Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Christmas Miracle Part Two of Two

When Christmas of ’68 rolled around, I was afraid to go to sleep. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to ‘be a good girl for Mom and for Jesus’ and not cry when there wouldn’t be any presents under the tree, nor treat-filled stockings on our beds. Before I went to bed, I opened the tattered King James Bible that someone had given our family; my mom had given it to me—she knew I loved my Bible. I made sure it was open to the Christmas story so that I could read it as soon as I woke up that Christmas morning before going into the living room. When our older sister came to wake us up and inform us that Santa had come, I couldn’t believe it! But my parents had once again managed to create a special Christmas for their family and did so in spite of their own grief and the pain of Shawn not being there to celebrate with us.

During that time of chaos, the casket wasn’t the only thing closed: the hearts of most of my family had also been closed to God. Some of my older brothers turned to drugs and alcohol, and some of us turned to more socially-acceptable vices to deal with our pain. It was many years later before some of my older siblings and mom began seeking God, again. 

As I write this, the Advent/Christmas has arrived, and it’s still my favourite time of the year—as it has always been since I was a little girl. The message I understood from our first post-fire Christmas was this: Christmas is a time of new beginnings and new hope, and a time for miracles. The prophet Isaiah declared, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light,” (Isaiah ). My family was walking in so much darkness, but Christ drew them back to Himself, to the Light, and I have hope of one day being reunited with my family members who have been Promoted to Glory, including Shawn (Mar. ’68), my dad (Oct. ’09), my mom (Dec.’10), an older sister (’13) two of my older brothers (May ’16; Jn.’16), and a brother-in-law (May ’16). I look forward to celebrating new beginnings with them when are together, again.

Blessings & Peace

Elizabeth Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer (pastor)

Monday, November 28, 2016

Christmas Miracles Part One of Two

Christmas is my favourite time of the year. I grew up in a large, poor family of 11. Daily life was a struggle, but somehow my mom always managed to make Christmas magical. I always believed that Santa brought the Christmas tree, decorated it, and delivered presents, which were piled under the tree. It wasn’t until many years later that I discovered the truth behind the Christmas tree. 

The sales people at the Christmas tree lots would stay open very late; but when it was clear that no more customers would be arriving—and not wanting to take the remaining trees with them—they would cover the trees with snow before they left the lot. Then, the poor families in town would send a couple of members to dig out the trees and take them home to set up in their homes. It was a challenging late night activity, and many families (like ours) didn’t have cars, so they had to use creativity to haul the trees home (e.g., some precariously balanced them on wagons, while others dragged them along the streets).

Yes, Christmas was magical; but it was more than that, because we went to Sunday school every week. So, it was clear to me that this was Jesus’ birthday that we were celebrating, and I loved hearing the Christmas story being read. However, in a deep-freeze, in March of 1968 our 2-storey home burned down to the ground, and my 4-year old baby brother, Shawn, died when he got trapped in the upstairs of our home. I was 8 years old when it happened. I was very confused by the anger my older siblings were expressing toward God, blaming Him for what had happened, and not being able to make sense of the frightening circumstances that left us, in the dead of winter, with no food, clothing, or shelter—and no insurance. Thankfully, people in the two churches that we attended (Pentecostal church on Sunday mornings; The Salvation Army outpost Sunday school in the afternoons) and neighbours opened their hearts and homes to us. With such a large family, this meant that we were divided up. Two of my brothers and I stayed with a not-well-known-to-us neighbour; I had no idea where the rest of my family was, and I was deeply afraid that I wouldn’t see them ever again.

Eventually, my parents located a house that would become our home, but it was in a different town. So, there were lots of transitions, including to new schools. Throughout the many changes, there were the feelings of fear, anxiety, anger, and pain that were expressed by my family. I was in a state of bewilderment, which only increased when we were taken to the funeral home to see Shawn’s tiny and closed casket. I wondered when he would be coming home—I didn’t understand death, and nobody took time to explain it. The only thing that others said to me was, “You have to be a big girl and help your mother;” which made no sense to me, because I was one of the three youngest kids.
End Part One

Blessings & Peace
Elizabeth Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer (pastor)

The 2016 Advent Season; a season of waiting and hope.

The Season of Advent is a time of hope and expectation. This is the personal testimony of a Salvation Army Officer, who is a wife and a mother, and who is faced with a serious medical condition. May you be blessed as you read about how she responds to the situation and holds onto her faith, and please pray for her and her family:

"You had congestive heart failure. You have mitral regurgitation - a leaking valve - and if it is not fixed your heart will not last five years." These were not the words I expected to hear when I went to the cardiologist this past September because of the outcome of some tests. As we talked about open-heart surgery, I was told of the risks involved and so I went home wondering how long the wait would be and if there was hope.

Many times in the past I have said to my husband, “I don't want to die because I don't want to miss out on all the special moments in the lives of our children." But now as I came face to face with my own mortality, I knew that I needed to have a conversation with God. Being the logical person that I am, I knew God would use logic to help me with my dilemma. I believe in God as my personal Saviour; I know He is faithful to his promises; and, I know that he could handle all things. Therefore, logic told me I would be ok whether I live or die. And I could trust him to take care of my family if I should happen to die during or after the operation. Whew! I needed that assurance at this time in my life. I needed to be reminded that I could wait upon God and place my hope in him regardless of what life throws my way.

On Tuesday, November 22, I met with the surgical team. The surgery has been scheduled for Dec. 1st. I do know that I will continue to wait and hope in God.

The 2016 Advent Season begins this week; a season of waiting and hope. I don't know what circumstances you face, but may this Advent Season be one of waiting and hoping in God for the outcome.

Blessing to all
Patsy Rowe, Major
Corps Officer
Ontario, Canada

Advent Week One

Advent Week 1
ISAIAH 9:2–7
Christ’s birth and kingdom are foretold by the prophet Isaiah. This coming King will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Meditate on the four terms used here—each one is amazing.

Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free; from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee. Israel's strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art; dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.
Born thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a King, born to reign in us forever, now thy gracious kingdom bring. By thine own eternal spirit rule in all our hearts alone; by thine all sufficient merit, raise us to thy glorious throne.
Charles Wesley, 1744

What is Advent? Derived from the Latin word meaning “coming” or “arrival,” Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. It’s the season when we look back to Christ’s first coming, as a baby born in Bethlehem, and look forward to his second coming when he will return to renew and redeem every part of fallen creation. Jesus Christ has come and will come again. The advent season is therefore a time to reflect upon the promises of God and to anticipate the fulfillment of those promises. It is a time for remembering and rejoicing.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Advent 2016 : The Prince of Peace Week 1 (Sun., Nov. 27th/16)

For our theme, “The Prince of Peace,” we will use the acronym “P.E.A.C.E.” for our outline as we follow the meaning of the Advent Wreath. We begin with the starting point for God’s people, where there was “no peace”, and move forward to the provision made by Christ, which is that we can “know peace.”
P—Prophecy (Prophecy Candle, also known as the Candle of Hope--purple candle)
E- Expectation (Bethlehem Candle, also known as the Candle of Preparation—purple candle)
A- Announcement (Shepherds Candle or Candle of Joy—pink candle)
C- Celebration (Angels Candle, also known as Candle of Love)
E—Emmanuel (the Christ Candle)

Let’s begin with “P”, for the purple Prophecy Candle, also known as the Candle of Hope.  The prophet, Isaiah emphasized, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. For those who lived in a land of deep shadows—
 light! sunbursts of light!” (Isa. 9:3, MSG). Who are these people? They are God’s chosen people, who have been walking in darkness since Adam and Eve disobeyed, fell from His grace, and were expelled from the Garden of Eden, (Gen. Chpt. 3). But what composed this ‘darkness’? There were many factors, such as daily hardships for survival, famine, slavery (e.g., captivity in Egypt and Babylon), wars, murders, pillaging, sorrow, oppression, depression, heartache, fear, jealousy, and anger. So, it’s interesting to hear people quote the reference, “As in the days of Noah…” (Mt. 22:37) as the ‘signs of the end of times”, because all historical periods have had their ‘days of Noah’, with wars and rumours of wars, angry, out-of-control people doing whatever they want while others suffer the consequences.

Yet, “The more things change, the more things stay the same.” Many of God’s chosen people are still walking in darkness. How can this be? Throughout history, both in the Church and in the world, there have been many circumstances and stances that have created an environment of secrecy and covert operations, which resulted in the destruction of human life, spirit, and hope. Sadly, too many Christians have given up their identity, their call to be set apart from the world, to “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven,” (Mt.5:16).Instead, many Christians have re-emerge with the world’s standards and its darkness. But throughout time, God has been, and continues to be, moved by the cries and the plights of His people. So, in the midst of their/our darkness, “The people …have seen a great light.” That Light was the promise of the Messiah, the Prince of Peace, a promise spelled out by Isaiah, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,” (Isa.9:6).  Being ‘in’ the world but not ‘of’ the world can be complicated at times and at other times non-Christ- like attitudes and behaviours can ‘creep in’ without us noticing. Our challenge is to examine our lives before God and to ask Him to show us areas where we may have ‘returned to the world’. In a troubled world, we want to clearly hold out His hope, love, and peace to those desperately seeking these gifts in their lives.

Suggested Scripture Readings for Week 1 of Advent:

Mon.  Isa. 9: 1-5
Tues.  Isa. 9: 6-7
Wed.   Col. 3: 12-15
Thurs.  Heb. 12: 14-15
Fri.       James 3: 13-18
Sat.       Eph. 2: 13-18

Elizabeth Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer

Friday, November 25, 2016


"May we, by our very lives and example, show how every area of life, private and public, should be equally ‘corban’ and thereby reveal the secret of our tranquillity of soul." MORDECAI

In no way should we take the duties of our office lightly, nor should we arrogantly dismiss the authority of those under whom we serve. Nor should we be blind to the calls of those who make demands upon us. But if we live in close and intimate harmony with God there will be times when we will be out of accord with men and misjudged for it. There are those who use their duties to others purely as a means of avoiding the service he requires (Luke 9:57-62) and expects. On the other hand there are those who deliberately or inadvertently neglect the needs at their door whilst ensuring that every religious duty expected of them is fulfilled. The way, thus, is a very narrow one and should we sensitively tread it we will be misjudged at times and be considered a party to those who care more for themselves than their Lord. That is part of the cost and the cross. But Christ makes us a promise, that ultimately they will know us all by our fruits and, as God told Eli, so indulgent with his sons, ‘I will honour those who honour me’ (1 Samuel 2:30, GNB).

May we avoid the snare that Isaiah warns us all to be wary of(29:13, GNB): ‘The Lord said, “These people claim to worship me,but their words are meaningless, and their hearts are somewhere else. Their religion is nothing but human rules and traditions, which they have simply memorised.”’ Jesus reiterates the danger for all religious men, ‘It is no use for them to worship me, because they teach man-made rules as though they were my laws!’ (Matthew 15:9, GNB).

Emlyn’s case is an extreme one and we would agree with his priorities, but there are others who are similarly tortured and need help to discover for themselves God’s prior demands in their lives, wherever that might lead them and whatever it might cost them. May we, by our very lives and example, show how every area of life, private and public, should be equally ‘corban’ and thereby reveal the secret of our tranquillity of soul.

Howard Webber
Bournemouth UK

Advent 2016: The Prince of Peace--An Introduction

The past two years I have written Advent meditations that I have shared on the Former Salvation Army Officers blog and in several Face Book groups. These devotionals stemmed from the discovery that our local churches do not celebrate Advent and the prompting of the Holy Spirit to celebrate this holy season with others. The first year I focused on the symbolism of the traditional Advent wreath. Last year, the theme that I felt called to address was, “Light of the World, which was incorporated into the significance of the Advent wreath. This year the theme that has been impressed on my mind and in my spirit is, “The Prince of Peace.” As we contemplate and celebrate Advent and Christmas, may we prepare our hearts and our homes during this time of preparation.

Once again, I am including the explanation regarding the history and practice of Advent, as well as a description of the Advent wreath.  This will facilitate our study and experience as we move forward to explore the 2016 theme, “The Prince of Peace,” and how that peace may be rooted in our spiritual journey. While Advent is celebrated for the four Sundays before Christmas, the Advent wreath actually includes 5 candles—one for each of the four Sundays, and a fifth one to be lit at a Christmas Eve or Christmas Day service (i.e., “the Christ candle”). As I did last year, I will include some reflections and challenges for a New Year’s post, and will complete the series with a post on Epiphany (January 6th).

What is Advent?
The word Advent comes from the Latin word “adventus”, which means "coming". Advent refers to the coming of Christ, which includes a celebration of Jesus’ birth, His First Coming, and to His Second Coming, for which we still wait. It is unclear when the season of Advent was first celebrated. However, it seems that the practice of observing Advent began in the latter part of the 6th century into the beginning of the 7th century. These conclusions are based on the fact that Pope St. Gregory the Great's sermons included a homily (or sermon) for the second Sunday of Advent (his papacy was from 590-604), and that by the year 650 Spain was also celebrating the season of Advent. Over the years, the focus evolved from one of penitence (similar to the season of Lent) and spiritual preparation to one of spiritual preparation and a celebration of joy. The season of Advent encompasses the four weeks before Christmas, during which time the focus is on preparing for the celebration of His birth and on spiritual renewal. 

The Meaning of the Advent Wreath (Five candles)
During Advent one candle on the Advent wreath is lit each Sunday (in churches that celebrate Advent and in many private homes), with the final candle being lit on Christmas Day. Each of these candles symbolizes a characteristic of spiritual preparation for Christ’s birth:
1st Week of Advent: The Prophecy Candle or Candle of Hope (purple) is lit.
2nd Week of Advent: The Bethlehem Candle or The Candle of Preparation (purple) is lit.
3rd Week of Advent: The Shepherd Candle or The Candle of Joy (pink) is lit.
4th Week of Advent: The Angel Candle or The Candle of Love (purple) is lit.
Christmas Day: The Christ Candle (white) is lit. 

I look forward to celebrating this season of Advent with my online family, again. Advent begins next Sunday, November 27th, 2016, and the 1st week of Advent reflections will be posted then. Your feedback, questions, suggestions, and so forth, are always appreciated. So do feel free to comment.  Blessings & Peace.

Elizabeth Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer