Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Saturday, February 17, 2018

It's a Girl!



It was at a Breakforth conference in Edmonton in 2007 when I raised my hand to receive a very special envelope. Compassion Canada representatives had left their booth to work the crowd, holding up packets much like you’d see ushers selling programs at a concert. Each packet held details about a child in a third world country awaiting sponsorship.

It was something I had always wanted to do. I’d already stopped by their booth and looked at photos of these precious kids, but still I hesitated. Now, when I felt my heart pounding, I knew it was time. I waved the guy over.

“Lord,” I prayed. “Whichever envelope I am handed, that is the child you want me to sponsor. I won’t trade it.”

Seconds later, I was looking into the face of a little boy from Ecuador with at least four fancy Spanish names. I sponsored him until he moved out of the sponsorship area, then Compassion replaced him with another boy around the same age named Tarion. We exchanged letters for several years. Each time I received a new photo of Tarion, I could see him growing taller and more mature. Last fall, he too moved out of the area—although at 17, he would have “aged out” soon anyway.

So I called Compassion to see about being matched with another child.

“Would you like another boy?” the lady asked.

“You know what?” I said. “Since I first signed on for this, God has given us five grandsons and no granddaughters. I really think I’d like a little girl.”

Perhaps it’s politically incorrect to categorize children into only these two designations these days, but that doesn’t seem like a high priority to those struggling simply to survive.

She laughed and asked if age or nationality mattered. I told her wherever the need was greatest would be fine. Children are automatically ranked by greatest need, and the first girl on her list was a four-year old named Sara from Colombia. Now she’s MY little Sara, and she’s as cute as a bug!

"My" Sara
Compassion Canada reports that sponsored kids are 27% - 40% more likely to finish secondary education, and 35% more likely to have professional careers than their unsponsored peers. Further, Compassion kids are 40% - 70% more likely to become church leaders. This is because Compassion takes a holistic approach, rather than simply handing out food or clothing. Real and lasting change happens when children are developed physically, mentally, relationally, and spiritually to become the adults who will create change in their community. These children grow up to be givers and community leaders. All for $41 a month off your credit card! 

If you ever want to check on the rankings of charitable organizations, a good place to look is the 2018 Charity 100 list produced by MoneySense. As its name suggests, the list names the top 100 charities in Canada and gives letter grades, based mostly on efficiency. It’s a great way to ensure your giving dollars go as far as they can for the cause you care about. I was pleased to see Compassion Canada near the top. On Compassion’s website, you can view pictures and details of the children awaiting sponsorship. Or call them at 1-800-563-5437. You will never regret it!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Why Being a Writer Might Be Hazardous to Your Marriage



Marriages that include one writer can present unique challenges. One more obvious scenario is the non-writer finding his or her life on display, quirks and all, in books, articles, or blog posts. Another might involve the writer becoming lost in their own make-believe world instead of staying engaged in the present reality. Or the nonwriter feeling abandoned by the writer’s constant pull toward the writing desk for hours on end, often late at night or in the wee hours of the morning.

But the challenge I’ve only lately realized is the writer’s ability to re-write everyday conversations (in which the hero has fallen short in some way) into fantasy scenes where said hero proves so loving and considerate, her fantasy heroine cannot help but feel as cherished and precious as the writer longs to feel in real life. 

Here’s an example.

In the real-life scene, the married couple (let’s call them Bill and Susan) are driving home from church and discussing plans for the following morning. Susan, who normally walks to work, has been suffering from a sore knee and has not made the walk for a couple of weeks. She’s hoping to try walking again tomorrow, but she’s waffling—especially given the sub-zero winter temperatures. But Bill needs the car to drive to the city for an appointment. He offers to drop Susan off at work in the morning, but he won’t return for hours after Susan gets off, leaving her no way home. Should she try walking home in the cold on that bad knee? She’s not sure what to do.

“Well,” Bill says, “if you don’t want to walk, you can always take a four-dollar shuttle.”

Problem solved. Right? 

Maybe for Bill. But Susan is a writer. The next day as she limps home in the freezing wind, she rewrites the scene in her mind. If she were scripting a romantic novel in which she wanted readers to swoon over Bill, she might write the scene something like this:

Bill ran a hand through Susan’s hair and brought it to rest on her chin, lifting it slightly so he could gaze into her eyes. “Sweetheart, I don’t like the idea of you walking in this cold with that bad knee. Here.” She felt him slip something into her hand, folding her fingers around it. “Promise me that if you don’t feel up to walking, you’ll call for a ride. All right?” He kissed her forehead and waited for her nod before he pulled away. Susan opened her hand to discover a five-dollar bill and a phone number for a local shuttle company.

Fantasy Bill is now a hero. He has acknowledged that Susan is a grown woman capable of making her own decision. But he has also made her feel precious with his care and his kiss. She feels provided for with the money and the phone number. And she feels important to him. Chances are, she will choose to walk home anyway, but she will do so feeling loved and cherished.

Susan compares the scene in her mind to the real-life scene, and Bill comes up sadly lacking in the romantic hero department. Instead of feeling treasured, she interprets his solution the same as if he had coldly said, “Well, I need the car. So deal with it.” 

In fact, no matter how hard Bill tries, he is never going to meet the standards of the chivalrous fantasy heroes Susan is capable of conjuring. His words won’t sound as loving, or his sentences as cleverly constructed. For that matter, he’ll probably never be as smartly dressed or smell as sexy or work as hard or earn as much or…

You get the picture.

Meanwhile, real-life Susan laments the fact she can never measure up to the air-brushed, photo-shopped, youthful models smiling at her husband every day from billboards, magazines, and the internet. It’s not fair! her heart cries, not seeing that Bill is being dealt the same brutally unfair hand.

Maybe it isn’t just a writer thing. Maybe it’s a female thing. I don’t know, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Saturday, February 3, 2018

Chess with Keegan



“Wanna play chess with me, Grandma?”

 “Absolutely!”

Who could resist such an enthusiastic invitation from an adorable ten-year old? I tried to remember the last time I’d played. Maybe when his dad was his age? I felt sure I remembered the rules, though. Keegan set up the board and made his first move. A few moves later, he took my bishop with one of his pawns by moving it diagonally.

“You can’t do that!” I protested. “Pawns can only move forward.”

“Unless they’re capturing a piece.”

Something about his logic did sound vaguely familiar and I began to doubt my memory. “Who taught you how to play chess?” I asked.

He named one of his friends. Figured. Oh well. I’d humor the kid and play by his rules. Then he tried to tell me if my pawn made it all the way to his end, I could exchange it for a captured piece.

“No, no, no, Keegan. You’re confusing it with checkers.”

“Well, that’s how I play.” As if that settled everything.

A few moves later, we began arguing about whether I had his queen in check.

“No Grandma. It’s the king you’re trying to check.”

“No, it’s the queen. You need to protect your queen.” How on earth could we finish a game when we weren’t playing by the same rules? He beat me on the first round, according to his rules. I beat him the second time, but it was a most unsatisfactory win because we were playing two different games.

Finally, in frustration, I grabbed my phone and Googled chess rules. Turns out the kid was right.

Don’t you just hate when that happens?

Keegan didn’t hold it against me or rub it in my face. We played one more game. He beat me fair and square, and I realized a quick brush-up before we started could have prevented a lot of squabbling.

Does this sound at all like life? You’re trying to do your best, maybe in your relationships or at your job—but somebody else isn’t playing by the same rules. How can anyone ever win?

Jesus Christ didn’t play by the rules, either. He came into a world where the law and all its expanded tenets weighed heavily on people’s shoulders. When he went around breaking the rules, the religious rule-makers became so agitated, they plotted to kill him. Religion is crazy, isn’t it?

Want to disarm people? Try following Jesus’ example. A disgruntled customer comes to the counter, yelling and swearing at the clerk who really has no authority over the situation. But instead of playing by the customer’s rules and raising her own voice, the clerk speaks softly.

“I’m so sorry that happened to you. I can understand why you feel angry.”

Often, it’s enough for the person to start calming down. Playing by their rules only escalates the drama.

A neighbor wrongs you. Instead of retaliating or shaming them on social media, you break their rule and seek peace—even in the middle of your pain and loss. You gain a friend, a loyal neighbor. You teach your children the power of forgiveness. You sleep better at night.

Is that possible?

Maybe we should ask some ten-year-olds.