Every December at our church there has been this annual tradition of what is called a Mitten Tree. It is like a Christmas tree, but instead of ornaments and tinsel, it is decorated with donated mittens, scarves and warm hats. To have a full and well decorated tree will mean there will need to be a lot of donated items from our small number of parishioners. It is so wonderful by the time Christmas and the New Year goes by each year, we have a fully decorated Mitten Tree.
A certain percentage of the mittens, hats and scarves are store bought. But there are also many, many mittens, hats and scarves that are hand knit. We are a small congregation comprised mostly of elderly people. Unfortunately without younger, able volunteers we are not able to run a Sunday School, Youth Groups and Children’s Programs for our community children that we would like. But there is one thing many of our congregation can do for the children of our community. We can knit. And we all can pray.
At the end of January we took our Mitten Tree down and boxed up all the mittens, hats and scarves. And the following week I delivered them to the local elementary school. Winter is now well over half over. If it was anything like when my own children were young, those winter accessories would have been getting ripped and torn from engaging in winter activities by mid winter. Tobogganing, snow forts, snow men, you name it. Winter activities are such fun, but they tend to be hard on clothing. And they will no longer have the warmth they used to have. We never know which children’s hands will be kept warm with the new mitts. Which heads will be warmed with the new hats. Which necks will be kept warm with the new scarves. But God knows. And we pray that God would wrap His loving arms around each of those children. Protect them and guide them in their life decisions. And keep them secure and safe in His care.
Several days after the box of mittens, hats and scarves was delivered to the school, I was standing at the highway for my noon hour school crossing guard duties. I noticed the secretary of the school named Hillary was carrying a box and heading straight towards where I was standing. It sure did look like she was carrying the same cardboard box I had previously dropped off at the school full of mittens, hats and scarves. I was thinking that surely they don’t think I wanted the empty box back. It was when I took the box and looked inside I noticed the box was full of a different kind of mittens. Beautifully crafted paper craft mittens for the church. Each pair of mittens created with such love, care, detail and individuality. I was so focused on the box, I failed to notice that Hillary was also carrying a huge handmade card. These amazing mittens and big beautiful card are proudly displayed on our church wall. It serves as a reminder to continue to pray continually for our children in the community.
I was challenged recently about the power of prayer and how we need to pray more after reading about a man that was struck by a car that failed to stop at a crosswalk. As he was lying there bleeding, in excruciating pain and unable to move, some concerned bystanders called for an ambulance. As they waited for the medical team to arrive, the group asked the victim how they could help him. He responded, “Pray for me.” They looked at him as if he was from another planet and backed away uncomfortably. So the man asked one of them for a cell phone so he could call one of his close friends. Lying there broken, on the side of the road, he called his friend. His friend got out the word for others to pray. Within minutes more than two dozen others connected with his friend were praying for him. Later the crosswalk victim said that he felt an unexplainable peace sweep over him during that time. That is the power of prayer chains.
My guess is that not everyone of those people praying knew the victim (the friend of a friend) lying broken and bleeding at the crosswalk. But they dropped whatever they were doing and took the time to pray. As a church, sometimes we get requests for prayer for people we may not know. The person may be someone in the community that really needs prayer at the current time. Or the person may be a friend or relative of one of the parishioners. The important thing is that we do take that time to pray.
Life can be very tough. Sometimes it may be one of those big events that derail us. So often there’s not even just one “big” thing, but just lots of little battles that can drain us dry. Parenting, marriage, job, relationships, fears, worries about the future, experiencing loss, discouragement, illness or money problems. It all can leave us beaten down and worn. And each Sunday morning, as we set aside a portion of our service for prayer, people share with honesty how their week has gone. As a lay pastor it is such an honour and privilege to bring this dear church family to God, our creator and sustainer in prayer.
It was wonderful to provide these children with those mittens for warm hands for the remainder of the winter. And I am so grateful to see that amazing chain of paper mittens and beautiful card from the children of Hillsdale. They are most definitely proudly displayed. When it comes to prayer, in Matthew 6:8 it says “Your Father (referring to God) knows what you need before you ask Him”. But in the next few verses (in the most well known prayer of all, called The Lord’s Prayer, which we recite every Sunday) we are instructed to pray for our needs. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 we are told to “Pray continually”. That means to pray a lot.
A song I have gone to several times over the past few years by Tenth Avenue North. “My soul feels crushed. By the weight of this world. And I know that you can give me rest. So I cry out with all that I have left” Song titled “Worn” by Tenth Avenue North. Produced by Jason Ingram. Album titled “The Struggle”. On a side note, my daughter Naomi and I used to go on “concert dates”. This band, Tenth Avenue North was the last concert we attended together before she moved to New Zealand for teacher’s college and an eventual teaching career there. ~Carl~