A clarion call for Christian unity: Sizzlin’ Summer Service 11

crowd shot

Heavenly Highlands area churches gathered Sunday for the far more-sizzling-than-usual service in Head Lake Park. With the humidex making temps feel near 40, the park still overflowed with cheerful local Christians fellowshipping, listening raptly, singing joyfully, praying… and yes, sweating … together.

Dana McMahon presents kids with a capsulized gospel … full of questions and most interesting answers

Dana McMahon presents kids with a capsulized gospel … full of questions and most interesting answers

Paul Graham of Lakeside Church greeted the crowd and opened in prayer, and soon entertaining Harry Morgan of the United Church had everyone laughing and singing along with accompanying musicians from various churches.

Bev Hicks of Northland Faith Church read the scripture for the day, Mark 9:33-41.

The McClure family enjoying the pre-sermon sizzle

The McClure family enjoying the pre-sermon sizzle

Ken McClure, brand-new priest of St. George’s and St. Margaret’s, got to deliver his very first sermon ‘up here’ in what he called, “the beautiful tapestry all around.”  He, his wife Becca and their young son Jack have only been in Haliburton for a week or so but cannot get over the marvels of nature around them. An astonishing tapestry, he said, “which you people here have all seen since Moses was in hot pants.” With that, he had the crowd.

He said he felt privileged to be able to address the topic of unity in such a setting.

“Look around you!” He encouraged all to stand and take a 360-degree gaze around them at both the scenery and the Christians of various stripes. “This is it!”

He wove aspects of the day’s readings into his talk. Jesus words reminding us that ‘to be greatest you must be least,’ and ‘if you love me you must love each other,’ underline the absolute necessity of unity.

Drawing on the words of Jesus in Mark 9: 38-39, Ken reminded listeners of the importance of recognizing the works others do for Jesus and in His name, without focussing on whether they do it your or your group’s way.

We are the Body of Christ, made up of diverse parts being true to themselves, but acting in conjunction … in unity … with others. We need to recognize differences and different approaches as part of unity in diversity 

Staying hydrated

Staying hydrated

Raising his right hand, he held out his thumb and mentioned how our thumb helps us get a grip on things. He then raised and pointed with his index finger, demonstrating its ability to do just that.

“Then, we have our ring finger. It allows us to express our emotions, express our love. We have our middle finger which expresses a rather different kind of emotion. Don’t use that one,” he advised to a chorus of chuckles.

Christopher Greaves, former St. George's and St. Margaret's rector, makes his usual and most welcome guest appearance

Christopher Greaves, former St. George's and St. Margaret's rector, makes his usual and most welcome guest appearance

“Each of them has their own goal, their own purpose, their own ideas, their own ambitions and if they all acted independently they'd just be like this all the time.” He demonstrated by flailing his hand about. “They’d be like a flapper, a flipper for the water I suppose. They wouldn’t get anything done, would they? It’s when they’re working together that the fullness of my created potential comes to be.”

Clearly, the work we do together is an acknowledgment of the Body.  As the Body of Christ, WE embody the Kingdom

“We are one in the ONE!” he concluded to applause.

Sandy Stevens of the Lighthouse Church prayed powerfully over many aspects of life in the community as the service wound down for another year.

Hallelujah Haliburton! Sizzling Summer Service 10

harry morgan preaching

harry morgan preaching

Close to 500 people from the various churches in town gathered on a recent sunny, pleasantly cool Sunday for the 10th annual ecumenical service in Head Lake Park. As glorious as it was to join with brothers and sisters in Christ, all also had no doubt of God’s hand steering the surrounding ominous clouds away till the gathering began to wrap up. A clear weather miracle in this our summer of either deluge or excessive heat!

St. George's glenda burk does a great job relating to the kids

St. George's glenda burk does a great job relating to the kids

United Church minister Harry Morgan reminded listeners he had given the sermon at the first service 10 years ago, so figured it was high time to do it again. He proceeded to elaborate on his now-famous contention, “We will all be 'United' in heaven,”  by adding we will also all be Baptist (since we’re all baptized), Anglican (since we all speak English), Faith (well yes, we have it), Pentecostal (we all live in the church age, initiated with the Day of Pentecost), and Catholic (in its literal non-churchy meaning of universal, all-embracing).

the other morgan family (from Lighthouse pentecostal) & friends

the other morgan family (from Lighthouse pentecostal) & friends

Anglican priest Anne Moore read what are likely the strongest scriptures on the topic, from Ephesians and John. 

Paul, writing to the church in Ephesus, urges readers to live “in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4: 1-6).

Jesus reminds us in John 17 of his constant intercession for believers to live in unity with each other, as well as with him and with God:
I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:20- 23).

"How about we call ourselves the Church in Haliburton?" Harry wondered, "sort of like the Church in Ephesus—one common name?"

“The effectiveness of our outreach and evangelism is directly related to our unity,” he emphasized. "Leaders of the churches in Haliburton gather for prayer every two weeks, we all get along and are friends." 

Musicians from many denominations lead in praise

Musicians from many denominations lead in praise

The next ecumenical gathering for the churches will be a Praise Service on Wednesday, September 27, at the United Church. Watch here for more details.

Miracles from Heaven: extraordinary true story now a movie

The remarkable true story of a young girl’s faith, hope and healing, this movie may well be the first faith-based film finding critical acclaim and a mainstream audience beyond church-goers.

Little Annabel Beam had not been well for most of her early years. At five, doctors finally diagnosed her with two rare life-threatening digestive disorders.* 

“She would pretty much live on the sofa, with a heating pad on her stomach,” her mother Christy explains. As Annabel’s health continued to deteriorate, she lived with chronic pain and spent far too much time in hospitals. The darkest moment came one day as Christy sat by her nine-year-old daughter's hospital bed. The little girl turned to her mother and said, “Mommy I just want to die. And I want to go to heaven and live with Jesus where there's no more pain.”

actual movie poster.jpg

Annabel had stopped fighting, and Christy felt she had nothing left to give.

“However much my faith had been tested and I'd questioned Him,” she says, “at that point I just turned it over to God.”

They needed a miracle. One week later, on December 30, 2011, they got one.

While the majorly crazy miracle of Annabel's healing drives the story, the everyday miracles—and the stellar performances and direction revealing them—transports viewers raptly along to the faith-affirming conclusion of death bringing capital-L Life. Perhaps especially if you, like Christy, find your faith wavers in the dark gorges of our journeys.

Master’s Book Store in Haliburton carries both the movie and book, as does Amazon and other retailers.  
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*pseudo-obstruction motility disorder and antral hypomotility disorder

With sympathy for and solidarity with Quebec City Muslims

By Fred Hiltz

In a Québec CIty mosque full of devout muslims gathered for prayer Sunday evening, their chanting was shattered by the crack of gunfire, leaving six people dead, scores of others injured, a neighbourhood traumatized, and a nation horrified.

My heart, indeed the hearts of all people of good will, goes out to all Muslims across Canada as they struggle with this terrible attack. We hold in our prayers those who have died, for their families and for their imams who care for them in their grief. We also pray for those who have been injured and for those tending them. We remember too the police, and all others whose daily work is to "serve and protect".

At moments like this, people of faith must stand together in solidarity for those values common to our respective religious traditions: the adoration of God, the respect we owe one another as fellow human beings, and the care with which we tend the earth, our common home.

In the Readings for Sunday past we heard the call of the prophet Micah – "what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God?” (6:6-8).  We also heard Jesus teaching in the Beatitudes, that we are called to be merciful, to hunger and thirst for right relations with one another, to do what makes for peace among all.

These are the values that make us children of God, friends in faith, and citizens of the world. Please join me in praying for the people of Ste-Foye and especially for our Muslim friends in this very difficult time.

Fred Hiltz is the Archbishop and Primate of The Anglican Church of Canada.

A life filled with Life and song: that’s our Bill!

This year, Bill Gliddon marks his 55th anniversary as St. George’s celebrated organist. But anyone who knows Bill knows there’s far more to the man than organ playing.

Composer, teacher, radio show host, all-round good guy, Bill has played and continues to play a significant role in many lives and community events in the area. What’s not to love?

Born and raised in Haliburton, he became the assistant organist at Haliburton United Church when only 12. After graduating from the University of Toronto specializing in musical composition, he taught music in Haliburton County schools for 35 years.

Over the years, Bill has provided music for literally all of the churches in the Haliburton Highlands. In addition to preparing and hosting his weekly radio show, he’s involved in many concerts and stage productions. In the summertime, he tends a large vegetable garden on his property, giving most of the produce away.

Last year, the Reverend Colin R. Johnson (Archbishop of Toronto) officially recognized him as someone “whose light shines, whose works glorify” in awarding him membership in the Order of the Diocese of Toronto. The Order recognizes and honours those laypersons who have given outstanding service over a significant period of time in volunteer ministry.

“There are, I guess, three things in my life that I love so much, and they’ve motivated me and inspired me,” he recently told the Haliburton Echo.

“My Christian faith is the big thing, and my love of music and my love of this community—this community where I was born, grew up and love. If the Lord has afforded me to live here and bring happiness and joy through music, that’s my dream come true.” 

And that’s our Bill.

[You can read an excellent profile of Bill Gliddon by The Echo's Chad Ingram here.]

A challenge for your Christmas letter

By the Reverend Canon Anne Moore

For a while I used to receive Christmas letters from various friends; sometimes I sent my own news. I am sure you have received some of these and, possibly, written some before e-mails and high postage costs. Basically they are good news—bragging of all that the children have been doing, trips you have taken, the year’s activities and achievements. I hear that that is what Facebook is about: putting your best face forward.

Rarely do I read a letter that describes a family’s witness, or outreach, or ministries—even when I know they are involved in them. Is that being politically correct?

“Oh, the letter goes to all my friends so I don’t include my church involvement. I wouldn’t want to offend anyone.” But aren’t we supposed to be ‘salt’ and ‘light’ in the world? How can we create a thirst for Jesus among our friends ifIf we have accepted Christ as Lord; if we are allowing the Holy Spirit to live through us and transform us into the likeness of Jesus, why are we reluctant to let others know? Maybe if we reminded ourselves that God receives all our out-going mail, we might edit the boastful bits and add the ‘loving the less fortunate’ bits, or ‘how God helped me this year’ bits.

If Jesus wrote a Christmas letter to us, it might sound like this:

“Beloved, I pray this season finds you well. I just want to share some of the highlights from this year. Thanks to many of your brothers and sisters, thousands of people have come to faith in me. Please pray for those who have gone astray, that they might find their way back. Many of your brothers and sisters in Africa, Asia, and elsewhere have lost their lives because they chose to follow me. Rest assured, they will be with me in Paradise. Many more of your siblings have reached out to those who are poor, homeless, hungry, sick and in prison. I am sure next year will be equally busy.
With all my love,
Your Saviour and Lord, 
Jesus”
(This idea comes from Faith Writers Magazine)

I wonder if it’s time that Christmas letters from us got some attention for Him, along with our other, personal, good news. I wonder if that could be another way of sharing the real meaning of Christ’s birth on earth.

May you have a blessed Christmas season.

Need help feeding yourself or your family?

Once a year, the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit, in partnership with Haliburton County Foodnet, updates the Food for All pamphlet, an inventory of local programs and services that promote access to sufficient, safe, nutritious and personally-acceptable food for people in the community who could benefit from knowing where to get free and low-cost food. For more information, please call the Health Unit at 705-457-1391, ext. 3238. You can find a list of nearby food banks and how they operate  here.

Another look at Joseph: the non-speaker who speaks volumes

As our guest writer Jeeva Sam points out below, Mary’s husband Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, gets short shrift in our yearly Christmas songs and stories. Even scripture doesn’t provide much about him. Yet he did play a crucial role, and as Jeeva elaborates so well, we can learn from his restrained manner. Enjoy and be edified.

By Jeeva Edward Sam

Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.  (Matt. 1:19)

Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. (Matt. 1:19)

Quick, now, name one well-known carol that mentions Joseph. Better still, take your time, search on Google, Yahoo, MSN, Bing and Ask—the result is the same!  Not one, nada, nil.

Contrast this with repeated references to Mary, as in: “Mary’s boy child”, “Gentle Mary laid her child”, “On Mary’s lap is sleeping”, “Round yon virgin, MOTHER and child”, “For Christ is born of Mary”, “Mary was that mother mild”, and so forth. Even cattle, sheep and assorted members of the animal kingdom get more press at Christmas!

Point me to one word of dialogue Joseph is permitted to utter in the script of the Nativity as found in Holy Scripture, or in most traditional Christmas pageants for that matter. Need I say more?

Yet, it would seem that this unheralded man is undeniably part of God’s plan for the early part of Jesus’ earthly life. I find it instructive to examine the brief exposure to his character in Matthew 1:19 (Amplified Version): “… Joseph, being a just and upright man and not willing to expose her publicly and to shame and disgrace her, decided to repudiate and dismiss (divorce) her quietly and secretly.”

When Mary is found to be with child without an assist from her betrothed, a “just and upright man” could have ensured that justice was done by having her put to death or at least by issuing a certificate of divorce. Either action would have been kosher, but Joseph adds mercy to justice as he opts for a divorce with dignity.

Years later, when Jesus was asked by some what he would do with a woman who was caught in adultery (as if it is possible to catch only one partner in the act of adultery, hello?) he would stonewall their bid to stone her to death with the words: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7) Like father, like son, perhaps?

I cannot help but contrast Joseph’s choice with the way I am tempted to respond when someone hurts me. Ever hear the expression: ‘Hurt people hurt people?’ Out of my hurt, I want to make sure that justice is done and you’re hurt too—at least as much as you hurt me.

I could use any platform available to me—Facebook, newspaper columns, TV, blog, pulpit—to at least shame, if not disgrace or downright destroy you. Or it could be a family gathering over the holidays where amid the toasts, treats, eats and greets, some dormant hostility, buried bruise or interred insult rears its ugly head again, or a fresh missile calls for a decidedly unchristian strike-back.

I could opt to leave lash-marks on the offender, or leave quietly with bite-marks on my tongue instead.

May I, like Joseph, be glad to let my non-speaking role speak volumes.

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Ordained by the United Church of Canada in 1982, Pastor Jeeva has been serving the Morgan's Point & Forks Road East congregations in Wainfleet, Ontario since 2007.  He and his wife equip entrepreneurial believers to experience exponential success in their endeavours and offer an intensive mentorship process that takes married couples in stress or distress from breakdown to breakthrough. He welcomes your feedback at jeevasam@gmail.com

Poking holes in the darkness

By The Reverend Canon Anne Moore

There is a lovely story told of the writer Robert Louis Stevenson who, as a child, was found kneeling at his bedroom window one evening as darkness descended. When his nanny entered the room and asked what he was watching with such intent, he replied, “I’m watching the man who pokes holes in the darkness”. What young Robert was referring to was the man who lit the gas street lamps in their neighbourhood of Edinburgh, Scotland. With care and patience, the lamplighter would first light, and then raise the flickering wick on a long pole, to the streetlight, and the tiny flame would give birth to the glow that dispelled the darkness.

I am guessing you have noticed that the long evenings of summer are daily growing shorter. I have always had problems at this time of year: I sleep too much; I eat too much and the wrong stuff; I get down emotionally. When I was first ordained 26 years ago, my rector noticed it right away and also pronounced the diagnosis: Seasonal Affective Disorder. I bought a book about it and discovered I did have a mild case and could think of lots of times going right back to my childhood where I was bothered by it. Now I have strategies in place to counteract it, and I can function quite well. And I know enough to go easy on myself when those long, dark, rainy days descend. I am not the only one in this parish who suffers in a similar way.

The images of light and darkness are powerful ones in Scripture. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” How do we bring light into the world? How do we make a difference here at home and further afield? A year ago Ian McBride of the Anglican United Refugee Alliance told us of the plight of some 60 million people ‘on the move’, fleeing war, poverty, terrorism, disease and hunger, in search of a better life. How desperate must their situation be to feel safer on the open seas in a rubber raft, than in the place they once called home? We responded to Ian’s talk with the result that ‘our’ family, the Wisos, now make their home in our rectory.

Another way to bring light into our world is by our daily and weekly worship, praying for the needs of the world, acknowledging God’s place in our lives, supporting programmes of outreach locally and internationally, and taking up the challenge of living as active followers of Jesus.

This season of Thanksgiving is a reminder of how blessed we are despite the many challenges we may face. It also reminds us to live out of a spirit of thankfulness. “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Or as Robert Louis Stevenson would call it, “Poking holes in the darkness.”

May you all have a blessed and thank-full Thanksgiving.

Sizzling Summer Service 9: Hallelujah Haliburton!

Since beginning to work on her message for the annual Service in the Park, Anne confessed to having had an old song scrolling around her brain. “I’m a stranger here” by the Five-Man Electrical Band, first appeared on their album  ‘Sweet Paradise’.

lakeside baptist church musicians and singers

lakeside baptist church musicians and singers

She read its first verse:

“Well, I'm a stranger here in this place called Earth
And I was sent down here to discover the worth
Of your little blue planet, third from the sun
Come on and show me what you've done.”

The song goes on to lament how earth’s residents had roundly messed up their ‘paradise’. The words led perfectly into an elaboration on the verses from Ephesians read earlier in the service (Eph. 2:1-22) by David Lloyd of the Lighthouse Church.

There, the apostle Paul points out to the church in Ephesus their once messy, sinful lives. Then, including himself, he wrote:  “We tried to satisfy what our sinful nature wanted to do. We followed its longings and thoughts” (v.3).

In fact, the whole Bible tells the story, over and over, of humanity tending to pull back when God reaches out. We do our own thing, run away, miss the mark.  “But God loves us deeply. He is full of mercy. So He gave us new life because of what Christ has done” (v. 4-5).

 "One way!"   bev hicks and anne moore lead the kids in their charge to the crowd

 "One way!"   bev hicks and anne moore lead the kids in their charge to the crowd

As Bev Hicks of Northland Faith Church had the children remind us earlier, “God's grace has saved you because of your faith in Christ. Your salvation doesn't come from anything you do. It is God's gift” (v. 8). 

 “So then, you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are members of God’s family,” verse 19 goes on to triumphantly remind us.

This brought to mind for many of us the family of Syrian refugees we’re ready and waiting for. Will we be able to help them feel like members of our community, help them heal from the hurts and fears of feeling unwanted and alien in their own country? We all pray we can share the love of Christ effectively with them.

lakeside Baptist church holds several baptisms in the lake after the service!

lakeside Baptist church holds several baptisms in the lake after the service!

The ‘I’m a stranger here’ song ends with these words:

"We got the rivers and the mountains and the valleys and the trees
We got the birds in the sky and the fish in the sea
We got the ―
Oh, you crazy fools!
Don't you know you had it made?
You were living in paradise
                                                          [photo credit: Elaine Figueroa]

                                                          [photo credit: Elaine Figueroa]

But take it from one who knows
Who knows the gates of Heaven can close
I only pray that you take my advice
'Cause paradise won't come twice"

Finding peace with God, only possible by becoming a friend and follower of Jesus, is beyond remarkably easy. Have  a simple conversation with God (that’s prayer). First, tell Him you’re sorry for the things you’ve thought and done wrong. Ask for His forgiveness. Then thank Him, and ask that His Holy Spirit would live in you forever.

Welcome to the family!

Jesus appears to Syrian Muslim family, tells them he is sending a man to tell them more

Early this year, Haliburton began planning to welcome a refugee family. Plans and prayers for the family—who will likely be frightened Muslims from Syria—progress wonderfully. (See our original story here: Open arms and hearts in Haliburton Highlands join in Canada’s welcome to refugees).

Around the same time, an astounding story began circulating of a fellow who had been a missionary in Syria to Muslims. Tyler Connell with the Ekballo Project toured American college campuses sharing stories and videos from his most recent trip to Middle East, where he documented a dramatic move of God among Muslims, particularly with refugees.

“At every stop we saw the presence of Jesus break in to these college campuses and touch students, with bodies healed, people saved, and people giving their lives to serve in the mission field,” Connell exclaims.

His first film chronicles a young missionary named Daniel*, 24, originally from Vermont. Two years ago Daniel moved to the Middle East to work with Syrian refugees.

“They go house to house and visit these Muslim families and sit with them and talk with them and find out their names, their stories, and love them. As trust is built, they begin to open up about the Gospel.”

“Jesus is moving in these Middle East nations,” he says. “Many there are disillusioned and broken and just want to know the truth. Now more than ever there is a harvest among Muslims that has not been seen in history.”

One afternoon Daniel walked into a white tent with a family of eight people inside. “Hi, I’m Daniel and I’m here to tell you about Jesus,” he announced.

He wasn’t quite prepared for their reaction. “The family freaked out, they looked at each other, almost turned white. The father was excited, yelling.”

What’s going on? Daniel wondered.

The interpreter explained that the night before Daniel’s visit, the whole family was sitting in their tent having tea together when a man in white opened the door to their tent and stood at the entrance. The man was glowing.

“Hello, my name is Jesus and I am sending a man tomorrow named Daniel to tell you more about me.” Then he disappeared.

So when Daniel arrived at their doorway and told them his name, they were completely undone. “They asked him to tell them more about Jesus and he gave then the Gospel and the whole family gave their lives to Jesus,” Connell reports.

*Name changed for security reasons

[from Assist News. You can read more at Godreports here]

Love in action: the Way family's adventures at Eden Children's Village, Zimbabwe

UPDATE (Jan. 2017): The Way family have returned to Canada, hopefully briefly, to raise more funds to be able to return to Zimbabwe. Please visit their sites and consider a generous gift to help them continue their amazing work.

Jeff and Carole Way spoke recently at St. George’s on their ministry to orphans in Zimbabwe. With their house, car and most of their belongings sold, they plan to live and serve at Eden Children’s Village in Doma, Mashonaland West, Zimbabwe.

To learn more about the ministry of Eden Children's Village, please click here. To get updates on Jeff and Carole's work, adventures, ministries, and needs in Zimbabwe, please visit their Facebook site, The ZimbabWays

."Right now we are receiving about $800 Canadian a month and we budget for $1200 American," Jeff explains. "With the exchange rate as it is now, we are quite a bit short of what we need.  So whatever you can do to help is great."

You may donate online, or mail a cheque (payable to St. Croix Vineyard) to St. Croix Vineyard, 8 Main St, St. Stephen, NB. E3L 3E2, c/o Lorna Jones. To arrange for a pre-approved debit, contact Lorna at lornajones@ssu.ca. Jeff and Carol may be contacted at thezimbabways@gmail.com.

Open arms and hearts in Haliburton Highlands join in Canada’s welcome to refugees

A refugee sponsorship committee has been put together from members of our community and parish, with plans to sponsor a refugee family some time in the spring.

It is amazing to hear of all the volunteers offering such diverse gifts as driving, advertising, fund-raising, providing help with finding health services, and teaching English. Donations are already coming in.

Justin w refugees.jpg

Outfitted in new winter coats and clutching their yawning 16-month-old daughter in the wee hours of Friday morning, a Syrian refugee family on the first large government flight began their new life in Canada—or, as they call it, ‘paradise.’

"We really would like to thank you for all this hospitality and the warm welcome and all the staff—we felt ourselves at home and we felt ourselves highly respected," Kevork Jamkossian told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. "You are home," Trudeau said. "Welcome home."

from Allison Jones of The Canadian Press

If you would like to donate (eligible for a tax receipt), you can do so online at Canada Helps, or with a cheque made out to St. George’s. Please include “refugee sponsorship” on the memo line.

.To learn more about The Haliburton Refugee Sponsorship Committee’s goals, ways to donate, and upcoming meetings, click on the link above, or here for their Facebook site.

OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD: Haliburton Highlands does it again

Needy children from around the world thank you, Highlands individuals and churches! You filled 600 shoe-boxes, soon on their way to children in Africa, Central America, South America, needy Caribbean countries, and the Ukraine.

               Some of the 600 shoe boxes collected in the highlands, with brenda watson and chief coordinator, kathy burk

               Some of the 600 shoe boxes collected in the highlands, with brenda watson and chief coordinator, kathy burk

A hands-on project of Samaritan’s Purse, Operation Christmas Child has been bringing help, hope and joy to children in the developing world and areas of conflict for years. Each shoe box communicates the simple message of God’s love to the child who receives it. Operation Christmas Child also opens doors for Samaritan’s Purse to provide further assistance to children, their families, and communities.

Here's but one amazing story of how a shoe box gift had a powerful and lasting impact on Lejla, one of the first children ever to receive an Operation Christmas Child gift box:

Sensible Shoes by Sharon Garlough Brown: a great help in your journey

If you’re a thinking, feeling, relational human being, you’re sure to be nourished by the book Sensible Shoes. Part fiction, part spiritual direction, part Bible study, it sensitively and delicately weaves the stories of four seekers into an expanding tapestry of healing and discovery: for themselves as individuals, and as parts of something bigger.

Author Sharon Garlough Brown’s roles as pastor, spiritual director and retreat leader all guide and intricately colour the book. She takes us deeply inside each traveller, helping us see and hear as they do, and often glimpse and perceive aspects of ourselves in their impressions and discoveries.

By following along, you may well find encouragement to likewise step out of comfort zones or away from fear and isolation, towards the journey that ‘fits’ best, lifts above the humdrum, and moves you toward a beginning sense of rightness and fulfilled destiny.

Sharon Garlough Brown (MDiv, Princeton Theological Seminary) and her husband Jack have served congregations in Scotland, Oklahoma and England, and currently co-pastor Redeemer Covenant Church in Caledonia, Michigan. The second book in the Sensible Shoes series is Two Steps Forward: A Story of Persevering in Hope and more are promised.

Hallelujah Haliburton! Sizzling Summer Service 2015

Heavens opened over Haliburton and the rain held off for another glorious ecumenical service in the park. We joined in lively choruses, kids enjoyed a meaningful presentation by Youth Unlimited's Dana McMahon, and Baptist Church Pastor Paul Graham spoke, appropriately, of our unity in Christ and the need to reach beyond the boxes of our church buildings. 

          Paul preaches to the multitudes

A look at the book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity

by Anne Moore

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus is the first-person account of a young man growing up an American Muslim, and his slow conversion to Christianity. Nabeel Qureshi starts right off in his introduction by listing his three purposes for writing the book. In brief, they are to:

(1) tear down walls by giving non-Muslim readers an insider's perspective into a Muslim's heart and mind;

(2) equip readers with facts and knowledge, showing the strength for the Gospel’s case in contrast to that for Islam; and

(3) portray the immense inner struggle of a Muslim grappling with the Gospel, including the doubts and sacrifices.

This is a wonderful story of the ways God drew Qureshi to Himself, in particular by sending a close friend to slowly walk with him through an eight-year struggle with scripture, history, and studies of the Quran and other Muslim writings. Qureshi meticulously works his way through each of his obstacles to the Christian faith while facing up to the untruths he had been taught.

The book reads like Lee Strobel's books—logical, methodical, and, sometimes, a bit dry. However it is well worth the time to read.

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Nabeel Qureshi is an itinerant speaker with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries as well as bestselling author of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. Since completing his medical degree in 2009, he has dedicated his life to spreading the gospel through teaching, preaching, writing, and debating. You can read more about his book, and view an astonishing number of positive reviews, at Christianity Today published Qureshi's story in an article entitled Christ Called Me Off the Minaret.

What are the common characteristics of growing churches?

A recent report on church growth and decline could prove to be a treasure trove for leaders seeking both facts and ideas.

Kirk Hadaway, chief statistician and researcher with the Episcopal Church, compiles dozens of contributing factors in the piece, and Victoria Heard, head of church planting and congregational development for the Diocese of Dallas, has
done an excellent job crystallizing his work down to what she considers the essentials. Heard assumes first a “robust proclamation” of the Nicene Creed,  and then presents a six-pack of fundamentals. 

1. A kingdom road map

2. The children go up front

3. Sunday school still works

4. A culture of learning for adults

5. Hospitality that counts

6. Add a service, stir up the sound

You can link to her excellent and challenging full article here.

Anne's Reflections on the Christmas Season

by the Reverend Canon Anne Moore

What happened to autumn? It’s really beginning to look, and feel, a lot like Christmas. Snow, cold, blustery winds, early darkness, pretty-coloured lights—all together remind us of our need to prepare for Christmas

For some, this is a wonderful time of year. It brings a lot of happiness to decorate, bake, buy gifts, entertain family and friends, and continue the yearly rituals we have known for decades.

For many others, this Christmastime may not be so wonderful. It could be a painful reminder of a loss in our lives. The loss may be of a loved one, so that one wonders how joy could ever return; but the loss may be of something else: a job, a home, a marriage, one’s health, or independence. We discover that life can sometimes interfere with our traditions, and that discovery is not a pleasant one.

All of us need to be reminded of the Christmas angel’s message: “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people.” The angel goes on to tell of the Saviour who has been born. You might be tempted to ask, “So what? What does that have to do with my pain or happiness?

The answer requires knowing the whole story—not just the birth of a baby, but a life lived. This life had much pain that included: hurrying into exile in another country as a young child, settling in an area far from close relatives, living in obscurity for 30 years in spite of several prophecies seeming to indicate just the opposite would happen, and finally, being rejected for no reason by the authorities, abandoned by his closest friends, and then dying a cruel death on a cross without the benefit of a legal trial

Where is the “good news” in that life? Where is the hope? Christianity is the only religion that worships a God who knows, from human experience, the depths of the pain we suffer. Jesus chose to leave life with the Father in heaven to live a human life with all its physical, emotional, and social pain. And He did it because He is love, because He knows and loves each one of us

It never ceases to amaze me that God loves even me. Christmas reminds us that, regardless of our circumstances this year, our ‘sure and certain’ hope is in Jesus, and that is enough

May each one of you have a hopeful and blessed Christmas.

The power and lasting effect of Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes

Operation Christmas Child honestly does bring hope and joy to children in desperate situations around the world through gift-filled shoe boxes as well as the Good News of God's love. It's such a simple way to be part of a hands-on missions project while focusing on the true meaning of Christmas—Jesus Christ.

If you have the slightest doubt that such a small gift helps or has much if any effect on a child receiving one, please take a few minutes to watch Damaris’ story:



As Damaris explains, you cannot impact one child without impacting her or his family and wider community: the proverbial gift that keeps on giving.

Boxes from Eastern Ontario go to children in Africa, Central America, South America, needy Caribbean countries, and the Ukraine.

You can find more information on Samaritan’s Purse and its Operation Christmas Child here.