‘TIS THE SEASONby Joanne Beverley Edwards-Miller, Editor
There’s something about the Christmas season that makes me feel just fabulous! In fact, there are a lot of things! I love the freshly fallen, sparkling-white snow, the evergreens laden with their blankets of cottony white, the twinkling lights, and the pervasive air of festivity. Christmas baking and preparing special meals are great fun, and I particularly love the music of Christmas (I start playing mine in June!! My husband, Jim, jokingly questions my sanity.) Notwithstanding the fact that Jesus was, of course, not born on December 25, I feel a certain kinship with all of Christendom at this particular time of year, as people of all faiths put aside their varied doctrines and come together – figuratively, at least – to celebrate the birth of the author of our Christian faith.
It fills me with wonder to imagine Jesus as a tiny baby. Think of the babies in our congregation, and how we hold them, and laugh with them, and play peek-a-boo with them, how we playfully extend a finger towards them and smile when they grasp it with their teeny baby hands. Can you picture Jesus gurgling happily and smiling toothless little smiles, and being bounced on Mary’s knees? If you can, then it shouldn’t be difficult for you to fast forward twenty-something years to picture a fully-grown man with a ready smile, a hearty laugh and gentle eyes that shone with His Father’s love. The Word made flesh! Can you picture Him swinging a child up onto His shoulders, or listening intently to an old woman’s discourse about her adventures that day, or laughing with some of the teens in the neighborhood? That’s what Christ and Christmas is all about. Making sure our fellow man is cared for in whatever way is required. We’ve all heard the phrase, "Every day should be Christmas." And every day could be if only we as Christians strove to live the sort of lives we are divinely requested to live. Looking out for the children in our congregation and community, the teens, the young adults, the newly married couples, the singles, the adults, the seniors – in short, looking out for our fellow man, woman and child.
No-one in our congregation or community should feel neglected, or be hungry, or lack for any of the necessities of life. It is our responsibility and privilege to tend to each other’s needs. If you haven’t been doing so already, well, "‘tis the season" to start. ‘Tis the season for us to corporately re-establish ourselves as a caring sisterhood. ‘Tis the season for us to individually give ourselves over to God’s leading. ‘Tis the season for a spiritual renewal among us. ‘Tis the season to start being our brethren’s keeper.
May the God of grace be with you all during this Christmas season and into the brand new year of 2000. I challenge you to make it a great year.
Do all you can with the talents God has entrusted you with, for this is your "reasonable service".
A LITTLE CHAT WITH
|In His Image:||You're fortunate to hail from such a beautiful tropical isle as Jamaica. What was your childhood like compared to your own daughter's childhood?|
|Genei:||To be honest with you, I don't think I was ever a child. I think I was born an adult! I say this because most of my memories are not of childhood play, but of being responsible, and doing grown up things. That's one of the disadvantages of not only being the eldest but also the first grandchild. That's not to say I had an unhappy childhood, though. I had a wonderful childhood surrounded by a HUGE family and an extremely large extended family that included literally the entire district or village. This was great because wherever I went I always knew there were people who were looking out for my interest. A large part of who I am today goes back to the experiences I had growing up. I always get a warm, fuzzy feeling when I go back in memory to certain times and places. Candace was born an adult also. I took one look at her when she was born and said, "This child was here before." I guess it's a first-born legacy. In spite of the improvements and the much better opportunities that she will have, I can't help but feel that she will miss out on the tremendous community support that I had growing up. The feeling of being a part of not just a family but an entire community. It really does take an entire village to raise a child, and she won't have that "village experience" because today our society is much too individualistic.|
|IHI:||Was there any culture shock when you came to Canada?|
|Genei:||Yes, there was a culture shock!. Not just the change in climate ( I landed with snow on the ground and bone- chilling winds), but the whole idea of being confined not just in space, but in spirit. Meeting new people, adjusting to a new school atmosphere, the entire experience was pretty scary. I have never considered myself very extroverted, so I never had a lot of friends. I tend to stick more to the familiar; fortunately for me I liked my own company! I met one friend in high school who was pretty much the opposite, but yet very similar to me. We bonded immediately, we went through high school together, roomed together in university, attended each other's weddings, and today are still the best of friends. Actually, we are more than friends, we are sisters.|
|IHI:||How did you and Winston get together?|
|Genei:||I met Winston shortly after I graduated from university. It was one of those chance meetings that just creep up without you knowing or expecting it. I was shy and quiet (believe it or not!) and just basically wanted to be left alone. He was the prodigal son returning from the "far" country who just wouldn't take no for an answer. We became friends and I discovered that he was a lot like me. We had the same goals, had the same position in our family and just basically seemed to be heading in the same direction. Winston is so giving, committed and responsible, and I really admired that about him. Our relationship just took a natural course. We met in August of 1983. He was taking me to work one day in December, and on the Don Valley Parkway he suddenly asked me to marry him. Without the slightest hesitation I said "yes". We became officially engaged in April of 1984 and were married on September 2, 1984.|
|IHI:||Popular Toronto Christian soloist and recording artist, Earlyn Alexander, wrote a song for your wedding. How did that come about?|
|Genei:||Earlyn (EA as I call him) has always been my hero. He is one of those father figures around the church that you just grow up loving. Although I don't think he is that old, it's just that he had this beautiful voice, and a wonderful gray beard that you just couldn't help but touch when you saw him. EA was always there and always singing. When I told him I was getting married, he was thrilled. Of course I asked him if he would sing at my wedding and he said not only would he sing, but he would write a song specially for me. And he did. It's called "Lord, In Your Own Time". It's a beautiful song. I walked down the aisle with him singing that song, and it is so special to me because without any input from either of us, he managed to capture the sentiment of our hearts exactly. I have heard it sung at several weddings after ours and it always takes me back to our wedding and brings tears to my eyes.|
|IHI:||Over the past years, you've held many positions in the various Churches you attended (Toronto West and Richmond Hill), including Church Clerk, Sabbath School Superintendent, A.Y. Leader. What factors helped to shape you into the Christian dynamo (smile) that you are?|
|Genei:||I have no idea what a "Christian dynamo" is, and I suspect that whatever it is, I am not one! God has been good to me in so many, many ways, and it is truly the desire of my heart to do my best for Him. I believe that the positions I have had are the training ground for something He has in store for me; I just have no idea what it is, and so I just ask Him to use me where He sees fit. I must tell you that sometimes I resist his proddings because I let my feelings and situations get in the way, but I am working on that.|
|IHI:||You've done something that most women in the Adventist Church have never done. You've actually stood in a pulpit to preach God's word! Tell us how you prepare for that. And, is it as nerve-wracking as some say it is?|
|Genei:||It is a scary thing, for me that is. I have always admired speakers who can stand up in front of an audience and deliver a message without notes or prompts, as if they are speaking to one person when in fact they are not. It's interesting because whenever I read, I always read as if I'm searching for information for a presentation, even when I am just reading for fun. So I would find myself writing things down, even when I have no intention of presenting them. I find that whenever I come across information that touches me in some way I want to share it, and the more closely it comes to being my personal experience, the stronger the desire. I like to apply the principle of whatever I am talking about first to myself, see how it affects me, then toss it out and hope others will see themselves in it and apply it to their circumstance.|
|IHI:||Would you share with us how you structure your personal get-together time with God? And what is your favourite Bible verse?|
|Genei:||There was a time when God and I had a really formal relationship. I would give him the cursory acknowledgement because you need to touch base. Since Net '98, I discovered a new approach, and I can't believe I never did it before. It's called journalizing, and God and I spend quality time together every day. I retreat to my prayer closet early in the morning for at least an hour, and I just tell Him everything that's on my heart and wait for Him to speak to me. That sets the tone for my day, because I know that no matter what happens to me that day, it will be nothing that God and I can't handle, and I have seen that over and over again, especially in the last year or so. My favourite Bible text is Isaiah 41:10, simply because it is a reality for me.|
|IHI:||You've taught yourself recently how to play the saxophone. What other hobbies do you enjoy?|
|Genei:||I love music. Listening to music is truly a solace for me. I like to fiddle on the piano, and I hope one day I will be able to do more than fiddle. I am glad there will be music in heaven, and I have every intention of going there. I have always said the saxophone will be my instrument in heaven, so I figured I might as well get a head start. I love to read. I enjoy working in my garden, and I think I would enjoy it even more if I knew what I was doing! I love buying plants, and I really enjoy decorating. I also love roller skating, but the problem is that I can't find anyone to go with me, and I don't like skating alone. I also love to sew, and one of these days I will learn how to!|
|IHI:||Tell us about running a catering company. What would you recommend to others who would like to start their own business?|
|Genei:||I enjoy working for myself -- most of the time, that is. Although, if I were to be honest, I would say that the actual catering or preparation is not really my passion. I enjoy interacting with the clients, helping them to transfer their ideas from theory to reality. I like the creative expression that results from that and the satisfaction and pleasure that comes from the other end. My recommendation is "Go for it", but be certain it's what you want. Owning your own business is not always as glamorous as it appears, and sometimes you will take some hard "licks", but if you are passionate about it -- whatever "it" is -- and you are willing to make the sacrifices -- and there are many -- you will be OK. I think the most important advice, however, is to make God your CEO.|
|IHI:||Here's the last question. You've been married for 13 years, and you've catered hundreds of weddings - some of which you've seen fail afterward - so you know a thing or two about what makes a good marriage. What words of advice would you share with a couple who is contemplating marriage?|
|Genei:||If I had to tell them one thing, it's this: "Don't fall in love. Make sure you walk into it with both eyes wide open." Falling in love suggests that you have no control over it -- it just happens -- whereas walking involves more of a conscious choice. It's important not only to find the right partner, but to BE the right partner. Remember that the same things you are looking for in a mate they are looking for also. As well, it's important that you and your partner have the same goals and are heading in the same direction, and hopefully that will be forward. Most importantly, involve God in EVERY aspect of your marriage and everything will be just fine.|
I worked at Pickering College in Newmarket. One morning when I went into the dining room to set the tables for breakfast, I noticed a little bird in there. The ceilings were very high, and two walls had eight-foot tall windows going all the way up to the ceiling. The bird was flying all over the place, most of the time right into the window, trying to get out. I opened the side door to see if the bird would fly out, but it did not. I knew it had been in there all night, because I started work at 5:45 a.m. Thinking it must be hungry, I was trying to get it out, but every time I went near to it, the bird would fly off and bang into the window. I felt so sorry for it. So I went to the open door and started to wave my arms about and jump up and down to see if I could attract its attention to the open door.
Nothing worked. It just kept flying into the window. So I said a little prayer, "My dear heavenly Father, You tell me in Your word that not a sparrow falls without you noticing it. So I am asking you to please help this little bird fly out of here to safety." The bird at this time was high up on the window. It flew down right across in front of me and right out the door. I thanked God for saving the bird and answering my prayer so quickly, and for letting me see that he cared for that little bird.
A few years later, I went into the dining room to set the tables for breakfast, and there was a little bird in there again. The maintenance man told me it had been in there all night, and he had tried to get it out, but it kept banging into the window. So again I said a little prayer to God. Every time I went to it, it flew away, most of the time banging into the window. I said another little prayer, "Dear God, I know You are always right, but I do not understand why You are not helping this little bird fly to safety like You did with the other one." The door was open, and I thought once the boys at the school came in they would bother the bird. Then I noticed it was still on the ledge on one of the windows.
Another bird was outside the window right where the little bird was resting, and this other bird was making a noise as though it was talking to the trapped bird. Thinking it must be hurt and maybe dazed, I started again to walk slowly over to the trapped bird. As I got near to the window, the bird outside flew away, but the one inside did not move.
Just below where the bird was resting was a small window. I thought if I could open the window and take off the screen without disturbing
the bird, maybe it would fly out the window. I was able to open the window and take off the screen; the bird did not move. So I reached my two
hands up slowly. I was able to get ahold of the bird, then putting my two hands out of the window I opened them up and away it flew. I was so
happy to think I had saved it. Then I said a little prayer to God, "Thank you, dear God, for giving me the pleasure of saving that little bird."
What a wonderful God we serve! He not only cares for the little birds, but he cared for me also in giving me the pleasure of saving it. An
insignificant thing, maybe, but what a loving God!
In my family there is a history of blindness. It strikes later in life. My father was blind when he passed away and my brother, and sister, Edna, have inherited the same genetic disorder. Fortunately for me, there is no sign of the disease, and I truly thank God for that. I don’t know what it is like to endure a permanent physical disability. Would I ask God why such a thing happened to me, or would I turn a negative into a positive?
I asked my sister if she ever asked God that same question, and her answer to me was, "No, never! Instead, I thank God that I have no children to inherit such an infirmity." I am always amazed at her positive outlook on life. She loved driving, and giving up her car was one of the hardest things for her to do, but now she loves walking. Edna lives alone and is determined to maintain her independence for as long as possible. She is learning Braille and is using all devices available to her. When I was in Scotland in September, she made the best apple pie in the world with the aid of her talking scale!
Eighteen months ago my sister realized that it was becoming increasingly difficult to manage alone and that she needed help, so she made application for a Guide Dog. She had a medical examination and an assessment test to "see" if she would be a suitable candidate. In May of this year, Edna got "Jolly", a beautiful 20-month old Golden Labrador. Jolly immediately became Edna’s eyes and companion. I got to know Jolly during my visit home in September. What a wonderful animal she is, with such devotion to her "mistress". The bond that formed between them in such a short time was remarkable. Edna and Jolly are now a pair. Jolly asks for nothing other than her daily needs being met. Edna’s need for her dog grows daily as it has opened up a new world for her. Together they travel on the bus and train, go to the supermarket, to discussion groups, art classes for the visually impaired, and they have even gone to the ballet! Jolly and Edna walk together as one and are very much dependent on each other.
Strength comes to each of us when we admit that we cannot go through life alone. Through admission of our weaknesses we become stronger. When we admit that we need a Saviour in our lives, we can feel safe and secure when we lean on the everlasting arms of Jesus. My sister has great faith and trust in the Lord and feels that Jolly has been sent to her to ease her burden and lighten her load. God, Edna and Jolly make a wonderful team.
When I get troubled and discouraged I think of my favourite hymn. "Because He Lives", I can face tomorrow, and this gives me such comfort. Jesus is there every day to walk with me and to guide me along life’s path. At this time I don’t need "Jolly", but I do need Jesus to protect me when I stumble and to lead me safely each day to my chosen destination.
I know that one day Edna will be able to see again. She will be able to see all the wonderful sunsets, flowers, colours, and the autumn
leaves. One day, all suffering will be gone. We have that blessed hope that Jesus is coming soon, and I want to be ready to meet Jesus and live
with Him eternally.
I wish everyone a very merry Christmas and may God richly bless you in the year 2000.
This year the holidays are very important to me, as it is the first time in many years that I will be with my family to celebrate. I love the Christmas season; it’s such a special time of the year. Everyone is so courteous and full of good will. It is the one time of the year when many people celebrate the birth of Christ.
As we come to the end of another year, many things come into my mind. I like to take the days before New Year’s Day to look back over the past year. I think it is a good time to make the necessary changes that are needed to bring us closer to God. One change I have to make is to spend more time with God.
I don’t believe in making New Year’s resolutions because nine times out of ten, we fail to keep them. I have a different suggestion for this new year 2000. Why not pick out one of the many promises that are in the Bible and claim that promise every day. Some great things just might happen in your life!
I hope that in the year 2000 everyone has a closer walk with Jesus. Let us all pray for the Holy Spirit so that Jesus can come for us soon!