Saturday, December 03, 2016

The Master Architect by Rose McCormick Brandon

St. Paul’s Cathedral, designed by Sir Christopher Wren in the late 1600s, is a magnificent example of craftsmanship. Floor to ceiling, wall to wall, not an inch of space has been neglected. In nooks and crannies and seldom seen corners intricate, time-consuming designs memorialize long-forgotten carvers, metal workers, tilers and painters. Many craftsmen devoted their entire adult lives to this one building. Some viewed their work as a calling from God. They were building a house dedicated to worship.
            After the great fire of London in 1666, Wren was given the monumental task of rebuilding 52 churches but St. Paul’s is his masterpiece. Visitors to the cathedral can't help but marvel at the man's genius.
           Writing of Jesus in his letter to the Hebrews, the apostle Paul, for whom the cathedral is named, explained that just as an architect deserves more honour than the house he builds so Jesus is more important than anyone who works for God.
  So, my dear Christian friends, companions in following this call to the heights, take a good hard look at Jesus. He’s the centerpiece of everything we believe, faithful in everything God gave him to do. Moses was also faithful, but Jesus gets far more honor. A builder is more valuable than a building any day. Every house has a builder, but the Builder behind them all is God. Moses did a good job in God’s house, but it was all servant work, getting things ready for what was to come. Christ as Son is in charge of the house. Hebrews 3:1-6

The Hebrews, to whom Paul was writing, had a high opinion of Moses because he was faithful in his service to God. Moses understood that after him would come someone far greater - a Savior, healer, mediator, redeemer, Master and Maker of all. Paul was stressing the point that someone far greater than Moses had come.

As some honour a building like St. Paul's without thinking of the builder, the Hebrews tended to honour the servant more than the Master. This tendency continues. Christians often seek a leader, a fixer, someone they can look to for all the answers. This person has already come. His name is Jesus.

At this Christmas season, as we celebrate the coming to earth of our Savior, Jesus, the Founder and Builder of our faith, let's make Him the focus of our devotion.

* * *
Rose McCormick Brandon is the author of four books, including One Good Word Makes all the Difference and Promises of Home - Stories of Canada's British Home Children. She writes personal essays and devotionals for several publications.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Arise, Shine, in the Light of Hope!

When the light of hope dims and dies people, like flowers, fade and die. When the light of hope shines bright, people thrive and live. When people lose hope they may wither emotionally and spiritually, even before they waste away physically. But, when the light of hope is restored, the heart can heal.

Last Sunday—the First of Advent – those statements introduced my message. The Advent Candle signifying Hope had been lit and a brief reading presented. Hope­—a marvelous focus for introducing the Advent season culminating in Christmas and the celebration of our Saviour’s birth.
Either loss or absence of hope can sometimes be tied to the kind of values a person holds. For example, consider the stock market crash of October 1929 that kicked off The Great Depression of the 1930s. Thousands of wealthy people lost their fortunes overnight. The media reported a rash of suicides of those who, overwhelmed by deep anguish and utter despondency, cast themselves from office towers to smash on the streets below, while others jumped from bridges to perish in frigid waters.
It’s entirely possible that a good many of those souls had invested their hopes in the thing they valued most—their riches. News of their financial ruin was sufficient to plunge them into hopeless despair.
Often it was common folk who, although possessing little beforehand, showed great fortitude and resourcefulness, pressing through against all odds, rationing and sharing the little they had. Then similarly, in WWII, which followed.
They valued a work ethic and tackled the challenge of keeping their families alive. They valued life itself and expected themselves to do their best despite dire circumstances. Hope’s flame, though flickering, still shed light. Millions from across society crowded into churches to pray and renew their commitments to God.
Numerous factors may give rise to acts of suicide—each one tragic. However, we can note that monumental emotional pain, lack of hope and one’s feeling helplessly imprisoned in despair can result in his or her devaluing or undervaluing life.
Source: PrintShop

To what shall we liken hope? A light – even a small, flickering flame. A tiny seed invested in the ground. A tender shoot – its filamentary roots clinging to a crevice of the soul. A deposit made of the most valued thing surrendered.

Credit: Dreamstimes
Hope can be like a thought that becomes a gentle inspiration upon which to act. A word coming as a silent voice of persuasion, spoken in the heart. Hope can be a child – a birth that offers possibility of a new generation, joy and a future.
The eighth century BC prophet Isaiah sent a clarion call cascading through time that was in part fulfilled in the birth of Jesus:

Credit: Print Shop
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6 NIV2011).

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1NIV2011).
Isaiah declared God’s message of hope in the midst of gathering gloom in Old Testament Israel. Many had forsaken their trust in the Lord God and had lost their moral and faith compass, while foreign powers threatened them.

Then and now, those who invest and maintain their trust in Father God and embrace the message that in the promised Messiah / Christ the Light of God comes to them, His glory – honour  and favour – rises upon them.
Let us embrace Jesus Christ our Light and let His Light of Hope fill our hearts and embrace us.

Peter A. Black 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.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

GRACE LINKS - Eleanor Shepherd

The darling little girl from Kenya, being held by my friend from Canada in a picture in our denominational magazine got me thinking. Her name was Belinda.  The accompanying article told the story of how in a slum in Nairobi, considered the largest and poorest one in Africa, this sick and malnourished little waif came to the attention of the visiting Salvation Army pastor.  Arrangements were made to link her to the school where she could get two meals a day and now she appears healthy and alert.

I wondered.  How often does it happen? Do the contributions that we make for sponsorship of children living in poverty, particularly in less economically developed parts of the world really make a difference?

Then a friend from our own congregation shared his story with me.  My eyes filled with tears as he told me how with the support of his loving family, that had not had the same opportunities, he was able to pursue an education that led him to earning a PhD.  I had no idea when I met him and learned that he was a lecturer at a prestigious university here in town that he had such humble roots.

What is so beautiful is that my friend gives the credit for his success in life to the opportunities that were his because sponsorships were in place and people from my country gave donations so that children like him could go to school.  He values the gift of education he was given and he worked hard to maximize the investment that was made. 

Mulry was a good student who worked hard in The Salvation Army school, where he was sponsored until the second year of secondary school.  The music that he learned at the local Salvation Army congregation in his country also played a significant role in his life and education. When I visited Haiti, I met one of his teachers who years later was still offering musical instruction, despite his physical handicaps that never kept him from investing in the lives of others.

When his bursary from the French government ran out while Mulry was doing supplementary  studies in law in  Martinique, he paid for his schooling and made his livelihood there, using the musical skills that he had been taught at The Salvation Army in Haiti to teach and to enrich the lives of others. 

Not only has Mulry passed on what he was given, he also found a unique way to pay back his benefactors. Several years ago, he and his wife came to Canada to do further studies.  They then went through all the necessary hoops to be able to qualify to use the skills they had taken years to learn to apply them to the Canadian context. 

Today Mulry is teaching to the next generation of jurists his specialty, International and Human Rights Law and he is thus contributing to the lives of those who contributed to his life by giving him the gift of education.  In gratitude to The Salvation Army for the gift of music making, he has undertaken the responsibility of assistant conductor of The Salvation Army band in Montreal.  In addition, he is involved in the Haitian community and now sponsors children who would otherwise be deprived of educational opportunities.

Like a golden chain, the links of loving and caring stretch from one country to another, from one caring person to another. From Canada to Haiti to Martinique to France and circling back to Haiti and to Canada again they stretch.  They demonstrate grace in action.  Those who receive God’s blessings and favour with gratitude from others find ways to pass them on and the grace just keeps on flowing.

Seeing this cycle makes me ask, what God has in store for Belinda.  Perhaps my grandchildren or great- grandchildren will benefit from the kindness that has been shown to her as she learns to share the kindness she receives.   My prayer is that she will continue to add her own links to the chain of grace that links us together.

Word Guild Award
Word Guild Award

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Beyond Thankfulness

Colossians 3:17  “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Our American friends are finishing up their turkey along with a weekend of thankfulness and family, probably laced with some football thrown in. For anyone who follows the CFL, you will also know that today is 'Grey Cup Sunday' - our version of the 'Superbowl'. In our house, Grey Cup Sunday is a big deal. We always savour the game with good food and fellowship, even if our team isn't involved. 

The theme of thankfulness, kindness, and gratefulness permeates the media at this time of year, all leading up to that crowning celebration called Christmas. Peace on earth and good will toward men seem doable, despite life's obstacles or unstable world affairs. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could maintain this positive outlook all year long?

For those of us who know Christ on an intimate level, it is possible. Jesus isn't only the 'reason for the season', but He is the reason for everything. Let's keep this sense of wonder always in focus, not only for the next thirty days, but right through the next 365 - and beyond.


Tracy Krauss lives and writes in northern BC, where she and her husband of nearly 34 years try to celebrate life and God's goodness all year long. Visit her website: - fiction on the edge without crossing the line -  

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Silent Night by Glynis M Belec

(This was originally published in my Reflections column in 
The Drayton Community News, November 25th, 2016; slightly edited) 

One of the best parts about the Christmas Eve service at our church is the lighting of the candles and singing Silent Night at the close. It’s a beautiful simple song that reminds me exactly what Christmas is about.
Ya’ll probably won’t want me to sing it to you any time soon lest I get mistaken for the braying donkeys, but oh, those lovely lyrics are worth pondering.
Silent night, holy night!  All is calm, all is bright.

Busyness and bustling distracts us from the true holiness of the season. Help me God to remember why we celebrate. I secretly wonder why people who don’t believe in Christ, make such a noise. And then some try their best to steal Christ from Christmas. Let my heart be calm, even so and let my eyes, as they consider You, be bright, Lord.

Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child. Holy infant so tender and mild,

The proof is in the pudding. Or should I say in the Scripture – Luke 1:30-31: But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. And Luke 1:34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
Jesus, you kept your tenderness and mildness because I feel it in my life sometimes, especially when the world renders me weak. Thank you, Holy Infant child grown up.

Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace

Why does the world battle You with such hatred? All they need do is seek Your face and the peace that passeth all understanding will follow. When you were a Babe, did you sleep in heavenly peace, really? Or was Your heart unsettled for Your soul knew Your destiny?

Silent night, holy night! Shepherds quake at the sight.

I think if I saw a host of angels in my face I might quake a little. But then I would hope I’d discover that the silent, holy night was not about me being fearful but about You being holy and perfect and born.

Glories stream from heaven afar. Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia,

I love that God was the first to introduce live streaming with all those glories, on that wonderful eve! I’m joining in with the heavenly hosts on this one (just turn down my microphone a little).

Christ the Savior is born! Christ the Savior is born

Triple amen on that one. I love when people say they believe Christ was a great prophet and a wise man. But they just cannot believe He is the Son of God. Then I laugh a little because in the next breath I discover they believe in some Divine power – um…what’s the hold-up with believing that Divine Power is Jesus, born in the flesh? I’m thinking it must do with facing up to a sinful nature, maybe.

Silent night, holy night! Son of God love's pure light.

God is love. It says that over and over in the Bible. A son carries on the traits of a father. Thank you, Jesus, for bringing God’s love to earth. I’m so glad we have a special, designated day to focus on the Light - the real Reason for the celebration. You’re the best, God.

Radiant beams from Thy holy face with the dawn of redeeming grace,

Redeeming Grace. That’s a mouthful. And a heartful. I don’t deserve one iota of Your Redeeming Grace, Lord. But You really have saved a wretch like me. You tell me it’s not where I’ve been, it’s where I am going that matters. When I keep looking behind me, like I am wont to do, I miss the radiant beams of Your beautiful, Holy Face. I will keep trying. Promise.

Jesus Lord, at Thy birth. Jesus Lord, at Thy birth.

You were born. You were Lord when you were born. You were the most amazing Gift that ever could be and You came here to die when you were born. How can I express anything else this Silent Night?  Thank you, Jesus, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Christmas is fast approaching, although I do not put up decorations or do too much prior to December, I won’t have the opportunity to send my greetings to you this way so for now let me wish you all a very Merry Christmas, friends. May you and your families enjoy a truly Silent Night this Christmas.


Glynis lives, loves, laughs and does an awful lot of reading, writing, publishing and praying in her home office. 
Her latest children's book, JESUS LOVES ME WHEN I DANCE, celebrates and shows us that with Jesus Love, we'll never lose! 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

A State of Readiness by Susan Harris

It’s been over a year since I’ve lived in readiness each day. In spiritual readiness to meet my Lord. In

mental readiness with uncluttered mind. In business readiness with files in order. Even the red lipstick laying next to red nail polish and shoes was ready since “fashion consultants are not necessarily hired in funeral homes,” I had observed to my husband. 

I continue to live in greater readiness now. With our house for sale, the home must be ever show-ready. Trash is removed daily. Laundry baskets are empty. Dishes are cleaned and put away immediately upon use. Closets are pleasing. Showers and tubs are spotless. Furniture and d├ęcor sparkle. I’ve done this for two weeks now and was astonished to discover that the initial displeasure of work overload in keeping the house show-ready has given way to a desire to do the chores with anticipation, for I have enjoyed living in a near-perfect house. The calm, the peace of de-cluttering and keeping organized is a state of readiness I want to emulate long after the house is sold and we've settled into the new one.

Matthew 24 and Proverbs 31 are but a few places in Scripture that point us to being ready and organized. It often takes a long time to get there but once there, is it repudiating to go back. I’m reminded too of Proverbs 26:11, As a dog goes back to its vomit, so too a fool repeats his foolishness. No fool’s classification for me.

I pray daily for guidance to live forward, upward, for things heavenly, my gaze fixed on high, to be ever ready. Truly when we seek the Kingdom first, all other things will be added, even housekeeping insight. The catching up in the physical realm is reassuring and it is far more important to have the spiritual intact over the physical but it sure feels good to have them both line up.

Susan Harris is the author of eleven books. Her thoughts are never far from Heaven and she lives in anticipation of Eternity.  She loves to share the good news of the hope of Heaven and to travel, but in travelling, is always conscious that as breathtaking as God’s creation is on earth, it is unmatched to what we will see in Eternity.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Bearing the Scars—Carolyn R. Wilker

Across the country today, people will gather at cenotaphs and lay wreaths for the soldiers who gave up their lives for our country. There are likely only a small number of those veterans from the World Wars remaining who might lay a wreath to their comrades or read from a list of young men from the community who ‘answered the call’ to fight in a war that was not of their making.

In many communities, you can see names carved in a monument of citizens who went away to fight and never returned. Of those who came home, many were physically wounded and bearing scars we can’t see. It would change their lives forever. While Remembrance Day is mainly for the World Wars, our military has also fought in other places around the world, including Afghanistan, where they were called to defend or fight. A soldier might go away bravely, but come back different and unable to cope, or they might pick up their job and try to carry on.

All wars have a cost. The soldiers went away, likely believing they could make a difference and those who returned home either talked about it or they didn’t. I only know from the stories I’ve heard of people who lived through war in their country, who were deprived of a bread winner who was enlisted to fight, or that they were fearful for their lives about what was going on around them. In Canada, we’ve had more distance from it.

My own mother-in-law shared little, but she did tell me about one situation in her life during the war. I could only imagine her family’s fear when soldiers came knocking on their door demanding their home as a place for soldiers to stay. The family could only take with them what they could load on a wagon. Their place for the nights and days that followed was the forest. She told me of worrying about wild animals there while they slept on the ground. I hurt for her as she told it. I felt fearful for her as a young girl, a fear she carried into adulthood and to the end of her life. It caused her much angst; her experience changed her and affected the lives of those around her.

A storyteller relates an occurrence of soldiers laying down their guns on Christmas Eve in France, sharing treats, pictures from home and singing carols with their opponents and then having to pick up those guns the next day. I’m sure there were many stories of bravery too, and of being decorated for a heroic act, but I cannot write those. They are others’ stories of survival.

Today is one of heaviness that’s hard to talk about and harder to write, maybe a reason that few go to the cenotaph service. If we remember anything from those who speak candidly of their war experiences, show respect and help us to recognize the cost. 

If we can work for peace, all the better for us.

We do have one who bears scars for us. Jesus Christ died for us and experienced the agony of the cross for humanity’s sin. He died that we might live. We were loved before we could love. If it helps at all today, let us think about peace and practise it.

“Make me a channel of your peace...”  inspired by the prayer of St Francis of Assisi
Listen to the song here.

Carolyn Wilker, editor, author and storyteller from southwestern Ontario

Popular Posts