Prov 17:22

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

Thursday, June 30, 2011

My Prayer for Canada

This past year I had the privilege of serving on the editorial advisory board for a Chicken Soup for the Soul book coming out in November called Oh, Canada! The book is a collection of stories either by or about Canadians or about others' experiences in our country. I got to read and give a score to 135 stories (one of which was mine - I shamelessly gave it top score.) The publishers will average the scores and whittle the book down to 101 stories for the final book.
     It made me proud and grateful to read these uplifting stories and to see our country through the eyes of others. I grew more appreciative of all we take for granted, and felt inspired to pray for Canada and its leaders. But when I thought about what sort of prayer I would pray, I soon realized the best prayer has already been written for us.
     So, my fellow Canadians, I put before you a challenge this Canada Day. I want you to enjoy the holiday with all your heart, the hamburgers on the grill, the watermelon, the lawn chairs, the sunscreen, the bug spray, the flag waving, and the fireworks. Wear red and white and celebrate loud with gratitude for all that is ours. But that's not my challenge. That should all come naturally.
     Here's my challenge. When you hear (or better yet, sing) O Canada, will you remember that it is one of the few national anthems in the world written as a prayer? The first verse, the one we all know by heart, is not as obvious until you reach the "God, keep our land glorious and free" part. But are you familiar with verse four?

"Ruler Supreme, who hearest humble prayer,
Hold our dominion in thy loving care.
Help us to find, O God, in Thee
A lasting, rich reward;
As waiting for the better day
We ever stand on guard..."

Here is the English translation of the French version:

Oh Canada! Land of our forefathers
Thy brow is wreathed with a glorious garland of flowers.
As in thy arm, ready to wield the sword
So also is it ready to carry the cross.
Thy history is an epic of the most brilliant exploits
Thy valour, steeped in faith,
Will protect our homes and our rights.

O Canada in both official languages gives testimony to our rich spiritual heritage. I am saddened that too often we forget our roots. We have been given so much, the best of natural resources and freedoms others can only dream of. We remember the valour that bought us this freedom, but we ignore the "steeped in faith" part. Yet etched in the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill are three verses from the Bible, one of which says "He shall have dominion from sea to sea." (Psalm 72:8)
     I can think of no more appropriate prayer this Canada Day than that. "God, have dominion from sea to sea."

Saturday, June 25, 2011

An Open Letter to Graduates

Dear Grad,
Congratulations, you made it! Who is most surprised--your teachers, your parents, or you? I’m sure your parents are wondering how the years since your first screaming passage into this world could have flown by so quickly.
     In wondering what advice I could possibly give any current grad, I have to ask: what advice would I give myself on my own graduation day? What would I tell that wide-eyed 18 year-old now, from the vantage point of having lived an additional mumble-mumble years? Were it possible, I’d narrow it down to three things:
     1. Life is much shorter than you think and it is merely a rehearsal for eternity. Practice diligently. Wake up and tell yourself “just for today, I will play the role of the person I will one day wish I had been.” Tomorrow, wake up and do it again.
     2. Get an education beyond high school. Even if your course of study is in a completely different arena than your eventual work, the process itself and the tenacity you’ll develop will be immeasurably useful to you on life's journey.
     3. Figure out who you are before you give yourself to another person to partner with for life. Don't assume you already know. Time will reveal God-given gifts you may not yet realize you have. Once you understand what those gifts and passions are, you’ll be better equipped to marry someone whom you can complement and who will complement you. Then you will be true soul mates and together, you can progress in the same direction.
     One way to figure out who you are, what drives you, and what your contribution to the world might be is by answering some questions about yourself, like:
  • What one thing would I set out to accomplish if I knew I could not fail?
  • What activity am I doing when I find hours have passed and it felt like mere minutes?
  • What type of discussions draw me in, even when I’m tired and drained?
  • When do I feel most alive? Have I ever had the experience of feeling like “YES, this is my place in this world”? If so, what was I doing at the time?
I can now answer all of those questions for myself with clarity, but I’m certain I could not have on my grad day. Any aspirations I may have had then required the cooperation of others. We need to be able to answer those questions in a way that will be true regardless of who might come and go throughout our lives or what choices others make.
     Lastly, I would offer the timeless words of scripture, beside which my own words fade to insignificance: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5 & 6.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Still, My Soul Be Still

When there's something going wrong inside your body and you've been waiting three months to find out what it is, it can get a little old. But there are so many great songs that can bless a person's socks off. My favorite today is this one by Keith & Kristyn Getty. You can watch the video by clicking HERE.  

These are the lyrics:

Still, my soul be still, and do not fear though winds of change may rage tomorrow. God is at your side, no longer dread the fires of unexpected sorrow.
God You are my God, and I will trust in You and not be shaken.
Lord of peace, renew a steadfast spirit within me to rest in You alone.

Still, my soul be still, do not be moved by lesser lights and fleeting shadows.
Hold onto His ways with shield of faith against temptations flaming arrows.
Still, my soul be still, do not forsake the Truth you learned in the beginning.
Wait upon the Lord and hope will rise as stars appear when day is dimming.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Ding Ding Ding, We Have a Winner!!

Well, it took long enough for me to find out, but I am THR-RILLED to announce that my script, Once More with Passion, won First Place in the scripts/screenplays category of the Canadian Christian Writers competition for 2010!! A national award!! Click on the link below to see the official announcement - I'm about the 10th paragraph down...right before J.I. Packer! Happy dance! Thank you, God!

God's Got a Great Big Fridge

It was the first and hopefully last vocal solo of my life. Portage Alliance Church choir, 1985. There was a short alto solo in the Easter cantata and if I concentrated hard and curled my toes just right, I could reach the required D-flat. Man, was I nervous! But the words were priceless and I knew if I could just convey them well, I would surely change the world:
What will you do with Jesus?
Neutral you cannot be.
One day, your heart will be asking
What will he do with me?
I envisioned lost sinners falling to their knees in repentant droves as I sang the closing line and they finally realized they were playing a high stakes game with their eternal souls.
     The best part was that my dad was in the audience. He was already ill with the disease that would end his life a year later, and it would be one of his last times in church. I don't know how big a struggle it was for him to get there, but he was there.
     The repentant droves did not materialize that day, but after the concert, Dad gave me a big hug and said "it was beautiful!" Whether or not it was beautiful is beside the point. My dad thought it was, and that's what mattered. I may have been a 26-year old mother, but daddy's approval was still mighty important.
     Do we ever outgrow our need for parental approval? Is it healthy? Beats me. I do think it's universal, though. Many years ago, I remember being discouraged about a play I'd written that no one wanted. I felt rejected and untalented. Then a friend pointed to my fridge and the artwork proudly displayed there by my children. She told me that regardless what others thought, God loved my play because I was his child. Even if it was never produced, the script was on God's fridge and when the angels came by, he proudly pointed it out and said, "Look at this! My girl did this!"
     I have hung onto that mental image ever since. I've got tons of stuff on God's fridge, and so do you! I guess God has a mighty big fridge.
     This weekend is Father's Day. If you're a dad, I encourage you to lavish your children with praise and encouragement Let them know you're proud of who they are and what they do, whether they're two or 52.
     If you still have a dad, don't take him for granted. If your relationship is far from ideal, can you enjoy and celebrate what is good about it anyway? Tell him you love him while you can.
     And if you've lost your dad, rest in the knowledge that you have a heavenly Father who sees you all the time, loves you beyond measure, and is thrilled to call you his child. He even displays your best work on his fridge!
     (By the way, what do you suppose God keeps inside his fridge? Angel food cake? Divinity Squares? Heavenly Hash ice cream? All fat-free, of course!)
     Happy Father's Day!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Evening Gowns and Babies and oh yes, my Lungs...

OK, for the hordes worldwide who are waiting breathlessly for updates on my health (oh wait, I'm the breathless one, never mind), here it is. There's not much to tell, but safe to say I will not be dying any time soon. At least not from this. I'm still as subject to car accidents and drive-by shootings as everyone else, I presume.
       Saw Dr. Taraska this morning who says there are at least a couple of things going on. I have nodules on both lungs and scarring in the lungs and bronchial tubes. There is also evidence of "brochiectasis" which if I understood correctly, is destruction in the lungs caused by infection. This (I presume) is good news because if I currently have an infection, then a good dose of the right anti-biotic (I presume) would fix me up good as new. I presume. Although whatever long-term damage is there probably can't be remedied, I don't know.
     I didn't get to ask all that because I didn't realize I'd seen the last of him when he sent me for a breathing test where this bubbly girl named Sherry had me breathe through a tube. She was a regular cheerleader, having me inhale to full capacity and then push the air out in one big huff and keep pushing for 5 or 8 seconds while she hollered "GO-GO-GO-GO-GO-GO!!" Twice. Then she gave me some puffs from a puffer and had me do it all over again. Twice. Each time set off a coughing fit, but I presume Sherry is pretty used to that.
     ANYWAY! So now he wants to do a bronchoscopy (this is the test where they put a tube down your throat into your lungs, gag) and the good news is they can get me in on Friday morning. So I have to be at Seven Oaks Hospital at 9:30 am. He said they'll give me something to put me in la-la-land (how this will be different from my norm, I'm not certain). And I'll have to wait around for four hours afterward! Then I see the doc again July 4. So... not much more to tell, but at least things are finally moving along. And I'm thankful for a hubby who is a gracious chauffeur and for a job that provides sick benefits.

In other news, THIS is where I'd much rather be tonight, all dressed up in an evening gown and hobnobbing with editors and publishers and authors: The Canadian Christian Writing Awards Gala in Mississauga, Ontario! J.I. Packer will be receiving a lifetime career award. I remember reading his book Knowing God when I was in high school! The man must be like, a hundred! I will find out late tonight or tomorrow whether my script, Once More with Passion, won an award.

And in really BIG news! Nate and Dara found out the gender of their baby today! Let's just say this Grandma won't be crocheting anything pink anytime soon. That will teach me to presume. I'm almost over it already.

It's been a big day and I'm pooped from all the presuming and stuff. Thanks for reading.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Living with Chronic Nocturnal Positional Paroxysmal Bechesthesis

It started some 15 years ago.
     I would start coughing as soon as I lay down. Inconvenient and annoying, but not a huge deal. The professionals suggested it might be some mild type of asthma I'd just have to learn to live with. I did.
     Then one fall I went on a weekend retreat with several girlfriends at a cozy family cabin at Clear Lake. Since three of us were sharing a room, I crawled into my sleeping bag and warned the other two about my coughing habit.
     One of them, a nurse I'll call Marci, took on a most somber tone.
     "Oh," she said. "You have Chronic Nocturnal Positional Paroxysmal Bechesthesis."
     My inner drama queen immediately took the spotlight. This sounded serious. How much time did I have left? Months? Days? Should I be quitting my job, putting my affairs in order? No matter what, I would be brave.
     "Really?" I said. "What's that?"
     "It means you cough when you lie down," Marci said.
     The other friend, whom I'll call Lisa, let out a snort heard in Toronto and the two of them started chortling so hard they rolled off their beds, which in turn got me laughing so hard I started a coughing fit that lasted long into the night. Which, in turn, made them howl even harder. You get the picture. Good times.
     I'm not laughing so much now.
     Frightening new symptoms had me visiting the doctor, who ordered a chest x-ray. "Something unusual going on in your lungs" led to a CT scan. Of course, each of these steps is separated by weeks, during which one becomes convinced one is dying and every hangnail and eye twitch becomes yet another symptom. The internet is most helpful in self-diagnosis of anything a hypochondriac might fancy.
     The scan results were both comforting and confusing. Good news, it doesn't look like cancer. Weird news, we don't know what it is. So next week I see a specialist, who will most likely stick a garden hose down my gullet and I may just come home that day still in the dark.
     I share this because anyone who has reached my age has probably already played this waiting game and may be there now. This "how sick am I, anyway?" business is distracting, isn't it? But here's the thing. From the moment we're born, we are all terminal. We don't know when or how, but we will all die. Why we act like this is a big secret puzzles me. Occasionally contemplating a face-to-face meeting with our Maker is not a bad thing. Learning to wait isn't easy, but it's not a bad thing. Accepting that I don't have to know everything is not a bad thing. Appreciating each breath as a gift from my Creator is not a bad thing. The only "bad" thing is wasting an experience by not growing through it and not sharing it with others.
     So, at the risk of losing readers to boredom...and at the risk of feeling like an idiot should this turn out to be nothing... I'll share. Maybe we can learn and grow together.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Wonderful Kick in the Bum

     I'd been sitting on my novel, waiting to hear back from editors I may never hear from. I've been lazy and distracted by health issues (more on that tomorrow) when I should be querying publishers and agents at the rate of two or three a week. Even one a week would be an improvement!
     I tend to harp on the importance of encouraging others (and could do a lot better at practicing what I preach, I know). But today I got a glorious reminder of its value.
      Last week I'd given a copy of my manuscript to friend Karen who had been waiting to read it. Karen is a writer herself and a discerning reader. While I welcomed her feedback, I was also a little nervous. What if she hated it?
     I need not have been. Last night she emailed me the most meaningful, thoughtful, and encouraging feedback I've received. Because she lives with Parkinson's Disease, Karen has to wait for medications to alternately wear off or kick in before she can read or type. Knowing she expended her limited resources to write me a lengthy email after reading my book under these conditions made me want to weep.
     And apparently, it motivated me to get off my butt with this book. Karen's closing sentence was, "This book deserves to be published. I am praying for it!"
     Might be a challenge even for God to answer that prayer if I don't do my bit.
     Today I submitted query letters to two publishing houses and three literary agencies. That's a lot for a day's work, and since I was out all morning, I didn't get started until 2:00 pm!
     Thank you, Karen! Bet you didn't know you were kicking my butt in the nicest sort of way. That's what friends do for each other sometimes. And you didn't even charge me a dollar.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Poetry of the Feet

     Maybe it doesn't hold a candle to me clutzing around in my clogging shoes, but it is no less entertaining.
      Jillian, our son Reuben's girlfriend, just finished her second of a four-year program at The School of Contemporary Dancers, professional program, in Winnipeg. Her recital offers a new experience for hubby and me.
     We realize going in that modern dance will be, uhm, different. So I am pleasantly surprised when the first piece proves more traditional, with high energy and actual music. "I'm going to love this," I whisper to Jon. In fact, I tell him how I am going to learn to do this one day when I get where I'm going.
     The second piece is a little freaky, as is the third. But this one features the lovely Jillian, and it is great fun to see her on stage. By this time I realize I have two options: I can admit this is all too deep for me and just relax; or, I can invoke my inner artsy snob and pretend I get it, inventing some lame comments to regurgitate later. Something to demonstrate how cleverly superior I am, like: "Tragically, even their best efforts tend to be efficient pastiche, and I found it to be staggeringly trite."
     It takes a lot less energy to choose the first option. Reuben says, "Mom, there's nothing to get," and I figure he should know. So I relax and enjoy, even chuckling quietly when something seems beyond ludicrous. I will learn later that Jillian's family doesn't necessarily get it either, but love and support her, laughing and rolling their eyes sometimes, too.
     We see 15 pieces in all. The "music" ranges from opera to silence to a recording of someone flipping through TV channels every three seconds....for a solid six minutes. There are solos, duets, trios, and ensemble pieces. They dance in flamboyant feathers, mourning dresses, white nighties, glittery gowns, and shorts. The lighting designers create diverse moods for every piece. At the conclusion of each, the dancers take a deep bow, long hair flipping to their toes, followed by a head bow, then three steps backwards, turn right, and exit. At least something is predictable.
     Amid the weirdness, the rolling-on-the-floor sequences, and what I call the dislocated shoulder move, I see much to be admired. The too-deep-for-me factor aside, it is inspiring to witness what a human body can do. The strength, grace, and flexibility of these young people truly is breathtaking. To be that comfortable in one's own body - and with the bodies of others - is commendable.
     I know not everyone holds this perspective, but I observe such things with a reverent wonder for the Creator of these bodies. I hope the souls inside appreciate what they've been given and acknowledge the Giver every now and then. Friedrich Nietzsche said "I would believe only in a God that knows how to dance."