Thanks to everyone who responded to my “Good News” Posts. I appreciate so much your good wishes both for my health and for the sequel to my novel Fireweed.
Thanks to everyone who responded to my “Good News” Posts. I appreciate so much your good wishes both for my health and for the sequel to my novel Fireweed.
“I know what I can do to help my classmate,” said five-year-old Indigo to her parents. They had read the school’s note about her classmate’s mother who was in a Toronto hospital, after being seriously hurt in a car accident. “I’ll ask my church family to help me. They like to help people and they don’t want people to be sad.” The following Sunday morning at Keene United Church, little Indigo took the microphone and confidently asked us to join her in raising money to help her classmate’s family with gas and parking for the endless trips to Toronto. That morning, Indigo collected $360 plus a mountain of prayer.
Of course, the Spirit of generosity in our church family is important, but I tell you this story for another reason. Today many parents invest money and time for their children’s participation in sports in order for them to learn teamwork, self-esteem, leadership skills and benefit from the physical exercise. Occasionally one of them is good enough to be drafted for the big leagues or earn a university scholarship.
Indigo’s mom brings her to church because she knows within her church family, Indigo will learn those same values and so much more. Already, Indigo knows when she hurts, her church family cares. Already at the age of five, Indigo knows she can depend on her church family to help her when she wants to help others. Already, Indigo has soaked in the knowledge that she is accepted as God’s precious child in her church home.
As the years go by, Indigo will more deeply understand the strength that comes from being welcomed and loved just as God created her. She will remember that she didn’t have to “make the team” at church. She’s been a part of the team from her very beginning. Through our teaching and example, Indigo will have gained confidence in God’s free gift of forgiveness, discovered the wisdom and comfort the Bible offers her and accepted the assurance that comes from knowing that she is never alone. God is with her always.
Why bring your child to church? The church family offers love, acceptance, assurance, strength, confidence – these are values all parents want for their children. We hope Indigo will cherish belonging to the Keene United Church family for a lifetime. The gift of faith in God is hers to enjoy for always. Already, she has learned a “way of life” that has empowered her to help others.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)
Today our daughter Connie and family said goodbye to their much loved dog, Meg. She joined the family the same year as our granddaughter Ellie 14 years ago. She’ll be missed by all of us, including “Bear Paw” Meg’s daughter. Here is a picture of the two of them taken a couple of years ago. Bear Paw had hurt her leg, and Meg a wonderful mother, kept her close giving her comfort. Meg has been a blessing for all of us.
Pets bring so much love and support into a family. They love us just as we are, unconditionally. I believe God often offers us solace, strength and love through our pets. They too can be angels in our lives.
What I Do Is Important to God
Yesterday I read a newspaper interview with Louise Penny, the well-known author of the Inspector Gamache Mystery Series. I hadn’t written my “Thought for the Day” before leaving home and I wondered if it mattered anyway. After all, I am only a self-published author, not a Louise Penny. I’m not well-known nor important in this world. It was easy for my mind to slip from that thought to why do I bother to do this anyway.
This morning I woke up determined to write today’s thought even though we are visiting with friends, and I have lots of excuses to skip doing it. I believe God has called me to write just as God has called me to do little acts of kindness every day, to love my family, to be God’s blessing in the world.
A Caring Touch
God has not called me to judge the effectiveness of my writing or any of my acts of faith. God reserves that right. God only asks me to respond to this world with goodness and love using the gifts God has given me.
Today I offer you this thought. Whatever goodness you endeavour to do today, whether the action is part of your work, or play or something extra, that action is important to God. It may be your smile, your washing of a coffee cup, your loonie given to a homeless person, your opening of a door – TRUST – that God needs your action done today to accomplish God’s purpose. This is your mantra for today:
WHAT I DO IS IMPORTANT TO GOD!!!
The Hand of Friendship
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!
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!”
Income tax time is over today for most of us. Did you begrudge paying your income tax? Many of us do.
This year, the day I was paying my taxes, I read the story of John F. Kennedy’s inaugural presidential speech. The quote, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country,” jarred my dissatisfaction. Kennedy’s words reminded me to let go of my complaining. Like many others, I can point out the places that I know or suspect our government is wasting our tax dollars. I, too, listen to the news as they cover the trial of Senator Duffy. It’s easy to see the mistakes, and what looks like dishonesty.
Still, as I think about Kennedy’s words, I am drawn to consider why we pay income tax. Almost every day I hop into my car and drive either downtown, or to Toronto, Lindsay or… Somehow those highways have to be paid for. I turn on a tap, and there is clean water. I am able to pay my bills today because of the education I received as a youngster. If I’m sick or injured, I can go to the hospital without worrying about cost. I listen to the CBC. I love camping in provincial and national parks. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Most important is the fact that our tax dollars help to spread the wealth of this nation a little more evenly among our people. And there is so much more.
Of course, we have complaints. Still, I wouldn’t live in any other country. I want the infrastructure, the luxuries that are here. Yes, I am willing to pay my taxes even when it pinches. I want the security of employment insurance and Canada and Old Age Pensions. I’m willing to pay for the social and health security of all Canadian citizens. By myself, I could do little, but together with the rest of Canadians, I can do so much and I am grateful.
“All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” (Acts 2:44-45)
Years ago, on my first day at work in Dunsford United Church, Linda, the board chair handed me a list of eight names. “These people need visiting” she said. “See Jean first. Her husband died last year and she’s having rough time. You’ll like Jean. She’s a sweetheart.”
Starting in a new place is always difficult. I was grateful for the list. Pastoral care is such an important part of a minister’s work. About three that afternoon, I set down my pen and gathered up my purse. The sermon for Sunday is started, I thought. I’ll go see Jean now.
Jean lived just up the road from the church. When I rang the doorbell, a beautiful white haired woman in her early eighties greeted me with a big smile. “Come in. Come in.” she said. “I’m so glad to see you. To think that you’ve started with me. What a privilege.” With that, a precious friendship began.
Even though caregiving for the church or as a neighbour requires time and patience , it also can be a source of abundant learning and joy. Over my five years serving Dunsford United Church, and caring for Jean, she taught me an important lesson.
Every day, Jean misses Lawrence, her friend and lover of more than sixty years, and yet she is always ready to share her life with others. She believed that when grief threatens to consume you, turn your heart and mind to someone else who needs you. As you focus on giving to another, you will discover that healing has begun for you. Jean lived that wisdom.
Yes, I cared for Jean, and Jean cared for me. Her love and support carried me in my rough times. She has taught me to recognize the Joy and the Learning that comes when we step outside of ourselves.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
“What can I do to help?” Is a familiar question to many of us. Whether it’s a death in the family, or a flood, whatever the need, we want to help. Often we don’t think we have the right words, but we still want to do something, to make it better.
When my wonderful biological mother died I was far, far away and feeling very lost. I had had only twelve years to love her, and I wanted longer. Since I’d found her, I had travelled to Tucson, Arizona every year to visit her. Those were very precious visits. I wished I had gone more often and stayed longer. We hadn’t shared enough of either of our stories. I believed that my friends and family wouldn’t understand because they all knew I loved my adoptive mother totally while she was alive. I wasn’t sure if I should even tell others that I was sad.
Carved forever in my heart is my daughter’s response to the news of the death of this other Grandma she barely knew. “Oh Mom,” my Connie said, “It must be so hard for you to be here and not there. I’m coming over for the day. I’ll just get the children off to school and then I’ll be there with you.”
Connie came and sat with me and held me while I cried. Her presence brought such comfort and peace. I needed her and she was here.
Today I remind all of you that your presence is the most precious gift you can give. Of course, there are things you can do – send flowers, bring food, help with the arrangements and …but most important of all is the blessing of your presence.
Jesus reassured his followers with: “And remember I am with you always till the end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 20)
In “Walk in My Garden,” I read Helen Ripley’s story of returning to teaching after her husband died. When her grade one class was dismissed for recess, Elena remained behind and asked, “Are you okay, Mrs. Ripley?”
“Yes, I’m fine,” Helen replied, smiling at the child.
The child remained and said, “I know what happened. Are you really okay?”
That question from a six-year-old brought tears to Helen’s cheeks. Her heart touched, Helen said, “Thank you so much for stopping and caring. Yes, I’m sad right now, but I will be okay.” (p. 38)
God’s track record of caring for us always amazes me. During my divorce, God sent a parishioner to my study door, her arms outstretched in caring love. She held me while I cried.
When we need God with skin on, God never fails us. People of all ages, sometimes friends or family, sometimes strangers, appear and listen, offer a hug, an encouraging word, or a helping hand. God sends us angels in every size and colour because we are always God’s beloved children. Sometimes God even recruits you and me into his society of angels. Either way we know we are blessed by our loving God.
Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, a day set apart to honour those we love and who love us. For the last several weeks our commercial society screamed out, “Send Valentines. Buy gifts”. Regardless what happened yesterday, today is a new day. The opportunity to give a gift of love is not gone. I encourage you to search for the opportunity to be God’s Valentine, God’s angel, for someone, today and every day. Before February 15th is over, consider the angels of love God has sent to you when you were in need over this past year or years. Send God a prayer Valentine to say thank you.
“Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:1-2)
Our book club just read Farley Mowat’s war memoir. His story opened my heart to the sickening brutality of a war fought by “children”, ages eighteen to twenty-four. Today, news reports hammer us with pictures of slaughter, poison gas, terrified people. As I read, Mowatt’s book, the protective wall of numbness I had developed disintegrated. This horror, this chaos, this “hell” really did happen and it continues to happen right now, everyday.
On Remembrance Day, we’ll hear the words – “We will remember.” In my heart I will be saying, “We must remember.” We cannot let the numbness creep in around us. We must be spurred to action. We must stop this relentless march of destruction.
What can we do? Psychologists have told us poverty and hunger make the most fertile ground for the forces of greed and hate. Yet we continue to hold tight to our riches and ignore those in need, even in our own country. Years ago, I watched a documentary on the teaching of hate. My stomach roiled as I listened to mothers and fathers purposely telling and retelling their stories of injustice and hatred to wide-eyed children, soaking up the fear and thirst for revenge.
Today, we too are teaching hate and fear and greed. We complain about those foreigners of whatever race.
“Their religious customs are strange.”
“They take our jobs.”
“They’re bringing violence into our peaceful country.”
“They don’t want to be like us.“
We tell ourselves we deserve the abundance we experience. We’ve worked hard for it.” “Our homegrown poor, homeless, unemployed, aboriginals don’t want to work. They expect handouts.” Even if we would never say these things out loud ourselves, we remain silent when others do.
Yes, we cannot singlehandedly stop war around the world. We can follow in Jesus’ footsteps. We can bring healing and love to people we encounter. We can share from our wealth (and we have plenty) with one local project and one overseas project. We can ask God to open our minds to hear our thoughts, words and actions that teach greed, hate and bigotry. We can ask for God’s help so that we won’t help build that relentless war machine growing in our world. We can refuse to send another innocent child into the horror of war. We can pray for change in ourselves and others.
Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to Jesus and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.” Jesus replied, “You give them something to eat.” (Luke 9:12-13)