Monday, August 17, 2020

The Collection and a Biker Part 1 SUSAN HARRIS

For Peter Black - one of the best people I know. Here is the first part of the chapter. (The second part was in the July blog.)

The Collection and a Biker Part 1 


                                                Dropping, dropping, dropping, dropping
                                                                Hear the pennies fall.
                                             Every one for Jesus, He shall have them all.

Ruth trilled the little chorus she had sung in Sunday School nearly three decades ago. Soon after logging on to Facebook she exclaimed in surprise, "The penny is going to be eliminated!" Her rising voice made it appear more of a question. Clicking on the link, the brunette read the article's headline: Mint will stop making pennies this fall. She was quiet as she absorbed the news, the look on her face one of shock. Her dark curls hung around her head in soft coils as she gazed at the computer screen. 

Quickly she messaged back, stating her response aloud as she typed. "Many learnt of missions through the penny. Sad to see it go for that reason." Her white, French-tipped fingernails clicked on the keyboard as she pressed the letters.

Walking to the microwave where two pennies lay, the thirty-two-year-old woman picked one up and blew off the dust. It was Copper, and its year said 1959. 

"Missions," she repeated to herself. Copper knew exactly what she meant.

 Having been placed in many offering collections over the years, Copper had been counted, rolled, and sent to the bank with other pennies. Innumerable times. Then the little coin was given back to other customers. Over and over the cycle was repeated. As it changed hands through trade, Copper saw many places, partook in events, and was privy to conversations that could melt ice. 

Ruth's little song was an old one. Years ago, children used to sing the catchy tune, Dropping Pennies,when they were putting offering into the bag, and adults used to join in with deeper voices. Come to think of it, neither Ruth nor Copper had heard the song lately. 

The jingle of coins bouncing against each other was a glorious sound that never failed to bring smiles to the children's little faces. At one church, a medium-aged, dimple-cheeked boy named Darren used to snap his pennies into the burgundy collection bag so it could produce the loudest sound. Some children would giggle, and others seemed to burn the action in memory as if to try it out. Still others looked scared as adults frowned at them to be silent. Copper did not mind being snapped for entertainment.

At another church, flat white boxes shaped like drums, with red lettering and crosses, were given to each child. Once the box was assembled, a slot at the top allowed the pennies to be dropped inside. The mandate: Save your pennies and bring them to help the poor. That class was buying a goat for an orphanage in Africa. 

There were many Sunday School teachers, but Ruth remembered one lady with a lovely smile and a yellow dress. With long, golden hair parted on the side, she looked like the angel figurine in the foyer of the church. This teacher told the children the most remarkable story of a little coin's value. It was about a widow who put two small copper coins in the offering. That day Jesus was sitting in the temple near the treasury, the place where the people placed their offering. 

The angel lady had talked about a mixed crowd at the temple. The rich ones dressed in fancy clothes made of expensive fabrics were putting in lots of money. Then a woman, not well dressed at all because she was terribly poor and had very little money, came and dropped in two copper coins. The teacher related that Jesus called his disciples and showed them the woman. 

"This widow has given more than anyone else here today," Jesus told them, and they looked at him as if to say "Yeah, right!" Then Jesus explained, "The others gave money but still had lots remaining. This woman gave all the money she owned."

The blonde Sunday School teacher had smiled and said that small sacrifices of poor people meant more to God than the lavish donations of the wealthy. The little coins like Copper proved a point, that the heart of the giver is more important than the size of their gift. 

Copper felt like a hero. It was proud to be a one-cent piece. It was a truly good feeling to know that a copper coin was in the Bible, and was used to inspire people right up to the present. Talk about penny power! Collecting pennies has never gone out of fashion. Penny drives are not unique to churches, as a lot of schools fundraise with them, as do clubs, communities, and just about anyone wanting to make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate.

Little Copper Pennies Borealis Press 

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

A Different Kind of Fatigue-- Carolyn R. Wilker



I read an article this week about fatigue. Not the physical sort where one works too long and gets exhausted, or the kind where people struggle with chronic illness. This kind of fatigue deals with the kind of watchfulness and care we’ve been carrying around since early March. 

Think of a life guard charged with the careful watching of a pool full of gleeful people splashing around—children and their parents—and the eagle eyes the life guards must have. And the break they need once people are out of the pool. This kind of watchfulness, albeit, is a different kind than we have been practising, with little relief in sight. Add to that the many reports of where the virus pops up and where the curve is flattening and the potential of a vaccine being developed.

I see all this and have to dial down the news but not dismiss it completely.

Situational awareness, as described this week by Globe and Mail writer Jillian Horton, refers to this kind of watchfulness since the pandemic was first declared. Not just in one country, but in countries all over the globe, including us. People are getting tired of doing it, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop.

The CERB benefit has helped many people, including some members in our family. Some companies offered delays in payment of certain bills, others offered free resources to help anyone in those positions, and that was good when we all needed to stay safe and limit our coming and going to only those things that were entirely necessary.

For people with continuing jobs, working from home, we had the reassurance of knowing we could pay our bills. We could buy groceries and necessary prescriptions. 

Jesus fed people, he healed them and brought comfort to many in distressing situations.  What can we do when so many are hurting?

For companies aching to get back on their feet at a critical time, it has to be hard financially, and for those companies that closed, an even harsher reality. Supporting local business, including restaurants with take-out food, is one thing we can do, where we have the means. 

In our extended family, we had two deaths in early July within 24 hours of each other (not by Covid, but still painful). One family decided on a donation to the Food Bank of their community; that was a place we could make a contribution. 


Our resources may be limited, financially, or our physical energy limited. We can exercise good judgement, do our best to keep up the practice of physical distancing, wash our hands, and wear our masks out in public, where distancing is not possible. And maybe that’s all you can do.

All this is essentially the commandment to love others as we love ourselves. Be well, stay safe, and help where you are able. And maybe for some, it's a 'listening ear' or something fresh from our


Sunday, August 09, 2020

The Incalculable Impact of Dr. J.I. Packer: Giant of the Faith - HIRD


(July 22nd 1926 to July 17th 2020)

By Rev. Dr. Ed & Janice Hird

-an article for the Light Magazine


Canada has been blessed to have the late Dr JI Packer in our own backyard since 1979.  Although born in the UK, he became a Canadian citizen after becoming a Regent College professor.  His generosity of spirit has transformed countless Christian leaders.  How is it that so many of us have experienced such a personal connection to a global leader?

Dr Darrell Johnson insightfully noted, “One of the Lord’s humble giants has been called home. J.I. Packer is what a theologian is called to be: first a forgiven sinner who then gratefully loves the Saviour, and then a sacrificial servant who uses his massive giftedness to equip the church to live for the glory of Christ. I can never repay the debt I owe Dr. Packer for the gift of “Knowing God.” And now he does as never before!”

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby commented, “Dr James Packer’s death ends a wonderful service to God by a disciple of learning, wisdom and holiness. A giant of his time.”  Geoff Tunnicliffe, former Secretary-General for the World Evangelical Fellowship agreed, saying, “Dr. J.I Packer was a giant of the Faith.  Jim had a huge influence in personal journey.” Rev Dr Chris Sugden from Oxford commented that John Stott, Michael Green, and Jim Packer were key framers of the Keele Statement which reaffirmed that evangelicals could remain in the Church of England with integrity.  Pastor Dave Carson of Hope Vancouver knew Dr Packer from the 1960s in London, commenting that Packer’s highlighting of George Whitefield’s preaching was foundational in his own life. Archbishop Yong Ping Chung of South-East Asia (ret) said “I had the privilege of getting to know him a little better when he firmly and courageously stood up for the truth of the Gospel against the false teachings, especially during the very difficult and controversial time in our Anglican Communion.”

Many famous people become inaccessible and pompous.  But not Dr Packer.  His friend Dr George Egerton of UBC noted that “he was famous and revered for his best-selling books, but was utterly without pretensions.  He had time for anyone.  If you needed an article for a journal, or a review, he was always happy to oblige.” Rev Ron Corcoran stated he was so delighted and humbled that Dr Packer took the time to read and endorse his book.  We are grateful that he wrote the foreword to two of my own books, as he did for so many others.

Packer’s many Regent students appreciated how deeply he invested in their lives.  Rev Peter Falk remembered that every class they sang the Doxology.  Dr Packer was fond of saying, ‘Theology is for doxology.’ Pastor Macintosh of Heritage Alliance Church rejoiced when Packer taught him that election (being chosen) is about overflowing thankfulness for God’s gracious action on our behalf. Bishop Felix Orji feels a deep sense of loss, “He was like a father to many of us.  At a personal level, Jim helped me with doctoral thesis - the outline for my doctoral Thesis was hashed out by Dr Packer in his living room one afternoon I went to see him.”

Dr. Packer helped redeem the concept of theology, making it accessible and practical.  Rev. Dr. John Roddam observed that many theologians are in the ozone but Jim’s writings were accessible to the “average Joe.” Brian C Stiller, Global Ambassador for The World Evangelical Alliance, commented, “James Packer was uncommon in his ability to digest a wide assortment of complex and wide-ranging   theology and reduce it to its elementary and essential issues. He is a prime example of how those of us in the wider and more popular level of Gospel witness, benefit so greatly from those brilliant in scholarship and at the same time, care so much about and deeply love the Gospel.”  Dr Rod Wilson, past Regent College President, stated, “I will remember Jim Packer as a man who had a unique ability to link theology with the mere Christian, and the academy with the church. These gifts were bathed in an irenic spirit that made him a gracious man even when dealing with his critics. Intertwined with these strengths was an outrageous sense of humour that endeared him to so many.”

Many are grateful for Dr. Packer’s humanity, humour and playfulness, especially around meals.  Rev Ken Shigematsu of Tenth Church commented, “JI Packer inspired me to choose play that gives life, ennobles, and draws me to God.” Rev. Calvin Weber of UCM BCIT was struck by Packer’s love for six Hunan peppers on his Hunan Gung Pao Chicken. Dr. Jeff Greenman, Regent College President, spoke of Dr. Packer as both his teacher and friend, regularly making time to share beef curry together at a local Chinese restaurant.  Packer, said Greenman “was not only a brilliant thinker and amazing writer, but fundamentally a deeply godly, Christ-loving Christian gentleman, who gave his life to serving the God he loved.”

His book “Knowing God”, which sold millions, has had the greatest impact of all of Dr Packer’s many writings.  Dr Axel Schoeber of West Vancouver Baptist Church commented, “His book Knowing God was hugely formative for me as a young Christian and shaped my approach to ministry once I became a pastor.” Rev Robin Guinness, fellow co-signer of Dr JI Packer’s Montreal Declaration of Anglican Essentials, observed, “I go back again and again to his monumental work Knowing God.   It is also through him that I have been encouraged to rediscover the depth and riches of the great Puritan leaders.”  

Bishop Peter Klenner said, “The Rev. Dr. J I Packer was—in the very best sense of the word—a Puritan. He was a man of the Word. He loved and lived the bible. Dr. Packer was also a Pastor—in the best sense of the word. He cared for people; remembered their names.  He loved people and was willing to walk alongside as a pilgrim.” David Bornman, West Coast Christian Fellowship, commented, “I am grateful for JI Packer’s lifelong dedication to the defense of scripture which has been a strength to the church worldwide. In person and in writings JI Packer approached scripture with a wonderful expression of reverence and joy that welcomed each listener to enter his joyful discovery of the glory of God.”

When asked late in life by Christianity Today what his final words to the church might be, Packer replied, 'I think I can boil it down to four words: Glorify Christ every way.'"


Rev Dr. Ed and Janice Hird

-Co-authors of the Blue Sky novel

p.s. It seems very fitting that the Lord had us do a trilogy recently on Dr. JI Packer and his mentor Richard Baxter in the Light Magazine.

Dr JI Packer: Knowing God

Richard and Margaret Baxter

Dr JI Packer and Richard Baxter

Monday, August 03, 2020

Take Care of your Heart by Rose McCormick Brandon

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23


Pepper Point Gardens, Manitoulin Island 

A woman bought a house because she liked the previous owner’s landscaping. As the new owner, she enjoyed the perennial garden with its peonies, roses, delphiniums and clematis.  After a few weeks she noticed changes. Roses hung their heads. Dead blooms tainted the appearance of flowering bushes. The neglected garden soon looked unkempt. 

Like a garden, the heart requires care. 

The heart is the inward person. Think of it as the garden of the soul. A good gardener tends the soil by adding compost and other beneficial material. She prunes stray branches to add symmetry and to let in sunlight. She waters and fertilizes, moves plants from one area to another and never seems to stop noticing areas that need help.

No one deliberately plants weeds, but they appear even in well-tended gardens. The diligent gardener pulls them while they’re small, when they can be easily removed. Weeds quickly develop strong roots that require a shovel and labour to remove them. Some pervasive weeds require extreme measures like laying a sheet of plastic over the ground and around the roots of plants. This keeps the sun from penetrating the soil, thus preventing weeds from growing. The passionate gardener uses every necessary means to keep plants and soil healthy.

Our hearts require the same diligent care. The wise keep their hearts free from resentment, lies, profane talk, perversions and all kinds of sin. Anything that destroys goodness is an enemy. Jesus said, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart” (Luke 6:45).

Nurture your heart with God’s Word. Take care that it doesn’t become overgrown with weeds like worry and sins of all kinds. Listen to God's prompts. Replace anger, hatred and fear with a childlike trust in God. If your heart is in an overgrown state begin weeding out the offenders one by one. 

"Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior" Ephesians 4:31. 

Prayer: Father, make me more mindful of what I watch, read and hear.

Rose McCormick Brandon writes from her home in Caledonia, Ontario. Her award-winning Biblical essays, personal experience pieces and devotionals have been published in several periodicals in Canada and the U.S. 

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