Category Archives: Blog

Controlling the Things We Say (Rodger McEachern)

There is a lot of hostile and caustic speech in political discourse, on social media, and private conversations between individuals and groups. One does expect this amongst those who hold no Christian affiliation, but amongst Christians, this should not be! As James in his New Testament letter writes,

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig-tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. (3.9-12, NIVUK, 2011)

James is saying that for a Christian to praise God one moment, and than to use his words to curse another person is not natural – it is not consistent with who they purport to be as followers of Jesus Christ. He likens such persons to be like a fig tree producing olives or a grape vine producing figs! There is to be a consistency between one’s faith in Christ and one’s works (in this case words). James echoes what Jesus had taught,

43 ‘No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 Each tree is recognised by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn-bushes, or grapes from briers. 45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (Luke 6.43-45, NIVUK, 2011)

In other words, our words reveal our true self: our beliefs, our values, our attitudes – what is “stored up in his heart.” – whether it is of God or demonic (James 3.7).

It matters what we do, as well what we say and how we say it! For example, we are to work for justice, James calls this “(r)eligion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1.27, NIVUK, 2011). We are also to be holy, “to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1.27). To be holy is to be like God, it is to imitate Jesus Christ, it is to have a pure heart, cleansed by the Holy Spirit, and our holiness will be reflected in what we say, as well, as in what we do. It gives God no honour or glory if we pursue a just cause yet curse those whom we are not in agreement with.

In the months ahead, within our congregations and denomination, issues will arise that we are passionate about: issues of justice; issues of Biblical truth and doctrinal orthodoxy; issues pertaining to policy and practice. We will use our words to defend our positions, and hopefully to convince our opponents concerning the rightness of our positions. Sadly, whether intentional or not, the temptation will be also to say things that will cause hurt, to discredit those whom we disagree with, even to ‘demonise’ them and to force them into a position in which they concede defeat and submit to our ‘wisdom’. To use James’ words, “this should not be”; instead, our words and works will be submitted to the wisdom of heaven,

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. (James 3.17-18, NIVUK, 2011)

Written by Rodger McEachern
Callingwood Road Church
16 February 2021

The Ides of Winter (Lydia Calder, MillWoods PC)

In early January I sat in a dentist’s chair, my mouth filled with all the paraphernalia that comes with preparing a tooth for a crown.  While leaning over top of me the dentist and her assistant were lamenting the end of the Christmas season and dreading the dreariness to come.  “I hate January and February,” the one said, and the other agreed.  “There’s nothing to look forward to.” 

These early months of each year can be depressing. From a physiological point of view winter’s “shorter” days and less sunlight disrupts our internal body clock and that impacts our moods.  Plus, all the Christmas festivities are a memory, but the holiday bills have yet to be to be paid.   As some wit once said, “Tis the season to be melancholy.”

 I happen to look forward to February since my birthday falls a week after Valentine’s Day, but I also admit I’m glad it is only 28 days long.  February is truly a dreary month.   It is literally the middle of winter – the ides of winter, as it were. 

The soothsayer’s warning to Julius Caesar in William Shakespeare’s play of the same name prophesied his betrayal and death: “Beware the Ides of March.” Shakespeare’s words have stayed with us, branding the phrase with a dismal connotation. 

 For us, in 2021, the ides of winter comes with particularly heavy baggage.  2020 will go down in history as being an especially challenging year, but as Covid 19 continues its stealthy path through our world the relief we hoped for has not arrived. We have an ongoing sense of darkness and gloom.  Spring may be on its way, but in the meantime we must beware the Ides of Winter. 

The devotional book I am using this year is called Prevail, a word which encapsulates what I need to do to survive in these unusual days.  For several days the Scripture readings were from Exodus and Numbers.  It struck me that the barrenness of a winter landscape can be likened to that of a desert.  Although one is cold and the other hot, both can be unfriendly, unforgiving places where any wrong turn can have fatal consequences.

Like the Israelites of old, I have a very real sense of aimless daily wanderings while waiting for the promised land.  And like them, I am prone to negativity and grumbling.  I have so much time on my hands, but little motivation. I have so many blessings, but my mind dwells on the things I cannot do.  I cannot hug my granddaughter, go out to a restaurant, have a friend over for coffee, walk through the stacks at the library, go to church in person. I cannot hop on a plane to visit my son in Ontario. I am earthbound.

 I am also earth focused. The debris at my feet prevents me from seeing the magnificence of creation. If I could just lift my eyes from the dead leaves on the dingy snow and instead look up at the stars that dot the heavens I would see anew the power of the God of the universe.

 David found inspiration for his psalms as he looked up…

Ps 19:1   The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

 Ps 121:1,2   I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

 Looking up reminded David of God’s ultimate power and unending love.

 Stephen Hawking wrote, “Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do… It matters that you don’t just give up.”

Lydia Calder,
Mill Woods Presbyterian Church

Click here to listen to “Look Up, Child”  by Lauren Daigle

PADRE’S PONDERING In support of Mission Ready: Spirituality/Religion (Ken MacRae)

Happy New Year. For all who thought that 2021 couldn’t be any worse that 2020, let me just say that it has definitely got off to an interesting start! My only political commentary at this time is to encourage everyone to pray for our neighbours to the south. The events that happened this week in the States are disheartening to say the least. I pray that cooler heads will prevail, and that the violence will end and peaceful discussions carry on. People have a right to protest but that right ends when people get hurt or killed!  Ok…enough of politics…for now.

For many of us we have returned to work. (One handed claps are heard across our units!) I hope that we got some rest and had some fun. Most of us have put away our Christmas decorations. For some people I noticed that their tree had a theme or some sort of fashion statement. Some people ensured all decorations were silver. Others may have done an angel theme in your home. My wife and I have a memory tree.

We have the pine cone made by our son when he was in primary school. We have our ornament that shows the year of our first Christmas together as husband and wife. (I’m not saying that year for it was before many of you were born! Yes… I’m old. Be quiet!)  We have ornaments from many of the countries we have travelled together. We have a curling beaver and a golfer to remind us of sports we love. We also have various ornaments that show our faith and love for the Lord such as a nativity ornament from the Vatican. We have added an Inuksuk and a polar bear to remind us of our time in the north. I couldn’t find an ornament of a frozen car battery or a raven large enough to carry away small cars! Over the last month I was able to look at the tree and was reminded of the many blessings my family received over the years.

As I put away the ornaments I reminded myself that I’m not getting rid of the memories. They will always be there. Or there until I’m old and senile and can’t remember anything (I admitted to being old in the previous paragraph…not senile. My wife might say otherwise!) In the Bible we are told that after the birth of Jesus, and after the shepherds went to see the baby Jesus, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19. We can choose to remember the good times or be mired in our bad memories. Learn from the past. Ponder your past. Focus more on the good to motivate you.

What new memories will we get this year? What new adventures awaits us. What people will we meet who we can laugh with? What people will leave here and what new people will we encounter. Some of us can be fearful of the unknown. I choose to have as much fun as possible wherever God sends me.

I’ll leave you with words from the last comic strip of Calvin and Hobbs done, by Bill Watterson in 31 December, 1995. The final words of Calvin were, “Let’s go exploring!”

Padre Ken MacRae

LORD, GIVE ME FAITH (Stephen Haughland)

But not just any faith.

LORD. Give me a Faith Like This:

Lord. When I am praying, and know not what to say. Keep me praying anyway. Even without the words.

Lord. When I am singing, and cannot remember the tune. Keep me singing anyway. Even without the music.

Lord. When I am listening,  not caring to understand. Keep me hearing anyway. Even without agreeing.

Lord. When I am stumbling,  afraid of falling down. Keep me moving anyway.  Even when I must crawl.

Lord. When I am walking,  by sight and not by faith.  Keep me believing anyway. Even without a reason.

Lord. When I am looking, with eyes unwilling to see. Keep me focused anyway.  Even when I am blind.

Lord. When I am holding, that which can never be possessed  . Keep me willing anyway.  Even when letting go.

Lord. When I am building, that which cannot be finished. Keep me interested anyway.  Even without reward.

Lord. When I am dreaming,  that which is only imagined. Keep me plodding anyway.  Even beyond my zeal.

Lord. When I am speaking,  truths I have not earned.  Heal my spirit anyway.  Even when I am humbled.

Lord. When I am living,  entangled in,  enraged by, this world’s unfairness.   Keep me loving anyway.

Hopeful, anyway.  Joyful, anyway.

Even when I am surprised.

Even when I am the cause.

LORD. For your highest glory.

For our greatest good, take all.

All of my anyways.

Let  them provide for me a way.

To give my life.

Away.

LORD. GIVE ME A FAITH.

LIKE THAT.

Rev. Steve
Westminster Church, Chauvin AB.

Faith, Faithfulness, and Patience [Brenda Brewer]

Where do I begin? I was asked if I would write a blog for Faith Presbyterian Church, Fort McMurray, AB.

For those who know me – one of my sayings is, “The good Lord helps those who help themselves.” Soo… on that note, if I want God’s help, I had better get started.

Another of my sayings is, “Do onto others as you would have them do unto you,” so I need to do my part here to honour this request.

This year, 2020, has been a most challenging, anxious and frightful year; however, the CoVid-19 restrictions have brought about some very memorable and pleasant events in all our lives. Our immediate family times together have multiplied, we listen to each other more, we stay in touch with each other by phone, text, videos, facetime, and “drop–in visits, just because.”

Our gardens and lawns have flourished more than ever this year. WHY? We are giving time to these blessings that the good Lord has provided for us – care and attention is what they need and it gives back as we are enjoying the fresh air, watching the veggies and flowers grown under our watchful eyes.

Our lengthy walks in the trails have made us more conscious of the wild life, birds singing, meeting others on the trails and not to mention improving our physical well–being.

Why, even my golf game has improved because I am so grateful that I am able to be outdoors and doing an activity that I enjoy [Regardless of the score!].

All of these Blessings come from the Grace of God, which we can be so Thankful for.  As I observe others around me [physically distanced] people have slowed down and, as the saying goes, “are taking time to smell the Roses.”

We have more time to listen to each other, to read, to meditate, and to look out over the backyard and “Give thanks “ where thanks is due.

Faith Church has survived many “ups and downs,” throughout its history here in Fort McMurray. The Church started out in a private home, then school classrooms, auditoriums, other church buildings, back to schools again. We have suffered through lack of space, lack of funds, lack of congregants but the good Lord has been with Faith Church all the way and helped us “see the light” and press on.

Faith Church has survived through 2 major floods [2013 and 2020] and a forest fire [2016] since our congregation has been there. Faith Church will survive this pandemic as well.

Beginning on March 22, 2020, Faith Church live-streamed its Sunday morning worship services from the lower level “Meeting Room” at the manse. As of October 18, 2020, Faith Church is doing in-house worship service and live-streaming at 1:00pm in the sanctuary at St. Thomas Anglican Church.

Faith Church may not have a permanent church building, but “The Church is the People” and God is with us wherever we gather. Thank the good Lord, we have a good Shepherd who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ and shares this with his flock.  Amen to that.

The Disciples did not always travel “on easy street” and neither has Faith Church especially during this CoVid-19 era but we need to put our trust in God and allow God to be with us each day and night. Trials and tribulations will come to us but they will give us strength, improve our character, and our determination to keep ‘moving forward.” A good friend of mine would say, “When things are not what they should be, then take in to the Lord in prayer.”

We can thank God for his presence and his word that has the power to bring us wisdom, patience, peace, love and caring for each other and the world and our belief will see us through today and tomorrow.

Take care, stay safe and God Bless you.

Have a very Blessed Merry Christmas and good health and wellbeing for 2021.

Brenda Brewer
Clerk of Session
Faith Presbyterian Church
Ft. McMurray, AB

Empathy – a Different Spin in the Context of COVID-19 (Charlie McNeil)

I had an interesting and instructive object lesson in empathy in this time of COVID-19.

The congregation received a parcel card in the mail.  We were told that we could pick up the parcel the next day from the auxiliary postal outlet in town.  So I put the parcel card in my pocket, and went about my business.

The next day I went over to the postal outlet to pick up the parcel.  I arrived at the postal desk, and no one was there.  So I rang the bell once as I was instructed to by the posted instructions.

Then I waited.  It wasn’t a long wait, nor was I in a hurry.  For a change I didn’t get impatient.

Out from the stock room door came one of the employees. The employee had a trolley with a number of bulky items on it.  I noted the person’s body language which seemed to indicate that he was having a bad day! The way he dumped the trolley confirmed that.  Clearly he was having a bad day!

When he arrived behind the counter, he asked me in a rather brusque manner what I wanted?  I handed him the card and indicated that I was there to pick up a parcel.  He scanned the parcel and then asked for identification.

I showed him my driver’s licence through the clear plastic screen.  He looked at it and then at the parcel card.  I was going to put my licence away when I was again asked to see it.

I thought I was being helpful by reaching around the plastic barrier and showing my licence a bit closer.  Seems I was dreadfully wrong!  In no uncertain terms and rather rudely it was indicated that I needn’t have shoved my licence into his face!

“Sorry,” was my outer reaction.  I won’t share my internal one!

He then indicated that the address on the parcel card and my address on my licence didn’t line up.  I told him that that was probably because the address on the parcel card was the church and as minister, I didn’t live there but had my own home address.

He nodded and then went looking for the parcel.  Eventually with some help from a co-worker the package was found and handed over.  I thanked the employee and went about my business.

I was a bit perturbed by the treatment and was tempted to speak to the manager about the rudeness!  Then I thought – why was the employee having a bad day?  Did some previous customer give him a hard time?  Did a supervisor chew him out for something that wasn’t his fault? Were the precautions for COVID-19 getting to him and having to deal with those not wearing masks etc?

Truth be told I have no idea and don’t need to!  It’s none of my business!  Except to say that maybe just maybe I can cut the guy some slack.  Everyone has a bad day and deals badly with their bad days sometimes.  These days it may well be all the more so!

Have you ever done so?  Have I?  Sad to say for me I have acted badly on bad days.

I also thought about three of our family members who work in retail, and some of the stories they’ve told about dealing with the public.  I have witnessed their professionalism and people smarts.  They have taught me a thing or two!

One gospel segue speaks to this.  In his public ministry Jesus taught about turning the other cheek.  This teaching was a conscious, and deliberate way of taking the sting out of a bad situation.  It also gave alternatives to the usual human reactions. Bad situations can all too easily escalate.  When they do no one is the winner.  In fact, everyone loses.

I came away from that incident the other day realizing that empathy is a gift to others but also to ourselves. Instead of carrying around a lot of angst, through empathy we let it go.  Instead of complaining we reflect on life lessons.  Instead of continuing the spiral of vexation we create spirals of love, understanding, and grace!

Good gifts to share with others as well as ourselves.  It can make all the difference!  Especially as we navigate through these days!

Blessings for the journey!
(Rev.) Charlie McNeil
Knox Presbyterian Church, Lloydminster

On Love (Harry Currie)

One time some religious leaders came to Jesus and asked what is the greatest commandment. There are 613 commandments in the Jewish scriptures and they thought that if he picked one, they would be able to trap him because others would say that he had picked the wrong one. And Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with all your being, and the second is to love your neighbour as yourself. And all the law and prophets and scripture hang on these two commandments.

You know when asked what was the greatest Jesus didn’t say believe this or that. He didn’t say worship this way or that way. Jesus didn’t even say go to this church or be a Christian or be a Jew or a Sikh or a Muslim. He didn’t say “Be a Presbyterian.” Jesus said “love.”

The word love is used ubiquitously. We see a beautiful person and exclaim: “oh, I am in love.” “It was love at first sight.” “I couldn’t help myself from loving.”

We love everything we like from chocolates to apple pie, to singing, to rap music, to friends, to family, to lovers, to our favorite movie star, to our favourite sports team, to our new BMW with leather seats, moon roof and adaptive cruise control.

But Jesus ordered us love. And what Jesus showed us is that the highest form of love is not a feeling. It is not romantic and sexy. It is choosing to act in another’s best interest even the days you don’t feel like it. Even if the other is a neighbour, or a stranger or even an enemy.

And Jesus would go on to not only talk about love but show us love. He was executed on the cross and asked God to forgive those who killed him, to forgive all of us who do wrong. You can kill Jesus but Jesus still loves.

You know if seems to me that in every kind of religion – Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Jewish, Muslim – that you will find that compassion and love are at the core of the religion, but not everybody believes that.

In every religion, there are those who use their faith and religion to control, to tell other how to live their lives, to point fingers, accuse, dominate and even send people to hell.

And in every religion, there are those who use their faith and religion to love, to accept, to include, to help the poor and needy…

Jesus says love. Do we really believe that loving God and loving neighbour are the basis of our faith? If so, then don’t just think it or believe it. Live it through conscious choices to do acts of love, and especially to one another.

Harry Currie,
Interim Moderator
Westmount Presbyterian Church

Presbytery Ride for Refuge A Huge Success

The Ride for Refuge is a day when Canadians declare their solidarity with millions of people in Canada and around the world who are displaced, exploited, persecuted and abused.

  • We ride or walk together to call attention to those whose lives have been stripped bare by pain – from life, hatred, greed, or disaster.
  •  We speak up for those treated as raw materials for others’ financial gain.
  •  We defend those crushed by forces that care nothing for their suffering.
  •  We raise funds for RIDE-approved organizations whose commitment and work transforms peoples’ lives.
  •  Every push of the pedal and every stride we take powers the future for those who otherwise have no safe place and no one to defend them.

Approved Programs

  •  Relief & Aid: Direct aid for people experiencing catastrophe, war, and oppression
  •  Development & Reconstruction: Direct or third-party NGO support for development and reconstruction initiatives, including micro-finance and sustainable funding
  •  Food & Water: Programs supporting nutrition, food banks, missions and accessible water
  •  Shelter & Housing: Any shelter, whether temporary, permanent, or expansion
  •  Medical & Dental: Treatment and follow-up care, including HIV clinics, pediatrics, pain management, and all necessary supplies
  •  Education & Tuition: Job skills, trades, ESL, career, tuition support, and Biblical curriculum and training
  •  Settlement & Acclimatization: New arrival support, training and financial aid
  •  Counsel & Legal: Spiritual counselling, development, discipleship, care for post-traumatic stress syndrome, and immigration and refugee claim legal counsel

https://rideforrefuge.org/location/edmonton

Ride For Refuge Edmonton

According to the Ride for Refuge Edmonton site, the Presbytery of Edmonton Lakeland team raised $ $6,089.00.  According to Charlie McNeil’s email of Oct. 4th, the Knox, Lloydminster team raised $980.00. Altogether, the Presbytery raised $7,069.00.

What a wonderful job, and as Charlie said, “great to be together and out in God’s creation.”

Let’s do this again next year.

William Ball
Presbytery Missions Convener