An Unexpected Sanctuary

Last fall when we re-sodded the back yard, our garden swing was left leaning up against the side of the house. This spring I suggested, “Let’s give that old swing away. We never use it.”

Tom frowned, “Maybe.“

A few weeks later, I stood on our freshly painted deck and said, “Let’s try that old swing here. We could roll out the awning and enjoy the rain.”

Tom surveyed the width of our deck, shook his head and said, “Swings pretty big but let’s try it.”

Son Dave, helped carry the swing round to the deck. Once in place, I flopped down on it. “Yes,” I said. “This is good. It just needs a few flowers.”

Today our long-forgotten swing brings a patch of paradise to our home.  A colorful basket of geraniums and petunias hangs in one corner. Purple and white Lavatera and clemantis peek through the slats in the railing. Purple, white and yellow flowers spill from the mouth of our old chimenea, another one of those things we haven’t used in years. Bright red geraniums are growing from its chimney. Overhead, white fluffy clouds sail slowly by. In every direction God’s beauty shines radiantly in the summer sun.

August is just beginning and i already I’ve spent hours in that swing, meditating, writing, reading or visiting with friends and family. For the first time, since we moved to Peterborough five years ago, I feel as if I have truly come home.

I believe God knew what I needed and offered it. The deck, the swing, the chimenea, they had all been with us for many years. They have come together with my love of flowers to create my summer sanctuary. I didn’t plan it but I love it. My friends tell me I’ve slowed down a little and I have. Each day I step away from the world for a little while and rest in my summer sanctuary. When I return, life feels better, more peaceful, more precious. I give God thanks every day for this blessing.

Today I’m thinking about you. I wish for you a sanctuary tailored to your needs. I didn’t plan mine. It feels as if it just happened. But of course it didn’t. My suggestion to you is that you keep your heart open for a quiet place, inside or outside. In this crazy world we need our sanctuary places, our places where it feels easy to practice recognizing God’s presence. It doesn’t require a big expenditure. It might require some repurposing of things you already have. I suggest you join with God in creating your special place, your peaceful place, your summer sanctuary.

A Great Weekend – God’s blessing!

ThCobourg Harbour Front Festival

I’ve just finished bringing my books to two different events. At Cobourg festival, the members of Spirit of the Hills writer’s group had rented a booth together. We all took shifts in the booth. Working with other authors is always fun. I’ve not checked yet on my individual sales. That’s today’s job.

The second event was last Saturday. I was invited by Gayle Colman of a UC. resource centre near London, to join her at a United Church Women’s Conference in London, ON. I had a grand time. We sold seventy of my books. My hand was tired from signing my name. The affirmation of my work from those who had bought my books at the Westminster women’s event in May, was heart warming.

Shopping time for the women attending the conference was early morning during registration time, and at lunch. In total they had about an hour. Yet in this short time, I sold 70 books. My heart was overflowing. The day before I had received a message from a middle ages man looking for a third in my Catalpa Creek series. It seems as if my ministry is on track. So I give God thanks as I’m back at writing this morning. We all need affirmation once in a while. God is good. Just when I’m feeling like it’s time to quit, I receive a boost like this. So I wanted to share my good news with all of you.

Given Just for Loving!

The Joy of the Generations

My Thoughts As I greeted this beautiful day.

Love You Forever

When my children were young, of course, I loved them with my whole being. Like the Robert Munsch story, in my head I kept saying, “I’ll love you forever. As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.” Still, there was always my job as a parent to help them grow into responsible, loving people. I did my best to teach them about caring for others. I had values, I wanted them to learn especially when it came to respecting others. I believed it was my job to help them become the best they can be. For me that responsibility was precious, fulfilling, essential. Sometimes it meant that I was angry with the things they did. Sometimes it meant that I was overjoyed with their accomplishments. Through it all, deep down I loved them.

My relationship with my grandchildren is different.  I am no longer responsible for helping them grow into responsible adults. That’s their parents’ task. I have only two jobs with my grandchildren. The first is to love them, just love them unconditionally. That is pure pleasure. When they were two, together we stuck our fingers into the cake icing and experienced that yummy sweet stuff on our tongues as we licked our fingers. By the time they were five, we cuddled and read that just one more story making bedtime a little bit late. During their bath time we splashed water on the floor. As teenagers, I listened unconditionally to their stories. The pressure is off and it feels wonderful.

My second task with my grandchildren is to live what I believe, to make sure that my values shine through. I believe that all people are God’s beloved children. I believe that we are called to care for others and share our many blessings. As a senior, the busyness of life, the worries about tomorrow, the fears of what could happen, do not have to blind my heart to living as an example for my grandchildren. There is such a long list of things I wish I had done with my children. I can turn those wishes into reality with my grandchildren.

Best of all, I can hold in the forefront of my mind that these grandchildren are God’s precious blessings in my life. They are gifts given for me to love. I don’t have to have expectations of them. Once again that’s their parents’ jobs. I can relax and love them. Thank you God.

We Are Celebrating!!!

Happy Anniversary

Tom and I had a lovely day today celebrating our sixteenth anniversary. The actual date was June 21st. On that day our lives were full of grandchildren. We went to the matinee performance of Tuesday’s With Morrie which is playing at the Capitol Theatre in Port Hope. The play was wonderful. The acting superb. Our hearts were touched. After the play we walked around Port Hope, even visited a book store. This picture was taken by our waitress during supper at the Waddell Pub – Trattoria Gusto patio. The food was amazing. The service fabulous. They even gave us a free dessert. The whole experience couldn’t have been better. Tom and I are truly blessed. Sixteen years of marriage and it feels like we’re just starting out. We wish for all that their relationships could be as happy as ours. Of course it’s not all as wonderful as today, and yet even in the difficult times, we know God has brought us together. We give thanks each and every day.

We Lead by Example: Intentional or Not.

We Lead By Example Intentional or Not

We had a wonderful time with our two youngest grandchildren, Alex age 5 and Lise age 3, when they were visiting from Vancouver. We went to the Indian River Reptile Zoo, the Fish and Wildlife Centre and the Peterborough Zoo. We played at the parks around the corner. We read books. We had a busy week.

At supper, their last night with us, Tom and I, lost in our sadness around saying good bye, rushed into the meal without giving God thanks as we usually do. About halfway through the meal, Alex said, “We didn’t ask the blessing.”

Feeling guilty I said, “Let’s say it right now. Thank you for the reminder. We joined hands and I gave thanks for the beautiful sunny day, our food, even the food already in our tummies, our family and more. When our meal was nearly over, Alex turned to his parents and asked, “Can we say a blessing when we get home to Vancouver?”

One week, of giving thanks at every meal whether we were picnicking, or gathered round the table, had grabbed Alex’s attention. There must have been something that touched his little heart for he wanted to continue the practice at home.

For me, it had taken courage and persistence to continue our mealtime prayers while our family was with us. We knew it wasn’t part of their meal ritual. There is always the fear that we will offend if we live our faith. Yet we did it, simply and regularly because that is what we do. I’m sure God smiled when Alex asked his questions. I know I did.

We led by example rather than lectures, or intentional teaching. We just continued our lives and our grandson felt God’s touch. I am truly grateful.

Cobourg Waterfront Festival

PLEASE JOIN ME

I had a grand time this morning with my author friends from our Spirit of the Hills Writer’s group. We set up our booth at the Cobourg Waterfront Festival. The Festival runs today, tomorrow and Monday. There are hundreds of vendors, as well as a carnival and of course the fabulous Cobourg Beach. Lake Ontario is still a little chilly. I will be taking my turn in our booth tomorrow from 3:20 to 6:00. If you are in the area, please come by to say Hi, and check out our books. There are about 40 local authors represented in the wide variety of books. If you buy one of mine I’ll be pleased to sign it when I’m there. I’m looking forward to seeing you tomorrow. Have a great day and give thanks for this fabulous sunshine and warmth.

Can We Continue to Agree (ENOUGH)?

Our five- year- old grandson crawled into our bed this morning for a cuddle before his little sister woke up. Once he was all snuggled down, he opened the conversation with “My Daddy said that people come from Serbia (his dad is Serbian) to Canada because they want a good life in Canada. In Serbia, people can’t agree and there was war. My friend at “Pooh Corner” (his daycare) came to Canada because there is war in her country. They couldn’t get along there.”

My automatic response was, “I’m glad people can agree enough in Canada.”

His answer, “Me, too.”

Some people describe Canadians as “passive,” and “pleasers.” I’m not so sure about that. I do know we can get upset about injustice. As Canadians, we value our health care system that ensures medical care for everyone. We value our educational system that gives all children the opportunity to learn. We value our freedom to worship, our freedom to be who we are. I don’t ever want to take the peace and freedom we enjoy in this wonderful country for granted.

I’m glad our grandson, at age five, already knows that we are truly blessed to be Canadian. Those of us who were born here, and those who have come to make Canada their home, can get along. Of course, it isn’t easy. God has exercised such variety in creation. It is a challenge.

In Canada, we have proven that it can be done. We can get along. We can hear each others stories when we’ve made mistakes. We can work together to do better.

July 1st is coming soon. As we celebrate our country’s birthday, let’s give thanks for this beautiful mosaic that is Canada. We know our mosaic can be a source of discord. Without work and intention, we could become one of those countries in which people don’t get along, in which there is war. Let’s commit ourselves to loving and accepting one another as unique and special, God’s precious gifts.

How Do I Read the Bible?

I’ve been reading and writing and not posting. That doesn’t feel good to me. So here it comes. Words that aren’t quite clear. Thoughts that I’ve just poured down on paper.

How Do I Read the Bible?

Today, I was reading the gospel of John, chapters 8 and 9. When I read the Bible, I usually read a short passage, a few verses. I read two whole chapters because the I was looking for the end of the argument. In these chapters Jesus is arguing with the scribes and pharisees. According to the writer of John, Jesus is trying to convince these religious leaders that he is God with us. Jesus keeps saying, God the Father is part of me, sent me. He keeps telling them to open their eyes. In the midst of it, Jesus demonstrates his healing power. Jesus heals a man born blind. Even this healing miracle does nothing to convince his listeners, his questioners, his accusers.

When I had finished reading these two chapters, I picked up Henri Nouwen’s, “The Only Necessary Thing”. In his chapter on the “Discipline of Prayer”, he talks about Bible Reading and Contemplation. This morning I read, “the word of God should lead us first of all to contemplation and meditation. Instead of taking the words apart, we should bring them together in our innermost being; instead of wondering if we agree or disagree, we should wonder which words are directly spoken to us and connect directly with our most personal story. Instead of thinking about the words as potential subjects for an interesting dialogue or paper (I substituted blog), we should be willing to let them penetrate into the most hidden corners of our heart, even to those places where no other word has yet found entrance. Then and only then can the word bear fruit as seed sown in rich soil. Only then can we really “hear and understand”. (Matt. 13:23)”

And so I went back and thought about the writer’s words in those two chapters. What was God trying to tell me this morning? This is what I wrote down – what I heard from God – the seed God is trying to sew in my heart this morning.

In these two chapters I hear John spending a lot of time on “Who is Jesus?” John relates Jesus’ words telling me Jesus is God with us. Jesus declares it. The Pharisees don’t believe. Jesus offers proof by healing the man born blind. This miracle does not convince them. As I thought about the wholeness of those two chapters, I realized that in my heart I do believe that Jesus was God with us, teaching us God’s “Way” of living, loving. I truly believe that God lives within each one of us calling us to be a conduit for God’s presence in our world. We are each God’s precious children. God lives within us. I know there is no real logical proof of this belief but it is true. If Jesus couldn’t convince people with his words and miracles, I certainly won’t be able too. It’s a mystery. Proof in words and actions is not necessary. I just need to be God’s loving child and help others to be God’s loving children. That will take different forms over my life time. Sometimes I will do well. Sometimes I will feel like a total failure. Always this is my path.

All I can do is live as God calls me. In everything I do and say, I need to live God’s love. In my preaching, my blogging, my writing, I am a conduit for God’s love. It’s that simple and that difficult, all at the same time. With God’s help, I can always return to that purpose.

I have decided that Henri Nouwen is right. Instead of being frustrated with those two Biblical chapters, instead of feeling as if Jesus is just fighting a losing battle, instead of thinking that John is just trying to convince me of something that makes no sense, I have heard a reassurance of my own faith. I have heard God’s call once again especially in my writing.

So these are my thoughts for your contemplation. Read and ignore, that’s your choice. Or try reading those chapters in the Gospel of John and listen for God’s word for you. If you like write me and tell me what you have heard. I’d truly like that.

Where Do I Find Fuel for My Journey?

I find fuel for my life each day when I sit in my favourite chair, pen, journal, Bible, and book of reflections on my knee. This is my time with God.  I read, reflect and write in solitude. My day is always better when I give this time for prayer.  I’ve been practising a time of morning meditation for approximately forty years.  It’s special sacred time that enables me to remember that I am God’s beloved child, abundantly blessed.

Most days this week, God’s brilliant sunshine has created a halo around a vase of wild-flowers proudly gracing my Tibetan trunk.  Their regal beauty reminded me daily of two very important blessings in my life. First, they remind me to keep my eyes open all day to the beauty of God’s world that surrounds me. Second and even more important they speak of the love and care our grandson, Tim, age twenty-two, has for us. He picked them, brought them, arranged them and left them as a surprise greeting “just because”. They remind me to keep my heart open to God’s love that is offered every moment of every day, “just because”.

This week, God and Tim have worked together to touch my heart and fuel my soul. I am truly grateful. Without my daily discipline of prayer and meditation, I might have walked by those flowers and missed out on receiving the fuel I need for living.

My suggestion for each one of you is that you take a few moments every day to meet up with God in prayer. Why spend a day without acknowledging God’s presence, God’s power within you. God’s strength and power are there, available to you, whether or not you receive them, invite them into your life. There is no need to run on an empty tank.

 

We Can’t Make Our Children Join Us!

In today’s world, many of us who are long time church members despair at the lack of interest our children show towards church. We brought them to Sunday School as children. They’ve seen our example. Yet they reject it all. We tried to sow the seeds of faith but they didn’t take root. What can we do?

We know the value the church community has for us. Our church family celebrates with us when good things happen, cries with us in our pain and supports us as we step into the world trying new things. Some people think the church is a social club.

Yet the church is so much more than a social club. We gather together in faith. Sunday morning worship and bible study lead us to think about what we believe, to grow in our spirituality. As we gather together we are safe to face the challenge of living, to ask the questions that whirl round in our heads. As we share our resources and our gifts we can reach out beyond the church walls, and the boundaries of our community and country to make a difference in the world. Building a personal relationship with God, we learn that we are never alone, abandoned. God is always with us. We can experience God in others. Of course we want all of that and so much more for our children. And so we lament their refusal to join us.

As I have thought about this, I heard God’s voice speaking in my heart. “Jan, what is Christian faith. I answered, “Following the “Way of Christ.” Then came the question, “What does that mean?”

I remembered that Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, and soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. These are the two greatest commandments.”

Jesus’ Way, has TWO prongs. Our children may not be willing to accept the first prong of Jesus’ way. They are not claiming faith in God in any form but when we look closely, they are living that second prong of Jesus’ “Way” sometimes even better than we do.

My one son, who has rejected religion in any form, lives the attributes of Jesus. He is kind and loving. He is accepting – of people of every race, color and faith. He cares about the environment, particularly the animals. He volunteers at animal shelters. He’s a committed vegetarian. In most of the places he and his family have lived, they have volunteered at orphanages as well. He shares what he has generously with others. Oh yes, he lives the “way of Christ,” better than many who profess Christianity in any of its forms.

I’m sure if each one of you look carefully at your children you will see that they too live the “way of Christ”. Some of the seeds of faith have taken root and blossomed beautifully. Yes, they haven’t accepted it all. Maybe they never will. Still they are, and always will be God’s beloved children. God is with them, caring for them. As Christians our job is not to change them or judge them. Our job is to love them, and to live the “way of Christ” ourselves. God will take care of the rest.

I take this one step further. Because every person in the world is God’s beloved child, regardless of faith or non-faith, our job is to love them. Our job is to be the best we can be on the path we follow. God will take care of the rest. And I am grateful.