Monday, December 31, 2007
It’s an in-joke now among her family and friends. Whenever someone drops a dish or loses a contact lens they holler “Anybody don’t move!”
But as 2008 dawns, I’m tempted to jump off my chair, wave my arms in “safe-at-home plate” gesture and holler to the heavens “Anybody don’t move!”
You see, 2007 was a lovely year for me and my family. We found “home” (although we were all a bit surprised it was in Saskatchewan), found our church (okay, hubby is the pastor, but we spend years searching for the place God wanted us to settle into), and I found my calling. My children are healthy, happy, and involved in school and with friends. We like our neighbors. We have new friends. We’re happy. See what I mean? If I’ve ever had an “Anybody don’t move!” moment, it’s now.
But time is a continuum. 2008 has arrived, but before I shout out orders to the heavens, I think I’ll take some time to look at the One who brought about all these happy things. The fact is, regardless of what sort of year we’ve had, God is God. He’s worthy of praise. In all times. In all cases. In all things.
And when I look at the joy He has brought to my family in the past year, it pales in comparison beside the knowledge that He loves us, has saved us, and is with us.
I can see Him now, smiling at me in that knowing way. You see, if I tell Him “Anybody don’t move!” He will simply grin at me and say, “I never change. I cannot be moved. So you don’t need to worry.”
I was one of a small group of writers and editors who were part of the faculty and staff for the annual God Uses Ink conference. On the night before the conference began, we were told that the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada was unable to continue putting on God Uses Ink, and so this would be the last year.
I’d been coming to the conference since 1988, and it was my only tangible link to other writers and editors. The others in our group felt the same way I did—that we had to find a way to keep it going—but no one knew how to do that, and there were a lot of glum people.
I woke up very early Thursday morning with an idea I felt God had given me. I phoned my husband Les and asked him if he thought our new publishing company, That’s Life! Communications, could somehow provide a way to do banking so that we could continue the conference.
Knowing my goal was to write full-time while Les and I started a church plant in the area we’d just moved into, Les asked me if I was sure this what God wanted me to do.
“Yes,” I said. I can only say I knew in my heart we had to do whatever we could to keep the conference going. No matter what happened, I had peace about it.
“Okay, then,” he said. “Tell them you’ll do it.”
Of course, our plans to keep a little conference going soon expanded into all that The Word Guild encompasses as God kept giving me a larger and larger vision. And our plans to start a church and my plan to write full-time went out the window.
However, in those first months as we struggled to understand exactly what it was God wanted us to do, God spoke to both Les and me in different ways. I dreamed about a map of Canada with little flames popping up all over, first a few and then more and more, until the whole country was engulfed in flame, but the map didn’t burn up. The same week, without knowing about my dream, Les had a dream in which a map of
Of course, many other people, in particular Wendy Nelles, have also played major roles in making The Word Guild a reality, and Imago allowed us to become a project of theirs, which allowed us to raise money and give tax receipts, which both gave us credibility and helped us stay afloat.
God chose to give me not only a vision of what was needed, but also awareness of the steps that had to be taken, determination to make it happen, and faith that if we just went ahead and did what we had to do, God would look after the results.
God gave Wendy a related vision, and a lot of determination and faith. Even though we barely knew each other before we started The Word Guild, God uniquely prepared us to work closely together. I’ve often referred to her as the quality-control person. She’s been the one ensuring that everything we did was always done to the best of our abilities. So many times we’d do something and she’d say, “Let me see it one more time” and I would give it to her very reluctantly because I just wanted to be finished with it. Other times, she took the rudimentary idea I had and expanded and improved it to make it much stronger.
And many others came on board, taking large and small roles, and growing the vision into reality. We’ve also had a very strong prayer team, without whom we’d have been sunk long ago.
God often chooses to work that way. He lets one or two people see the possibilities in his mind—see what he sees—and then he lets them run with it. And then—sometimes sooner, sometimes later—he brings others to work alongside them and supply all the rest of what’s needed. Because of course a vision is only a beginning, and there is so much more that has to happen to bring that vision to reality. Bringing a vision to life is a lot more like a team relay race than an individual marathon.
And so The Word Guild has grown from a vague hope of keeping a little conference alive to a national organization of over 300 people, and much more. And I feel that God has now told me it’s time to pass my baton on to others.
In four days, I’ll turn 60. No, it doesn’t seem possible. Inside, I feel about 18. But while in some ways, I feel I’ve earned the right to take it a bit easier from now on, at the same time, I’m not retiring from my journey with God, and I actually can’t wait to see what vision God gives me next. I have the glimmerings of one; but not the full picture. Yes, I’ll still be part of The Word Guild—just no longer the driving part. And I will continue to write, speak, and teach.
Thinking about all this has led me to spend some time considering the nature of visions.
I think God wants to give all of us some kind of vision—something to hold on to and strive toward. A vision can give us that sense of purpose and significance that we are all born needing. It may only encompass what he wants us to become, or it may be a larger vision for our family, our community, or our country. It may come gradually, growing larger as we grow older and wiser. Or it may come in an instant, when we suddenly know what we have to do. Some of us may have one vision that grows with us as we grow. Others may have a series of visions that may or may not appear to be related.
Most visions call for us to do something that isn’t easy to do. They may require putting other plans aside for a time, as I did when we started The Word Guild. Or they may require us to leave family and friends behind, as the disciples did when Jesus called on them to follow him, and as Abraham and Sarah did when God called them to go to a new land. They may even lead to suffering—as happened to Joseph, Paul, and many others.
And then there was Noah. What a totally strange vision he was given! Build an enormous boat in the middle of the desert. And the strangest part of it is that the story in Genesis doesn’t even mention his questioning God, as Moses and Gideon and others did. It just says, “Noah did everything just as God commanded him.” Talk about faith! Talk about seeing something God wanted and putting everything else aside and doing it!
When I look back on my life, I really look back on a series of visions from God—from teaching high school to planting churches, homeschooling, leading small groups, working with World Team, writing, The Word Guild… Often, it began with just a vague idea of what God wanted, and then my vision grew and grew as I got into it. Usually, I started with a lot of excitement and enthusiasm because it was new, and then it slowly become less fun and more work, until sometimes it seemed almost drudgery. I recall moments when I felt I had become a slave to this thing I had helped create, and I wanted nothing more than to be released from it. But then a new challenge would appear, and my enthusiasm would come back.
And then there would be a point at which I knew it was time for me to move on, that my part was completed. God’s timing is always right. And there is so much more joy when you know you have run the race, and the baton has been passed on…
For some reason, 60 is feeling like a really good age to me. And God has assured me that he still has exciting things for me to do—a new baton for me to pick up. My prayer is that, like Noah, when God gives me something else to do, I’ll just go and do it.
My prayer for you is that as 2008 begins, God will give you a vision that will make your life worth living, and you will eagerly grab for the baton.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Happy Birthday, Dear Jesus
By the Rev. Ed Hird+
One December morning, a boy came up to me and said "Christmas is coming, and I am going to get lots of presents: a new IPod, a Video Camcorder, and more computer games. He went on and on with his very long list until I said "Doesn't Christmas mean more to you than presents?" He looked at me with a puzzled expression and said "What do you mean?" I said, "Isn't it someone's birthday?" He said, with complete sincerity, "Is it yours?" I responded, "No, it's Jesus' Birthday on December 25th." The boy said, "I didn't know that. That's neat!"
I left that conversation, saddened that a boy could be so excited over Christmas presents, without even knowing whose birthday we celebrate at Christmas. When I was a child, even the Public Schools could openly celebrate the beautiful story of the birth of the baby Jesus. Public Schools even used to have Christmas Pageants in which, as little children we would dress up as shepherds, angels, soldiers, or as wise men. I have discovered that there is no better way to learn a story, like Christmas, than to dress up and act it out.
Our society still has a very strong emotional attachment to Christmas. But the busyness and excessive commercialism of the Christmas Season can leave us more exhausted than refreshed. Our family has found that rediscovering the true meaning of Christmas helps us to enjoy Christmas more, without getting so caught up in the frantic pre-Christmas frenzy.
Christmas for our family, first and foremost, is a birthday party. At a birthday party, it's I okay to have fun and celebrate. It's fun to gather the whole family together. It's fun to open presents at a birthday party. But the most important thing at a birthday party is not the balloons, or the cake, or the party bags, or even the presents. The most important thing is the person whose birthday we are celebrating.
When baby Jesus was born at Christmas, wise men came along and celebrated his birthday, by giving Jesus presents (gold, frankincense, and myrrh). But the most important thing at the first Christmas was not these three very expensive presents. The most important thing was that very precious baby, who came to earth to ultimately die for us.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Each of these short prayers begins with the acclamation "O", which precedes one of the Messianic titles from the Old Testament and ends with a request for Christ’s coming.
Thus, we begin on December 17th with O Wisdom, and proceed through the rest of Advent with: O Adonai, O Root of Jesse, O Key of David, O Day-spring, O King of the Nations, and lastly O Emmanuel, on which John Neale’s hymn, O Come, O Come Emmanuel, is based.
These prayers have been tradition in the church since the 8th and 9th centuries though the tradition’s origin is unknown. The antiphons are beautifully expressed and have a rich meaning; they begin with the creation of the universe, work on through
It has been noted that the initials of each Latin title—Sapientia, Adonai, Radix, Clavis, Oriens, Rex, and Emmanuel, combine to form SARCORE, which, when written backwards, gives us the Latin phrase, Ero Cras, which means, Tomorrow, I shall be. This may be just coincidence but, to the Christians of the Middle Ages, it gave them much on which to meditate about Our Lord’s coming.
Today’s antiphon, O Key of David, comes from Isaiah’s prophesy, I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and no one shall shut; he shall shut, and no one shall open. Isaiah 22:22, NRSV.
There are many versions of today’s antiphon but I like the one out of the Monastic Diurnal that the nuns used when I was in the Convent: O Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel; that openest and no man shutteth, and shuttest and no man openeth: Come, and bring the prisoners out of the prison-house, them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death.
As we approach the coming of Christ into our lives and hearts this Advent, may we receive the Key of David and enter into the freedom of Christ’s love.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
This year the words that have arrested my attention are, “For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1: 37) Perhaps it is because we are at a transition time and this year has brought us to unexpected places. I never imagined that this Christmas we would be preparing to enter into a completely new phase of life early in the New Year. After thirty years of ministry, largely pastoral and administrative lived out in the developed world, we are taking early retirement and launching out into a whole new area of challenges and responsibilities with a mission that serves mainly the developing world. If you had asked me a year ago if such a scenario were likely, I would probably have considered it impossible. Yet with God, nothing is impossible. He has led us to this place in sure and steady steps, through conversations and coincidences that gently guided us from the impossible to the possible, to the point where the proffered future became desirable.
It happened this way. By divine coincidence, my husband, Glen called up a colleague with whom he had worked at Canadian Pacific in the early seventies, before we went into full time ministry. Throughout the years our paths crossed from time to time. This friend, John, had become involved in a Christian organization that directed the distribution of medicines, vaccines and hospital equipment to the developing world. Glen wanted to cooperate with them to try to obtain desperately needed supplies and equipment for our hospital and clinics in Zimbabwe and Haiti.
Aware that we do not have many more years before reaching retirement age, at the end of one conversation, Glen said, “Do you think there might be a spot for me in your organization, a few years down the line when I retire?” The company is based in Montreal, the city that we consider home and where we wished to retire. John replied that they could discuss it some time.
Now he tells us that at the time his heart leaped. Only the day before the board had met and was talking about finding a replacement for John. Though it is certainly not obvious, he is well past normal retirement age.
As a result, three weeks later, John called Glen back and told him that he had talked to the chairman of the board and that if Glen would consider the possibility of eventually replacing him, they would call off the search and investigate the feasibility of this.
Although Glen was flattered, he assured John that this was impossible. We had both made a covenant to ministry and it did not seem reasonable to consider any other option. We were there until retirement. Strangely enough, our retirement policy was changed a few years ago, to provide the option that we could request early retirement if certain criteria were met. We happened to meet those criteria.
When Glen first mentioned the conversation with John to me, I dismissed it as just another one of those opportunities that come along, but need not be pursued. However, it refused to go away. John asked if we would meet him for lunch and let him tell us about Health Partners International. We agreed and about a week before he asked if I would mind sending him a copy of my CV. His explanation for this was that they felt that I also had skills that would be useful to their organization. Figuring that there was nothing to be lost, I quickly put together my credentials and sent it off to him. What amazed me was that in over thirty years I had never had occasion to prepare a CV, yet it just seemed to take shape with little effort on my part. Even more astonishing to me was the job offer it generated.
Meanwhile, Glen consulted those whom he thought could offer wisdom. He met a retired friend with whom he had worked closely in ministry. “Give me some reason why I should not consider this,” Glen requested. Our friend instead saw no reason to resist it.
Another Christian friend from another denomination helped to clarify our situation. “Your calling to ministry will never be revoked,” he assured us. “What you need to know is if you have been released from a calling to a particular denomination.” This was the issue on which we focused and it became clear to us, through unique, individual experiences within a day of each other.
My concern was a need I felt to have the approval of my aged parents who had also given their lives in ministry to our denomination. Would they understand?
It so happened that one afternoon I was driving my father back to the long term care facility where he and my mother live, when he asked me how long it would be before we retired. I told him that depended on whether we opted for early retirement. Then I explained some aspects of the situation we were facing. He affirmed that in such circumstances early retirement could make sense.
A few weeks later, over lunch, I had the opportunity for further conversation with my parents about our future. I explained the possibility of employment with Health Partners International, in the city where we planned to retire. When I asked what they thought, my father replied, “If you have the health, why wouldn’t you?” Then he sought the opinion of my mother, who at 93 seldom expresses her opinions freely any more. Without hesitation, she said, “Sounds good to me.” It was then that a felt the release from our denomination to enter into a new avenue of ministry.
I never imagined the opportunity would come so soon to be able to make the choices about where I could live and what I could do. These were things that I had to give up as part of my current ministry. But God is faithful. This Christmas I am aware as Mary was that with God nothing is impossible.
What impossible things do you see Him doing this Christmas?
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Jesus was trying to use truth, facts, and logic to argue with them. They were obviously in the wrong, and deep inside they knew it. But rather than dealing with what was right in front of their faces, they started yelling and resorted to violence.
In some ways I think we're facing a similar culture. We don't believe in truth anymore. I've been dismayed by the recent complaint to the federal Human Rights Commission and two provincial counterparts regarding an excerpt from Mark Steyn's book that appeared in Maclean's magazine. While Steyn doesn't write from a Christian point of view, he is very sympathetic to religion, and uses logic to argue that our worldview is all messed up.
The response has not been to argue against his facts. It is to say that he insulted people, and thus violated their human rights. Freedom of speech is at stake in Canada today, and I fear that few realize it. If the Canadian Islamic Council wins this one and Maclean's loses, then magazines will no longer print facts if they may be inconvenient to people. And that will impact us as writers.
We deal in facts that aren't very well liked in our culture. We're looking at the world through a biblical worldview that is not shared, and even reviled. And we have to learn how to make our arguments without emotion, without over-the-top judgmentalism, and just using logic. But even then, we must beware that increasingly our culture will not listen to us. And I think the time will come when we will have to be very careful. When writing itself will become subversive.
Perhaps I'm being melodramatic, but I don't think so. Already Christians have been prosecuted in Canada for publishing Bible verses. This is just the beginning.
Besides writing books I also write a weekly column (you can read some here), and looking back over the last few years, I can see where many of them could be considered "insulting" to certain groups. Will I have to start censoring myself? Or will I have the courage to say, as Jesus did, "If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong", regardless of what it costs.
Any of us who write about modern social issues are going to have to confront that issue, and soon. I wish Mark Steyn and Maclean's the best of luck, and keep them in my prayers. For where they go, so will the rest of us.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Or, you may stand by your display with an elaborate expression of nonchalance engaging visitors to the bookstore in conversations designed to move them to buy your inspired writing. They’ll ooh and ahh over meeting a real live author, take your leaflet and say, “I’ll give it some thought,” only to avoid you as they leave the store. Who can blame them? In their place I’d probably do the same.
You may leave a book signing having sold not a single volume or leave with the elation of having sold a few dozen. My recent experiences lead me to the following unscientific conclusions:
I sell few, if any books in venues where a number of writers offer their wares. Since September I’ve been involved in three events in which I either sold zero or one book. Best to consider these events as valuable opportunities to promote writers in general or the Word Guild in particular.
I sell a good number of books in venues where I am the only author present, for example, bookstores in malls or high traffic areas. Wherever I have an opportunity to describe my book and engage potential customers in conversation I have a much better chance of a sale. By itself—lost as it will be in a bookstore among thousands of other books—my book will have little chance of attracting attention. Anything that creates buzz may help to overcome this handicap.
I sell a good number of books in venues such as craft shows where the very uniqueness of a book table attracts customers. This is especially true if the book has some local connection.
Sales are much higher leading up to special days such as Christmas, Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.
Saturday evening is the worst time to have a book signing in Chapters.
Unless there is wide publicity and free food, few sales will result from book signings in individual bookstores with locations distant from high consumer traffic.
All in all, it’s been a good experience and I’m a little smarter, but I do look forward to a few months without book signings.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
On Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?"
Why does this baby on Mother Mary’s lap win the attention of billions of people every December? Why angels? Why shepherds? What child is this?
"Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear,
There is something about the Christmas Child that will not go away, that cannot be avoided, that is inescapably part of Canadian culture.What Child is this anyways?
William Chatterton Dix’s Carol had this response:
"This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary."
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him."
This Christmas, may loving hearts enthrone the Christmas Child. May loving hearts welcome this Child into their homes, their lives, their souls.
The Reverend Ed Hird+
Friday, December 14, 2007
Why was Jesus born? What is so significant about His birth? It's the fact that God chose to dwell among us and to bring salvation through His Son Jesus — by humbling Himself to the point of leaving His glory in heaven to be born in a stable and to walk among us in this broken world. And He came with a purpose: to give up His life as a ransom for our sins because we are powerless to save ourselves.
It takes my breath away when I consider what God has done for us, for me. There is so much hope in the words "God with us". This lonely, despairing world needs that message of hope!
My prayer for you this Christmas is that you will experience — and share with others — more than ever before, God with us.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Sometimes, this passion will hit me at the oddest moments. I’ll be in a grocery store and I’ll see a young woman and I’ll just want to run up to her and say, “I wrote this book for you. It’s my love gift for you. I wrote it just for you!”
Recently, I was at a Christmas craft show and I had my table of books there. Some people stopped and bought one and I was overjoyed. But so many passed by and again, I wanted to somehow tell them, “This is for you. This is my love gift to you. I wrote it just for you!”
As Christmas approaches, I see the Father’s arms extended towards a hurting world. In His hands is the gift of His Son who came as a baby in the manger but then lived and died so that we would have the gift of eternal life. And I hear the Father’s voice: This love story I wrote just for you. It’s my love gift to you. I wrote it just for you.
Saturday, December 08, 2007
an article previously published in the Deep Cove Crier
Fanny Crosby was blinded, while only six weeks old, by a quack unlicensed doctor. He permanently scarred her corneas by applying hot mustard poultices to her mildly infected eyes. When her father died while Fanny was only 12 months old, her mother had to become a maid to support little Fanny.Despite these tragedies, Fanny never fell into self-pity. “Don’t waste any sympathy on me”, she said. “I’m the happiest person alive.”
Fanny went on to become one of the best known women in North America. She taught for 23 years at the New York Institute for the Blind, becoming the personal friend and confidante of every sitting American President during her lifetime. As the first woman to ever address the U.S. Congress, Fanny left a lasting impact wherever she went.Fanny had a life-changing spiritual encounter at age 30 in November 1850, which she said ‘flooded her very soul with celestial light’. Fourteen years later at age 44, Fanny wrote her first song.
After the infamous Chicago fire that burned down Moody’s premises, Moody and Sankey went to England, speaking and singing their way into the hearts of the British people. Even Queen Victoria and the Princess of Wales came to hear Moody preach and Sankey sing Fanny Crosby’s songs. As one writer commented, Fanny Crosby ‘set more hearts and voices to praising God than any other women who ever lived. Fanny’s approach to life and music was “Live in the moment and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering.”
Fanny Crosby had a photographic memory, memorizing five chapters of the Bible every week. She knew by heart the first five books of the Old Testament, the four Gospels, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, and many of the Psalms. Some of her most well-known songs were “To God be the Glory, Great Things He hath Done”, “Draw Me Nearer, Precious Lord”, “Blessed Assurance”, and “Praise Him! Praise Him!”.
Fanny lived until age 95. When she was 83, she said: “I believe myself to still really be in the prime of my life.” When asked about her longevity, she said that her secret was that she guarded her taste, her temper, and her tongue.
Fanny actively supported the Water Street Mission in New York, the first Rescue Mission in North America. It had been founded by Jerry McAuley who himself had recovered from alcohol and prison. She did not focus on pointing out other people's faults. "You can't save a man by telling him of his sins. He knows them already. Tell him there is pardon and love waiting for him. Win his confidence and make him understand that you believe in him, and never give him up!"
One of her best known songs “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Saviour” was written specifically for a prisoner who cried out at her meeting: “O Lord, Do not pass me by!”Fanny was married for 44 years to Alexander Van Alistine, her former student and fellow instructor at the New York Institute for the Blind. With Alexander being a top organist and Fanny an accomplished harpist, they must have been quite a duo. Sadly their only child, Frances, died as a baby. It was this tragedy that inspired the writing of one of Fanny’s most famous songs: “Safe in the Arms of Jesus”.
Her song “Safe in the Arms of Jesus” even reached Uganda in 1885. The Anglican Bishop James Hannington was captured by King Mwanga and put for a week in a filthy rat-infested hut. Bishop Hannington’s last words in his diary were: “Go tell Mwanga that I have purchased the road to Uganda with my blood.” As they speared him to death, Hannington was joyfully singing “Safe in the Arms of Jesus”. His courageous death inspired 32 servants of King Mwanga to accept being burnt alive rather than renounce their faith and moral convictions. Such sacrifices have produced the second largest Anglican Church in the world, with over eight million Ugandan Anglicans attending church each Sunday.I thank God for Fanny Crosby, the world’s most prolific songbird, who has shown tens of millions in every continent how to be ‘safe in the arms of Jesus’.
The Reverend Ed Hird+
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver,
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Every once in a while you live through a year where so much is packed inside of it that you wonder if the calendar will contain it all. And usually the lessons of such a year are long and difficult.
This past year was one such year for me. But as I reflect back, I can see that I have learned things. I’ve seen stronger relationships with family members; my sister and my mother, my husband. I see growing friendships in my small group and among friends. Also, I find myself in a deepening relationship with God.
I find myself on a quest for an understanding of ‘First things.’
C.S. Lewis writes about First Things and Second Things and is quoted by Larry Crabb in Soultalk, a book my small group is working through. First things have to do with our relationship with God. Second things are everything else; family, career, success, health, and even our ministries, the good things we do.
Rev. Tim Keller is another one who talks on these themes, only he calls them Good Things and Ultimate Things. In his sermons he often asks the questions, “What gets you up in the morning? What do you want more than anything? Those are your Ultimate Things.”
My answer usually had something to do with career and publishing success. And of course to see my family successful and happy is way up there, along with health and friends. Yet, this past year so many of the important, good, and ‘second’ things in my life seemed to be yanked out from under me. And all I had left was God.
This Christmas, as we celebrate the coming of a First Thing, I want to share a verse that has been meaningful to me. It’s Psalm 27:4 - ONE THING I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.
David knew the difference Ultimate Things and Good Things, and he desired the Ultimate Thing.
Have a wonderful Christmas, all!
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
In the December 1st issue of Christian Week, I have reviewed new Christmas albums by two talented Canadian recording artists: Jacob Moon’s This Christmas, and Kelita’s Heavenly Night. In this blog, I’ve chosen to share with you four of my favourite Canadian Christmas CDs from previous years.
Bruce Cockburn — Christmas — True North Records 1993
Every year, this CD gets heard often around our home. You won’t hear any silly seasonal ditties here, but Cockburn’s renditions of classic carols such as “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, “Silent Night”, and the wonderful Sam Phillips minor-key arrangement of “It Came Upon The Midnight Clear”. He also sings carols in Spanish, French, and virtually-extinct Huron. Cockburn’s own composition “Shepherds” is a faithful retelling (in more than one way) of the story of the angel choir announcing Christ’s birth. He includes some beautiful lesser-known songs — and bookends the album with brief guitar instrumentals of carols, that leave you wanting more. Cockburn brings his depth of thought and integrity to Christmas music.
Steve Bell — The Feast Of Seasons — Signpost Music 1995
There are only a few well-known carols on Steve Bell’s seasonal CD (originally called The Feast). It isn’t until track five that you’ll recognize “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” which is then followed by a medley of three familiar carols on solo guitar. The album is arranged liturgically, beginning with the Advent song “Ready My Heart” and moving through to Epiphany with the original composition “Old Sage”. One highlight is “Every Stone Shall Cry” — originally a poem by Richard Wilbur — which carries our thoughts beyond, to Easter, and back again. If I could have only one Christmas CD, this would be it.
Lianna Klassen — Once Upon a Time Forever After — Dawntreader Productions 2002
There are even fewer carols on Lianna Klassen’s Christmas album — only two in fact (“O Little Town Of Bethlehem” and “The Huron Carol”) and yet she has made a disc that clearly brings the story behind the season to mind. Several of the songs, which she self-penned, are built around characters from the Biblical account. Klassen’s music has an atmospheric, Celtic quality — featuring traditional instruments and subtle synthetic sounds — that complement her strong voice well. My favourite cut is “Gloria Deo”, a soaring, multi-layered angel song of praise that announces the birth of our Lord. Beautiful.
Ali Matthews — On Angels’ Wings — Shake-a-Paw Music 2005
On her album, Ali Matthews sings original songs, traditional carols, and a few fluffy seasonal songs such as “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow”. I believe there’s method in such madness; Matthews knows how to disarm an audience that may not think they want to hear “Christian” music. She delights us with Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time Is Here”, from the Charlie Brown Christmas special — opening listeners to carols and her own truth-laden songs, which are so honestly written that she can slip from the pleasantly sentimental to the profoundly spiritual virtually unnoticed. “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”!
D.S. Martin is Music Critic for Christian Week; his poetry chapbook So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed is available at www.dsmartin.ca
Monday, December 03, 2007
Saturday, December 01, 2007
By the Rev Ed Hird+
-an article published in the Dec 2007 Deep Cove Crier
One of the most entertaining book/movies about Christmas commercialization is ‘Skipping Christmas/Christmas with the Cranks’ by John Grisham. As Christmas commercialization will likely always be with us, it is good to have a sense of humour about the silliness that can overtake us. My favorite scene is Luther Crank trying unsuccessfully to drink his tea after an over-the-top Botox session.
For many years, John Grisham has been one of my favorite living authors. Born on February 8, 1955, Grisham is a retired attorney, an ex-politician, and a novelist best known for his works of modern legal drama. Publishers Weekly described Grisham as "the bestselling novelist of the 90s," selling 60,742,289 copies. Grisham is one of few authors, including Tom Clancy, who have sold two million copies on a first printing. His novel The Pelican Brief sold over eleven million copies just in North America. There is no other person who has authored a number one best-selling novel of the year for seven consecutive years (1994-2,000).
Many people do not realize that Grisham is a committed Christian who has spent time in mission service in Brazil. "I started going out in 1993 with a church group from my home church in Oxford, Miss.," he told USA Today. "We went down there for the purpose of constructing a church in this little town sort of in the outback and it was such a rewarding experience that I've done it several times since."
With over 110 million books sold, John Grisham and his wife, Renee, "measure the success of the year on how much we give away," Grisham told USA Today. They have set up a foundation to oversee their giving -- "the bulk of it goes to church and related activities" -- to which "the kids have said, 'Look, don't give it all away.'"
Grisham now wishes "I'd joined the Peace Corps ... for a couple years out of college." He added, "As my years go by I think I'll spend more and more time doing ... mission work, probably in Brazil."
Fittingly, Grisham in his book ‘The Testament’ makes a heroine of an illegitimate daughter Rachel Lane, an unknown missionary in the deepest jungles of Brazil. Troy Phelan, the 10th-richest man in America, outrages all his greedy family by giving Rachel his $11 billion fortune. Ironically, Rachel leads a simple life and couldn't care less about money. The interaction between Nate O’Riley the recovering alcoholic lawyer and Rachel Lane reveals the depth of Grisham’s spiritual convictions. "Nate closed his eyes ... and called God's name. God was waiting. ... In one glorious acknowledgment of failure, he laid himself bare before God. He held nothing back. He unloaded enough baggage to crush any three men. ... 'I'm sorry,' he whispered to God. 'Please help me.' As quickly as the fever had left his body, he felt the baggage leave his soul. With one gentle brush of the hand, his slate had been wiped clean."
Grisham explained to USA Today, "Nate tried power and women and booze and drugs and the fast life and all the good things that money can buy. He's crashed and burned four times in 10 years and it's obvious he can't save himself. I wanted to take a guy like that and sort of follow him on a kind of spiritual journey, his quest for a spiritual cure. ... I was challenged by the goal of seeing if I could make such a spiritual journey work in a popular novel, in commercial fiction."
This Christmas, I encourage each of us to make a spiritual journey that goes far beyond Christmas Commercialization. May this Christmas be an encounter with the humble manger.
The Reverend Ed Hird+
Rector, St. Simon’s North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada
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