Friday, December 22, 2006

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Still looking for the perfect last minute gift?

It's just a small white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past 10 years or so.

It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas -- oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it -- the overspending, the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma -- the gifts given in desperation because you couldn't think of anything else.

Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties, and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way. Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended.

Shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team
sponsored by an inner-city church. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes. As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler's ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford.

Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And, as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn't acknowledge defeat. Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, "I wish just one of them could have won," he said. "They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them." Mike loved kids -- all kids -- and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball, and lacrosse.

That's when the idea for his present came.

That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church.
On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years.

For each Christmas, I followed the tradition -- one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on. The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning, and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.

As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure.

The story doesn't end there.

You see, we lost Mike last year due to cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning it was joined by three more. Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our
grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation watching as their fathers take down the envelope.

You know, I don't care if this whole thing is just a hoax and there never was any "Mike", it's a powerful idea, that is so anti-mall-materialism-creditcard-Christmas that it deserved some space on this blog.

So, still looking for a meaningful last minute gift for someone you love? I know some kids who could use pillows to lay their heads me at: to follow up on this, or more gift-giving ideas...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


We had Church on Saturday, or at least our version of it. I think Jesus likes our version of Church; anyway it was really amazing to sit back and look at 1 years work. It looked like 73 people, kids and parents, playing, eating and worshiping together.

We have been here in Charlotte for one whole year, our #1 objective was to learn everybody's name in our neighborhood and to let Jesus do whatever else he wanted. He wanted to connect a community together using his hands, feet and heart.

61 kids have confessed his name as saviour this year and several of their parents are renewing their commitments through them.

I do not know what God has in store for us next year, but I know that if I keep learning everybodies names he will invite them to write them in his book of life.

Thank-you God for letting me join you in your plan to win the world; one person at a time.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

I've been reading a book by John Maxwell about growing in leadership, setting priorities and creating and fulfilling goals. What I read today hit me like a ton of bricks:

"Time is the most valuable coin in your life. You and you alone will determine how that coin will be spent. Be careful that you do not let others spend it for you."
Carl Sandberg

How are you spending your last days before Christmas Eve?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Good morning friends - if you're a Salvo in the South, then the name Phil Laeger is familiar to you - or if his name doesn't ring a bell, his music surely will. If you haven't heard of the man, then you're in for a treat.

Phil's back with a new cd - and it's free. For real free. Rob and I have already downloaded it, and I'm listening to it right now.

Downloading it won't mess up your computer, and it's not complicated, it's just all the sweetness both musically and lyrically that we're used to from Phil.

He had chosen to give it for free for anyone who chooses to receive - sound like a familiar concept?!

Check out his reason for the price below, and then click to download.

It’s not an original idea, © 2006 Phil Laeger. com giving away your music for nothing - and I’m not just talking Keith Green, or even Derek Webb for that matter. As much as those two guys are heroes of mine, the concept of giving music away is nothing new.

That said, most of the things we get for “free” nowadays aren’t really free at all.

“Buy one, get one free!” - What? Wait a second.. “Free with your purchase of...” Ok, hold on...
Taking it one step further, most things in this life we think we’re getting free end up costing us more than we thought.

I think that’s why we have a hard time when we’re confronted with the words, “the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Ok, wait, what’s the catch?

Someone will say that the catch is that you have to give up things like lying, sex before marriage, drugs... But those things are all actually outcomes of truly receiving the free gift, rather than pre-requisites. There is a difference, and it’s more than just semantic.

And so, this album is free, not because I just couldn’t possibly use the money, or because I’m a anti-capitalist, or because I don’t think the songs are that great (actually I’m very pleased with the overall feel of the album and the songs are some of my favorites I’ve done)...

it’s free because I hope that, in some small way, you’ll be reminded that God is not a bait-and-switch salesman that promises good things for you but has ulterior motives in mind.
He is a good God.
If you really feel like giving, then take the money you would have spent on the album and donate it to a trustworthy charitable organization or send some money to help out in Darfur. You don’t even have to buy a red iPod nano. :)

If you’ve already given to a relief organization and you feel specifically called to support my ministry, use the contact info below to find out what the current needs are.
If you’d like to donate securely online, click on one of the links below.

Grace to you. Enjoy the album. It is called Pride and Glory, Truth and Beauty.

----Phil Laeger

Saturday, December 09, 2006


You hear it all the time:

"Why do people want to have kids
in a world like


"Who would want to bring a child into a world so
messed up?"

Umm, I do !!

Seriously, the more messed up the world gets, the more kids I want to have.

I think it's the ultimate counter-measure to a fallen world; to raise up zealous, loving, Jesus-filled freedom fighters.

Psalm 127
Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth.
Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.

Go be fruitful then...


Monday, December 04, 2006

This morning I awoke to the ringing of the phone:

"hi miss heather, my kids missed the school bus, and you know our power's been shut off so they can't stay at home, it's just too cold in the house, so could you please drive them to school?"

When I got home from taking the kids, and hearing that it was one of the boy's 10th birthday, and he had to spend the night with no electricity, there will be no cake, no presents, and no general 'fuss' over him from his mom, I poured myself glumly onto the couch and just sat there. I think that just stinks.

Rob came out and seeing me, said:
"are you okay? what are you doing?"

To which I responded:
"I'm not very happy about all this, so I'm telling the Lord how I feel."

As I was doing so, The Lord brought to mind a snippet from one of the Salvation Army Songbooks, so I went in search of it. This is what it said:

"I bring to Thee my heart to fill;I feel how weak I am, but still, to Thee for help I call."

"I've little strength to call my own, And what I've done, before Thy throne I here confess, is small. But on Thy strength, O God, I lean, And through the Blood that makes me clean, Thou art my all in all."

And where I cannot see, I'll trust, For then I
know Thou surely must be still my all in all."

Where I cannot see I'll trust - isn't that the 'deal' with this entire spiritual journey?

In this case, I have to trust that God loves this family a billion times more than I do and He wants the best for them, and is already moving and working on their behalf.

So even if I can't see Him working in the heart of my little birthday boy in the van on the way to school, if any of what we're doing here means anything, I simply must trust that He is.

Moments like these - which are frequent - remind me of my human-ness and inability. I must lean on Strong Arms if I want to love like He does.

I must pause for "fill-'er-up" heart moments throughout the day, and continually be mindful, that He doesn't need me or else it will all fall apart.
Oh no, it's not like that at all.
The King of Kings has invited me in to this great mystery of love, both vertically and horizontally - up to God and out to Man.

Bottom line for me - is that even though my heart is broken. Broken. Loving 'round here, and it's painful and confusing for me to see the reality of the lives of my wee friends and their families, my truth is that I'd rather have my eyes open to it all and be a part of it, not matter the inconvenience and personal discomfort, than to have never set firsthand eyes on any of this suffering, and be less of a woman - and less of a Christian - for it.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Good Morning friends.

It's a beautiful day in the neighbourhood, a beautiful day for a neighbour...

Yesterday, it was like 76 degrees down here (25 ish Celsius) and it was lovely. As a matter of fact, there was more about yesterday that was lovely than just the weather. I had so many God-moments, I woulda thought that Christmas came early.

Speaking of Christmas, I'm sitting in the quiet of my empty house this morning, preparing for cell group in a couple of hours, and the kids that will soon be runnin' around all energetic. I thought about taking them to the mall to see all the lights and the decorations and Santa Claus, but apparently down here, it costs a lot of money to do the whole 'see Santa' thing at the mall.

Too bad. I remember being overwhelmed by lights and trees and people and gift wrap and snowbanks and Christmas music at the mall as a child - and peering over the second floor bannister down to the Santa scene below, listening to him ho ho ho and all that.

I was drawn in by it, entranced, because it was something I was a part of that was way bigger than me - At age 7 or 8 or 9 my imagination wasn't deep enough to have fathomed how everything could be made so perfect, so extra-large sized but intricately detailed and then suspended impossibly from the ceiling, or how snow could be so sparkly and white and magical looking...(cuz if you've seen snow in Ontario by December, usually it's looking more than a little dirty). It was a feast for the senses, and gave me something to lay in bed at night and visualize, and get excited about.

Something in it all sparks the imagination of a child towards creativity and belief - a belief in something greater than myself and my little world of day to day life and understanding. I want the kids I know to have the same opportunities to be invited into something greater than themselves, that fills them with wonder and surprise and delight and is stunning compared to the drab reality of their day to day life.

To allow them to be kids instead of expecting them to think like adults, and grow up before they should.

I don't want to just introduce them to the half real/half man-made Christmas experience of middle/upper class America - although that's part of it - but I want to introduce them to a homeless, penniless, beaten-down-got- up-again, full of wonder and miracles, change-your-situation-through-faith-and-prayer, 100% real Christ

He's around longer than Santa...and you don't have to pay no $30 to get to Him...

Friday, December 01, 2006

Selah this on a Friday Morning...

"If you are finding Christianity to be boring, then you are probably doing it wrong."

Aaron White, Corps Sargeant Major
@ 614 Vancouver Salvation Army

What is Selah? ( Hebrew: סלה)
Meaning "stop and listen", within the context of a prayer or psalms.
It is similar in purpose to Amen in that it stresses the importance of the preceding passage.
In this way, Selah is thought to imply that one should pause and reflect on what has been said.