Monday, December 24, 2007

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Church leaders often spend weeks preparing for Christmas service message

Sun, 2007-12-23 21:21.
VANCOUVER - The mall isn't the only place that sees a boost in population over the holiday season.
Churches across the country typically see their attendance skyrocket over Christmas. Many of those attending are casual visitors, the ones who come only during the high holidays of Easter and Jesus' celebrated day of birth.
This fact isn't lost on church leaders, who say they often spend several weeks preparing for a message that will stay with the crowd attending for symbolic purposes.
Rev. Ed Hird with St. Simon's Anglican Church in North Vancouver takes the story of Jesus and tries to make it relevant and accessible to his patrons. He said it's important to remember that "Jesus is the reason for the season," and tries to communicate how his (birth) plays a part in everyone's life.
"I take the message of Jesus'birth and (show) how that could potentially impact all of our lives," he said. "I've seen many people who've turned up at Christmas, and that's been the turning point for them."
For Rev. Bruce Sanguin with the Canadian Memorial United Church in Vancouver, Christmas is the one time when he's not "preaching to the converted." He said he's happy to see people taking the time to attend church, even if it's for a symbolic reason.
"A lot of people come for the tradition of it," he said. "They're coming to hear the old carols and the scripture reading and be in the candlelight and sing Silent Night. All of that is fine with me so it's not a time to preach a theologically heavy kind of sermon."
Darryl Macdonald, minister with Christ Church United of Two Mountains in Montreal, starts preparing for his service in September. By October, he meets with his church's worship committee and in November, they have an idea for themes for Advent and Christmas services. By December, the details are taken care of and hymns are chosen.
"What I tend to do is work mine together so that all four Sundays of Advent and Christmas Eve all tie in with the theme," he said. "That's why I have to start much, much, much earlier."
Hird and Sanguin said they both take several weeks to prepare for their Christmas message. Hird said he even tries to prepare physically, as in the past he's pushed himself so hard that he often became ill.
Now he gets a flu shot, goes to the gym and eats properly in the weeks before Christmas.
For Sanguin, he makes sure he takes the time to relax and think clearly.
"While the rest of the world is speeding up and making all the Christmas preparations, I find it important to slow down and take a countercultural approach," Sanguin said. "Make sure I'm doing the yoga and create a quiet space within where the Christmas story can come alive for me."
Right Rev. Sue Moxley, the bishop of the Anglican diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, said she went on a weeklong retreat to pray and think in silence as she prepared for the Christmas season.
In the weeks since, she's been preaching at holiday-themed services every Sunday, and she'll speak to her congregation in Halifax on Christmas Eve.
Moxley said she wants parishioners to remember that Christmas is not "just an old piece of history," especially if they only make it into the pews once a year for the holiday.
"The point I think is to make the connection that this is a very old story, and we change every year, new things happen to us, so we hear the old story in a different setting each year," she said.
"Out of that, there's always hope that comes out of the story, no matter what kind of situation we're in."

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Working Out
Working Out
an article previously published in the Deep Cove Crier
by the Rev. Ed Hird+

One of the things that I most appreciate about the our local North Vancouver Recreation Commission ‘Play Card’ is that it gives me access to nine weight rooms in 5 different locations.

One of my strongest motivations for going regularly to the gym is that it really helps reduce my intermittent neck pain. It is interesting how often physical aliments have parallels in the spiritual realm. Being stiff-necked can sometimes be both a physical and a spiritual reality. Fifteen years ago while at a renewal conference in Anaheim, the Lord spoke to me about my need to repent over my stiff neck. Rather than make excuses, I decided to agree with the Lord, and be willing to change. God did a deep work in me that I will never forget, teaching me how to be more surrendered to God’s will in my life.

I had no idea how serious the spiritual ‘stiff-necked’ condition was, until I read through the bible, finding nine references to this affliction.

In Exodus 32:9, the Lord said to Moses: “I have seen these people, and they are a stiff-necked people”. One of the main reasons why God made the Moses’ followers wait forty years before entering the Promised Land was the problem of their stiffneckedness (Deuteronomy 9:6) God’s solution in 2 Chronicles 30:8 was “Be not stiff-necked as your fathers were, but rather yield yourselves to the Lord and enter his sanctuary.” Being stiff-necked seems to be a generational condition, as Stephen mentioned in Acts 7:51 “You stiff-necked..., you are just like your fathers. You always resist the Holy Spirit.”

My family has physically suffered from stiff necks for generations. That is why we have often turned to physiotherapists, chiropractors, and menthol rub. Regularly going to the gym appeals to the frugal part of myself, because I estimate that I am actually saving money on medical bills by preventative maintenance. By working out regularly and using a neck-stretching machine, I hardly ever have headaches any more, and rarely ever need aspirin or Tylenol.

The Good Book says in 1 Timothy Chapter 4: “Exercise daily in God: no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts at the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today, and forever.” The Bible is pro-exercise, but realizes that physical exercise will only take you so far. That is why the famous YMCA Red Triangle stands for Spirit, Mind, and Body. All three parts needs exercising, not just the physical!

Bishop Tom Wright, a well-known English member of the Windsor Commission, commented: “The last time I made a serious effort to get physically fit, I had a specific purpose in mind. We were about to launch into a complicated move of house, and I knew that I was going to be on my feet all day for a long time, carrying boxes, books, pictures and goodness knows what else. I was going to be climbing ladders and moving furniture, not to mention sorting out a garden. I needed to go into training, and I did. It worked. I really ought to be doing it again now...”

As I and my family have just completed moving locally, I relate to Bishop Tom Wright’s sentiments. I have just finished moving and unpacking what felt like a thousand boxes! If it wasn’t for my years of training at the local gym, I would be stiff necked and aching everywhere. But instead I feel fit and free. But it is not enough to be physically fit, while letting our spiritual life go flabby.

Have you ever thought of the Church as God’s Gymnasium? Would you like God to remove a few kinks in your stiff neck? My prayer for those reading this article is that we would exercise the whole person, in Spirit, Mind, and Body.

The Rev. Ed Hird
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada

RG Letourneau: Model of Generosity

RG LeTourneau: Model of Generosity
-an article for the North Shore News ‘Spiritually Speaking’ column

by the Rev. Ed Hird+

One of the most amazing ‘rags to riches’ stories is the life of RG LeTourneau, as told in his biography “Mover of Mountains and Men”. LeTourneau began his career in obscurity in Stockton, California, where his first job was transporting earth to level out farmland. His frustrations with moving dirt drove him to find a better, more efficient way. In 1922 he constructed the first all-welded scraper that was lighter, stronger and less expensive than any other machines.

G. LeTourneau became the greatest obstacle-mover in history, building huge earth-moving machines. During World War II he produced 70% of all the army's earth-moving machinery. He spoke of God as the Chairman of his Board.

As a multi-millionaire, LeTourneau gave 90% of his profit to God's work and kept only 10% for himself. A special friend of Billy Graham, in his early days, LeTourneau designed a portable dome building intended for Graham crusades. He also founded a university that is thriving to this day.
LeTourneau said that the money came in faster than he could give it away. LeTourneau was convinced that he could not out-give God. "I shovel it out,” he would say, “and God shovels it back, but God has a bigger shovel."

Many people see Letourneau as one of the most influential people of the past hundred years. .
As the father of the modern earthmoving industry, he was responsible for 299 inventions. These inventions included the bulldozer, scrapers of all sorts, dredgers, portable cranes, rollers, dump wagons, bridge spans, logging equipment, mobile sea platforms for oil exploration, the electric wheel and many others. He introduced into the earthmoving and material handling industry the rubber tire, which today is almost universally accepted. He invented and developed the Electric Wheel. His life's verse was Matthew 6:33: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you."

LeTourneau’s example reminds me that we too can be Mountain Movers. As the Great Physician said in Matthew 17:20, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” RG LeTourneau once said: “You will never know what you can accomplish until you say a great big yes to the Lord.” My prayer for those reading this article is that God may raise up many creative leaders who, like LeTourneau, will be movers of mountains and people.

The Rev. Ed Hird
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada

Say No to Fear
Say No to Fear
an article previously published in the Deep Cove Crier
by the Rev. Ed Hird+

If you had just a few months to live, what would you most want to say to friends? What would have priority and what would become secondary? The famous Apostle Paul knew that he was about to have his head chopped off by the crazed Roman Emperor Nero. So he wrote his final letter, known as Second Timothy, to his key assistant, Timothy. Second Timothy was really Paul’s last will and testament.

Paul had been in jail many times for the faith. It was his favorite place to write letters like his unforgettable letters to the Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon. If Paul had not been sent to jail so often, half the New Testament would likely never have been written. In the past Paul had always been let out of prison. But this time he knew that the only escape was death.

Have you ever lost a key leader and mentor who has helped you reach heights that you never thought you would reach? To lose such a person can bring deep feelings of loneliness and abandonment. Bishop Handley Moule of Durham, England, commented that “Timothy stood awfully lonely, yet awfully exposed, in face of a world of thronging sorrows. Well might he have been shaken to the root of his faith.”

Young Timothy was by nature an insecure, sickly and timid person, but Paul saw potential in Timothy far beyond his outward appearance. Paul had been closely associated with Timothy ever since he ‘discovered’ him in Lystra, Turkey, some fifteen years before.

Paul knew that it was time for the changing of the guard, the passing on of the baton of leadership. Paul was determined that Timothy not drop that baton in the midst of Emperor Nero’s onslaught.

You’ve probably heard the expression: “Rome burned while Nero fiddled”. Nero set Rome on fire in AD 64 as an urban renovation project, and blamed the early Christians as convenient scapegoats. The historian Tacitus commented that the early Christians “were killed by dogs by having the hides of beasts attached to them, or they were nailed to crosses or set aflame, and, when the daylight passed away, they were used as nighttime lamps. Nero gave his own gardens for this spectacle...”

Christianity was on the verge of extinction, and the dying Paul saw Timothy as the key to its very survival. The famous Dr. John Stott comments, “Greatness was being thrust upon Timothy, and like Moses and Jeremiah and a host of others before and after him, Timothy was exceedingly reluctant to accept it.”

Paul strengthened Timothy by reminding him how much he meant to him, and how often he prayed for him day and night. He also strengthened Timothy by reminding him of the faithful examples set by his grandma, Lois and his mother, Eunice. As Dr. John Stott put it, “good biographies never begin with their subject, but with his parents, and probably his grandparents as well.” Paul was saying to Timothy: “don’t lose touch with your roots”.

What do you know for sure if you see a turtle on a fencepost? The answer is that it didn’t get there itself. We are who we are, in large part because of people who have believed in us and invested in us. Many of us as Canadians have forgotten the remarkable spiritual heritage we have been given by our ancestors, our Loises and Eunices. I think of our Judeo-Christian heritage in Canada as like crabs hidden under the rocks at the seashore. Only when one uncovers the rocks does one discover the greatest riches of life just below the surface.

The dying Paul knew that Timothy had so much going for him. So he told him to fan into flame the wonderful God-given gift that had been given to him. It is so easy to let our gifts and abilities lie dormant, when we need to rekindle and stir up the smouldering flame.

Fear can cripple our future. So Paul said to Timothy: “God has not given you a spirit of timidity but of power and love and a sound mind.” Timidity, says Douglas Milne, is a chronic fear of people, suffering or responsibilities that paralyzes the will from giving effective leadership.
Paul is saying to Timothy, and to each of us: “Say no to fear. Don’t let anxiety crush your life. Live life free and unfettered.” At the heart of every addiction is the bondage to fear.

My prayer for those reading this article is that the Great Physician will set each of us, like Timothy, free from fear, and fill us instead with the Spirit of power and love and a sound mind.

The Rev. Ed Hird
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada

Breaking the Power of Shame
Breaking the Power of Shame
-an article for the North Shore News ‘Spiritually Speaking’ column
by the Rev. Ed Hird+

The teenaged Roman Emperor Nero started off in AD 57 as a idealistic reformer, banning capital punishment. He forbade killing in circus contests, emphasizing instead athletics, poetry, and theater. He reduced taxes and permitted slaves to file complaints against unjust masters. But absolute power absolutely corrupted him.

Nero was born at Antium (Anzio), Italy, on December 15th 37 A.D. His father, who died when Nero was age 3, was a great-grandson of Caesar Augustus - the Roman emperor at the time of the birth of Jesus Christ (Luke 2:1).

Nero’s mother Agrippina rescued her son Nero from poverty by marrying her uncle, the emperor Claudius. Agrippina managed to get Nero adopted not only as a son of Claudius, but the heir to the throne before Claudius' actual sons. To show her gratitude, she poisoned her husband/uncle with tainted mushrooms. Nero became the emperor of the mighty Roman empire at the age of 17.

One year after Nero became Emperor, he got tired of his mother’s interfering, and had her removed from the palace. Four years later she still kept meddling, so Nero rigged her boat to collapse on her. Being a strong swimmer, Agrippina refused to drown, so Nero had to send soldiers in to finish the job. There is a famous painting by John William Waterhouse where Nero is lying on his bed feeling remorseful for taking his mother out.
Any remorse did not slow him down for long. As murder can be rather addictive, Nero proceeded to present the gift of an ex-wife’s severed head to a future wife, and then kick another wife to death while she was pregnant.

Nero’s most memorable accomplishment was burning much of Rome to the ground to make room for a new palace. After six days of Rome burning, Nero discovered the value of blaming a small Jewish group called Christians. Their ringleader, the Apostle Paul, was thrown into a Roman dungeon, to prepare for his imminent beheading. If these early Christians refused to renounce their faith, Nero had them thrown to the lions, crucified, or set on fire and used as garden-party lighting.

Christianity looked as if it would be obliterated from the face of the earth. But Paul from prison wrote a second letter to his chosen successor Timothy, ‘rallying the troops’. He said to Timothy: “Don’t be ashamed to bear witness for the Lord or Paul his prisoner”. He encouraged the naturally timid Timothy not to be ashamed of Paul’s chains. Paul, though about to be exterminated, said to Timothy: “I am not ashamed, for I know whom I believe”.

Breaking the power of shame is absolutely vital to living a free and healthy life. All of us have at least one Nero in our life who would like to enslave us, entrap us, and fill us with shame. It may be our relatives, our boss, our ex-spouse, our own personal addictions to fear, guilt, anger. By breaking the power of shame and self-hatred, we can live fully without regret. The key, said Paul, to breaking the power of shame, is in ‘knowing whom we believe’.

I would challenge each one reading this article to no longer let our personal Neros cover our faces with shame. Live free. Live forgiven. Live in the healing embrace of the One who gave everything so that you might really live.

The Rev. Ed Hird
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada

Lt General Romeo Dallaire: Canada’s Unsung Hero
Lt General Romeo Dallaire: Canada’s Unsung Hero
an article previously published in the Deep Cove Crier
by the Rev. Ed Hird+

November 11th is sometimes hard for many younger Canadians to access. How can one remember on Remembrance Day when it all seems so long ago?

This November 11th I invite you to access Remembrance Day through remembering one of Canada’s unsung heros: Lt General Romeo Dallaire. Recently named to the Canadian senate, Lt General Dallaire embodies the best of what needs to be remembered each November 11th.
Dallaire led the 1994 UN Mission to Rwanda where he saw 800,000 men, women and children slaughtered by extremists. Before the genocide, Rwanda had been the largest recipient of Canadian aid proportionally in all of sub-Saharan Africa.

Abandoned during the 1994 crisis by the world community, Rwanda’s greatest advocate was one lonely Canadian, Romeo Dallaire, who forced the tragedy of the Rwandan genocide onto the world stage. “The people of Rwanda”, said Dallaire in his book/DVD Shake Hands with the Devil, “were not an insignificant black mass living in abject poverty in a place of no consequence. They were individuals like myself, like my family, with every right and expectation of any human who is a member of our tortured race.”

“Too little and too late” summarized the response of the UN bureaucrats and the international power-brokers. Dallaire wrote in his book: “There was a void of leadership in New York (UN). We sent a deluge of paper and received nothing in return; no supplies; no reinforcements, no decisions.” The UN did produce numerous resolutions about Rwanda, but as Dallaire noted, “The resolution’s phrases were pure UN-ese: ‘having regret...shocked...appalled....deeply concerned...stressing...expressing deep concern...condemns...strongly condemns...demands...decides...reiterates...reaffirms...calls upon...invites...decides to remain actively seized of the matter.’” Dallaire sadly described the UN as “an organization swamped and sinking under the dead weight of useless political sinecures, indifference, and procrastination.”

In the midst of this betrayal, Dallaire stood strong and made a powerful difference in saving thousands of Rwandans. As a man of deep Christian faith, Dallaire faced the reality of cold-blooded evil, but was not defeated by it. In his acclaimed book “Shake Hands with the Devil”, Dallaire commented: “After one of my many presentations following my return from Rwanda, a Canadian Forces padre asked me how, after all I had seen and experienced, I could still believe in God. I answered that I know there is a God because in Rwanda I shook hands with the devil. I have seen him, I have smelled him and I have touched him. I know the devil exists, and therefore I know there is a God.”

One of Dallaire’s chief way of saving Rwandan lives was in his intentional cultivation of the media. “The media”, said Dallaire, “can be an ally and a weapon equal to battalions on the ground.” The CBC Radio show ‘As It Happens’, with Michael Enright, played a key role in waking up a very sleepy, apathetic Canadian population. Dallaire commented: “The media was the weapon that I used to strike the conscience of the world and try to prod the international community into action.”

Dallaire shows the gift of remarkable vulnerability in talking about his feeling and core beliefs: “My Christian beliefs had been the moral framework that had guided me throughout my adult life. Where was God in all this horror? Where was God in the world’s response?” He suffered deeply from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome upon returning to Canada, and has taken many years of counseling to recover. Dallaire wrote: “I wanted to scream, to vomit, to hit something, to break free of my body, to end this terrible scene. Instead I struggled to compose myself...”

Near the end of the Rwandan UN Mission, Dallaire was so exhausted by the trauma that he started to collapse internally: “ manners and my sense of humour, two essentials of leadership, were fading fast...” His own staff noticed that ‘The General was losing it’ and rightly concluded ‘...if I (Dallaire) wasn’t replaced, I would be dead in less than two weeks’ Dallaire vulnerably shared (in his book) “ guilty I felt abandoning my troops before the mission was over, how guilty I felt that I had failed so many people and that Rwandans were still dying because of it.” Dallaire’s self-recriminations and ‘what ifs’ nearly ate him up inside: “After nearly a decade of reliving every detail of those days, I am still certain that I could have stopped the madness had I been given the means.”

“Why”, asked Dallaire, “were we so feeble, fearful and self-centered in the face of atrocities committed against the innocent?” Dallaire concluded that “We are in desperate need of a transfusion of humanity.”

I thank God this November 11th for Lt. General Romeo Dallaire’s courageous role in saving so many Rwandan lives. Rwanda means a lot to me, as St. Simon’s North Vancouver and 11 other Anglican Churches have been adopted into the Anglican Province of Rwanda. Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini, our Rwandan Primate, said that they were committed to rescuing us in North America, because no one was there for them when they were in their 1994 crisis. They would not leave us as orphans.

The Rev. Ed Hird
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada

Finishing the Race of Life
Finishing the Race of Life
an article previously published in the Deep Cove Crier
by the Rev. Ed Hird+

There has been great anticipation about the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. Dr. William Barclay comments that perhaps the world’s most famous Olympic race is the marathon. The original Battle of the Marathon in 490 B.C. was one of the decisive battles of the ancient world. The Plains of Marathon, where the Greeks met King Darius I’s Persian army, were just twenty-two miles from embattled Athens. Against fearful odds, the Greeks won the victory, and, after the battle, a Greek soldier ran all the way, day and night, to Athens with the news. Straightway to the magistrates, he ran. “Rejoice,” he reportedly gasped,” we have conquered” and even as he delivered his message, he fell dead. He had completed his course and done his work, and there is no finer way for any man to die.”

When Michel Bréal and Pierre de Coubertin suggested the idea of the marathon race to the first 1896 Athens Olympic Organizing Committee, the Greeks embraced the plan with eagerness. Here, after all, was a race that emerged from Greek history and celebrated the achievement of a Greek runner. Against great odds, the first 1896 Olympic Marathon was won by a Greek, Spiridon Louis. The nation of Greece exploded with joy! Since there were no gold medals for the 1896 Olympics, Spiridon Louis was awarded with an olive branch, a silver medal and cup, as well as an antique Olympic vase. The same Pierre de Coubertin, inspired by a sermon at St. Paul's Cathedral in London, wrote the following ‘creed’ for the Olympics: "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."
Each one of us in our own way is running an Olympic marathon every day of our life. The Good Book tells us to ‘run with patience the race set before us.’ (Hebrews 12:1) Dr. William Barclay commented that “It is easy to begin the race of life but hard to finish. The one thing necessary for life is staying-power, and that is what so many people lack. It was suggested to a certain very famous man that his biography should be written while he was still alive. He absolutely refused to give permission, and his reason was: ‘I have seen so many men fall out at the last lap.’ It is easy to wreck a noble life or a fine record by some closing foolishness.”

Probably one of the most famous ‘Olympic runners’ is the apostle Paul, a former Rabbi who was knocked off his horse while racing to Damascus, Syria. Paul spent the next thirty years ‘running’ throughout the Roman Empire telling people the good news. Paul, the prolific writer, wrote more chapters of the New Testament than any other individual (74 chapters singlehanded!) He often used Olympic Marathon language to communicate his heart: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown of laurel that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly...” (1st Corinthians 9:24-26). Paul had been in and out of jail many times, escaping death again and again. He was always on the run! By the end of Paul’s life, the crazed Emperor Nero was on the warpath, and Paul knew that the only way out of jail was by beheading.

Even though Paul was designated for the ‘chopping block’, he didn’t panic, but stayed focused on his spiritual ‘Olympic Marathon’. Ironically Paul told his young protégé ‘runner’ Timothy to ‘keep his head in all circumstances’ (2 Timothy 4:5).

Paul knew that he was about to die. “Now”, said Paul, “is the time for my departure”. The Greek word for departure is analusus –like our word ‘analysis’ which means ‘a separating of items from each other’. It was used for loosening the ropes of a ship when weighing anchor. It was also used of a camper packing up his tent, and for a farmer unyoking an animal from its plough. Paul was saying that death was not the end; rather it was a moving on to the next adventure.

Paul’s dying words were profoundly Olympic: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” As Bishop Michael Baughen depicts it, “The relay runner is pounding round the track, using every ounce of energy, heading for the hand-over point. Ahead of him is the next runner in the relay, feet beginning to move in anticipation, eyes on the runner coming towards him, his hand now outstretched to take the baton at the appropriate moment and then to run and run, while the man he took the baton from collapses breathless on to the grass. Paul is pounding towards the end. His ‘time of departure has come’ and Paul is urging Timothy to take the baton from him and to run with commitment and determination.”

Speaking of the Vancouver Olympics, how is your daily marathon doing? Are you stretching each day towards the finish line? Are you preparing another young Timothy that you can pass the baton to, when you finish the race of life? Are you running the race of life in such a way as to get the prize?

The Rev. Ed Hird+
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada

Friday, December 7, 2007

Always Winter and Never Christmas
Always Winter and Never Christmas
-an article for the North Shore News ‘Spiritually Speaking’ column

Since C. S. Lewis wrote Narnia Chronicles in 1950, almost 100 million copies of the book in 29 languages have been sold. Disney invested $150 Million in what has been called ‘the greatest children's story ever told.’ The high quality trailers about the Narnia movie are worth the price of admission themselves.

At the heart of Narnia’s ‘The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe’ is the abolition of Christmas by the White Witch where it is always winter and never Christmas. C.S. Lewis’ alternate title for his book was ‘The Hundred Year Winter’. Not once in the past hundred years of Narnia was Christmas ever celebrated.

The White Witch, whose real name is Jadis, punished anyone who wanted the restoration of Christmas, by turning them into stone. The White Witch's most memorable feature was her skin, as white as chalk, or paper, or snow. CS Lewis explains in the Narnia book ‘The Magician's Nephew’ that the White Witch’s skin was made that way by eating an apple from the Emperor's Garden at the beginning of Narnia.

In the midst of this bone-chilling winter, we are told about an ancient prophecy stating that when two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve filled the four thrones as Kings and Queens of Narnia, the tyranny of the White Witch and her hundred-year winter would end. We are also told that one day the great Lion Aslan will triumphantly return to Narnia: “Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight, At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more, When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death, And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.”

The front page of USA Today (December 2-4, 2005) features a picture of Aslan and the question "Is that lion the King of Kings?" CS Lewis called Aslan a ‘supposal’ of what might have happened if Christ had come to a world of talking animals and become one of them.

With the remarkable success of Mel Gibson’s ‘Passion of the Christ’ Movie and Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ Trilogy, many came to expect that the Narnia Chronicles would also be another spiritually-oriented blockbuster. Many ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Narnia’ buffs may not be aware that it was JRR Tolkien who helped lead his atheist friend CS Lewis to faith in the Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5).

While teaching at Oxford College, Lewis formed a lasting friendship with JRR Tolkien. Lewis said to Tolkien that tales or myths are 'lies and therefore worthless, even though breathed through silver'. 'No', said Tolkien, 'they are not lies'. Tolkien went on to explain to Lewis that in Jesus Christ, the ancient stories or myths of a dying and rising God entered history and became fact.

Twelve days later, Lewis wrote to another friend Arthur Greeves: "I have just passed on from believing in God to definitely believing in Christ - in Christianity. I will try to explain this another time. My long night talk with Dyson and Tolkien had a good deal to do with it". CS Lewis recalls going by motorcycle with his brother Warren to Whipsnade Zoo, about thirty miles east of Oxford. "When we set out, I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo, I did". In his autobiography Surprised by Joy, Lewis commented: "In the Trinity term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God...perhaps the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England".

This Christmas season, as you take your family and friends to see the Narnia Chronicles, I invite you to discover with CS Lewis that Aslan is the Reason for the Season.

The Rev. Ed Hird
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada

Aslan on the Move
Aslan on the Move
an article previously published in the Deep Cove Crier

Who is Aslan anyways, and why are so many children of all ages so fascinated with him? Having thoroughly enjoyed watching Disney’s ‘The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe’, I was motivated to go back and re-read the Narnia Chronicles series. My family, when they were younger, eagerly watched the cartoon version of ‘The Narnia Chronicles’, and gained much from it. But with the breakthrough in CGI technology, Aslan has taken on a new visual depth.
When the four Pevensie children in Narnia first hear Aslan’s name, they immediately feel powerful sensations that they cannot comprehend. Peter, Susan, and Lucy experience an unfathomable joy. Edmund the double-crosser was strangely dismayed. Either way Aslan evoked a strong response.

In the Narnia Chronicles “The Horse and His Boy”, Aslan reveals himself as the one who keeps us from going over the edge, the one who stays with us day and night. The young prince Shasta looked back after entering Narnia: “I must have gone through the pass in the night. What luck that I hit it! At least it wasn’t luck at all really, it was Him (Aslan). And Now I’m in Narnia.” “Who are you?” asked Shasta. “Myself”, said the voice, very deep and low so that the earth shook; and again “Myself”, loud and clear and gay; and then the third time “Myself”, whispered so softly you could hardly hear it, and yet it seemed to come from all around you as if the leaves rustled with it.” Aslan was Himself, no more, no less.

In Narnia Chronicle’s “The Magician's Nephew”, we learn that Aslan sang creation into existence at the beginning of time: “The Voice rose and rose, till the air was shaking with it. And just as it swelled into the mightiest and most glorious sound it had yet produced, the sun arose...The Lion was pacing to and fro about that empty land and singing his new song...And as he walked and sang the valley grew green with grass. It spread out from the Lion like a pool...Soon there were other things besides grass...'Trees,' Digory exclaimed.”

CS Lewis ‘created’ a world of endless snow in the Narnia Chronicles. Only when Aslan was slain for others by the White Witch did the snow start melting. CS Lewis described his own spiritual breakthrough the same way: “I felt as if I were a man of snow at long last beginning to melt. The melting was starting in my back – drip-drip and presently trickle-trickle. I rather disliked the feeling.”

Many people don’t realize that CS Lewis, a confirmed old bachelor, ended up becoming married because of Aslan. Joy Davidman, a self-declared atheistic communist of Jewish heritage, loved to read the Narnia Chronicles to her sons. In the process, she came to faith in Aslan, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5). Looking back, Joy Davidman commented: “My first published poem was called "Resurrection" — a sort of private argument with Jesus, attempting to convince him (and myself) that he had never risen. I wrote it at Easter, of all possible seasons, and never guessed why."

As Joy Davidman wrote in ‘The Longest Way Round’, God "had been stalking me for a very long time, waiting for his moment; he crept nearer so silently that I never knew he was there. Then, all at once, he sprang. For the first time in my life I felt helpless; for the first time my pride was forced to admit that I was not, after all, 'the master of my fate'. All my defenses — the walls of arrogance and cocksureness and self-love behind which I had hid from God — went down momentarily. And God came in. Since childhood, I had been pouring half my energy into the task of keeping him out. When it was over I found myself on my knees, praying. I think I must have been the world's most astonished atheist."

After coming to faith in Aslan the Lion of Judah, Joy escaped to England from her alcoholic, adulterous, wife-beating husband. As told in the ‘Shadowlands’ movie, it was there that Joy met her Narnia hero, CS Lewis. As a favour to a good friend, CS Lewis married Joy Davidman to keep her from being thrown out of the country because of her former communist background. As Joy began to battle terminal cancer, CS Lewis then fell in love with Joy for real and married her a second time in a Church wedding,. Romantically CS Lewis adopted Joy Davidman’s children, one of whom, Douglas Gresham, is co-producer of the Narnia Chronicles movie blockbuster. So who is this Aslan who transformed Joy Davidman’s life?

CS Lewis wrote to some Maryland fifth graders in 1954: "I did not say to myself 'Let us represent Jesus as He really is in our world by a Lion in Narnia'; I said, 'Let us suppose that there were a land like Narnia and that the Son of God, as he became a Man in our world, became a Lion there, and then imagine what would happen.'". In the letter, sent to a child fan in 1961, Lewis writes: “The whole Narnian story is about Christ.” CS Lewis commented: “Since Narnia is a world of talking beasts, I thought he would become a talking beast there as he became a man here. I pictured him becoming a lion there because a) the lion is supposed to be the king of beasts; b) Christ is called ‘the lion of Judah’ in the Bible.”

My prayer for those reading this article is that each of us, like CS Lewis and Joy Davidman, may open our hearts to the mysterious Aslan.

The Rev. Ed Hird
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada

I am On Aslan's Side
I’m On Aslan’s Side
-an article for the North Shore News ‘Spiritually Speaking’ column

With the ‘Narnia Chronicles’ movie having broken the 200 Million Dollar barrier, there is a tremendous level of interest being expressed with the fascinating Aslan character. What is it about Aslan the Lion that can even outdraw the mighty King Kong at the box office? Why is Aslan so effective in breaking through our adult pessimism and negativity?

One of the most interesting Narnia creatures is the Marshwiggle, a symbol of negativity, pessimism, and reliable gloom. In the Narnia Chronicles’ ‘Silver Chair’, the Green Witch says to the Narnians: “Put away these childish tricks. I have work for you in the real world. There is no Narnia, no overworld, no sky, no sun, no Aslan.” The Marshwiggle remarkably responds by affirming: “I ‘m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can, even if there isn’t any Narnia.”

It is easy to be cynical and bitter. It took courage for the Marshwiggle to look past his natural negativity and cling to the promises of Aslan. The Narnia Chronicles have been teaching me once again that only the childlike can enter the Kingdom of Narnia. Even the Lion of Judah once said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

There is a major difference between being childish and childlike. The Narnia Chronicles comments that “even in this world, of course, it is the stupidest children who are the most childish and the stupidest grownups who are the most grown-up.” The famous ‘love chapter’ of 1 Corinthians 13 encourages us ‘to put away childish things’ As the Pevensie children journeyed throughout their Narnia adventures, they became less childish and more mature both in outward appearance and inner character. Yet simultaneously they became more childlike in their willingness to trust and admit their need for others, especially their need for Aslan. In the recent Narnia blockbuster ‘The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe’, the children cry out ‘Aslan, I need your help’, to which Aslan responds “I know, but the future of Narnia depends on your courage.” Only the truly childlike can be truly courageous. If we depend on our own strength alone, life tends to sap us of our inner fortitude.

It takes real courage to admit how tough and sad life can sometimes be. Only the truly childlike know how important it is to weep and grieve from time to time. At the death of the Narnian King Caspian, “all three stood and wept. Even (Aslan) the Lion wept: great lion tears, each tear more precious than the earth would be if it was a single diamond.” Childlike tears can be deeply healing. That is why Jesus said: “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” That is why the shortest sentence in the entire bible is ‘Jesus wept’. The Good Book poignantly says that Aslan puts every one of our tears in a bottle.

Perhaps most importantly, only the childlike can truly hear Aslan’s voice. Aslan said to Polly regarding Uncle Andrew in ‘The Magician and His Nephew’: “He has made himself unable to hear my voice. If I spoke to him, he would only hear growlings and roarings. Oh Adam’s sons, how cleverly you defend yourselves against all that might do you good.” Aslan says to each of us in 2006: “Come farther in. Come farther up. Come to the real land of Narnia, the land you have been looking for all your life.” Let Aslan give you ‘the wild kisses of a Lion’. Let Aslan bring you to life as you walk with childlike faith through the Wardrobe.

The Rev. Ed Hird
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada

From Sea to Sea
From Sea to Shining Sea
-an article previously published in the Deep Cove Crier

A number of years ago, I wrote a Deep Cove Crier article about Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley in the entitled ‘On Guard for Thee’: “Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley, a Father of Confederation and twice the Lt. Governor of New Brunswick, rose each morning to start his day with prayer and Scripture reading. As the 33 Fathers gathered in Charlottetown to discuss and draft the terms of the British North America Act, there were many suggestions on what to call this new "United Canada".

That morning, as Tilley read from Psalm 72:8, he became so convinced that Canada should be a nation under God, that when he came down to the Conference session, he presented the inspired "Dominion of Canada". The other Fathers readily agreed and accepted. Today the following words hang in the corridor near the Confederation Chamber in Province House: ‘In the hearts of the delegates who assembled in this room on September 1, 1864, was born the Dominion of Canada. Providence being their guide, they builded better than they knew.’”

The Term ‘Dominion of Canada’ beat out the Confederation Father’s other competing names: "The United Colony of Canada", "the United Provinces of Canada", "the Federated Provinces of Canada”, "the Republic of Canada", "the Realm of Canada", "the Union of Canada", and "the Kingdom of Canada" (strongly favoured by Prime Minister John A. MacDonald!).
The usage of the term ‘Dominion’ was formalized in 1867 through Canadian Confederation. The letter that established our name to Queen Victoria is signed by John A. Macdonald and explained that Dominion was "a tribute to the principles they earnestly desired to uphold."
This Dominion motto was even placed in Latin on our Canadian coat of arms "A Mari Usque Ad Mare" (from sea to sea) drawn once again straight from Psalm 72:8. "He shall have dominion from sea to sea." Thanks to Canada’s leadership, the term "dominion" caught on throughout the world, also used by Australia and New Zealand.

One day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess. God’s heart is that every person in Canada will know His redeeming love and mercy. One way or another, God will have dominion in this great nation from sea to shining sea.

As our Canadian Charter of Rights so clearly states, “... Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law." Wherever we look in Canada, we find evidence of God’s hand on the founding and growth of our nation. Let us all affirm our national anthem in praying "God keep our land, glorious and free".

The Reverend Ed Hird
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver,
Anglican Coalition in Canada

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Pastor Bob Birch: 100 Years of God's Faithfulness

Shortcut to:
December 1, 2007 • Volume 21, Number 18
The man who prayed for 100 years
By Ed Hird Special to ChristianWeek
Bob Birch: 100 years of faithfulness
VANCOUVER, BC—At age 100 (the legacy of) Bob Birch is still larger than life. For most of his ministry years, he never missed his 2:00 to 6:00 a.m. morning prayer time. Even men one third of his age could not keep up with Bob Birch’s prayerfulness throughout the night watches.
I can still vividly remember Birch in his mid-80s leading a Good Friday Cross Walk procession, carrying a huge cross on his shoulders. Perhaps his longevity comes in part from his passion for prayer-walking throughout the streets of greater Vancouver.

Fittingly, for his retirement Birch was given a pair of walking
(click on to read the rest of the article)

Note from Ed+:
Pastor Bob Birch was promoted to glory on Tuesday Dec 4th. A memorial service for Pastor Bob is being planned for January 2008. Please keep his wife Margaret and sons John, Paul, & Alfred in your prayers.
P.s. to obtain a copy of 'Pastor Bob', Beth Carson's most helpful biography of Pastor Bob Birch, just click on

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Tilley and Tupper Our Founding Fathers
Tilley and Tupper Our Founding Fathers
-an article for the North Shore News ‘Spiritually Speaking’ column

Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley, a Father of Canadian Confederation and twice the Lt. Governor of New Brunswick, rose each morning to start his day with prayer and Scripture reading.

As the 33 founding Fathers gathered in 1864 at Charlottetown, PEI, there were many suggestions on what to call this new nation. That morning, as Tilley read from Psalm 72:8, he became so convinced that Canada should be a nation under God, that when he came down to the Conference session, he presented the inspired name "Dominion of Canada". Our National Motto on our Coat of Arms "A Mari Usque Ad Mare" (from sea to sea) was drawn once again straight from Psalm 72:8. "He shall have dominion from sea to sea."

Tilley came to a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ in 1839 through his Anglican rector, the Reverend William Harrison. His life was so dramatically transformed that he even became an Anglican Sunday School teacher and a Church Warden (Elder). Tilley’s son Harrison became a well-known Anglican priest.

One day, an 11-year old girl ran to Tilley for help, after her drunken father brutally stabbed her mother to death. Because of this tragedy, Tilley went from being a quiet pharmacist to becoming the Premier of New Brunswick in his campaign for alcohol reform. When Tilley brought in actual alcohol legislation, he was burned in effigy, his house was attacked, and his family’s lives were threatened.

Tilley the ‘dry’ Anglican was good friends with Sir Charles Tupper the ‘drinking’ Baptist Premier of Nova Scotia. Both shared a passion for railways which they believed were the key to the Maritimes’ future. Sir Charles Tupper eventually became the Federal Minister of Railways, bringing the CPR railway line to Vancouver, and BC into Confederation. Before the arrival of the railway, traveling to Vancouver would take all summer by riverboat and stagecoach.

The 1864 Charlottetown meeting was originally intended to bring a Maritime Union of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, to defend against the threat of American invasion. But Tupper and Tilley dreamed bigger, inviting Ontario and Quebec to join them in a new Confederation. Tupper believed in the greatness of Canada, saying: "The human mind naturally adapts itself to the position it occupies. The most gigantic intellect may be dwarfed by being cabin'd, cribbed and confined. It requires a great country and great circumstances to develop great men."

Tupper read the Bible fully from cover to cover by the age of eight. His father Charles Tupper Senior, a prohibitionist, was one of the founding fathers of the fast-growing Maritime Baptist Churches. While training as a medical doctor in Edinburgh, Charles Jr discovered Scotch from which he never recovered. Tupper served as first president of the Canadian Medical Association.

In 1867 the Halifax Morning Chronicle had described Tupper as “the most despicable politician within the bounds of British North America.” Throughout his career Tupper was variously described as “the Boodle Knight,” the “Great Stretcher” (of the truth), “the old tramp,” the “Arch-Corruptionist,” and “the old wretch.”.

Tupper has the distinction of being the shortest-serving Prime Minister in Canadian history, even beating out Joe Clark and Kim Campbell (67 days!). His marriage, despite allegations of philandering, lasted longer than any other Prime Minister: 66 years!

Tupper, the longest-surviving Father of Confederation, served in six federal cabinet portfolios. If there was something that was really difficult to get done, somebody who needed to be won over, Macdonald often said: ‘Call Tupper.’ Tupper could make things happen.In 1883 a British Columbia contractor close to Tupper was awarded a two million dollar job though rivals submitted lower bids. The opposition suspected a payoff. Tupper faced a legal challenge and demands for a full inquiry. He promptly left his retirement home in Vancouver and sailed for London, far from the cry of scandal, to take a diplomatic posting.

Sir Charles Tupper and Sir Leonard Tilley remind us that God can use the most unlikely people in building a nation.

The Rev. Ed Hird
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada

Fanny Crosby: The World's Most Prolific Songbird
Fanny Crosby: The World’s Most Prolific Songbird
an article previously published in the Deep Cove Crier

Fanny Crosby was blinded, while only six weeks old, by a quack unlicensed doctor. He permanently scarred her corneas by applying hot mustard poultices to her mildly infected eyes. When her father died while Fanny was only 12 months old, her mother had to become a maid to support little Fanny.

Despite these tragedies, Fanny never fell into self-pity. “Don’t waste any sympathy on me”, she said. “I’m the happiest person alive.” Fanny went on to become one of the best known women in North America. She taught for 23 years at the New York Institute for the Blind, becoming the personal friend and confidante of every sitting American President during her lifetime. As the first woman to ever address the U.S. Congress, Fanny left a lasting impact wherever she went.

Fanny had a life-changing spiritual encounter at age 30 in November 1850, which she said ‘flooded her very soul with celestial light’. Fourteen years later at age 44, Fanny wrote her first song. Over the next 51 years, she wrote over 8,500 songs, often producing six or seven songs per day! She wrote so many songs that you would have to stack 15 hymnbooks on top of each other, just to show how much music she produced. Fanny was so prolific that publishing companies would only sell more of her songs by using over 100 pseudonyms. She literally glutted the market with her incredibly popular music!

One of the keys to her becoming so well-known was her partnering with the famous ’DL Moody/Ira Sankey’ team. Sankey (who was also blind for his last five years) would often provide the tune, and Fanny Crosby would write the words. After the infamous Chicago fire that burned down Moody’s premises, Moody and Sankey went to England, speaking and singing their way into the hearts of the British people. Even Queen Victoria and the Princess of Wales came to hear Moody preach and Sankey sing Fanny Crosby’s songs. As one writer commented, Fanny Crosby ‘set more hearts and voices to praising God than any other women who ever lived. Fanny’s approach to life and music was “Live in the moment and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering.”
Fanny Crosby had a photographic memory, memorizing five chapters of the Bible every week. She knew by heart the first five books of the Old Testament, the four Gospels, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, and many of the Psalms. Some of her most well-known songs were “To God be the Glory, Great Things He hath Done”, “Draw Me Nearer, Precious Lord”, “Blessed Assurance”, and “Praise Him! Praise Him!”.

Fanny lived until age 95. When she was 83, she said: “I believe myself to still really be in the prime of my life.” When asked about her longevity, she said that her secret was that she guarded her taste, her temper, and her tongue.

Fanny actively supported the Water Street Mission in New York, the first Rescue Mission in North America. It had been founded by Jerry McAuley who himself had recovered from alcohol and prison. She did not focus on pointing out other people's faults. "You can't save a man by telling him of his sins. He knows them already. Tell him there is pardon and love waiting for him. Win his confidence and make him understand that you believe in him, and never give him up!" One of her best known songs “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Saviour” was written specifically for a prisoner who cried out at her meeting: “O Lord, Do not pass me by!”

Fanny was married for 44 years to Alexander Van Alistine, her former student and fellow instructor at the New York Institute for the Blind. With Alexander being a top organist and Fanny an accomplished harpist, they must have been quite a duo. Sadly their only child, Frances, died as a baby. It was this tragedy that inspired the writing of one of Fanny’s most famous songs: “Safe in the Arms of Jesus”.

Her song “Safe in the Arms of Jesus” even reached Uganda in 1885. The Anglican Bishop James Hannington was captured by King Mwanga and put for a week in a filthy rat-infested hut. Bishop Hannington’s last words in his diary were: “Go tell Mwanga that I have purchased the road to Uganda with my blood.” As they speared him to death, Hannington was joyfully singing “Safe in the Arms of Jesus”. His courageous death inspired 32 servants of King Mwanga to accept being burnt alive rather than renounce their faith and moral convictions. Such sacrifices have produced the second largest Anglican Church in the world, with over eight million Ugandan Anglicans attending church each Sunday.

I thank God for Fanny Crosby, the world’s most prolific songbird, who has shown tens of millions in every continent how to be ‘safe in the arms of Jesus’.

The Reverend Ed Hird
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver, ACiC

Only Five Problems in Any Marriage
Only Five Problems
-an article for the North Shore News ‘Spiritually Speaking’ column

Marriage can often be overwhelming for many. That is why I so much appreciate the initiative being taken by Dr. Gil Stieglitz in bringing new hope to marriages. Through his years of study and practical interaction with many couples, Gil has discovered that there are only five problems in any marriage. This insight is helpful, especially for men, as it helps us get a handle on the challenges that we face in developing intimacy.

Dr. Gil summarizes the five problems of marriage as 1) Needs or Roles 2) SSSAAADDD Behaviours (when our needs are not being met) 3) Temperament Differences 4) Relational Drainage 5) Past Baggage He has seen phenomenal breakthroughs when couples begin to address and work on these five key areas. To assist marriages, he has developed a six-part DVD series , with accompanying books, which walk couples through each of these five areas.

Dr. Gil, who pastored a congregation for many years, believes that churches can make a big difference in helping strengthen marriages. After all, God both invented and is deeply committed to the ‘institution’ of marriage. During the years that I have been pastoring St. Simon’s North Vancouver, I have seen many outwardly successful people on the North Shore whose inner lives were crumbling because of relational challenges. Sometimes it takes a major crisis, like a marriage struggle, before we are willing to cry out to God and admit how much we need him. Many men that I have known are totally baffled when their wife finally packs up and leaves.

Dr. Gil believes in being very practical in the help that he offers to men and women. So he has developed two acrostics that assist us to build marriages of great joy. For men, he has developed the acrostic: H.U.S.B.A.N.D. which identifies the fourteen top needs of our wives. (Honour, Understanding, Security, Building Unity, Agreement, Nurture, Defender). Love, says Dr. Gil, is meeting needs. The first letter “H” (Honour) has been most helpful for me personally. Dr. Gil teaches that women do something every day that many men don’t. They give an informal ‘computer test’ to their spouse to see where they are in the structure of his priorities: “Are they above his work or below his work, above the children or below his children, above his hobbies or below his hobbies?” If the wife does not win that computer test, guess who loses. The husband does, because the wife cannot blossom and respond to him from the depth of her being. Every day, the husband needs to honour or add value to his wife in practical, specific ways.

Many men know how to be men, but not husbands. The word ‘Husband’ actually comes from the term ‘Husbandman’, which means ‘gardener’. We as husbands are called to ‘garden’ our wife, to nurture her, care for her, and put her first under God. You can find out more about the ‘H.U.S.B.A.N.D.’ acrostic by checking out Dr. Gil’s book ‘How to Be a Godly Husband’ .

For Wives, Dr. Gil and Dana Stieglitz have developed the acrostic ‘R.A.D.I.C.A.L.’ which identify the top fourteen needs of one’s husband (Respect, Adaptability, Domestic Leadership, Intimacy, Companionship, Attractiveness, and Listening). Along with the Marriage DVDs, Gil and Dana Stieglitz have co-written a book “Building a Marriage of Great Joy” which explains how to be a ‘RADICAL’ wife

Gil and Dana teach that respecting or acknowledging the strengths of one’s husband meets a deep need, but is not always easy for women to do. In the same way that wives want their husbands to give them unconditional love, husbands need their wives to give them unconditional respect. As the Good Book puts it in Ephesians 5:23, “Husbands, love your wives and, Wives, respect your husband.”

If you are struggling in your marriage, Dr. Gil's materials would be a godsend to you. If you already have a good marriage, go for the gold. Dr. Gil's materials can help you and your spouse have a marriage that can give hope to many others.

The Rev. Ed Hird
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada

Fit for the Master
Fit for the Master
-an article for the North Shore News ‘Spiritually Speaking’ column

Many homes have beautiful dining rooms specially set apart for guests. My family always uses the dining room for Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and birthdays. I have noticed that the dining room for most families has its own traditions. “Go to a fine home”, says Dr. Thomas Oden, “and you will see that there are two types of silverware- the good silver and the utensils for daily use. There are the beautiful articles that have been kept for generations and will be passed on as heirlooms...”

This distinction between utensils seems to be hardwired into us. To illustrate this point, just try your family’s silver punchbowl for scrubbing the floor, and see if you have any reaction from your wife or mother.

The Good Book says in 2nd Timothy 2:20 that ‘in a large house there are vessels not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble.” The Good Book also teaches that we can choose what kind of vessels that we are going to be, whether we are used for the dining room or scrubbing the floor

The key to being used in the dining room is catharsis, the Greek word for cleansing. The Hebrew word ‘Kosher’ simply means ‘clean’. Like my father, I actually enjoy cleaning the dishes, one of my few kitchen abilities! Raymond Collins commented that a person is like a dish insofar as both have to be clean in order to be put to another use. Have you ever been served food on a dish that was not cleansed from the last person who used it?

In the East African/Rwandan revival, people were thought of as each holding a water pot. Our heavenly Father wants to fill us with the water of life, but cannot or will not do so if our water pots are defiled by sin, anger, self-pity or impurity. As the famous song puts it, “Fill my cup Lord, I lift it up, Lord! Come and quench this thirsting of my soul.” The Good Book says in 2nd Timothy 2:21 that if a person cleanses himself, he will be fit for the Master.

Lent and Easter is a great time to cleanse ourselves from anything that will keep us from being fit for the Master. Keeping fit is God’s better way, physically, mentally and spiritually. Many people go to Fitness classes. Have you ever thought of going to church as God’s fitness class, as God’s gym? Our congregation of St. Simon’s even worships in a gym! God wants you fit as a fiddle, fit for the master, useful for every good work.

If each of us are willing to do the work of catharsis, cleansing ourselves from bitterness, self-pity, anger, guilt, shame, and fear, then God will invite us into his dining room and make use of us at his family meals. Can you think of a more fitting place to be?

The Rev. Ed Hird
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada

The Old Rugged Cross
The Old Rugged Cross
an article previously published in the Deep Cove Crier
Once every year, billions of people on every continent of the globe stop whatever they are doing and remember the mystery of Easter. At the heart of that mystery is the old rugged cross. For those of us who have a soft spot for Western movies, the ‘Old Rugged Cross’ song invariably turns up somewhere, often by a windblown graveside.

“On a hill far away stood an Old Rugged Cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.”

‘The Old Rugged Cross’ song was written by George Bennard, who lived from 1873-1958. "The Old Rugged Cross" is still the most frequently requested hymn; and the most popular spiritual song of the past 100 years. Within thirty years of its original publication in 1913, more than twenty million copies of "The Old Rugged Cross" had been sold, outselling every other musical composition of any kind! What is it that makes this gospel song so popular?

‘The Old Rugged Cross’ was written in response to a deep personal need in Bennard’s own life. Born in Youngstown, Ohio, on February 4, 1873, George Bennard was raised in a loving coalminer family, the only son among four daughters. When George was only sixteen years old, his father died, leaving George to care for his mother and four sisters. After a period of time with the Salvation Army, George became a traveling speaker for the Methodist church, holding meetings in Canada and in the northern and central United States.

After a very painful time in New York, Bennard went back home in 1913 to Michigan. His mind returned again and again to Christ's agony on the cross. During this time, Bennard read Galatians 6:14 in which the Apostle Paul states: "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." Bennard became convinced that the cross was not merely a symbol of Christianity, but the very heart of it. He realized that the cross was not gold-covered, but rather a rough, splintery thing, stained with gore.

The words, "the old rugged cross," came into his mind and then the notes of a melody ran through his head. Several weeks later, after a period of prayer, the poetry of the verses began to flow from his pen almost unbidden. "I saw the Christ of the Cross as if I were seeing John 3:16 leave the printed page, take form and act out the meaning of redemption," he said later.

After writing this hymn, George Bennard went on to travel and preach for another forty years.. Thanks to being chosen by Billy Sunday (the Billy Graham of those days), everyone began singing this unforgettable song. Years later, Johny Cash himself recorded this song. Although Bennard wrote 300 other hymns, none of them became as popular as his first.

Dr. Alistair McGrath of Oxford comments, “Those great old hymns -- such as Rock of Ages, The Old Rugged Cross and When I survey -- remain wonderful statements of the centrality of the cross...They express the power of the cross so much better than I can ever hope to do. As George Bennard put it in 1913:

“To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then he'll call me some day to my home far away,
Where his glory forever I'll share.”

The Reverend Ed Hird
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver,
Anglican Coalition in Canada

Catherine Parr Traill: Pioneer Canadian Mother
Catharine Parr Traill:
Pioneer Canadian Mother
-an article previously published in the Deep Cove Crier

Catharine Parr Traill is a pioneer Canadian mother who made a phenomenal impact on the life of our nation.

England in the early 1830s was caught in a Canada-mania. In the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars, England was thrown into an economic depression. Thomas Strickland, the father of Catherine Parr Traill, was caught in the economic downturn, resulting in near-bankruptcy and his premature death. He left behind an impoverished widow and six unmarried daughters whose chances of marriage were seriously limited.

Both Catherine Parr Traill and her sister Susanna married economically-challenged Scottish soldiers who were offered land grants in the colonies. Canada began to be seen as the land of milk and honey! Altogether 655,747 people sailed away from British shores between 1831 and 1841 (almost three times as many as had moved abroad during the previous ten years).

The two key Canada-promoters William Cattermole and Captain Charles Stuart were being paid so much per head for every Brit that they could recruit for Canada. In their glowing description of Canada, Cattermole and Stuart forgot to mention the backbreaking work required to clear the forests, the total absence of household comforts, the aching loneliness, and the grinding poverty of most early Canadian pioneers. Catharine Parr Traill and her sister Susanna, being gifted writers, were able to record a vital part of our Canadian pioneering history. In Catherine Parr Traill’s book ‘The Canadian Settler’s Guide’, she insightfully wrote:
“In cases of emergency, it is folly to fold up one’s hands and sit down to bewail in abject terror: it is better to be up and doing.”

Catharine’s book “The ‘Backwoods of Canada quickly sold its first printing of eleven thousand copies, being translated into German in 1838 and French in 1843.

Of the six Strickland daughters including Catherine, five of them became published authors! Catharine’s older sister Agnes in England was the leading royal biographer of the 19th century. Sister Agnes caustically commented: “Who in England thinks anything of Canada?” and “Nothing that is first published in Canada will sell well in England”.

In Charlotte Grey’s book ‘Sisters in the Wilderness’, Catharine Parr Traill and her sister Susanna are described as laying “the foundation of a literary tradition that still endures in Canada: the pioneer woman who displays extraordinary courage, resourcefulness and humour. This ‘Canadian character type’, as critic Elizabeth Thompson calls her, is a pragmatist who discovers her own strength as she overcomes adversity.” Sir Sandford Fleming, inventor of one-hour time zones, and the engineering genius behind the Canadian Pacific Railway, said of Catharine: “She has rendered service of no ordinary kind in making known the advantages offered by Canada as a field for settlement, and by her very widely read writings she has been instrumental in inducing very many emigrants from the United Kingdom to find homes in the Dominion.”

Catharine Parr Trail had a remarkable ability to rise above adversity and make the best of every situation. Charlotte Grey: writes in her book about ‘the stamina, talent and determination that allowed two English ladies to overcome the hardships of pioneer life and leave a powerful legacy to Canadian culture.’ It is hard for us almost two hundred years later to fully imagine the miseries of hunger, disease, cold, and disappointment faced by our early Canadian pioneers. I was shocked to discover that both Catharine and her sister’s families came down with malaria, a widespread problem in Canada as pioneers were struggling to drain mosquito-infested swamps.

Catharine Parr Traill commented in the early days: “I have not seen a woman except those in our company for over five months....” As Charlotte Grey put it, “Being wrenched from one’s homeland leaves deep scars in the psyche of every emigrant in any era: Susanna and Catharine bore these scars for the rest of their lives.”

Catharine’s motto was ‘Hope! Resolution! And Perseverance!’. She would assure her relatives back home that Canada is the ‘land of hope.’ Her sister Sarah spoke of Catherine/Kate: “Her blue eyes always sparkled with happiness and curiosity about the world. She had a warm smile and an air of stolid contentment, and even as a baby, Catharine ‘never cried like other children –indeed we used to say that Katie never saw a sorrowful day – for if anything went wrong, she just shut her eyes and the tears fell from under the long lashes and rolled down her cheeks like pearls into her lap. We all adored her.”

Charlotte Grey commented how Catharine loved “the wild and picturesque rocks, trees, hill and valley, wild-flowers, ferns, shrubs and moss and the pure, sweet scent of pines over all, breathing health and strength.” Nature, for Catharine, was saturated with divine meaning – its splendor and concord displayed the authority and goodness of its Creator. That is why Catharine wrote many “books that reflected sheer love of nature’s bounty and admiration in God’s handiwork.” The flowers of the field, for her, were good reminders of the teachings of Christ. Catherine often illustrated her dried specimens with biblical quotes, particularly from the Psalms or the book of Revelation.

Charlotte Grey commented that “In future years, Catharine would rely on her love of nature, the beauties of which she saw as the expression of God’s will, to carry her through one disaster after another. ‘Strength was always given to me when it was needed.’ As she dug and weeded in the kitchen garden, or lifted heavy cast-iron pans of porridge from the stove, she would pause briefly, straighten her aching back, close her eyes and utter silent prayers. needed,’ she noted at the end of her life. ‘In great troubles and losses, God is very Good.’

In the midst of her very busy writing and pioneering, Catharine never neglected her family. As Charlotte Grey put it, “Motherhood came as naturally to Catharine as breathing. It was the most meaningful activity in her life. She was always prepared to give more love than she took, and she saw no conflict between her family and her impulse to write.”

My prayer is that every mother reading this article would receive that same strength as Catharine Parr Traill in the challenges of life.

The Reverend Ed Hird
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver, ACiC