It seems quite a while since I had the opportunity to take pen in hand to write a few words of wit and wisdom. The reason for this regrettable lapse in communication was that for a period of four months I was out West in that city called Calgary in Alberta, Canada, also known as "Cow Town" and "Stampede City." .
We arrived there after a nine hour flight from London. Would you believe it, when we disembarked from the 'plane the temperature was minus 30 degrees, and Calgary lay under a blanket of deep snow. Even the hardy Canadians were saying it was the coldest winter they had had for years. However, the warm welcome we received from the Church folk did a lot to cheer us as we settled into what was to be our home for the next four months. We arrived there on a Wednesday and commenced our ministry on Thursday.
Packing suitcases for a journey can pose problems. What to bring and what not to bring is the question. We want to pack suitable clothes, and, of course, the minister must have his books. "You are not going to bring those old shoes?" my wife proclaimed in horror and with a "you are going to let the family down" look. Now I am sure that such a reaction was perfectly excusable for the old shoes had turned many a corner and had been tramped on for years. "I'll wear them on the journey," I compromised, not wishing to part with a pair of old friends. So on the shoes went on the appropriate feet and up in the plane and down at Calgary International Airport. Mind you, those old shoes nearly died of shock when they touched down on yon icy pavement. I had to speak a word of comfort and make a promise of better things to come to keep them moving in the right direction.
Those old shoes have climbed mountains, walked along quiet streams, rested on buses and trains and relaxed at many a fireside. At times they were almost frozen, at other times well nigh melted.
During out stay in Canada I can only recall one instant when they 'left me'. It happened in the city of Victoria when we were visiting the Parliament Building there. I was descending the stone stairway when I missed one of the steps and took a "short cut" to the bottom. I looked down at my feet and the old wrinkled shoes looked up and seemed to say, "why don't you look where you are going?" I promised to watch my step in future.
When we set out for Calgary I intended the old shoes would not make the return journey, but I just could not bear to part with them and they are here as I write, looking up at me. Who knows maybe they will be antiques one day.
When the father welcomed the prodigal son, among the things the boy received was a pair of shoes. I'm sure he kept those shoes for a long time for they would remind him of how he repented and how he was welcomed in the father's house.
It has been said that "shoes have tongues but cannot speak". I'm not sure that this it true. Perhaps you have a new pair of shoes. How brightly they shine. Not a speck to be seen. You know when man was created there was no spot on him. He came new from the hand of God but sin entered Eden and the shin was gone. Have you ever seen a tramp's boot all cracked and dirty with a hole in the sole. Not much use trying to improve it. It's beyond repair. Very often we try to patch up our life.
A story is told of a tramp who lay outside the palace of a king. One day he picked up a card dropped by a special visitor to the palace. It was an invitation to a banquet. The old tramp from the moment he picked up the invitation began to sew patches on to his garments. By our own efforts we cannot make ourselves acceptable to the King of Kings.
A favourite sport in Calgary is Ice Hockey. To play it one must have special boots. To skate and remain upright we must put our trust in the boots and also have faith in the ice . The Christian life is started when we trust Christ.
The moment my all I ventured on the atoning Blood
The Holy Spirit entered and I was born of God.
Having put our trust in the Saviour we must walk by Faith. Paul speaks of having our "feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of Peace." By the way, I would like to thank all of you who wrote to us during our stay in Canada. Your letters were much appreciated. Also many thanks for the warm-hearted hospitality we enjoyed in Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto.