Monday, December 11, 2017

A Promise Waiting --Carolyn R. Wilker

Snow falls softly here as I write today. No doubt there’ll be more snow by the end of the day. People were out raking leaves just over a week ago, but soon the cold wind came, shooting like an arrow down the tunnel of the city’s main street.
Tuesday evening I’d been out to meet with writer friends from our critique group, for a little social time before Christmas. On the way back to my car, the wind pushed against me, making me shiver and my teeth chatter. Though I wore a warm winter coat, my legs were cold. I thought, Here comes winter.
Coloured lights remind us that Christmas will come soon and the snow with it. In some points north, I’m sure they have plenty of it.
Winter, in our part of the world, begins near Christmas usually, and the nights are darker. Soon we’ll have the longest night or shortest day of the year, however you want to look at it. At that time of year some folks mark Blue Christmas because of losses they’ve suffered. Others struggle with diminishing sunlight and seasonal affective disorder.
It may also be appropriate to match that early winter in our part of the world with the Advent season in our Christian church—a time of waiting, a time to remember how things were for people before the Christ child came to the world. People were under duress from the Roman government, and now it seemed they wanted even more taxes to pay their way, from common folks who worked hard just to get by. Another census so that all the world could be counted. All their world, as they knew it. It seemed they had little hope.
There had been one proclamation by the prophet Isaiah that a special child would be born. Maybe they believed it and maybe they struggled to see how it could change anything. A child born to one of them to save them from their ruler. It hardly seemed possible. And yet, some held out hope, and few believed when it actually came to be. 
Would anyone believe a young girl called Mary who would carry the baby? Her family? Her fiancée to whom she was promised in marriage? The scandal would have rocked their community, and she was sent away for awhile. To visit an aunt who lived days away. People would not have believed the aunt’s story either. One who had been called to carry another child who would prepare the way for the special baby. An old woman beyond her prime, who’d borne no previous children of their own. Dire circumstances, by human measure.
Except that the two women had a bond beyond their blood relationship. Oh, how they must have rejoiced when they spent the time together. They had hope for the world, though neither one would know just how things would go. Hope was important.
And so this is the opening to that story that we mark every year beginning in late November and into December, until the night of the baby’s birth. Seems appropriate, doesn’t it?
We’re not quite at Christmas yet. In the middle of the shopping, decorating, baking and pre-Christmas gatherings, let’s remember the long time of waiting and of the hope people held in a nearly hopeless situation—before the special baby came to make his place in the world. A promise waiting. A promise in the works. As the hymn writer declared in 1710 and a 15th Century processional put to music,
“O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here until the son of God appear.”


Saturday, December 09, 2017

Gathering Around the Christmas Manger -HIRD

By Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

How does your family celebrate Christmas?  Is having a turkey at Christmas part of your tradition?  Does your family put out a Nativity scene? The term nativity comes from the Latin nativus, which means ‘arisen by birth’.  One of the most popular Christmas Carols Felix Navida was written in 1970 by the blind Puerto Rican singer and songwriter José Feliciano’. Felix Navida in Spanish essentially means ‘Happy Birth’.  It is easy to forget that Christmas at its heart is a birthday celebration.  I don’t know about you, but I love birthdays. Maybe that is why I love Christmas.
One of my earliest Deep Cove Crier articles, co-written with my wife Janice, was about birth, the birth of Jesus at Christmas. Janice wrote: “Decorating for Christmas was always a wonderful time in our house. First we would go buy a real tree at the tree lot, set it up in the window, and start decorating. Not only did we decorate the tree but my dad also put miniature lights around this huge mirror and set up the angels dancing around the candle chimes. My little brother’s eyes would glow when we turned off the normal lighting and just left the Christmas lights on in the living room. What a beautiful sight!”
Ed added: As a child, I loved the presents, the lights, the turkey, and the tinsels… As a teen, I became cynical about Christmas and wrote it off as commercial exploitation. At age 17, I met some friends who had a joy and inner peace that really attracted me to them.  Christmas still excited them. I asked them: “Why?” They told me they were excited about a child in a manger. At age 17, I too came to know that child. I made a manger for Him in my heart. Once again Christmas stirred within me “Peace on Earth, Good will to Men” Once again I could sing “Joy to the World” and really mean it.
Each Christmas we are given another opportunity to have a real fun birthday party. We don’t need to do Christmas perfectly.  What if we could simply enjoy the season?  As we gather around the Christmas manger, we are reminded that we are deeply loved and we are never alone.  It is not a coincidence that people love to sing at Christmas time. Christmas touches our hearts in unexpected ways.  Christmas breaks through our adult cynicism and gives us child-like joy and peace, if only for a short time.   What might help your Christmas this year be more child-like?  What burdens do you need to lay aside so that you can enter into the mystery of this holy, joyful season? 
Our 2017 Christmas prayer is that all the Deep Cove Crier readers feel the peace of that little baby lying in the manger.
Merry Christmas!

Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, Rector, Simon’s Church North Vancouver
-an article for the Dec 2017 Deep Cove Crier 
-author of Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit

Friday, December 08, 2017

Where's Your Focus? by Steph Beth Nickel

Despite the fact that the Christmas season revolves around the Saviour’s birth, even we who are Christian can become overwhelmed and distracted.

Let’s seek to focus on what’s truly important this month and as we head into 2018.

While we do our Christmas shopping …

Maybe you love to hunt for the perfect gift for each person on your Christmas list—whether online or in the stores. Or maybe you find it all exhausting, having no idea what people want or need. Maybe you’re stressed because of time and financial constraints.  

While we’re considering gift giving, let’s take time to step back and consider the Greatest Gift of All Time, our Lord and Saviour, the reason for this and every season.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Free speech activist Lindsay Shepherd does not teach at the same WLU that I attended 1967-1971 - Denyse O'Leary

The difference religion makes is not what you might expect. My response to “How a ‘pronoun’ class got ayoung Canadian academic censured ” by Harley J. Sim at MercatorNet:

 Readers may wish to supplement Harley Sims’s informative article with Mark Steyn’s commentary on the tape Shepherd dared to make ( and the tape/transcript itself (

On the tape, she is heard sobbing as she is not permitted to know who her accuser(s) are or what the accusation is. Her communications profs imply that she is like a Nazi for showing her class a video excerpt from an Ontario public TV program (think NPR) in which a professor protests made-up pronouns.

These inquisitors imply that she is in big legal trouble, which she isn’t - though they may really believe that the current “human rights” system is even now as harsh as it is going to become, if not checked. Throughout, they fling around gobbledygook, even though two of them are communications profs.

Flashback: From 1967 through 1971, I attended WLU, then called Waterloo Lutheran University. When, seeking government aid, the university changed its name to Wilfrid Laurier University in 1973, the initials remained the same. You want the cash, lose the “Lutheran”, sneered the local paper in retrospect in 2011.

But what else did the university lose in order to get from my life back then to Lindsay Shepherd's? As several incidents from my day show, it was a comparatively free place then:

1. Late in my undergrad career, I was asked to write a paper for a seminar that included reading Victorian pornography. My prof probably expected it was safe to ask me because I wouldn’t be interested in the stuff privately. Her reasoning for undertaking the project was that the class would not understand the decline of Victorian romanticism into the Decadent movement without making some irregularly scheduled stops along the way… But no one thought I should have gone screaming to the authorities, citing harm to my toxic snowflake-hood. That would signal that I was not suited to a career in English Language and Literature. Along those lines, I think that anyone upset by Shepherd’s video clip does not belong in Communications at a university.

2. Women’s groups came to the campus in the early 1970s, putting up posters everywhere for Free Abortion on Demand. In those days, that was a radical idea. Some students, including myself, set up a pro-life table and, predictably, budding progressives trooped up to the dean’s office to protest. He told them it was a free country. Just like that. He told them it was a free country. Today, there are organized harassment campaigns at many Canadian universities against students who think that unborn children should have legal protection. And the administration is Cool with that.

3. Ominously, some of the students I attended WLU with were budding progressives. One boasted that he wanted to shoot all the members of Parliament and breed humans in test tubes, raised free of the violence of typical middle-class Canadian homes. Another said he wished that he could throw one particular dean onto the road to be crushed by passing cars.

Many less violent progressive opinions that tended in the same direction were offered (and tolerated) in those days. My guess is that such people now wield considerable influence in Canada in late mid-life. Not because they were allowed to speak but because “nicer” people have backed down.

So yes, the cash won out over the Lutherans and Lindsay Shepherd is living the outcome.

 As Steyn notes, he and some colleagues in media secured minor victories against the system a decade ago. But the forces underlying thought control today are not defeated by only one victory. For one thing, few young academics are anywhere near as courageous as Shepherd.

 It is poignant to hear Shepherd defend herself as simply helping students understand what communications issues they will encounter in society. My long-deceased profs would have said that!

Many students today do not hope to encounter any such issues; they hope to help legislate against them and stamp them out. They have been raised to believe in thought control as the key to a progressive society. They have little desire to think for themselves, possibly cannot do so, and do not understand those who can. Otherwise,

 - the firestorm would be much larger

 - WLU’s insincere “apologies” would be called out for what they are and real change would be demanded of all universities that hope to keep their charters and

 - the WLU campus inquisition, heard in all its hideous glory, would be looking for new jobs, preferably collaring wildlife in venues where they need not interact with a thinking public. (No coyote cares much if you call him a Nazi.)

But “WLU mugs Lindsay Shepherd” is a sobering tale for the Western world generally: Leaving behind the modern Christian tradition means leaving behind a much sounder basis for intellectual freedom than naturalist progressivism ever was, is, or will be.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Little Drummer Boy Fiasco (by Peter A. Black)

This morning I’ve taken to wistful reminiscing . . . yep, again. I guess it’s a sign of my times. Numerous and varied events surrounding the Advent and Christmas season have been part of my life from as far back as I can remember. However, from the not-too-distant past was the annual Inter-Church Advent Service in Watford, Ontario. Let me share a memory of one, with you.
Credit: drumcircle_org Google
Typically the service format included a musical item from each of the participating congregations, such as a rendition by a choir, or a group number or solo, or an instrumental. One year (perhaps 2009) the late Rev. Fred Darke, who taught drumming and developed drumming circles, equipped several of the pastors with drums for a clergy contribution. He coached them well; they sounded good. My job was to play the melody and accompaniment on accordion.
Even if I hadn't included the phrase in the title, above, there's no prize for guessing that our piece was The Little Drummer Boy. We practised in a Sunday school room at the United Church and then headed over to Our Lady Help of Christians Catholic Church for the service. Our big moment came. Christine, Fred, Tom, Richard and I jostled into position with our instruments. We got off to a nice start, but the drums seem to beat ever faster with each line.
You-know-Who, ca 48 years ago in
Aberdeen Scotland. 
Someone’s speeding this up, I thought. Boom, booma, boom-boom – I could hardly hear what I was playing. Faster and faster, I kept trying to keep up. I think it’s Tom. Yep, Tom. I’m sure he’s rushing this. But why? This is crazy . . . That’s how my thoughts ran on until the final parumpa-pum-pum

It felt like a dizzying race to the finish. Ehm, but why’s everybody looking at me? In truth, the congregation were not only looking, but laughing! And so were we.
If it seemed to most everyone in the sanctuary that the guy playing the accordion was getting carried away, speeding things up, faster and faster, they’d be correct. What was the likely cause?
I quickly reasoned that, surrounded by the four drums in the spacious, lofty sanctuary (compared with the closeness of the classroom where we’d practised), I was reacting to the reverberation of the drum beats. From where I was situated, my ears were bombarded by both the initial drum sounds and the echoes, so that for every beat, it sounded like multiple beats.
So much for hopes of surprising the congregation with our 'wonderful' rendition of that well-loved Christmas song. We’d have been better rehearsing a verse and chorus in the sanctuary before the start of service.

Fact is, at the moment when I needed to fulfil my task well and with clear thinking,
I’d been deceived by the echoes around me.
Life can be like that.
We really do need to be alert to interpret well the cacophony of voices bouncing around us,
invading our personal world.

We can be so wrong at times; and how wrong I was. It certainly induced a laugh, and the unintended joke was on Yours Truly and truly on my account! 😄 
Credit: Google Free
In the rush and crush of preparing for Christmas and Holiday family gatherings and baking and cooking for them, or for community events, and also in preparing for concerts and cantatas and so on, things don’t always go as hoped and planned.
Let us not allow the glitches to steal the joy of the season and it’s central theme, to celebrate the Birth of the Christ Child – the coming into the world of Jesus, our Saviour-Redeemer.
May the Christ of this season be to all of us a source of joy and peace, bringing a fresh experience of God’s love and life into our hearts.

Peter A. Black is a retired pastor – well, sort of retired – and lives in Southwestern Ontario. He writes a weekly inspirational newspaper column, P-Pep! and is author of Raise Your Gaze ... Mindful Musings of a Grateful Heart, and Parables from the Pond -- a children's / family book. ~~+~~

Friday, December 01, 2017

Christmas Away from Home by Eleanor Shepherd

 While we had many wonderful experiences living in Europe, the time when we found it most difficult to be away from our home in Canada was at Christmas. It is then that the traditions that have become so much a part of your life define your activities and expectations. However, when those around you do not share these, other than members of your immediate family, you have a sense of being out of sync with the season.

            A couple of incidents come to mind that brought this to our attention. One was when we accompanied the French National Band of l’Armee du Salut (The Salvation Army) to the American Cathedral on Christmas Sunday. For the Americans the international Salvation Army tradition of putting money in the large red pot to help with the work of providing for the needy, was a familiar part of their Christmas activities. They also associated this with the martial music of the brass band. Thus came the invitation to the Salvation Army Band to participate at the Cathedral on Christmas Sunday.

            As we filed into the Cathedral, and heard the organ rumbling out the familiar carols and heard the words of them in our own language (English), the tears sprang unbidden to our eyes. Memories of years of singing these carols on snowy December streets in many cities in Canada flooded our minds. The only place that we had seen snow in France was when we visited the mountains in the massif centrale.

            Not only were we stimulated by the sounds of Christmas, but our memories of our life far away were further heightened by the sights of the familiar decorations, with the twinkling lights on the Christmas trees, the poinsettias and the pine boughs that decorated the sanctuary. It was not that we did not see some of the same Christmas symbols in Paris, but it was the way they were displayed in the church that looked so much like home.
            The longing to be gathered together with family and long-time friends who shared our traditions rose from our hearts to our throats and choked us with a sense of homesickness. My husband crept out of the sanctuary into the vestibule lest anyone see the tears streaming down his cheeks. We decided that morning that if we were going to survive Christmases away from home, we would have to avoid places like this.

   Another incident that brought to mind our isolation from our familiar surroundings at Christmas was the occasion when my daughter asked me if I would take her to the indoor skating rink. Some of her friends from the lycee were going to the arena in Le Vesinet and she wanted to go with them. It was possible to rent skates there. I agreed. However, I was not prepared for the shock of the odour that nearly knocked me over, as I opened the door to the arena. I could smell the snow and ice and like a giant wave the homesickness nearly bowled me over. All I could think of this smells like home in the winter and I wanted to be there!

With this longing for home, you can appreciate the wonderful distraction it was for us to be able to do something for the family in difficult circumstances, following the request that we received that I wrote about in Christmas with Hot Apple Cider. Other Christmas activities were serving meals to hungry homeless people on the streets of Paris that continued all winter long and serving at a banquet for all those in need that was hosted at the Palais de la Femme every year on Christmas Eve. In the season when our longing for home was the strongest we had opportunities to grow hearts that were attuned to the needs of others.
I Knew You Would Come
Word Guild Award
Word Guild Award

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Distracted Parenting by Carol Ford

Are we spending too much time on our Smartphone’s?

I was one of the last people to buy a smart phone and it immediately had a hold on me. The possibility of having internet on demand was a new and exciting experience.
The majority of adults, teens and children have a Smartphone in the palm of their hand wherever they go. It doesn’t appear to be only people under the age of thirty five—the age category is more diverse than that. They look at the screen while driving their cars, walking their dogs, eating in restaurants and throughout their homes. Surveys indicate that there is no more than five feet between an individual and their device. [i] Apparently much of what goes on a mobile phone is built to be addictive and one in eight of us will fall prey to its spell. [ii] Hmm, they, whoever they are, know what they are doing.

How would a Smartphone have affected my parenting if I had one in the 1980’s? Most of today’s parents, like me, enjoy texting or looking at their smartphones as often as possible. I see them with their heads bent over their screen while their children are playing in the park, when they are eating out or attending a child’s sporting event. Physically they are with their children, but mentally they seem distracted. They may even be viewing someone else’s child doing a cute stunt on You Tube. When this is happening, their own children tend to act out or misbehave to try and regain their parent’s attention, but then everything seems to deteriorate into an unpleasant scene.

I wanted to know how widespread the problem was and started researching the topic. It was a surprise to me that most articles I found dealt with parents trying to limit and control the amount of time their children spend on electronic devices. There was very little focus on controlling the parent’s excessive use of technology. 
If our children have a problem, would it not follow that we are their examples? There are laws and fines for distracted driving, but what about distracted parenting—or grandparenting?

Jesus always made children a priority “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” (Matthew 19:14 NLT)
When I asked a mother of two about writing on this topic, she replied, “I’ve read articles on the topic that mostly make us feel like terrible people, but if you could find a way to equip us with tips or ideas on how to help break these bad habits when we are with our kids, and leave us encouraged, I think you’ll have written something really valuable.”
So with her and others in mind, I am listing a few practical ideas to help control smartphone usage (btw, I took some of these ideas for breaking a bad habit from the internet):
·         Pray for guidance. “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” (1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT)
·         Recognize it as a problem and don’t deny or minimize the impact it may be having on your family. Talk to them about it.
·         Notice the time of day, locations, or situations where you are most tempted to indulge in this activity. Set goals for when you can use the phone and make a commitment to turn it off at the same time each night.
·         Analyze why being socially connected is so enjoyable. It may be a symptom of deeper needs, such as boredom or loneliness.
·          Eliminate Apps, emails, and friends or groups who blog or post constantly.
·         Plan family activities such as board games, biking, library visits or writing a play and create good family memories—no phones allowed during these times.
·         Ask your children to help you be accountable—turn it into a fun reward for good behaviour.

Mobile technology offers us some benefits— safety, convenience, connection to old and new friends and colleagues, immediate information when we need it and much more. Giving up our phones isn’t an option, but setting boundaries can be. As a Christian this war can be won by “Put(ing) on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:11 NLT)

The Serenity prayer seems like a good way to close, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.”


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