Friday, December 23, 2022

This Christmas, Celebrate Differently...

Friends, it’s been a challenging year for us, rife with illness and struggle, and now we’re wrapping up 2022 with a wicked bout of Covid. We’ve been sick for almost 3 weeks. To date, we’ve cancelled 8 different Christmas concerts. It’s hard to state the toll this has taken on us. 

Frankly, we’re just exhausted - vocally, physically, and emotionally.

So, we’ve decided to celebrate Christmas differently this year.

We’re keeping it simple. 

We’re choosing new priorities.

One of my favourite Christmas traditions is decorating, but the idea of getting a tree and hauling out the tinsel was just more than we could handle.

So, we did something different:

We’d like to share with you our Christmas Card Tree for 2022.

Four feet tall, doesn’t need water, and placed on a table high above the reach of our little puppy, Max.

Last week, my parents dropped by.

We pulled out curling ribbon, pinking shears, and last year’s Christmas cards

Over cups of espresso, we cut the cards into ornaments, and tied them on the tree with ribbon.

Coloured lights and our Victorian glass beads tied the whole look together.

Finally, we tucked our nativity under the tree, surrounded by my collection of angels.

In just a few hours, with a few snips of paper, our home transformed from everyday to extraordinary.

It started as a simple art project, but in the making it became so much more.

It’s covered in cards given to us by people we love.
It was created in an afternoon of laughter and family.
And it’s giving us light in our darkness - something we all need.

Friends, we know we’re not alone. It’s been a tough year for many of us.

If you’re struggling this Christmas, may we encourage you to celebrate differently:

Choose to do less.

Spend time with the people you love.

Find new ways to do things.

Spend a little extra time in prayer.

And however you choose to celebrate,
remember that whatever our personal circumstances,
the Reason for the Season never changes.

From our family to yours,
we wish you a peaceful, joy-filled & healthy Christmas!

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     

Please enjoy my Dad's Christmas message:

A "Way" in a "Lodge of Broken Bark"

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Guest Post - A “Way” in a “Lodge of Broken Bark”, by Rev. Hollis Hiscock


Please welcome my Dad - Rev. Hollis Hiscock -
as today's guest blogger!

Dad is currently serving as 
Interim Priest-in-Charge at St. John's Anglican Church, Burlington.

This is his Christmas letter to the parish, and to all of us:


The above sentence brings together two of my favourite Christmas carols
with an inspiring message for our COVID-affected world:

describes the birth of Jesus in its original setting - 
in a manger in a stable in a distant country.

describes the birth of Jesus in its adopted setting -
in a lodge of broken bark in Canada.

In both carols, the lodge and the manger 
have deep spiritual symbolisms. 

The lodge and the manger signify new life and new beginnings.
God has entered humanity, responding to age old pleas to have mercy and save people from sin. 

The manger and lodge became the launching pad for Jesus and his Gospel of good news ministry. 

The lodge and manger, for the fragile baby Jesus, turned out to be His place of comfort and security from physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental assailants.

The manger and lodge were and are a gathering place for all people of every nation, age, and value system, where they can encounter unity and find a sense of purpose. 

The lodge and manger provide a source for basic needs like food, clothing, shelter, protection, companionship and much more. 

The manger and lodge - physically or figuratively - become the place in our lives to which we can return periodically to refocus, to restart, to reappraise or to be “born again”.  

This Christmas, think about the manger and the lodge
and their place and meaning in your own life.

Also, think outwardly to other lodges and mangers in God’s world where people walk or gather to be fed, find shelter, receive healing, and feel safe, and how you can respond to God’s presence in God’s world. 

Let me suggest a Christmas exercise for you to do:

form a cradle by placing one hand on top of the other.

reflect on these words:

“Come, kneel before the radiant boy, who brings you beauty, peace and joy.”
(‘Twas In The Moon Of Wintertime)

“Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask you to stay close by me forever and love me, I pray.”
(Away In A Manger)

Thirdly, repeat several times,
“Come into my heart, Lord Jesus! There is room in my life for You.”

May this Christmas bring our own lodges and mangers
into a heightened relationship with God
 and grow into new journeys and realities with other individuals in the coming year.

And on a personal note:

Helen, our family, and I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

From, Hollis

Monday, December 19, 2022

Book Review: The Premonition at Withers Farm, by Jaime Jo Wright

Well, here's a first: reading a ghost story at Christmas!
(And not a Dickens ghost story!)

Technically, this book came out in the fall, but when your copy arrives in December, whatcha gonna do?

I've already reviewed two of Jaime Jo's books - On The Cliffs Of Foxglove Manor and The Souls Of Lost Lake - and I will jump at any chance to read and review her fantastic stories!

The Premonition at Withers Farm tells the story of a Michigan farm haunted by murders, ghosts, and mystery.

In 1910, we're introduced to self-proclaimed healer, Perliett Van Hilton, and her spiritualist, seance-holding mother. When one of the Withers' daughters is murdered in her own family's corn field, the whole town in swept up in fear and mystery. Is the answer in the field or in the beyond?

In the present day, Molly and Trent Wasziak have suffered greatly in their personal lives. When they move into the Withers Farm, the young couple is forced to confront the unsolved mysteries of the past, a current murder in the present, and how their family's history ties into it all.

I'm hesitant to say much more.
This is a book that must be allowed to unfold on its own terms!

Like any great ghost story, The Premonition at Withers Farm relies on intriguing characters, a killer plot (pun not intended, but kind of perfect!), and copious amounts of tension. Jaime Jo is a Christian writer with a passion for all things Gothic, so you know it's going to get scary without getting too gory or bleak.

I am such a superfan of Jaime Jo Wright! 
Pick up a copy of The Premonition at Withers Farm,
and any other copies of her books you can find... 

Jaime Jo has a great newsletter, a really fun Facebook group, 
and lots of encouragement for writers. 
You can find out more at:

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Book Review: The Blackout Book Club, by Amy Lynn Green

For the last two weeks, we've been wiped out by Covid. It's the first time we've had it, and despite our vaccines, it's really done a number on us. 

The one perk? Lots of time for reading, 
and this book was the perfect balm for a rough few weeks.

The Blackout Book Club by Amy Lynn Green appealed to me from the start. Historical fiction, a library, letters from the front, and a secret backstory - what's not to love?

Avis Montgomery unexpectedly finds herself as a librarian in a privately owned library in small-town Maine. When the owner threatens to close the library, Avis creates a book club in an attempt to save the special place. A disparate group of men and women start to gather on Saturday mornings to read classics and favourites. As their lives weave together, they start to learn the power of story - fictional and real - to save communities and themselves. 

I loved this book! Amy's writing is beautiful, creative, and clear. I could see every person and imagine every corner of the library. Different characters lead different chapters, and each voice was perfectly clear. Amy also mixed in a few letters from the front, as well as "notes" from the book club meetings, all of which made for a fun narrative experience.

And check out this beautiful piece from Amy's Facebook page. Isn't this charming and kind?

I completely recommend getting two copies of this book - 
one for yourself and one to give as a Christmas gift.

You can learn more about Amy's books and writing at

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.