December 30, 2015

A City of Lights by Susan Barclay

Partway through this year I discovered that the United Nations had designated 2015 as the International Year of Light and Light Based Technologies. According to Wikipedia, the observance  "aims to raise awareness of the achievements of light science and its applications, and its importance to humankind."

Did anyone else know about this?

There are a few ironies here: 

1. The proposal for the International Year of Light (IYL) was made in Paris, "the city of lights," in 2012.

2. The IYL launched in Paris on January 19, 2015, just 12 days after the Charlie Hebdo attack.

3. One of the launch activities was the unveiling of "the world of Ibnal-Haytham," an Arab scientist who lived from 965 B.C. to 1040 A.D.

4. Paris experienced a second terrorist attack in 2015 on November 13.

5. From the standpoint of world events, 2015 has been anything but a year of light. Boko Haram and ISIS are just two examples of a greater darkness into which humankind seems to have plunged. For more on the events that took place this year, I recommend visiting InfoPlease.

I administer a private Facebook group called 'Light.' This is a group where members can encourage one another and discuss living as salt and light in a world that seems to have lost its flavour and to prefer darkness. If you are interested in joining, let me know and I'll invite you. Just a few days ago, I posted 'Here I Am to Worship,' a song that begins with the words, 'Light of the world, You stepped down into darkness...' I'm so thankful that He did, and that God has not yet removed His Holy Spirit from the earth.

Sometimes I find myself singing the old hymn, 'Let the Beauty of Jesus be Seen in Me'. Sometimes I've sickened myself because it has come out of my mouth on the heels of unChristlike behaviour. Only as I'm writing this today do I realize and accept that this is exactly the reminder I need at such times. 

Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me
All his wonderful passion and purity
O Thou Spirit divine, all my nature refine
Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me

As Christian writers we need to examine our hearts and motives around writing. What do we hope to accomplish? Do we have a message we want to share with readers? Do we want to connect? Are we looking for personal glorification or to glorify God? Our answers to these questions are important, so be honest. If you need to, ask God to give you a clean heart.

I like the chorus of Francesca Battistelli's 'He Knows My Name,' which goes (in part) 

I don't need my name in lights
I'm famous in my Father's eyes
Make no mistake/He knows my name

Friends, the battle between light and darkness is ongoing, within and without. In the end, Jesus wins. Let's let His light shine through us like a city on a hill that cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:14).


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December 28, 2015

Hope in the Darkness - Ruth L. Snyder

We live in a world where darkness abounds. It's easy to get discouraged, until we remember...GOD...

  • God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. (I John 1:5)

  • God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:17)

  • God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

  • God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly placesin Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7)

2015 has been one of the most difficult years of my life, but through it I have come to know God in a deeper, more personal way. Maybe your horizon is dark too. As we enter 2016, let's trust our loving Heavenly Father to walk with us each step of the way. When we are tempted to worry, let's stop and pray: "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." I Peter 5:7

Happy New Year!

A Revelation about Revelation

In my November 28, 2015 post, I wrote about the large print New Testament I received for Christmas  in 1970. Being able to read the Bible for myself rather than have somebody read it to me was a spiritual boon.

John MacArthur's Grace to You broadcast of December 22 resurrected a memory of something I learned twelve years ago but I hadn't associated it with Christmas before.

Revelation chapter twelve begins with an image of a woman clothed with the sun and with the moon under her feet and on her head was a crown of twelve stars. Satan, described as a great red dragon, wanted to "eat" the child as soon as he was born. From the context and the metaphorical language, we can tell that the child who was to rule the world with a rod of iron is none other than our Lord. Additionally, the entire book is, as John aptly put it, the revelation of Jesus Christ.

The birth of Christ was no ordinary event. The miracle of the virgin birth is just one facet of this pivotal event in history. It fulfilled many Old Testament prophesies and showed the heavenly Father's great love for humanity, as John 3:16 states. All the saints of old looked forward to the Messiah and we now marvel at his majesty.

Thanks to excellent Bible scholars, we learn so much more from God's Word. Satan seeks to corrupt our understanding but our Heavenly Father gives us ammunition to refute those lies. This is why discipleship is crucial for new believers.

My prayer is that God will lead young Christians to my blog where they can receive the mentoring I never had when I was young in the faith. Your prayers for my ministry, such as it is, are greatly appreciated.

December 26, 2015

Following the Star by Marnie Pohlmann

Festive lights sparkle and reflect diamonds in the snow. The colours of Christmas displayed on the street make our neighbourhood welcoming and cheerful. Some nights, the northern lights join in the celebration, dancing across the night sky. My gaze lifts to where stars travel across black velvet, and I consider the Magi of the Christmas story.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:1-2 NKJV)

The wise men had been studying the skies, and saw a bright star. They searched through literature to determine what they could know of the star, and found a prophesy declaring a King would be born - not just any king, but a king who would change the world. So they began a journey to find and honour this baby king.

Tradition and Biblical scholars indicate the Magi were wealthy, educated men of high standing in their community yet still, they undertook a spiritual pilgrimage, leaving the comfort of home, position, and power. They followed a star, not knowing where it would lead, but knowing it was important to do something with the information they found.

Have you made time this Christmas to travel about and view the lights of the season, both man-made and God-provided? While we can travel around town in the daytime and may notice the decorations, it is really only in the dark of night that we witness the wondrous displays in all their glory. This year, as people seem to lament the darkness of the world, perhaps we see the lights especially bright, and we remember the hope of Christ shines in darkness.

 … and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:9-11 NKJV)

After the magi found and worshiped Jesus, these wise men returned to their homes. Was their intellectual curiosity satisfied? Were they soulfully changed by their encounter with Immanuel? Did they continue to walk in the light of God, sharing their experiences – the wonder, threats, dreams, struggles, and the discovery of the Christ-child? Scripture does not elaborate on the effect this spiritual journey had on the Magi, but perhaps we ourselves will return home after seeing the light of Christmas, ready to share our meeting with Immanuel.

God’s light does clearly shine in the darkness of today, inviting us on a spiritual journey and drawing us to Him. As we consider the Magi, we must wonder – are we willing to travel in God’s path, not knowing where He is leading? Are we willing to sacrifice comfort and riches to seek Truth, following the star, to worship Christ? The journey may be difficult and could be dangerous, but we must do something with what we know, study, and reflect on.

Better to illuminate than merely to shine, 
to deliver to others contemplated truths than merely to contemplate. 
- Thomas Aquinas

Photo Credits:
Northern Lights: CCO license -
Magi: Marnie Pohlmann
Christmas Star: CCO license - 

December 25, 2015

The Gift of Hope By: Vickie Stam

"Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord."
                  Luke 2:11

With Jesus birth... came the gift of hope.

For me, Christmas as a child was not rooted in the wonderful gift of hope, but rather in shiny decorations of red, gold and green and presents.... lots of presents; at least it seemed as though I couldn't want for anything more. My mother loved Christmas and Santa Claus played a huge role in it. In fact, Christmas was all about Santa. 

Torn wrapping paper depicting the jolly old man in the red velvet suite lay all over the living room floor. Squeals of joy bounced around the room as my sisters and I ran to our parents with each new toy in hand. We couldn't wait to show them what Santa had brought for us. 

The same familiar Christmas songs played over and over on the turn table. There was no shortage of laughter and good cheer. 

Throughout the years, I continued to look forward to the traditions my parents had instilled in me. The smell of turkey roasting in the oven seemed to linger long after Christmas. It was an exciting time. Every December I counted the days from one to twenty-five. They couldn't move fast enough. I remember those years with much fondness. 

But it wasn't until I was in my early thirties that I truly understood the meaning of Christmas. God in the flesh. A Savior was born to take away the sin of the world and offer us hope.

Jesus birth is truly a cause for celebration! Like the song says, "It's the most wonderful time of the year." Yet for some people the Christmas season doesn't bring much joy. For some it is filled with painful memories and a lot of hurt.  

I too miss some of my childhood traditions. I miss my mother who passed away six years ago and both of my sisters who have moved away from the area we grew up in. My own children have grown up with lives of their own and Christmas is now very different.

All of these changes have been very hard for me. I've had to let go of the old traditions and be open to creating new memories.  

Simply show the love of Jesus to others. Give a gift to someone who least expects it. Offer someone a hug. Invite someone to church. Cherish friends and family wherever they are.

Thank God for the gift of his son.       


December 24, 2015

Christmas Memories - Tandy Balson

My daughter recently told me that some of her fondest Christmas memories involve her grandma. When our children were young, the whole family would gather at my mom’s for Christmas day.  She had been widowed for many years before she was ready to give up this tradition.

When we moved the celebration to my house it didn’t take long before she discovered the joy of having no responsibilities and been spoiled for a few days.  We wanted her to feel special and would pick her up on Christmas Eve so she didn’t have to drive.

Our tradition became an early dinner, Christmas Eve service and then driving around town looking at all the Christmas lights.  Once home again, it would be time for hot chocolate and cookies.  A board game completed the evening.  It was a relaxed and loving atmosphere.

Years later, I heard the other part of the kid’s memories with grandma.  One year they got up very early and tiptoed into the living room with a flashlight in hand to peek at their Christmas stockings.  They were startled to hear a sound behind them and turned to see grandma.  The fear of getting caught didn’t last when she said, “SHHH, give me the flashlight.” Then she started looking in her own stocking!

From what I have since learned, the three of them continued this early morning viewing for many years.  It was apparently grandma who would encourage them to wake us up early.  She was as excited as they were.

Other family members would arrive later in the day, but those early morning times with grandma were what formed precious memories for my kids.

This year our daughter has asked my husband and me to spend the night at her house on Christmas Eve.  She wants her children to experience Christmas morning with grandparents.  We are looking forward to love and laugher and creating new memories.  We even have a new board game for the family to play. Don’t tell my daughter, but we just might be setting our alarm to get up before the grandkids do!

May you experience Peace, Love and Joy this Christmas.

December 23, 2015

Star of Wonder by Lynn J Simpson

My radio is dialed just slightly to the left of my regular listening station. It's the never-ending stream of Christmas music on my regular station that makes me move that dial in this December month. You can guess that I am not very popular among many of my friends who absolutely love Christmas Carols.  I, instead of listening to the constant music of the season, have tuned into a different radio station with the stories of the down-home life interrupted very occasionally with the odd Christmas carol song by a popular country/western artist. That I can take. 

Yet, recently I found myself swaying in the pew at my granddaughter's elementary school Christmas concert. I couldn't hold still as the bell choir perfectly rang out Silent Night, and when my granddaughter's class sang a traditional carol in Spanish that I cannot recall the name of at this moment. Regardless, it was beautiful. 

And I wondered, while listening to these young voices, what happened to that excitement, that magic I once felt at Christmas and especially toward Christmas songs?

And then it happened. 

A stirring I hadn't felt in a long time. My heart did not grow four times as big as the Grinch, but it sure beat faster and tears started to swim in my eyes.

The grade 6 classes had assembled in their choir formation and began to hum a carol that drew images and memories to my mind, bringing back the excited spirit of a young girl on Christmas Eve. And then they sung the words...

Said the night wind to the little lamb,
do you see what I see
Way up in the sky, little lamb,
do you see what I see
A star, a star, dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite
With a tail as big as a kite
(Do You Hear What I Hear?)

See for me it wasn't the waiting of Santa that brought me excitement on Christmas Eve. It instead was The Star. The Star that I believed only appeared on this magical night.  I would crawl out of my covers, once my mom tucked me in and the lights were out, get on my knees on my bed, open my curtains and stare into the sky. And see it! Yes, I would see The Star, and imagine what it must have been like for those shepherds that special night. And for the kings traveling afar to meet the truest King of all!

How exciting and magical that must have been for those shepherds and kings that night!

Can you imagine it? 

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star of royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to thy Perfect Light
(We Three Kings of Orient Are)

Wow! What a night that must have been, following a star to the Perfect Light!

Maybe I will turn my radio dial to the right just in case that station plays my Star songs in these last weeks of December. 

For sure though, I will be looking up with wonder in the skies for a Star this Christmas Eve again. And with a deep knowing that even though I may not see it as the Star, I know that Perfect Light is with me, day and night.