the struggle that comes with being a working professional as well as a mother, I listened and truly cared. This time, I felt not only cared for by God, but also that I had a purpose in being there for her. In addition, she read and loved my book, “A Place Called Home” and bought a copy as well. My trip home has been amazing.
            Jesus said, “I will be with you always.” Today was not the first time, nor will it be the last time, that God carries me through a tough time. I could easily have buried myself in my computer and ignored all five of those wonderful people. I certainly had every reason to withdraw from the world to lick my wounds and sleep, but I didn’t.  I give thanks to God for a life time of expecting God’s presence. I believe that expectation opened me to receive God’s love and care today.