Archives

Darkness and Light

cropped-15355794_10157826895120156_9161534845569757584_n-2.jpg

Perhaps at no other time than the Christmas season are we as aware of the contrasting presence of darkness and light. The nights grow long as we head towards the winter solstice. Yet, the dazzling array of lights on homes and businesses both dispels and is  accentuated by the darkness. People turn off the lights  in their homes so they can better see the beauty of the lit bulbs on their trees. Churches may hold candlelight services, or their equivalent, on Christmas Eve, which focus attention on what the light stands for.

2016 has held both darkness and light, in varying degrees, for all of us. As I reflect on my own experiences, I am reminded of the opening lines of Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….” Darkness  has come to me this year primarily in the form of loss. Our family could never have anticipated that my cousin, Doug, at 56, would be diagnosed in August with a rare form of cancer that would take his life just weeks later. When my aunt phoned me, I was strengthened by her sheer sense of courage in the midst of losing her son. Her words created light in my heart.14333103_10157432478945156_35679603554883442_n1

2016  has also brought unexpected joy.  During the summer and fall, we had wonderful visits from friends we had not seen for some time. One visit was such a surprise that I didn’t catch on when my friend sent me a picture of herself  near a Nova Scotia sign! Two of the other  families  were from Saskatchewan, where my husband pastored several churches  over 30 years ago. It was amazing, the sense of going far back in time, the thrill of making new memories while remembering the old.

Although I don’t know what 2017 will bring, I am believing for a year of brand new possibilities and dreams fulfilled. Doug’s story has not ended. Before his death, he was able to hold his first grandchild, a beautiful baby girl, in his arms. She will soon celebrate her first Christmas. Darkness has no  substance or power; only light does. When darkness invades, the solution is both simple and profound. Seek out the light. Believe that joy will come in unexpected ways and dispel the darkness, as the Christmas lights brighten the December skies. The shepherds discovered this joy in the fields, while doing their customary job of tending sheep.” An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them….”(Luke 2:9, NIV). The angel announced the birth of the Christ child, who brought light to the world. The shepherds responded in trust and worship. Let the Christ child be your light as well. 2017 is going to be awesome! The “best of times” is yet to come!

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

 

 

Two Days Before Christmas

Two days before Christmas! The gifts are wrapped and arranged under our tree and being used as a gymnasium by our cats! Most of the housework is done, baking is underway and our cupboards are groaning with food. The trappings are largely completed but what is happening in my heart? Am I honouring the Christ child, keeping peace in my heart and  life, and refusing to worry about what another year might bring?

My key word for 2016 is gratitude. Without it we cannot truly have peace or appreciate all we have.

Sometimes, God sends an unexpected occurrence to remind us of his goodness, his grace, and the love he shows in the stressful circumstances of life. Last Friday, my husband and I went shopping. When I got home, I realized I didn’t have my purse. In my purse were my credit cards, health card and all the other ID I  carry with me, plus several gift cards that I had purchased. The last place I had been was in a MacDonald’s, waiting for my husband. We quickly got in the car and drove back. Had a desperate shopper taken my purse? Would it still be there? I rushed into the MacDonald’s and just as I was looking around the table where I had been sitting, a lady said, “Are you looking for your purse? We gave it right away to an employee.” I thanked and thanked this lovely young couple, out having a meal with their little boy. Having worked retail, I know that not everyone is as honest. This couple blessed me by their compassion and thoughtfulness. They warmed my heart and helped me to remember that God’s mercies are always there.

My pastor, Gary Hooper, says that 2016 is going to be a year of surprises. May this couple, and all of you, discover wonderful opportunities, good health, provision and beautiful surprises of every kind in 2016.

Merry Christmas!

Ruth Ann Adams

 

 

 

 

Sarah Jane

Sarah

September 14, 2014 was a day full of celebration. In the afternoon, I went straight from church to attend the birthday party of a good friend’s nine year old son. Even though rain was predicted, the skies held off their downpour, and the party was held in the back yard, complete with a bouncy castle for the children. Then we went inside while Sam opened his gifts. It was a joyful event for a special child in my life. 

I also was aware that on the  same day, a surprise party was being thrown in Ontario, for my close friend, Donna, who was having a turn of the decade birthday. I would loved to have been there, but it made me very happy just to think of her excitement  and joy. 

When I went to bed that night, I was content and thankful for  the events of the day. The phone rang in the darkness, and I reached over to pick it up, thinking it was my daughter, Hannah, who sometimes called late. But it wasn’t Hannah. It was my sister, Brenda, from Ontario and her voice  was full of worry and fear. “Sarah is breathing like a fish,” she said. “She might die.”

Brenda and Mark’s daughter, Sarah Jane, had suffered for a number of years with kidney failure and sporadic incidents of a rare but very dangerous brain condition called PRES. On May 23, Sarah had had a kidney with a cancerous growth removed. The cancer was completely contained and no treatment was needed. Then, in the summer, she had a second operation, this time to remove most of her parathyroid glands, because of excessive hormone production. Generally this procedure only required an overnight stay but Sarah experienced another episode of PRES and dangerous and fluctuating blood pressure levels. Finally, after 46 days in  hospital, she was released. Now she was in Owen Sound, for a short family holiday, to see her grandmother. 

I went downstairs and sat at the kitchen table to wait for Brenda’s next call. All my family were asleep. I noticed, though, that my dear friend, Gina, was still up and on facebook. It was a comfort to chat with her online and tell her what was happening. 

About twenty minutes later, the phone rang again. I knew it wasn’t good news. “Sarah is dead,” Brenda said. We cried over the phone, overwhelmed with the pain and shock of the death of this beautiful, courageous and faith-filled young  woman. 

Over the next few days, family gathered at Sarah’s grandmother’s house in Owen Sound. Somehow we got through  all the formalities: the visitation, funeral and burial. We were comforted by being together and by all the friends and family members who joined us in our grieving. 

Eventually, though, we  had to return to our lives and responsibilities. For Sarah’s parents, it is a matter of putting one step in front of the other, of taking each day as it comes, of holding onto their faith in the midst of such a great loss. 

And now Christmas is coming. There is much joy at Christmas. The angels rejoiced and sang when the Christ child was born, and in our churches and homes, we try to keep that sense of expectation and thanksgiving alive. However, I am well aware, that in spite of our faith , this will not be an easy Christmas for our family. It will not be an easy Christmas for thousands of others who are experiencing loss, poverty, family and relationship issues or other types of suffering. The minister at Sarah’s funeral used as her text 1 Thessalonians 4:18: “We do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope” (NIV). Rev. Zakamarko pointed out that while the Bible tells us not to grieve, as if we have no hope of seeing our loved ones again, it doesn’t say not to grieve at all. Sarah had a strong faith in Jesus Christ, and we know we will see her in heaven. In the meantime, we grieve that she is not with us on earth. This is where our hope comes in, hope for a better tomorrow, hope that God is still in control and will take care of us. This is what Christmas is about: Emmanuel, “God is with us.”

 

 

 

 

The Stable Night

One afternoon, about a month before Christmas, I came home from work to find that our power had been turned off. My husband’s job loss had thrown us into a grim period of financial uncertainty, including the inability, at times, to pay our bills. Fortunately, my husband  found a way of paying off the power bill and assured me that  we would have power again by the next day. However, that night, it was dark in our tiny, seventh floor apartment.

I dusted the apartment by candlelight and later went out and sat on the stairs leading up to the 8th floor, to do my  Bible reading. For a while, though, I simply stayed in our living room, lit by the shadowy light of the candles. Signs of Christmas were everywhere: in the stores, in brightly lit decorations, in festivities, concerts and tightly stuffed mailboxes. The pace would only quicken during the next few weeks. As I reflected quietly though, in our candlelit room, it occurred to me that my dark surroundings were much closer to the first Christmas, than the festivities we would later enjoy. The stable was not likely bright nor spacious. The circumstances were humble. Mary and Joseph were facing uncertainty and perhaps fear.The angels would come in all their bright and holy  splendour, but for now, there was birth and pain and darkness.

The next day, we celebrated our youngest daughter’s birthday. Not long after her friends arrived,  the power was restored. The apartment was bright and cheerful. We never lost our power again and our circumstances gradually improved. However, I will never forget that night of flickering candlelight and my small glimpse into the long ago darkness of the  stable night.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2, NIV).

Merry Christmas!

Ruth Ann Adams

Bells at Harrods

I took a small, Christmas bell ornament off the rack. My husband, two youngest daughters and I were at Harrods, a famous and expensive department store, in London, England. It was August, too early for Christmas, but the colourful decoration was actually affordable and I wanted a souvenir to take home. Besides, when Christmas arrived, we would enjoy the cheerful ornament.

Bells have been ringing for hundreds of years and for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, as in John Donne’s famous lines, “…send not to know/ For whom the bell tolls,/ It tolls for thee” (“No Man is an Island”), bells signify death. At other times, bells are rung for joyful occasions, such as weddings or coronations. In churches, bells are used as a call to worship or as part of a mass. On July 27th, bells were heard all over the United Kingdom to announce the beginning of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Big Ben – the name of the bell, rather than the clock- is admired by millions of tourists.

IMG_2841

At Christmas, bells represent joy. Luke 2:13-14 describes the Bethlehem scene: “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praisingGod and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests’” (NIV). The angels announced the coming of the Christ Child with great rejoicing. Even though bells are not specifically mentioned, it isn’t hard to imagine an angelic chorus ringing bells from on high!

This December, I have been asked to be the bell ringer for our church play, and somehow this seems appropriate. 2012 has been a “bell ringing” year for our family. We have celebrated our oldest daughter’s wedding, a university convocation, our youngest daughter’s Grade 12 graduation and 18th birthday, several children entering college and a dream trip to Iceland and the UK. These have all been milestone events and reasons for great happiness.

We have also experienced more subtle forms of joy: colourful flowers blooming on sunny mornings, stacks of good books on our desks and shelves, walks on sandy beaches, acquiring a car after years of doing without, getting much needed dental work completed and enjoying wonderful conversations with the incredibly awesome people in our world. Happiness is very often a choice and gratitude and recognition of our blessings plays a large part in how we view our lives.

Sometimes, though, we have to purposely and steadfastly ring our bells, through times of darkness. This year, the tragic death of a friend, the loss of a job I have loved and the ongoing illness of my niece have brought with them a sense of grief and loss. The birth of Jesus reminds us that light and joy are always present, even during those times when our circumstances don’t reflect them.

The Christmas season has arrived. The bell ornament I purchased in August from Harrods is hung in a place all its own. It is a symbol that the joy of God is ever present. Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” As 2012 draws to a close, ring your bells and anticipate with joy the blessings God has in store for your future!

Merry Christmas!

Fran by the Sea