How Do I Respond?

Shock. Horror. Disgust. Only a few descriptions of how I felt as I watched the crowd of insurrectionists storm the capital in Washington, D.C. yesterday. I was watching history unfold, but I likened it to how I felt during 9-11, when the world changed literally overnight.

I’m a Canadian, but I am blessed with so many American friends who live in the U.S., work here in Canada, and some hold dual citizenship. After 9-11, I gathered with them at church to pray for their country. “God bless America” was uttered several times followed by “Amens”. We wept together. We lamented the loss of life and the changes that came about as a result of that horrific attack on American soil.

We are called to pray again. I won’t pretend to understand the political processes that happen in the United States. I know there is a great moral divide between the two ruling parties in the U.S.; similar divisions exist here in Canada. As I wrote in 2016, I have observed Christians against Christians making political determinations based on what they believe is best for their country while still upholding the Christian world view. We may agree wholeheartedly with the Christian perspective, but the division occurs when our political systems collide. Post modern thought pits us against one another, so having a differing opinion on political, social, or moral issues cannot be expressed without battle lines being drawn. We can no longer say, “I agree to disagree”, shake hands and remain friends. We’re either for or against. It’s either right or wrong. There is no compromise, no middle ground,…

…and Satan laughs at us.

Today, I am trying to figure out how I should respond as a Christian to what is happening in the world around me. We are still in the midst of a world-wide pandemic. There is much to cause me anxiety and worry. I don’t know what “normal” is anymore. Change is coming too fast in some ways, and slothfully slow in other ways. What is God wanting of me?

Scripture becomes my lifeline in times of great uncertainty and calamity.

I must PRAY!

2 Chronicles 7:14  “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

1 Timothy 2:1-2  “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”

1 Kings 8:28  “Yet give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy, Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day.”

I must always remember that GOD IS SOVEREIGN!

Psalm 33: 6-12  “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.  He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses.  Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere him.  For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.  The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.  But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.  Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance.”

Psalms 22:27-28  “All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations.”

Romans 13:1  “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”

Job 12:23-24  “He makes nations great, and destroys them; he enlarges nations, and disperses them.  He deprives the leaders of the earth of their reason; he makes them wander in a trackless waste.”

My focus should be fixed on the eternal not the external!

Daniel 2:44  ““In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.”

Matthew 25:32-34  “All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”

Isaiah 43:5-10  “Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west.  I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’  Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth—everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”  Lead out those who have eyes but are blind, who have ears but are deaf. All the nations gather together and the peoples assemble.  Which of their gods foretold this and proclaimed to us the former things?  Let them bring in their witnesses to prove they were right, so that others may hear and say, “It is true.”  “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he.  Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.”

Please join with me, friends around the world, to pray for our nations and for peace!

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Winter Solstice

Today (December 21, 2020), is the start of Winter. I always smile when the winter solstice comes about each year, because here in Alberta, winter as we know it, has generally made a dynamic appearance long before now. We can actually have snow in all twelve months, although very rare in July and August, but I’ve experienced snow, even a light dusting of it in our summer months.

We’ve actually been fortunate this year. We haven’t had much snow, and the Chinook winds have blown most of the time throughout the last several weeks. I suppose some global alarmist is already blaming climate change, but truly this is a fairly common occurrence here in southern Alberta. We are so used to it. Still, I look forward to the start of Winter because it actually means we are on the downhill so to speak, towards Spring. Today marks the longest day of the year. The sun rose this morning at 8:40 a.m. and it’s supposed to set at 4:33 p.m. Tomorrow, we start to gain sunlight each day. Yay!

Ten years ago, I remember watching a lunar eclipse on the Winter Solstice with my youngest child. She was trying to take pictures of it with her cell phone camera, which was pretty amusing in itself, but even more funny when she asked her Dad if she should stand on a chair to get “closer to the moon” to get a better picture! Tonight we’re supposed to have another celestial event: the aligning of the planets Jupiter and Saturn that has been dubbed the “Christmas Star”, because it will look like one big star in the sky when they align. We won’t see the like for another 800 years, but we will miss it because even as I write this, we’ve got a storm front moving in, and we are expecting 10 – 20 cm. of snow by tomorrow.

But, enough of the weather report…

It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the Ponderosa. The house looks festive. I managed to talk my husband into putting up some Christmas lights outside, so I bought three “disco” type bulbs that flash lights on the house. My sweet husband, screwed one into a socket outside and declared, “Good enough.” When he’s right, he’s right.

My adult children and I have been texting often about how we will exchange gifts and wishing each other an in-person “Merry Christmas!”, without breaking any lockdown rules this year. I think we’ve got it figured out with a drive-by gift exchange in our driveway, and a Zoom online meeting on Christmas Eve. It’s certainly not ideal, but it will do. My arms will miss hugging on my grandbabies, but I might keep my Christmas tree and holiday décor up until we can actually gather and hug each other again. I figure if the big box stores can advertise “Christmas In July” specials, I should be able to keep my tree up until then too!

I had the privilege of having a journalist from Denmark interview me for an article she is writing on how people are spending a “Covid Christmas” this year. She contacted me after reading my blog post: “Silent Night, Holy Night“. I am looking forward to reading her article when it comes out this week. I will admit, talking about Christmases past with her, and how different this year will be, did not depress me as I thought it would. Instead, it made me determined to celebrate this 2020 Christmas by creating an atmosphere of fun embracing the differences rather than lament the changes. In a way, this is an opportunity to focus on making memories with my husband alone and as they say, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I plan on making a Danish meal of frikadeller (Danish meatballs) for him on Christmas Eve after we’ve attended our church’s Christmas Eve service.* He has already said he is really looking forward to that. We’ll have our tiny turkey dinner on Christmas Day, and we are already thinking a Danish Smorgaasbord is the best way to spend New Year’s Eve to say farewell to 2020 and welcome in 2021.

I am praying my kids will make some special Christmas memories with their families this year. I have said to them that this is an opportunity to create their own unique traditions. I’m excited to hear what they do.

The sun has now set; my heart is full. The snow is starting to fall. I praise God for this day and the days to come. Happy Winter Solstice!

*(Note: we are still allowed to gather in church services here in Alberta, but only at 1/3 rd congregational capacity and we are all distanced six feet apart and masked up.)

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Silent Night, Holy Night

 The second wave of Covid-19 is hitting us especially hard here in Alberta.  My small town of Cochrane has had over fifty active cases and a staggering number of people have been diagnosed province-wide with the virus.  To combat the spread, our Provincial Government is forced to place more restrictions on us.  On the minds of everyone is, “How do we celebrate Christmas this year?”

We are told that we can no longer have any kinds of indoor gatherings other than those who live in the same household together.  We cannot have outdoor gatherings with numbers of more than ten people, and even if we keep the numbers to ten outside, we must all wear masks, keep distance from one another, and not share food.  Keeping in mind Alberta temperatures can dip to -25 degrees Celsius, so meeting outside may not be an option.

I have three married adult children and five grandchildren.  Including my husband and I, that makes thirteen loved ones whom I had hoped to gather on Christmas Eve for our dinner and gift opening.  There is the strong likelihood that we may not be able to do that this year due to the Covid restrictions.  For my husband and I, it would mark the first time we would be alone for Christmas since our children were born.  

And it is breaking my heart.

2020 is a year best forgotten I suppose.  I keep hearing people say it was the “worst” year ever!  I would imagine to many who are experiencing financial hardship, grief, isolation, and anxiety brought on by this pandemic, 2020 may be the most challenging year some have ever faced.  I can’t say that personally.

2020 was my “recovery” year from my battle with cancer in 2019.  I celebrated strength, stamina and my hair returning!  My youngest daughter was married in July, and my fifth grandchild was born to my son and daughter-in-love the day before the wedding.  My husband and I managed to get out camping quite a bit to combat the Covid blues.  Just being able to enjoy the great outdoors kept our minds off the stresses brought on by forced lockdowns.  We took long drives, exploring sights we had all but taken for granted before Covid forced everyone to change travel plans.  My oldest daughter and son-in-love sold their house quite unexpectedly and are now building their “forever” home only ten minutes away from us.  Although we do not know what will happen in the days or weeks to come, my children still have jobs, we all have homes, and we all have our health.  All things considered; I certainly cannot call it the “worst” year for us as a family. 

Setting up my Christmas tree this year, I put on a DVD with a compilation of all my favourite Christmas hymns, carols and songs, to force myself to get into the spirit of the season.  I tried to sing along to some of them, but admittedly my heart just was not into it until I heard “Silent Night“.    

Silent Night“, written by an Austrian priest named, Joseph Mohr just after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, was an attempt to bring a sense of hope to his little congregation who had suffered through twelve years of war and were now experiencing bitter cold and widespread famine.  Mohr hoped that the song’s message of peace and of God’s goodness in giving us the Gift of His Son, would speak into the hearts of those who were experiencing such hardship in 1818.  

Silent Night” has always been one of my most beloved Christmas songs.  We sing it every Christmas Eve at church and at home.  It describes so melodically what my Danish parents always called the night before Christmas: “Hygge Aften”.  

“Hygge” is a Danish word used to acknowledge a feeling or moment.  “Aften” is the Danish word for “evening”.  Many of my Danish relatives will tell you that “Hygge” cannot be translated adequately into English because there is no one word to describe it.  To experience a sense of “hygge” is to be fully present in the moment, to recognize the blissful feeling of tranquility; to be in a state of perfect peace.  The Nativity scene, with Mary embracing Baby Jesus in her arms while He sleeps in heavenly peace, is the closest I can come to describing a visual representation of the first perfect “Hygge Aften”. 

“Silent night, Holy night

All is calm, all is bright

Round yon virgin, mother and child

Holy infant, tender and mild

Sleep in heavenly peace,

Sleep in heavenly peace.”

My husband and I are already thinking about how we might be spending this Christmas without our family gathered around us.  I know we will profoundly feel the silence of the night, without our children and grandbaby voices and laughter around us.  It will be a far different Christmas than the one I had thought we would have, but I am still determined this year to experience “Hygge Aften” with the same sense of wonderment as I do every year.  I will purposefully immerse myself in quiet contemplation of what Christmas is all about.  I choose to fully embrace the Joy of the Season giving praise to God for the incomparable Gift of His Son given to us on the most holy of nights.  

The song “Silent Night” alludes to the fact that the first Christmas was not at all what was expected on that starry night over two thousand years ago.  Although the Saviour of the world was prophesied, no one expected a King would be born in such lowly estate, with angels heralding His birth.  The shepherds never imagined that a baby lying in a manger would be their Deliverer and mine as well.

“Silent night, Holy night

Shepherds quake, at the sight

Glories stream from heaven above

Heavenly, hosts sing Hallelujah.

Christ the Savior is born,

Christ the Savior is born.”

“Silent night, Holy night

Son of God, loves pure light

Radiant beams from Thy Holy Face

With the dawn of redeeming grace,

Jesus, Lord, at Thy Birth!

Jesus, Lord, at Thy Birth!”

The first three verses of “Silent Night” I know so well, but it is the rest of the song I seldom sing that have a poignant meaning for me this Christmas as never before:

“Silent night, Holy night

Here at last, healing light

From the heavenly kingdom sent,

Abundant grace for our intent.

Jesus, salvation for all.

Jesus, salvation for all.”

Every year I pray that friends and family will accept the Gift of Salvation through Jesus Christ, and that the Good News will bring the promise of Hope to a lost and hurting world.  Singing the last two verses of “Silent Night” becomes my heartfelt prayer for 2021, that each of us would be reminded that God is in control, no matter our circumstances.  I pray for that peace that surpasses understanding as we celebrate, each in our own way in 2020, and look forward with great anticipation to the New Year ahead.

“Silent night, Holy night

Sleeps the world in peace tonight.

God sends His Son to earth below

A Child from whom all blessings flow

Jesus embraces mankind.

Jesus embraces mankind.”

“Silent night, Holy night

Mindful of mankind’s plight

The Lord in Heav’n on high decreed

From earthy woes we would be freed

Jesus, God’s promise for peace.

Jesus, God’s promise for peace.”

Amen!

(read more of the history of  the song, “Silent Night” here: https://theconversation.com/the-humble-origins-of-silent-night-108653) and the translations of the song: https://www.stillenacht.at/en/text-and-music

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