Saturday, December 16, 2017

ADVENT 3 New Beginnings: See? I am doing a new thing. --God

Advent, Week 3 (Dec. 17/17)

Joy: Is It Taught or Caught?

The 1st week of Advent [Dec. 3rd], in “Hope and Rose-Coloured Glasses” we considered people’s nostalgia versus the hopelessness that can accompany life’s realties. While hope can be difficult to regain, people (including us) walking in darkness saw Messiah’s Light shine on their lives and walked them (and us) into Hope. The 2nd week of Advent [Dec. 10th] we explored the idea that “Life Requires Many Preparations” and observed that everything we do—from daily tasks to special occasions-- requires planning. We looked at how Mary and Joseph had learned to trust God much earlier in their lives, and they continued to trust Him when their plans for Jesus’ birth suddenly changed because of Caesar Augustus’ mandatory census. This week the spotlight will be on the Joy candle.

But before we decide if Joy is Taught or Caught, we need to define and decide if joy differs from happiness. Actually, there is no consensus on definitions for joy or happiness. For example, these two terms are often used interchangeably. Others believe that joy is an internal sense of well-being that is not influenced by external situations, whereas happiness depends on external circumstances. Whatever our belief about joy, it may be that we identify it when we experience it or see it in others. For example, it is often easy to recognize joy and wonder in babies and young children because their faces light up when they encounter positive new experiences. But how do adults experience joy? And is joy ‘taught’ or ‘caught’? Do children have innate joy or are they ‘taught’ the essence of joy via observing their parents’ expression of it? Parents are their children’s first caregivers, teachers, and role models, which means that joy is both taught and caught, beginning in their homes. Sadly, many children don’t grow up in happy homes, which can limit their ability to learn about, experience, and express joy. However, these children may still be able to see joy modeled in others and to ‘catch’ or experience it.

In the Christmas story (Luke 2), angels appeared to some shepherds in the fields outside Bethlehem with the news everyone was waiting for, “Joy to the world, Messiah is come!” The shepherds were startled and fearful. Then their sense of wonderment began to grow and with great anticipation they hurried to find the newborn King. Finally, when they saw baby Jesus, they were filled with an overflowing joy that they couldn’t keep secret! And as they returned to their responsibilities, they shared the good news with everyone they encountered.
Do you remember the excitement and joy of becoming a new Christian? Did you experience a new appreciation for the meaning of Christmas? Christmas—a time for us to let Jesus’ joy shine through us! And while we are celebrating His birth, let us also be sensitive to those who are hurting. May we offer them hope through the One who brings us good news of comfort and joy. May our prayer be that, “The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit,” (Romans 15:13, NIV).

Suggested Daily Scripture Readings:
Sunday Luke 2: 8-18
Monday Isaiah 61: 1-7
Tuesday Psalm 95: 1-8
Wednesday Isaiah 12: 1-6
Thursday Psalm 35: 1-10
Friday Isaiah 9: 1-7
Saturday John 15: 9-12

Blessings & Peace

Elizabeth Hogan Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer (pastor)

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

I'll Never Quit the Field

Canadian Salvation Army officer, Major Danielle Strickland-Court, who served in the Australia Southern Territory as Social Justice Director from 2008-2011, has announced she is leaving officership. The regular columnist for Others magazine and Others online, who has been serving as the Social Justice Secretary in the USA Western Territory, and just recently back in Canada, shares her journey of reaching this decision. 

To say this has been a transition season in my life would be an understatement. Things are changing for me. Internally and externally. What a beautiful beholding when your internal and external worlds change together. There are endless possibilities of kingdom expansion and a beautiful wild wilderness of wonder ahead for all of us. And that itself is breathtaking. 
I’ve been an officer in The Salvation Army for 22 years. For those of you who aren’t familiar with what that even means, put simply, I am a full-time clergy/minister/leader doing a variety of things that The Salvation Army appointed me to do around the world. It has ranged from local Christian community leadership, church planting, missional training schools, fighting human trafficking, street outreach, food banks, social services, establishing justice departments and advocacy campaigns, teaching, speaking, and writing. 
It has been full of amazing challenges and I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve Jesus through the Army’s ranks. 
For the record, here are some things I love most about The Salvation Army: 
1.    The mission. The Salvation Army beats with the prophetic drumming of Isaiah 58. As you wade through that calling there is a deep foundational resonance of justice and compassion that flows through its mission. I love it.  
2.    The people. Some of the best people in the world are part of The Salvation Army. I kid you not. They are selflessly committed to the lost, the last, and the least. They are kind and earthy and practical and visionary. They are wonderful people. People whose shoelaces I’m unqualified to tie. In my life, The Salvation Army has always been a family to me (literally in many cases) and I’m so grateful to have them as my tribe. I belong to them in a very deep tribal kind of way. 
3.    The practical love. Folks in The Salvation Army have a bent towards practical love. What I mean, is that they flourish when their sleeves are rolled up at the front of the battle dishing out food/hope/shelter/toys and all kinds of practical expressions of love in this cold world. I love the practical nature of their love.
4.    Salvation. They are a salvation people. The Salvation Army cares that people know and have a personal relationship with Jesus. This is at the centre of all their work of transformation. I love the gospel centre of The Salvation Army.

5.    Their reach. In a comical way as a teenager in rebellious flight, I could never escape The Salvation Army. I used to whisper in a conspiratorial tone, with wide eyes, “they are everywhere”. The Salvation Army stretches out across 128 countries around the world and still shows up at disasters and runs local food banks, community centres and churches in a town near you. 

Despite my deep love, or perhaps because of my deep love for the mission, as of 22 December 2017, I will no longer be an officer in The Salvation Army. God has been consistently inviting me to a transition. These days I feel deeply called to use all of my mission, passion, gifts, experience and future to help mobilise the whole church.
I’m certain that we are at an important kingdom expansion in history and the big YES I said to Jesus I will keep saying – daily. To say “Yes” in this season required me to say “No” to some systemic restrictions that would have prevented me from doing what God has clearly called me to do. 
This changes nothing of my love affair with The Salvation Army not to mention my even greater love affair with my husband who will remain an officer and receive my full support as a soldier cheering him on!
This decision, albeit full of grief for what I thought it might look like, has increased my availability to God to do what he has always dreamed up and fanned into flame through my little life. 
So, I find myself in transition. Internally I’m exploring the depths of God’s amazing love and finding my foundation deeply rooted in him.

Externally, I’m dreaming of the incredible opportunities ahead for the Church as we say “Yes” to the Kingdom coming, and I’m ready to give everything I’ve got – even messy/painful/awesome things – for his glory. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Advent, Week 2 Life Requires Many Preparations

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

Advent, Week 2 Life Requires Many Preparations

(purple candle: "Preparation", a.k.a. 'the Bethlehem candle)

Last week, the first week of Advent, we considered the (purple) candle of Hope and noted that the arrival of the Messiah, Jesus, was a fulfillment of prophecy. More importantly, the people walking in darkness (all of us have done so) saw the Light shine on our lives, and He walked us into Hope. Today we focus on the (purple) Candle of Preparation.

Our lives are filled with daily tasks, special occasions, and traditions, which require numerous preparations. Some situations require more time and planning than others. . For example, most married couples will regale you with mishaps that occurred during their wedding preparations. When we set, and changed our wedding date three times, Steve and I found ourselves empathizing with those narratives. Our immediate challenge was deciding on a venue, which was not an easy task, because the Salvation Army Officer (pastor) chosen to officiate our ceremony lived in Toronto, Ontario. Meanwhile Steve and I lived in different cities, outside of Toronto; his family resided in Alberta; and my parents, lived in the Montreal-area of Quebec, but health issues prevented them from travelling. In addition to planning for our daily lives and for special occasions, we know that annual family traditions require advanced preparations. For instance, we know that Christmas traditions help ground us, promote continuity between family generations, and require yearly planning. Plus, new traditions are often created when a family expands to include spouses and their children. Yet even traditional family gatherings have unexpected outcomes. The bottom line is that life takes planning and many preparations. 

And, unquestionably, it’s nice when our plans come together, but our choices don’t always work out the way we had anticipated. Certainly Mary, the mother of Jesus, wasn’t prepared for the events surrounding her pregnancy. In fact, she hadn’t planned to get pregnant until after she was married. Nor had she foreseen the rocky and dangerous trip to Bethlehem to register for the census decreed by Caesar Augustus, especially when she was close to giving birth. Furthermore, Mary and Joseph expected to find cozy, warm lodgings when they arrived. Instead, she gave birth in a drafty, cold stable, wrapped her new baby in strips of cloth and laid Him in an animal trough for a crib—instead of the lovingly crafted and beautiful cradle that Joseph, a carpenter, would have surely created. So, in the midst of all these obstacles, expectations had to be adjusted and hasty preparations made.

Yet one of the most important preparations that Mary and Joseph made occurred long before their betrothal. They loved God and kept their hearts and spirits open to His leading. This enabled them to live their lives with hope and optimism in spite of the many events that had not gone according to their plans. In fact, their openness and sensitivity to God enabled them to act quickly when they received urgent directions for immediate and essential changes. How open are our spirits, hearts, and minds open to God's leading? As we make preparations in our homes and lives to celebrate this holy season of Advent, may we be sensitive and tuned in to what God is saying to us.

Suggest Bible readings:

Sunday        Matthew 18: 1-5

Monday       Luke 2: 1-7

Tuesday       Isaiah 25: 6-9

Wednesday   Isaiah 40: 1-5

Thursday     1 Peter 1: 1-13-23

Friday                  Matthew 14: 1-14

Saturday      John 14: 1-14

Blessings& Peace
Elizabeth Hogan Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer, (Pastor)

Thursday, December 7, 2017

How Advent Keeps us Spiritually Fit

My wife and I finished the Whole 30 diet a few weeks ago. Don't worry. This is not an advertisement for the next fad diet (though we did feel really good afterward). The premise is pretty simple. You avoid foods that commonly cause inflammation, such as processed sugars, gluten, dairy products, and legumes. Then after 30 days, you add those things back into your diet one by one and see how your body reacts.
It was tough for us to avoid our go-to comfort foods, but the 30 days of discipline really did serve us well. That experience, and this classic article from H. B. Charles on the #HealthyPreacherMovement from a couple years ago, have got me thinking about spiritual disciplines.
Just like with physical training and dieting, I know that disciplining myself spiritually will reap some great benefits, but I so often default to what is most comfortable. In fact, I often find it easier to discipline myself physically than spiritually. Spiritual growth is subtle and comes slowly over time, so it's easier to miss and requires more discipline to sustain.
Instead of beating myself up for my lack of spiritual discipline, I'm choosing to focus on the discipline of Advent this season: establishing patterns of remembrance, rehearsing the powerful words of the gospel. Like with weight training, it's the repetition that shapes me. Let me never forget the One who came to earth to redeem us, and will come once again for us in the fullness of time. Amen.
Keep reaching out,

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Empty Vessels?

From the dust you did form Adam and Eve,

From them ‘til now you’ve blessed all who believe,
So will you see your chosen people grieve?
Your holiness their yearning can relieve. 
While so many are waiting hopefully, Lord help us all to wait expectantly,
To read your word and live accordingly
Preparing ourselves to live righteously. 
Our Father God, we now earnestly pray
That you will mould us, humble lumps of clay,
Oh master potter work without delay
So we may be shaped to your will today. 
As water is used on the clay to shape it
Use on us the water of your Spirit,
May we be pliable within your limit
So we only your love and will emit. 
As the pots are hardened by the kiln’s fire
So consecrate us with your Spirit’s fire,
Lest we from your work in the world retire,
Rather fill us with your zeal to inspire.  

 While the potter makes his work shine with glaze,

Make us fit vessels for all of our days,
And, shining examples for you always,
In every circumstance to sing your praise. 

Knowing that when all is done we still stand,
Shaped and upheld by your almighty hand, 
Give reverence your majesty demands,
Saved by the one who sits at your right hand. 
As vessels don’t let us be filled with tears,
Nor be laying around empty for years,
But fill us with the peace that stills all fears,
The water of life that our soul reveres. 
So use our clay, not hardened but strengthened,
Filled with your gifts as you have intentioned Pressed down full measured as your word mentioned, 
Expectant for your return unquestioned. 

© Bramwell JP Tout 2017 
Isaiah 64:1-9, Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19, 1 Corinthians 1:3-9, Mark 13:24-37.
Bramwell Tout Salvationist (Salvation Army church member)
Bristol, UK