December 29, 2018

To All First Responders by Bob Jones

They call him “Tuna.”

He’s the kind of guy you want around in an emergency, not only because he’s a Paramedic but also because he could lift a truck if need be to save a life.

Before moving to Edmonton, Charles Blades competed on the Nova Scotia provincial rugby team, as well as a Pittsburgh rugby team, so you know he’s a bit crazy and tough. And I’m proud of the way he is using his abilities to serve people in the greater Edmonton area everyday. He’s one of those first responders that run in when others are running out. He’s my brother-in-law.

This is a shout out to every first responder at Christmastime and beyond. Gratitude for how the women and men who wear a uniform and anonymously go about lifesaving work, week in and week out. Schedules are challenging, stress is high, risk is routine and rewards are rare – other than knowing you have done the best you can. Too often first responders are the butt of thoughtless comments or jokes. Why is that some people think they’re funny by belittling the very people who could one day save their lives?

First responders are trained to deal with a wide array of potential medical emergencies. Because of the high level of stress and uncertainty associated with the position, first responders need to pay careful attention to their physical and mental health. Even with such preparation, first responders face unique risks of being the first people to aid those in life-threatening situations or with unknown contagions. The spouses and families of first responders experience their own kind of disquiet, as they understand the cost of sending their loved ones out the door to whatever may come their way.

Our family had unforgettable experiences with first responders. Our youngest son suffered a seizure from a high fever when he was two years old and we were living in Montreal. Firefighters, paramedics and police were in our townhouse within minutes to save his life. He spent a weekend in hospital under 24-hour watch but he recovered to tell the tale. St Albert Firefighters responded to a 911 call from our home when a kitchen appliance caught fire, spewing toxic smoke. They contained the damage and saved the day.

When Constable David Wynn was killed in the line of duty, the RCMP used our church as a parking depot and changing area in preparation for his memorial processional through St Albert. Edmonton Police Service and Edmonton Fire and Rescue Service officers have stationed their fire trucks and police cars in our parking lot for our community carnivals so kids could climb aboard and feel the thrill.

Men and women in my circle of pastoral influence are on active duty in undercover work, policing organized crime, community service or are retired officers. They have my utmost admiration and appreciation. They are my heroes.

So here’s a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year to every firefighter, police officer, paramedic, all emergency response personnel and their spouses and loved ones.

Thank you and prayers for all you do.

I am a recovering perfectionist, who collects Coca-Cola memorabilia and drinks Iced Tea. My office walls are adorned with our sons’ framed football jerseys, and my library shelves, with soul food. I write to grow hope, inspire people to be real, forge an authentic faith in Jesus, and discover their life purpose.

Please follow my writing at Pointes Of View.

December 28, 2018

The Slaughter of My Innocence - Bruce Atchison

As people who value the truth, why do we lie to our children? Why can't Santa Clause be just a pretend person rather than saying he's real? We tell our kids, "Don't tell fibs," and then we bald-faced lie about mythical beings such as Santa, leprechauns, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny.

It might not matter to most youngsters when they hear that Santa was just Mom and Dad but it did matter to me. I totally bought the story of Santa going around the world giving gifts to good boys and girls. As far as I was concerned, I should have received a ton of presents like I did the previous Christmas.

Imagine my consternation when all I received on Christmas Eve was a puny mouth organ. Wasn't I good enough to receive more than that little toy?

Worse yet, Mom confessed to me that she had bought the instrument with what little money she had. I couldn't understand why she and Dad had misled me about Santa. My faith in my parents was so shaken that I said that I hated Mom as I bawled.

This makes me wonder how many other children reacted to the revelation of Santa only being their parents. Nobody likes being tricked so why do that to one's children?

I love the idea of making Santa's visit  into a game rather than saying he's real and kids won't get presents if they're bad. Children love playing imaginary games. This also preserves their faith in their parents and, by extension, God.

The apostle Paul admonishes us in Ephesians 6:4 (KJV) about angering trusting youngsters. "And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." For this reason, I can't understand how deliberately lying to youngsters will accomplish trust in God.

December 26, 2018

Colours of Christmas by Marnie Pohlmann

My small writing group once did a paint chip exercise. We pulled a paint chip out of a pile and were to write about Christmas being that colour. I pulled orange.

I'm not a fan of orange in the first place, but to think of an orange Christmas? Blechh! I don't remember what I wrote in that five minutes, but I'm sure it was not praise for a tree decorated in orange.

It seems these days orange would be an acceptable Christmas colour, as is pink, teal, and yellow. What happened to the traditional colours of Christmas? The songs sing about - gold and silver, green, white, and red? The traditional ones have meaning for Christmas. Do these new colours?

I'm sure you've heard the story of the candy cane, how the red can represent Christ's blood, and the stripes can represent the punishment of the whip that Christ endured on our behalf. Are you familiar with the evergreen fir history? Both pagans and Christians have used it to decorate their homes for the winter celebration. I did not look up why pagans use it, but for Christians, the green tree represents everlasting life. Wreaths, too, are formed of evergreen boughs in a round shape to show the eternal circle of eternal life with God. Poinsettias have become a Christmas flower, again because of the red and green leaves.

As you enjoy your decorations, whatever colour you desire, take a moment to reflect on how your colours and ornaments reflect your belief that the babe in the manger brought salvation to our world.

A Christmas colour that has a bad rap at Christmas but is becoming dear to me, is blue. As you know, I have struggled with SAD, depression, and PTSD for the last few years. Feeling blue at Christmas is more common than we might think. Perhaps you have experienced a blue Christmas. Or perhaps you have enjoyed this Christmas season but today, Boxing Day, when all the excitement is over, and everyone is tired from late nights, sadness has come in for a visit.

Be assured, however, that sadness is a feeling of the current, not a fact of the future, and blue is a colour, not a lasting condition. So, when faced with the blues at Christmas, or any other time of the year, there are a few things you can do to endure through. You are familiar with most of these, I am sure.

Lower your expectations of perfection or how you wanted activities to go. Have a nap. Eat something healthy. Read an uplifting book. Listen to happy music - not Christmas carols. Go for a walk. Write in your journal. Do something creative. Having the blues can slip into dangerous depression but blue does not need to be a fearful colour.

The most healing action I found for myself is to re-define the blue. You see, blue is as precious a Christmas colour as red or green. Have you noticed?

Mary, the young mother of Jesus, is most often portrayed wearing blue. Is that because she is sad? I don't think so. I think blue is a colour of reflection. Scripture tells us Mary treasured the various and precious moments of that first Christmas in her heart. She took time to reflect on them, to wonder at their meaning, to be in awe of the role she was asked to take part of in raising the promised Messiah. Blue is a colour of trust in God's faithfulness.

Yes, blue is becoming my favourite Christmas colour, despite the associated feelings.

I just don't think I can do the same with orange...

*photos compliments of Pixabay CCO license

Marnie is enjoying Christmas with her grandchildren this year. 
May God bless your holiday season and the coming year of 2019.

December 25, 2018

The Thrill of Hope By Vickie Stam

The Christmas season is marked with so many family traditions, some universal and some that have been individually created and cherished throughout the years.

For some of us, it is all about the birth of Jesus and for some there is not even the slightest hint of this miraculous gift. 

Traditions, can come and go. Some disappear in an instant while others seem to fade over time. Either way, they always end up taking a little part of you with them. At times, all that you are left with are the sad reminders of what used to be and now you just long to get through the holiday season. 

But maybe, you're like others whose Christmas is filled with a mixture of both joy and sadness but your faith in Jesus gives you hope. You trust that the things that have robbed you of your joy can and will be made new once again.

Psalm 139:16 "You saw me before I was born. Everyday of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed."    

So, wherever you are and whatever you're doing this Christmas season, I offer you my prayer 

Dear Heavenly Father,

I invite the world to bask in the glory of the birth of your Son, Jesus Christ, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace
I pray that we would find joy in the fullness of your love, grace, peace, compassion and comfort
Help us to be mindful of the true meaning of Christmas
and not just the ones we created for ourselves
Fill our hearts with your word
Make us a friend to those who are feeling lost and alone
Give us loving arms to embrace with
And ears to hear their cries
Or give us the courage we need to reach out for help when we ourselves are in need 
Let us remember those who have lost loved ones not only through death but through brokenness as well 
Provide us the words you would have us say, all the while allowing your comfort to wash over them
Guide our paths in the direction you would have us go
And wrap your hedge of protection around us
Forgive us when we fall short 
And remind us to always forgive others
Restore our health, spiritually, physically and emotionally
And when we can't find our way through the chaos of life
May you shine your light so that we would find you first
Help us to trust that you will provide everything we need
And in all of this, I thank you Lord for sending your Son to walk before us and with us
For allowing Him to die in our place - for our sins
So that we would not perish - but have everlasting life
May you always be the center of our lives  

It is my prayer that you will find,
 "The thrill of hope!"  this Christmas and forever more.

December 23, 2018

The Middle Place - Guest Post by Linda Hoye

I feel myself to be in a middle place, a place of waiting. It’s uncomfortable, like there’s the tiniest pebble in the bottom of my shoe and I can’t quite manage to shake it out. There is both a restlessness and a stirring.
We are, of course, in the season of advent in which we wait, and prepare our hearts in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Some have rituals: lighting a candle each week, or reading a passage of scripture or devotion each day. In the tradition I followed for most of my adult life, advent was not observed formally at all, aside from chocolates hidden behind cardboard windows.
But advent works its way into our heart.
The dark invites times of quiet reflection, and a return to stillness. Lights on trees invite us to remember the Light who came into the world one dark and starry night, the one we are waiting upon, the one who will come again.
Advent is about seeking, and switching our mindset from gratitude for a multitude of gifts, to adoration of the Giver of the sweetest ones. It’s leaning in and listening, sitting still and being present. It’s deep calling unto deep. It’s the sweetest of mysteries.
Sometimes, we feel as if there isn’t enough time to get it all done, then we realize that the most important work has already been accomplished, and so we rest. Sometimes we struggle, time drags, and this month is just one long and hard one to get through. We remember that love came down, and that God isn’t constrained by time. We don’t have to understand it in order to celebrate it.
We embrace the season of waiting, and we keep waiting, long after this dark month in which we celebrate the coming of the Light is over. The pilgrim walk in which, as Frederick Buechner says, we get “messed up in a million ways”, is meant to chafe a bit. The irritation in our shoes reminds us that we are simply passing through. We are not home yet.
And so, we draw away from the endless din and lean softly in to the Divine. We learn to rest in this middle place. We choose not to let the cacophony distract us from the important work of waiting. We sit still, we grow silent, and, in awe, we wait.
Linda Hoye is on the other side of a twenty-five-year corporate career. Now a writer, photographer, gardener, and somewhat-fanatical grandma, she lives in Kamloops, British Columbia with her husband and their doted-upon Yorkshire Terrier. Find her online at

Frederick Buechner, The Remarkable Ordinary: How to Stop, Look, and Listen to Life

December 22, 2018

Missing You At Christmas - Alan Anderson

This post is dedicated to the parents, grandparents and families whose babies went to heaven before they were born.

“…O gracious and merciful Master and Lord, look down from heaven and behold the grief in my heart, the heart of a parent, as it sees its hope for life snatched away: the good and righteous life of my child through whom I had longed to praise the power, wisdom, and goodness of Your holy name” (Parent’s Prayer at the Death of a Child, Orthodox Prayer Book, new Varatic Publishing, Lake George, Fifth printing 2016, p.52).

At this time of year as I write my post for our December theme I remember parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters who said farewell to the babies who went to heaven before they were born. I always find it emotionally draining to write a post like this but I’m compelled to do it. You see, Christmas is not all joy and fun for some families.

My wife and I have six grandchildren. In addition, we have five grandchildren in heaven. I miss these five children even though I never met them. I hold them in my heart close and forever.

Over the years I have known and talked to a number of parents and grandparents who remember babies who died due to “pregnancy loss,” etc. The loss is real and memorable. It isn’t like these children are forgotten as if they were nothing. As a writer I view these brief lives as short stories, not forgotten ones. Regardless of what society may say, their lives mattered.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb” (Psalm 139:13). God knows these babies. Their conception did not take Him by surprise. He loved them even in the womb. There is so much I don’t know about life and death. There is so much I don’t know about God. Yet, He knows me and He knows my grandbabies in heaven. “As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the bones are formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things”
(Ecclesiastes 11:5).

The website notes, “Even though most pregnancies are problem-free, it is estimated that one in four pregnancies ends in loss. The risk of miscarrying in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy is between 15 percent and 20 percent. It is less common for a loss to occur later in pregnancy.” A reason I include this information in the post is to emphasize I don’t consider my five grandchildren in heaven as mere pregnancy loss statistics. Dear readers I hope they are more than that to you also.

As a Christian processing and accepting the death of five unborn grandchildren I find solace in the following part of a Parent’s Prayer at the Death of a Child. “…But as I stand before the impenetrable mysteries which You alone understand, my mind turns to the fervent prayer which Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, offered before the holy passion, in the garden of Gethsemane, saying, Father, if it is Your will, take this cup from me! Like Him, I also bow my head before You today and cry out: Lord, let Your will be done!...” (Orthodox Prayer Book, p. 52).

It isn’t often that parents who grieve a pregnancy loss speak of their loss. This does not mean they have forgotten that the child was conceived. I know parents and grandparents who remember these children in some way. My way is to take time during the busyness of the Christmas season to remember five children I never got to meet and thank God they are with Him.

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December 21, 2018

Christmas Countdown ... by Jocelyn Faire

So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom. (Ps 90:12 NASB)

Only five days and we can breathe a sigh of relief. Christmas will be done for another year ... 
but, that is not how I want it to be. I'm not ready to move into January. I long for magical moments still to happen. How was I to know that the Christmas season would usher in unwanted emotional challenges? My husband of two years came with his own December angst. When we married in December 2016, we had enough excitement over new beginnings that the ghost of Christmases past was subdued. Harold and I both have a significant grief history, sadness mixes with the joy of seasonal celebrations. I had already learned to navigate my own Christmas with Spirited intention. My present quest is to bring spiritual depth into our combined celebrations.

First, I asked my daughters-in-law to let me know about grand-kid Christmas programs ... we wanted to attend. This past Sunday, we donned our gay apparel for 9am. (Unaware that it was ugly Christmas-sweater Sunday) We arrived with two non-performer granddaughters as the singing began. I shepherded the girls through the giant foyer of food options, sign in options with large overhead screens playing. I thought I was in the food court of the city shopping mall. As we entered the amphitheater... I realized I should have brought binoculars. We would never spot one tiny Brynn and her sister Taya on that massive stage of singers. Maybe it was the fog machine that blurred our vision, but the jumbotron came to came to the rescue as the cameras panned over the exuberant angel choir.

As I pondered how to keep the message of the shepherds and angels relevant, I realized my best preparation was to ready my heart with quiet moments, so that when chaos and madness erupted, I would have calm and grace to respond. Cease striving/Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)

This morning after what I hoped was the final grocery shop, I planned for a personal God and me coffee break at the park. McDonald's coffee and muffin to the rescue. My own words to my daughter, when she was busy with three young children, came to me: sometimes you're in the drive-through blessing moments of life, you have to pick up encouragement on the run. So as I got to the drive through, I pressed the knob to roll down the window and nothing, I tried again, still nothing. It had frozen shut in last evening's rain. I had to open my door to order, pay and pick up. I laughed at the lesson: a window opened just a slit was not big enough for the size of Grace ... I needed the doors wide open. God set the lighter tone. Those twenty minutes with God and coffee were wonderful and had me smiling on the inside and out. The
snow began to fall, and I noticed tiny perfectly formed flakes land on my windshield. (pictured on the right) Incredibly delicate beauty right before my eyes. Another lesson: when the stress rises, recognize the tiny bits of grace that also arrive.

And that grace was put to the test immediately. I arrived home with groceries. Harold went to put items in the freezer, and I heard a soft thud and a groan from downstairs. Are you ok? I called racing down, and there he was moaning, on his knees. Thoughts of a heart issue had been immediate, but I was relieved it was just his back. Although, I know this can debilitate him for up to a week, (just in time for Christmas to be finished).

So teach me to number my days that I may present to you a heart of wisdom and gatherings of grace. I know the gifts don't wrap themselves, nor do ingredients form themselves into a meal, nor do back spasmed husbands help much. But with God's help, I can be calm and grace-filled, and we will all have a more wonderful Christmas. 

And my gift to you is this reading from one of my favorite inspirational books: The One Year book of Bible Promises by Ruth Harms Calkin

Lord, I asked you for abundant life
And You said Yes.
I asked you for an undisturbable joy
Independent of transitory change
And You said Yes.
I asked you to thread my tears into a song
When I was shattered and torn with grief
And You said Yes.
I asked you to steady me when I staggered—
To hold me when I struggled
To seize me when I resisted
And You said Yes ...
I asked you to be my Helper, my Friend
My Light in the darkness,
I asked you to guide me all my life
With Your wisdom, Your counsel
Your captivating Love
And You said Yes ...
You overwhelm me with joy
For you love to say Yes! 

He came into a broken world 2000 years ago ... He still comes to broken hearts today.

Blessings as you walk with He who loves to say Yes, into 2019

PS-I'd love to hear your ideas and suggestions on how to make  the story meaningful for kids, thanks.