Saturday, December 30, 2017

New Beginnings: See? I Am Doing a New Thing!—God

New Year’s 2018

In the 2nd week of Advent we briefly considered the fact that Life Takes Many Preparations, from daily responsibilities to special occasions. But even our best plans can go astray, and sometimes life circumstances can totally obliterate them. For example, a few weeks ago when I turned my attention to writing our 32nd annual newsletter, it dawned on me: I didn’t feel like I had accomplished anything  in 2017. Weird, right? Usually I have too much information to share with loved ones. But this year? Nothing! I scoured my memories, but I drew a blank. While having lunch with a good friend, I explained my dilemma. Without hesitation she replied, “You and Steve (my husband) are having a ‘limbo year’! And everyone has one.” It immediately resonated in my spirit.
Have you had a limbo year or perhaps a limbo season in your life? I think that limbo can be summed up with a line that Father Mulcahy used in an episode of M*A*S*H,
“I walk around on the edge of effectiveness.” So, how do we move forward from a state of limbo? How do we tap into the New Beginnings that God desires for us? Traditionally, this is the time of the year that people begin to make their list of New Year’s Resolutions. Perhaps we need to resist making such a list this year. But what would we do instead? As I began to pray about this, I wondered what would fit into our theme, “New Beginnings: See? I Am Doing a New Thing!—God? Two Scriptures came to mind:
1) Enlarge my borders: “9 Jabez was more honorable than his brothers; but his mother named him Jabez, saying, “Because I gave birth to him in pain.” 10 Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that You would indeed bless me and enlarge my border [property], and that Your hand would be with me, and You would keep me from evil so that it does not hurt me!” And God granted his request,” (1 Chronicles 4:9-10Amplified Bible). Whether or not you have read the popular book, “The Prayer of Jabez,” by Dr. Bruce Wilkinson, we can learn from this bold prayer that Jabez wanted God to greatly bless him—beyond what he could imagine! And God did!
Where there is no vision, the people perish…,” (Proverbs 29:18 KJV). If we don’t have a vision, even a small one, we can easily fritter away our lives while we do ‘busy work’. Busy work--something many of us have assigned to kids to keep them occupied while we are doing other tasks. These two concepts do go together: without a vision, what are we asking God to do in our lives? Would we even begin to be as daring as Jabez was with his prayer? These Scripture verses remind me of Paul’s teaching to the Ephesians: “20 Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.” (Ephesians 3:20, Living Bible).These two concepts do go together: without a vision, what are we asking God to do in our lives? Would we even begin to be as daring as Jabez was with his prayer? These Scripture verses remind me of Paul’s teaching to the Ephesians: “20 Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.” (Ephesians 3:20, Living Bible).
May God move us from walking on the edge of effectiveness and out of our state of limbo and give us a vision of what He is calling us to do. May He enlarge our borders, including our realm of ministry, for His glory. Amen.

Happy New Year!


Blessings & Peace


Elizabeth Hogan Hayduk

Former Salvation Army Officer



Monday, December 25, 2017


We've just bought this [Nativity set]....for our grandchildren of course.

At first, when I unpacked it I could not find Jesus. I really had to search amongst the packaging to find him. How sad and tragic it is for someone to never find Jesus, for there is no greater joy in this world than to search and find him like the shepherds, and later the wise men did. If you've yet to discover the reality of Jesus yourself, 'you will seek him and you will find him when you seek him with all your heart.' Jeremiah 29:13.
Yet, there is something even more tragic and sad than that of never finding Jesus, and that is to have once known him and loved him, and then lost him or cast him aside. That can happen as a result of the powerful attractions and enticements of the world. They were what lured Demas away, 2 Timothy 4:10. The love of the world, (as described in 1 John 2:15-16), is probably the biggest danger today within the church. One can lose Jesus, yet still continue functioning in a fellowship with the appearance of one who knows and loves the Lord. One can leave Christ without leaving the church.
We may also lose Jesus as a result of disappointment with one's church, or the hypocrisy and insincerity of others we have met in our church, with the added hurt or injustice we have experienced. These two can so easily cause a seed of bitterness to drop into our hearts and grow and take us over. Paul knew disappointment with his 'church,' leaders and fellow pharisees who had previously been his friends, and who, despite their religiousness, had made themselves his enemies. He experienced hypocrisy, injustice and hate on a scale that few of us have, but he never allowed it to cause him bitterness. He kept his focus on Jesus.

Dear friend, if you have lost Jesus, come kneel at the manger this Christmas, and look again at this wonderful, pure and vulnerable little baby. You are so precious to him that he is going to give his life for you. Why not give your life back to him and regain the joy and blessing you once knew when first you found him?
Major Howard Webber (retired)

 Bournemouth UK

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Memories in a Canadian Coal Mining Town -2-

Christmas Memories in a 

Canadian Coal Mining Town

Part 2

In part one I recounted how meaningful Christmas was growing up in a coal mining town in Cape Breton, Canada, as well as how I had abandoned my once-strong faith when I got hooked on alcohol and drugs, as well as radical left-wing politics and activism in 1968. Somehow I had travelled to Winnipeg, Manitoba, but I couldn’t remember how I had arrived there.

To continue: I decided to contact The Salvation Army Men’s Hostel for shelter and to try and figure out what to do next. On my 2nd day there a Salvation Army Officer (pastor) spoke with me and suggested that I did not belong at the shelter. As we talked I realized that I needed to address my lifestyle of alcohol and drugs. The Officer suggested I enter their rehabilitation treatment program, “The Anchorage”, where I met the program director, Captain Bill Hanson. He mentored me throughout the treatment program, spent time talking to me about faith and God, and on October 31, 1973 I made my commitment to Christ. On Christmas Day 1973 I participated in the Program for the Joint Salvation Army Winnipeg Corps (community churches) and The Salvation Army Institutions (providing community services) Christmas service, where I shared my story.

On New Year’s Sunday 1974 I was enrolled as a Senior Soldier (a church member who pledges to follow God and abide by The Salvation Army’s principles to live a holy lifestyle). My life was already improving: I had finished the Anchorage Program and was hired to temporarily work as their Science Resource Specialist until the end of January at a local high school. Then I started a new position as the Evening Supervisor and Chaplain at The Salvation Army Men’s Social Center, which I retained until the next August. Afterwards, I resigned to take on a new job as the Science Resource Specialist at a different high school for the academic year. During the early months of 1974 I also met Edna Taylor. After dating awhile we got engaged and married in December 1974. We believed we were called to be Salvation Army Officers (pastors), and we entered The Salvation Army William Booth Memorial College for Officers Training, in Toronto, Canada, in September 1975.

Reflecting on the Barra MacNeils’ concert in Winnipeg, I recalled that as the sister in the group sang “O Holy Night” in Gaelic, the haunting melody touched me and reminded me once again of that special birth of Jesus. Adding to the beauty of the evening, I had a moment of serendipity. I saw a guy walking around in a sweat shirt saying East Coast Life with Cape Breton encircling the words. When I asked him if he was from down home (Cape Breton) and he responded that he was from my hometown, New Waterford, I almost fell over! We introduced ourselves as we shared more details. The guy smiled as he told me that my brother had been the best man at his wedding. That’s when I realized that I hadn’t seen this individual since 1967; and, furthermore, I had been classmates with his brother from primary school through to university. And then he shared one of his memories of me—of being addicted to booze and drugs. We talked some more, and we will be getting together for coffee and more sharing. How wonderful to reconnect with a childhood friend so far from home!

Christmas is indeed a time to marvel at the Holy Night and reconnect with our long-lost friends in a community of faith!

John Stephenson,
Former Salvation Army Officer (pastor)


New Beginnings: See? I am doing a new thing. --God

Advent: the (white) Christ Candle :
Lit on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day

This Advent season we have used the theme of “New Beginnings: See? I am doing a new thing.—God.” During the four weeks of Advent we have explored the themes of hope, preparation, joy, and love. Additionally, we searched for the new beginnings that were experienced by groups of people (e.g., the Israelite nation, the shepherds, and the Magi), as well as individuals, such as Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.

And now, as we come to the final candle in the Advent wreath—the white Christ candle—our focus is drawn to the biggest new beginning of all: the birth of Messiah, the King of Kings, the Saviour of the world, the Prince of Peace. There are so many names of Christ, which describe His character, His essence. It reminds me of when parents choose baby names for their child(ren). There are often a number of factors they take into consideration, such as honouring (often deceased) family members); perhaps there’s a desire to include the name of a significant mentor; or even wishing to choose a Biblical name for the child. While many people have a first, middle, and last name, there are newborns that are given a string of names between their first and last names. We look at these tiny babies and utter, “You have a long name to grow into!” But Jesus was a different newborn—He already existed in heaven, and it was His choice to become one of us. He didn’t acquire His numerous names from people—He already fulfilled the roles of all these names. Even His birth name was chosen before Mary was pregnant by the Holy Spirit: “You are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins,” (Matt. 1:21). In other words, Jesus was already identifiable by His names long before they were revealed to us in the Scriptures. He didn’t have to ‘grow into’ them. 

The Christ candle is white, symbolizing His holiness and purity, which rendered Christ the perfect Lamb of God. Jesus was born for a 4-fold purpose:
1) To live as one of us in order to completely understand what it’s like to walk in our shoes, (Heb. 4: 14-16, Jesus, our Great High Priest);
2) To demonstrate how we may live our lives in a manner that’s pleasing to God, ( 1 John 1: 5-9, Walking in the Light, 1 John 2: 28- 3: 1-10, Children of God);
3) To show us the extravagantly loving Father in order to change our image of Him as the judgmental and vindictive tyrant of heaven, (John 14: 1-14, Anyone who has seen Me, has seen the Father);

4) And, to make the ultimate sacrifice: laying down His life so that we may have eternal life by escaping eternal punishment, ( “ …the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world,” 1 John 4:14, NIV; John 3:16).

“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish,” (John 1: 14, MSG).

When Christ moves into our neighbourhood, things begin to change! The Creator of all things begins recreating and His artistic flare is seen on everything and everyone He touches. We all have times when we yearn for a ‘do over’. Of course, we can’t go back and change the past, but we can experience His new and loving touch on our lives. We can ask Him to make us more fluid in using what He’s given us to touch others with His love, and to bring Him glory by our lives.

[ Please note: there will be 2 more posts in this series: New Year’s, and Epiphany, which celebrates the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem on Jan. 6).

Merry Christmas!

Elizabeth Hogan Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer

Christmas Memories in a Canadian Coal Mining Town

Part 1

On a recent Sunday evening my wife, Edna, and I, along with some friends, attended a Cross Country Tour concert featuring a Celtic Family, the Barra MacNeils, from Sydney Mines in Nova Scotia, Canada. Sydney Mines is another coal mining community across from my home town, New Waterford, on the other side of Sydney Harbor. The concert was called, ‘An East Coast Christmas’. It brought joy to my heart and tears to my eyes as they talked and presented music about Christmas in a Cape Breton Coal Mining Community. The haunting melodies they sang in English and Gaelic stirred memories of a time long past, a time of faith, a time of growth.

So when I was asked to contribute an Advent or Christmas article to the Former Salvation Army Officers blog, I thought about my experience of growing up in the 1950s and 1960s in a Coal-Mining Community in Cape Breton, Canada. And my next thought was of one of my favorite books of Scripture, Isaiah, especially the verse in Isaiah 9:6: “A child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests .They name him Wonder-Counsellor God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace,” because the Christ of Christmas changed me!
In 1950 I was born in New Waterford, a coal mining and strong faith-based community with a population of about 10,000. In addition to the 3 coal mines operating in New Waterford and the surrounding area, there were 3 Roman Catholic Parishes, a United Church, an Anglican Church , The Salvation Army Corps (community church), and a small synagogue. Of the 10,000 residents over 9,300 of them were Roman Catholic, but the faith groups cooperated in many ways. Growing up in that environment the focus of Christmas was not about gifts and Santa Claus, although he was thought of and gifts were exchanged. But in the hardscrabble environment of coal-mining towns Christmas was about observing the coming of Christ, the celebration of which culminated in the Christmas Eve services in every Christian Church. For me that meant attending Midnight Mass with all its pomp, including the lingering smell of incense, the lighting of the Christ Candle in the Advent Wreath, and the wonderful music and words that reminded us that our Savior has come.
The concert music also caused me to reminisce about the years I had strayed from my strong faith when I had entered the world of alcohol, drugs, radical left-wing politics and activism in 1968. 

I ran away from God, but God did not abandon me. Until I returned to faith in October 1973, I had moments when I almost turned back to God, but I persisted in my resistance until I reached the lowest point in my life. 

June 1973 I started holidays in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where I resided. After I got sober I moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, which was 2200 miles west of Halifax. I was lost, forlorn, and suffering and had no recollection of how I had arrived in Winnipeg.

[To be continued…]

John Stephenson,
Former Salvation Army Officer (pastor)