God Hears

Once upon a time in Israel, well before the time of Christ, a young woman named Hannah prayed for a child, in particular, a son.

Hannah had expected to become pregnant soon after marriage to Elkanah, a very devout man. She didn’t. Months passed. A year, two years. Her husband began to worry. Would people think he was the cause? Who would carry on the family business? The family name? Hannah prayed night and day, “O Lord, take pity on me and send me a son. If you give me a son, I will dedicate him to you. His whole life will be spent in service to you.” (I Samuel 1)

Elkanah, like many men of his time, took a second wife. Enter . . . Penninah, a fruitful girl who magically produced six children. Elkanah’s life was complete – he had Hannah, the love of his life, and several children to carry on his name. Wife number two, though a good baby-producer, was cruel and malicious. She taunted Hannah, hissed insults at her when Husband wasn’t around.

Isolated, Hannah’s inability to have a child sat like a sorrowful rock on her chest. It woke her in the night and filled her eyes with tears during the day. Religious Elkanah took both his wives and his brood up to Shiloh once a year to praise God with sacrifices for his good fortune. A joyful time of thankfulness and eating. But not for Hannah.

Things came to a climax one day at Shiloh. Hannah was depressed and teary. Her husband said, “Why are you weeping? Am I not better than a dozen sons to you?” The answer, of course, was a big NO but Hannah could hardly tell him that. She left the feast and entered the temple to pray. She flung herself down and cried out a prayer of desperation. So full of angst was she that no words came out, only groans. (. . .the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. Romans 8:26.)

Eli, the priest, saw Hannah. He could have rested his hand on her back in a gesture of kindness and empathy. That would’ve been nice. Instead, he rushed over, pointed an accusing finger at her and said, “You should be ashamed of yourself for coming into God’s house drunk.”

Harassed by Wife Number Two, misunderstood by Husband and now accused of drunkenness by her priest. Hannah had reached the end. “I am not drunk, I’m a woman with a sorrowful spirit.” Cheers for her for finding her voice and defending herself.

Whether Eli really meant the next words he spoke, or if he said them to everyone who wept, we don’t know. We do know that he wasn’t the godliest man in Israel. He said to Hannah, “May God grant you the desire of your heart.”

Immediately on hearing these words, the sadness Hannah had carried for years lifted. She rose and with a light heart returned home with her husband.

A few months later, Hannah gives birth to a son. She calls him Samuel, meaning “God hears.”

If you, like Hannah, are praying in desperation, God has a message for you: “I hear you.”

Jesus said, “And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask then we also know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” (I John 5:15).

Samuel’s birth ends Hannah’s childless years. She produces four more children. Her prayer of desperation becomes a prayer of praise: I’m bursting with God-news! I’m walking on air. I’m laughing at my rivals. I’m dancing my salvation (I Samuel 2:1 Msg).

God hears and answers desperate prayers.

A scriptural prayer of desperation: “Unto you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in you: let me not be ashamed, let not my enemies triumph over me.” Psalm 25:1,2

God hears you. “Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.” Jeremiah 29:12

P.S. The meeting between Eli and Hannah is magnificent for its irony. The self-righteous priest accuses a faultless woman of being drunk while his two sons, priests at the temple, are robbing the offerings, threatening the people and having sex with the women who work there. Eli knows this. He knows God isn’t pleased. But he doesn’t correct them. He reserves his corrections for people like Hannah. An even bigger irony is being played out. These two don’t know it yet but the reader knows that Hannah’s soon-to-arrive son, Samuel (God hears), will receive a message from God for Eli, a message of doom and retribution.


 


rose at chapters 2Rose McCormick Brandon is the author of many articles and cover One Good Word 2several books, including Promises of Home – Stories of Canada’s British Home Children and One Good Word Makes all the Difference.

 

 

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The Art of Listening

It happened, in the providence of God, that I, as a teenager,

The little church in my home town (photo provided by Bev Friesen - original painting by her sister Mosse)

The little church in my home town (photo provided by Bev Friesen – from an original painting by her sister Mosse)

became a disciple of Jesus in a shabby little church in a northern paper town. This congregation, for the most part, wasn’t loud and irritating; it consisted of parishioners who treasured quietness. But, it was connected to a loud and sometimes in-your-face denomination, a denomination I’ve stayed with. Even though, in my view, it lacks listening grace.

In Mark Twain’s humorous tale, Roughing It, the main character travels across country by stage-coach and meets a female passenger unacquainted with listening grace. Lamenting his misfortune, he says, “The fountains of her great deep were opened up, and she rained the nine parts of speech, forty days and forty nights, metaphorically speaking, and buried us under a desolating deluge of trivial gossip.”

Sometimes I get that drowning sensation in church. Yes, I love to worship God. Yes, I enjoy music. But is there no place for listening? For quietness?

Sometimes the commotion of church annoys. Endless singing and talking with barely a breath taken, except to storm heaven with loud prayers . . . Oh for a quiet corner in an ancient sanctuary where silence is treasured! To attach myself to mute monks for one day of blessed quiet.

I realize that 75% of any given congregation is made up of extroverts. I’m guessing it’s much higher in my denomination. As an introvert, I’m a bit out of my element. Being an introvert doesn’t mean I’m a hermit in waiting; it simply means that I don’t get my energy from crowds, especially noisy crowds.

Perhaps I’m a Quaker at heart. Or, could it be, that Canada’s proximity to a nation that boasts the loudest, most crass form of evangelicalism has tainted our churches? I’m pondering that.

Listening isn’t mentioned in scripture’s lists of spiritual or practical gifts. If it was, my denomination would surely practice it. However . . . Jesus taught the spare use of words. “When you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. (Matthew 6:7 NIV)

In Waiting on God, Andrew Murray admits it may be difficult to learn quietness but he says “the little season will bring a peace and a rest that give blessing not only in prayer but all the day.”

Holy moments occur more often in stillness.

God speaks. That’s His modus operandi. He begins in Genesis with “Let there be light!” From there, His voice punctuates one section of scripture after another until the last chapter where Jesus says, “I am coming soon.” The Old Testament records the Father speaking to prophets, kings, priests, farmers, mothers, fathers and children. The New Testament shows Jesus speaking to the rich, the poor, the pompous, the political, the religious, the desperate, the sick and the dead.

He speaks to everyone – but only those who listen benefit.

Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27) Because God speaks to people, the relationship award goes not to marathon talkers who pile up words while praying, speaking, berating, sharing . . .  but to listeners who treasure what He says.

O God, make me a listener. And help me to endure the seemingly endless and noisy diatribe that passes for Christian communication.


rose at chapters 2Rose McCormick Brandon is the author of many articles and cover One Good Word 2several books, including Promises of Home – Stories of Canada’s British Home Children and One Good Word Makes all the Difference.

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The Baby Stage of Wonder

download 016One sunny June morning, I placed my helmeted two year-old son, Peter, on the child’s seat of my bike and we took off from the driveway for an hour joy ride.

As we cycled through the neighbourhood, a warm breeze tickled through my long hair. Peter hummed with contentment in rhythm to the wheels. He pointed a chubby finger one direction, then the other – “Doggie . . . birdie. . . sky.” My heart leapt with gladness at the sound of his happy voice.

On our blessed excursion, I thought how wonderful it would be to let the surprise of the first view of our surroundings fill us with same wonder my baby was experiencing.

Soon, I felt the weight of Peter’s head on my back. He’d fallen asleep. At home, I removed him from the seat and gingerly carried him upstairs to his crib for a nice long nap. As I fluffed him into his baby scented blankets, I felt a nudge from the Lord –

“When you look around at the world I’ve created, always let your heart be filled with the wonder and excitement of a child.”

We grow out of many things in life but we should never grow out of that baby stage of wonder. Open the windows of your home and let the scent of Spring thrill you again.

Let this Spring be as marvellous as your first.

tulipsWhen you see the trees in bud, really look at them and consider the marvel of new growth. When flowers bloom again, snip off one tiny bloom and study its complicated construction.

We bring joy to the heart of the Father when we appreciate the work of His hands.

Today, Father, we say with the angels: “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things and by your will they exist and were created.” (Revelation 4:11)


book coverRose McCormick Brandon is the author of One Good Word Makes all thecover One Good Word 2 Difference and Promises of Home – Stories of Canada’s British Home Children. Visit her website at http://writingfromtheheart.webs.com

 

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The Gift of Encouragement

Discouragement often knocks on the door of the lonely, sick and elderly. For decades Hope interceded for her family, church and community. Through her strong witness many came to Christ. Now Hope sits alone in her living room lamenting that her life is unfruitful. Poor health and several falls prevent her from attending church. Few from the congregation call. “I don’t know why the Lord doesn’t take me home. I’m no good to Him any more,” she says.

Encouraging the Hopes of the world is a significant part of our work for God. The first gift we can offer them is an empathetic ear. They often need to unload their negative feelings. Sometimes the simple act of expressing their thoughts lightens their darkness. Being a kind non-judgmental listener is an offering believers can give one another. In her prime, Hope prayed for, called and visited many. “Now I’m alone and everyone has forgotten me,” she says. An exaggeration, but she may realize that later.

Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.(Gal. 6:2)

After listening, raise the focus upwards by reminding the person of their royal position – “God has raised them up with Christ and seated them with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:6

Tell of His unconditional affection and the promise of His continual presence. Read scripture and pray together. Allow a spiritual bond to develop.  This restores the person’s sense of belonging to the body of Christ. Paul expressed this in Romans 1:11, 12 –

I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.

Even God’s heroes become discouraged. Elijah, a miracle man, was so miserable he wanted to die. An angel came, cooked him a nourishing meal and told him to lie down and rest. What kindness the angel showed the depressed prophet.

The angel’s actions demonstrate the practical side of being an encourager. Simple acts of kindness sooth despairing souls and remind them they’re loved. It’s only human to grow old, tired, hungry and lonely.

James wrote of Elijah, “He was a man just like us.” Christians often don’t allow for human weakness. We consider the high points of our faith journey and believe we should always live on those mountain tops. Some may even believe that becoming disheartened, discouraged or depressed is a sin.  An encourager dispels that myth.

Prayer: Make me a blessing to someone today, Lord. Fill my mouth with words of encouragement.


book coverRose McCormick Brandon is the author of four books, including, cover One Good Word 2Promises of Home – Stories of Canada’s British Home Children and One Good Word Makes all the Difference. Visit her blogs, Listening to my Hair Grow and Promises of Home. Her books are available at http://writingfromtheheart.webs.com

 

 

 

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Humility and Pride: Two Responses to the Cross

crossHumility acknowledges the sufferings of Jesus and accepts that He suffered for us. Pride glosses over His sufferings and refuses to think about them.

Humility acknowledges that only the cross erases sin. Pride says, “There are many ways to holiness. I’m not so bad, no worse than anyone else.”

Humility confesses sin. Pride says, “I’m as good as the next person.”

Humility embraces the cross. Pride turns its head in embarrassment.

Humility throws its arms around Jesus and thanks Him for salvation. Pride ignores Him.

Humility kisses His feet. Pride slaps His face.

Humility weeps. Pride smirks.

Humility is undone by the sadness of the crucifixion. Pride says, “What’s all the fuss?”

Humility walks to the foot of His cross. Pride walks on by.

Humility calls Him friend. Pride pretends not to know Him.

Humility comes to the cross alone. Pride runs off with the crowd.

Humility admits to being a sinner. Pride says, “Nobody’s going to point the finger at me and call me a sinner.”

Humility admits to needing Him. Pride calls Him a crutch.

Humility breaths, “Thank you Jesus.” Pride is silent.

The cross causes us to remember where we came from and to consider where we’d be without Jesus.


book coverRose McCormick Brandon is the author of four books, including One Good Word Makes all the Difference and Promises of Home – Stories of Canada’s British Home Children. To purchase books, visit her website at: writingfromtheheart.webs.com and read her blogs Promises of Home and Listening to my Hair Grow.

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The Problem of Guilt

Sometimes we disappoint – bad behavior, unkind attitudes, unintentional missteps or outright Guilt_Fingersin – we slip up and our actions give others cause to say, “Huh. She’s not much of a Christian!”

We’ve all been there.

Some are gifted with the ability to shake off all high crimes and misdemeanors. “So what! No one’s perfect,” they say.

Then there are those who let minor infractions lead them to depths of gloom. They never let themselves off the hook. Wallowing in guilt is their modus operandi. They deem themselves hopeless. Long after others have forgotten their misdeeds they continue to mentally flog themselves.

Isn’t it good to feel guilt?

Only if it leads to asking forgiveness. Only if there’s an end to it. Guilt that festers eventually damages us and our relationship to God.

Jesus died for all sin. Even the most vile of sins. When a guilty person sincerely asks forgiveness, they are forgiven – forever. The guilt from sin is meant to disappear at the point of forgiveness. But, sometimes it hangs around to torment.

Christians don’t have to live in daily torment.

Peter betrayed Christ. Three times he denied knowing Him. He could have ended up like Judas. He didn’t because he was filled with remorse and asked for forgiveness. He went on to become a pillar of the early church. He preached the gospel to thousands and wrote two books that ended up in the Bible. Peter had reason for guilt but if he had lived in a state of guilt, his accomplishments would have been few.

Whole segments of the Christian church use guilt to motivate believers. They tell us we don’t give enguiltough, do enough, look good enough, act good enough . . . the list is endless. It’s right to preach against sin. It’s right to feel guilty for unforgiven sin. But it’s not right for the forgiven to live in a state of guilt.

In the greatest chapter of the Bible, Paul began with these words: “There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) Isn’t that liberating? No condemnation.

John wrote: “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9) This cleansing includes the wiping away of all guilt.

To those of tender conscious, those so easily made to feel guilty, the Lord says:  As high as heaven is over the earth,  so strong is my love to those who fear me. Psalm 103:11

Lay down guilt and walk in the freedom of Christ.

***

book coverRose McCormick Brandon is the author of four books, including One Good Word Makes all the Difference and Promises of Home – Stories of Canada’s British Home Children. To purchase books, visit her website at: writingfromtheheart.webs.com and read her blogs Promises of Home and Listening to my Hair Grow.

 

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Developing Tough Faith

For some reason, not a biblical reason, North American Christians tend to believe that if we do all the right things – give money to the church, get involved in Christian service, read our Bibles and pray faithfully – then, nothing negative will enter our divinely protected domes.

The belief that all negativity comes from Satan is fiction.

In a very difficult time in my life, I drove myself to distraction with self-examining questions like – Is Satan trying to destroy my faith? Have I sinned? Did I do something that angered God? The answer to all these questions is “Yes.” Satan is trying to destroy my faith. I have sinned. And sin angers God.

I eventually got around to the most important question – has this trial come to me from God? And the answer to that was also “Yes.”

He sees the weakness, the frailty of our faith, its instability. He knows, if we are to survive as Christians, if we are to know Him well, we must develop tough faith. We grow strong in the trenches not on the dance floor.

Tough faith loves God when it can’t make a list of how He blessed me today. Tough faith believes in spite of unanswered prayer. Tough faith trusts when the evidence is stacked against it.

God brings trials of all descriptions – financial, health, employment, stress, family problems and an assortment of other difficulties, including a sense that He has disowned us and seems far away. (I once wrote a piece, When God Forgets Your Name. That’s how I felt at the time.) Sometimes hardships pile one on the other. Shakespeare observed  that when sorrows come, they come not in singles, but in battalions.

A friend in great distress once said, “I’ve concluded that if it took this disaster for me to know the Lord in a deeper way, then I have no regrets. In a way, I don’t even care if the situation improves.” Treasures hide in darkness. Some marvellous insights about who God is can only be learned in the low places.

I have no desire for dark times. They’re not on my prayer list. And I often feel white-knuckled when distresses come. But, one thing I’ve learned – if a trial comes from God, it is meant to strengthen me and it will have an end.

Are troubles banging on your front door? Don’t be afraid. It could be God toughening your faith. The author of Hebrews addresses the issue of God’s discipline:

My son, do not make light of the discipline of the Lord,
And do not lose heart and give up when you are corrected by Him; For the Lord disciplines and corrects those whom He loves,
And He punishes every son whom He receives and welcomes [to His heart].” You must submit to [correction for the purpose of] discipline; God is dealing with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” Hebrews 12:5-7

Soldiers prepare for battle through rigorous training. Athletes learn to ignore the voice of defeat and not to give in to the body’s aches and pains. In the same way, we must not give up when trials come. God is simply forcing us off the bench and into the battle.

Take with me your share of hardship [passing through the difficulties which you are called to endure], like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 2:3


 

book coverRose McCormick Brandon is the author of four books, including One Good Word Makes all the Difference and Promises of Home – Stories of Canada’s British Home Children. To purchase books, visit her website at: writingfromtheheart.webs.com and read her blogs Promises of Home and Listening to my Hair Grow.

 

 

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Just Tell Jesus

Is it possible that the same God who with a single word set the entire universe in motion, is interested in my everyday needs? Does He care about jobs and headaches, a lost dog, housing, broken hearts and dental work?

chickadee at niagara fallsOnce upon a time, a group of playing children wandered about chasing butterflies and picking wild flowers. They ran haphazardly lured by the beauty of the forest. After a while, they realized the path they’d started out on had disappeared. They were lost. Every tree looked the same; which direction led home?

One child said, “Remember, Mother told us if we got in trouble to tell Jesus about it.” The little group paused and one prayed. No sooner had they uttered “Amen” than a little bird landed near them, almost within touching distance. One boy reached out his hand. The bird hopped a few feet. Soon all joined in the chase. The bird hopped, or flew, just in front, almost in reach. Then it flew into the air and away. When the children finally looked up they found themselves at the edge of the woods in sight of home.

It’s a simple story of simple faith and child-like trust in Jesus. Yet, it teaches us that God cares about the day-to-day details of our hum-drum lives.

Once, at a large women’s retreat, I needed to meet up with a woman I’d never met. I knew her name and that she was at the retreat but nothing else. How will I ever find her? I wondered. Then I recalled a Bible verse – “The Lord will watch over your coming and going” (Psalm 121:8).

I left my comings and goings in His care. A few hours later, I happened to be walking along a sidewalk when my steps intersected with a woman coming from the opposite direction. “Are you Rose Brandon?” she asked. She’d been looking for me, too.

I realize that not all needs are as simple as mine or as simple as the children finding their way home. Some needs are complicated, heavy, impossible and frustrating. Still, the God who made the solar system also made that little bird.

“How do you know that the children wouldn’t have found their way home and that you wouldn’t have found the woman you were looking for anyway?” People with this attitude will never discover Jesus, the dear and close Friend who cares about everything that concerns us.

What is the price of five sparrows? A couple of pennies? Not much more than that. Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And he knows the number of hairs on your head! Never fear, you are far more valuable to him than a whole flock of sparrows. Luke 12:6,7.

karate jackThe One who keeps track of your hair count finds you valuable. It’s astounding how God responds to what may seem to others as a trivial need.

When my daughter, Melody, was five she prayed for a cat. I had in mind to visit a cat woman I knew and choose a kitten for her. I’d already talked to the woman about it. Before I could adopt a soft, clean kitten, a wild, scruffy male tabby showed up on our back deck. My mother who was visiting at the time, said, “That cat is determined to make this his home.”

I breathed a sigh of relief when the cat disappeared. But, just as Melody came home from kindergarten and arrived at the back door, the cat showed up again. Her eyes lit up. No turning back after that. She named him Debbie after a loved babysitter and he moved into our house. We cleaned him up and for the next six years he brought much joy.

You are loved by a God who cares about wayward children, birds, cats and footsteps.

Are you in need today? Just tell Jesus about it.

 

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The Miracle Snowplow

Some years ago, I had a brilliant idea – collect personal stories from church members and put them in a book that could be added to and kept for decades. I still like my idea but writing is hard work and few in the church felt motivated for the task. A few turned in stories but not enough to make the project work. I kept the stories, filed them and this week as I’m continuing to clean out my office – what a task that is! – I found them. What beautiful heart-warming stories. It doesn’t seem right that I’m the only one to read them. This one is written by Ilse Jancke, a woman of robust faith, known for her jolly personality. Ilse went to be with Jesus on August 11, 2011. This is her story:


Ilse Jancke

Ilse Jancke

My husband, Max, had just been released from the hospital under strict orders to remain calm and avoid any stressful situations. The following morning, we had a storm and a large amount of snow fell. My sons who usually took care of plowing the yard and our one commercial property, had all been called out to other plowing jobs. My daughter and I decided to take on the job. Upon finishing the first property, we arrived home to clear our driveway, which it is very necessary to keep plowed, as it is a public store entrance. As the blade dropped for the first sweep, the transmission died. So much for no stress!

My husband immediately stepped out of the store, a worried look on his face. I raced in and began to do the only thing I knew would help – I laid my dilemma at Jesus’ feet. I paced back and forth praising the Lord in a loud voice, so loud that at times I would see my husband turn and look back at the house wondering what was going on. I continued to praise the Lord over this situation until about fifteen minutes later a family friend happened to pass by and stopped. He was on his way further down the road to plow snow. He opened both entrances to the store driveway and had the broken-down plow removed from the snow bank.

I paced and praised more, using an even louder voice. My husband might have thought I’d gone mad had he entered then. “Dear God,” I prayed, “we need a tow truck to take the plow to the transmission shop.” What a storm! How would God send me a tow truck in such a big storm? They would all be in use.

As I continued to praise, a neighbour happened to arrive home for lunch. You guessed it! The Lord had this man tow the plow to the transmission shop. This all took place within half an hour. What a mighty God!!

But, have a transmission fixed quickly and cheaply? I really prayed about this. By seven o’clock that night the miracle plow was sitting in the yard with a new transmission, ready to go to work. The bill that arrived with it read – “Paid in full.”


Ilse faced many challenges during her life yet she always praised God. She believed and lived I Thessalonians 5:18 “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” Many times she encouraged me. I hope this little story from her will encourage you today. – Rose McCormick Brandon

 

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Boots Squeaking on Snow

100_0731When it’s many degrees below zero, boots squeak on snow. Breath hangs in the air like little clouds. Noses turn red, frost clings to lashes. A windless frozen day, tree branches stiff and dangerous as swords.

Feet tramp down the crispy trail, toes stinging with chill. Alone in the cold. This sensation links us to nature, makes us feel our fragility. If no warm fire awaited at the end of the trail, our blood would turn to ice; we’d perish. Most days we don’t feel our humanity; we don’t realize how dependent we are on something as basic as fire.

Frozen Shoreline

Frozen Shoreline

Cold draws out our primitive nature. It bites and stings. But it also invigorates. A brisk walk on an icy day can be just what the doctor ordered. As a child, our son Carson had croup many times. In the middle of the night we’d awake to the sound of his gasps for air. We’d bundle him into a snow suit and carry him outside. While the rest of the street slept, we took turns pacing; back and forth; our steps squeaked on the front porch.  With each step Carson’s breathing eased.

He beautifies the earth with a fresh blanket of snow.

He beautifies the earth with a fresh blanket of snow.

I find prayer comes easy when accompanied by the sound of my boots squeaking on snow-covered ground. The cold snaps me back to reality; makes me thankful for simple things like warmth. A winter walk can be just what’s needed when worry overwhelms us. The squeak of our boots draw us closer to God.

For He says to the snow, fall on the earth . . . Job 37:6

Have you entered into the treasures of the snow? Job 38:22

Rose McCormick Brandon’s books, including Promises of Home – Stories of Canada’s British Home Children and  One Good Word Makes all the Difference, are available here.

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