What Can I Give Him?

DSC_0180 kin park snow

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, Whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, Whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him… give my heart.

-Christina Rossetti

And Suddenly…

Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing o’er the plains

And the mountains in reply Echo back their joyous strains: Glory to God in the Highest
And the mountains in reply
Echo back their joyous strains:
Gloria in excelsis Deo!

Sometimes the longer we anticipate an event, the more surprised we are when it arrives. Perseverance is about the future. Endurance is about who we are becoming. Faithfulness is about hope. Joy is knowing the darkness of winter is not eternal. Light is eternal.

Wait for it… watch for it… because one day, all of a sudden….

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.  And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

 “Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

(Luke 2:8-13)

Bethlehem: The Hopes and Fears of All the Years Are Met in Thee

The Lane Bethlehem
The Lane

“You’ve been to Bethlehem. What does it look like? What kind of feeling did you get about the place?” a friend asked last week.

Bethlehem feels like… like… conflict. It feels like a conflict of emotions -joy and sorrow, a conflict of the old and new, a conflict between rich and poor, a conflict between heart-felt devotion and burdensome religious ritual, a conflict between God’s  loving acceptance and mankind’s hateful rejection. It is the place where hope and fear still meet.

How could I explain it?

“Here,” I said. “I’ll send you some photos I took a few months ago.”

These are some of them:

IMG_0728 Bethlehem 21

IMG_0909 Bethlehem 13

IMG_0783 Russian woman church of nativity

IMG_0769 poor box church of nativity

IMG_0773 Bethlehem 19

IMG_0765 Bethlehem 7

IMG_0750 church of nativity

IMG_0747 Bethlehem 6

IMG_0742 Bethlehem 5

IMG_0897 Bethlehem 14

IMG_0732 Bethlehem 3

IMG_0857 Bethlehem 13

IMG_0853 Bethlehem 16

IMG_0847 Bethlehem 17

IMG_0823 bethlehem 12

IMG_0787 Bethlehem 10

IMG_0811 bethlehem church of nativity windows

IMG_0875 church of shepherds vertical

 IMG_0872 Shepherd's church

IMG_0737 Bethlehem 21

IMG_0739 stars and bucks israel bethlehem


Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:7)

God Keep You Joyful, People

Let nothing steal your hope.

IMG_5912 mountain ash berries

I have older friends who refuse to use computers.

“They make me feel stupid,” said one person (she who managed to ace a statistics course after one weekend of cramming since her shift schedule conflicted with actually attending lectures.) “It’s the words. They have been hijacked by computer geeks with odd senses of humour to mean something completely different from what they meant before. If they had used new words I could have learned them, but no, now I have to un-learn the old meanings and assign new ones. It’s too much work. Give me a typewriter and some ribbon.”

I grew up with archaic English. My mother learned English from reading Charles Dickens novels her teacher gave her. Living on an isolated prairie farm where everyone in the area spoke the same dialect of German, she didn’t realize Canadians didn’t speak in Victorian English. As she later said, “It behooves one to attend to tales at tea time.”

I grew up in a church that used only “The Authorized Version” of the Bible. (I thought that meant that God Himself had authorized it, not just a political figure.) I was encouraged (forced and coerced) to memorized large passages of scripture with Thees and Thous and hasts and words ending in eth. I do appreciate the beauty and poetry of the language. (I’m still a big fan of Shakespeare and the metaphysical poets too.) It’s cadence plays like music in my head and like He promised to do, Holy Spirit often brings to remembrance reminds me of verses I have read, and they come in that language. But I need to translate them for people who don’t have my background. Often familiar words in that translation have different meanings -awful, and terrible for example. And the formal and familiar forms of Thee/You are actually the opposite of what many people think. (Thee/Thou was used between family and close friends. You was used for authority figures.)

Some of the old Christmas carols need translating as well. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen doesn’t necessarily mean that guys need to take a break from joking around. For one thing, it needs a little punctuation in the form of a comma after the word merry. Rest is an old word meaning to keep or let it be. Merry could mean something more than joyful, but joy was always contained in the word. Mankind and men have often been used generically for people in general for many years (the exclusion of women and children from person-hood is a topic for another day).

So the first lines of the song actually mean, God keep you joyful, people! Don’t allow anything to cause you to lose hope.


We’ve hit one of those deep freeze weeks here. Well, actually the term deep freeze is misleading too, because it would have to warm up by about 20 degrees to be the temperature of a deep freeze. It is so tempting to be dismayed by cold and dark, but the bright red berries on the mountain ash tree outside my window sing themes of joy and hope in the midst of winter. Thank you, Lord, for red berries. They rest me merry.

IMG_5914 mountain ash 3

God rest ye merry,


Let nothing you dismay

Remember, Christ, our Saviour

Was born on Christmas day

To save us all from Satan’s power

When we were gone astray

O tidings of comfort and joy,

Comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy


In Bethlehem, in Israel,

This blessed Babe was born

And laid within a manger

Upon this blessed morn

The which His Mother Mary

Did nothing take in scorn

O tidings of comfort and joy,

Comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy


From God our Heavenly Father

A blessed Angel came;

And unto certain Shepherds

Brought tidings of the same:

How that in Bethlehem was born

The Son of God by Name.

O tidings of comfort and joy,

Comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy


“Fear not then,” said the Angel,

“Let nothing you affright,

This day is born a Saviour

Of a pure Virgin bright,

To free all those who trust in Him

From Satan’s power and might.”

O tidings of comfort and joy,

Comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy


The shepherds at those tidings

Rejoiced much in mind,

And left their flocks a-feeding

In tempest, storm and wind:

And went to Bethlehem straightway

The Son of God to find.

O tidings of comfort and joy,

Comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy


And when they came to Bethlehem

Where our dear Saviour lay,

They found Him in a manger,

Where oxen feed on hay;

His Mother Mary kneeling down,

Unto the Lord did pray.

O tidings of comfort and joy,

Comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy


Now to the Lord sing praises,

All you within this place,

And with true love and brotherhood

Each other now embrace;

This holy tide of Christmas

All other doth deface.

O tidings of comfort and joy,

Comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy


God with Us

IMG_0808 Bethlehem pilgrims_poster-1Pilgrims waiting at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem



O come, Thou Rod of Jesse,

free thine own

from Satan’s tyranny

From depths of Hell Thy people save

And give them victory o’er the grave



Emmanuel shall come to thee,

O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring,

come and cheer our spirits

by Thine advent here

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night

and death’s dark shadows put to flight.



Emmanuel shall come to thee,

O Israel.

(From the ancient hymn, Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel)

 When we were in Israel the behaviour of some of the people in the crowds surprised me. I realize the concept of standing in line and waiting patiently is not one common to all cultures, but some folks seemed quite desperate to touch sacred sites. They pushed and shoved and cut ahead as if they feared there might not be enough to go around and they had to get there first. I watched some women hungrily rub the stone in this church of the Nativity upon which (it is said) the Virgin gave birth. I watched as they traced the cracks on worn pavement and then rubbed their hands over their own bodies as if there was power in the place.

Jesus said his followers would worship, not on this mountain nor on that mountain, but in spirit and truth. He said people searched the scriptures looking for salvation, but the scriptures point to him. Today some people still practise rituals and recite certain prayers and seek miracles and wonders and signs hoping for salvation, but signs point to something -or Someone. They are meant to draw our attention to a person -Jesus Christ. John wrote that this is the sign of a true Christian, that they believe, they love, and they obey God because Holy Spirit lives in them.

And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. (1 John 3:23, 24)

Paul wrote: And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13)

The purpose of many festivals and holy days in Old Testament times was to help people remember the One who brought them out of  slavery and tyranny.  With Christ living in us, going to the sites of so many wonderful Bible stories can be a wonderful enriching experience. Without Christ, the trappings of religion become tyranny themselves.

Emmanuel means “God with us.” He came to set his people free.

Risen with Healing in His Wings

IMG_5552 Kootenay River

Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!

Hail the Son of Righteousness!

Light and life to all He brings

Risen with healing in His wings

Mild He lays His glory by

Born that man no more may die

Born to raise the sons of earth

Born to give them second birth

Hark! The herald angels sing

“Glory to the newborn King!”

from Hark the Herald Angels Sing

The Only Praise That Will Ever Matter

*His law is love and His gospel is peace*

mountain contrast

The word judgment is often burdened with an association to the concepts of condemnation and punishment. Sometimes judgment is about determining what is praise-worthy. Since only the Lord understands our deep motives and thoughts, and since we are easily manipulated by appearances, only He is qualified to judge.  It is the judge who awards the trophies -and His law is Love.

I think we may be surprised by what He chooses to praise in us.

It makes little difference to me how you or any human court passes judgment on me. I even resist the temptation to compare myself to the ever-changing human standardAlthough I am not aware of any flaw that might exclude me from this divine service, that’s not the reason I stand acquitted—the only supreme judge, our Lord, will examine me in the proper time. So resist the temptation to act as judges before all the evidence is in. When the Lord comes, He will draw our buried motives, thoughts, and deeds (even things we don’t know or admit to ourselves) out of the dark shadows of our hearts into His light. When this happens, the voice of God will speak to each of us the only praise that will ever matter.” (1 Corinthians 4:3-5 The Voice)

And to the Earth It Gave Great Light

*And to the earth it gave great light*IMG_5733 Old Man Mountains dark2


But who can discern their own errors?
    Forgive my hidden faults. (Psalm 19:12)

Here’s the thing about light: it reveals.

Sometimes we would really rather not see the things it reveals especially if those revealed things are in the lives of people we trust to be shining examples for us. When light reveals our own errors and faulty thinking, those embarrassing weaknesses hidden from even ourselves, we want to squirm in shame. Light can be uncomfortable.

But God is merciful, and willing to exchange the lies we have believed for truth. If we avoid kicking them into another dark corner or assigning their ownership to someone else, but rather own up to them, he is willing to show us a better way. He is faithful and just. He will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Yesterday an error on my part was revealed to me by a man in a car with flashing lights on top. It was not a deliberate disobedience of the law, but nevertheless a serious oversight on my part and I was extremely embarrassed by it. Mortified. My first response, when the light shone upon it, was to want to make excuses, but the better response was to say, “Yes, Sir,” and go get the problem fixed before I went any further. So I did. Today I my conscience is clear and I am actually glad that he stopped me when he did, before something much worse happened. (And to all my friends and acquaintances who drove by while the man in uniform and I chatted on the side of the road and then he gave me a ride in the back of his squad car –“Hi there!”)

Repentance means to turn around. Change. Have a different thought.

 What we are telling you now is the very message we heard from Him:

God is pure light, undimmed by darkness of any kind. 

If we say we have an intimate connection with the Father but we continue stumbling around in darkness,

then we are lying because we do not live according to truth. 

If we walk step by step in the light,

where the Father is,

then we are ultimately connected to each other through the sacrifice of Jesus His Son.

His blood purifies us from all our sins. 

If we go around bragging, “We have no sin,”

then we are fooling ourselves and are strangers to the truth. 

But if we own up to our sins,

God shows that He is faithful and just

by forgiving us of our sins and purifying us

from the pollution of all the bad things we have done.

(1 John 1:5-9)