Prov 17:22

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

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Deal with Lent

     We are almost through the Lenten season and I’m not sure what I’ve given up.
     When asked, I said, “jogging.” But I think I gave that up at birth, so it hardly counts. I asked a few Facebook friends if they were giving anything up for Lent and if so, why. They didn’t exactly flock to participate, but I did get two replies – one yes and one no. My daughter didn’t reply because she has given up Facebook for Lent.
     Since Lent was not part of my growing up experience, I had to do a little research. According to Wikipedia, Lent is "the Christian observance of the liturgical year from Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday. The traditional purpose of Lent is the penitential preparation of the believer—through prayer, penance, repentance, alms-giving, and self-denial.”
     I suspect one reason my church has not embraced Lent is the “penance” aspect of it. Since we believe Jesus Christ took all the payment for our sin, there is no need for penance. To think we could somehow “add to” his sacrifice is not only impossible, it insults God and makes less of what Jesus did.
     In his book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis said, “Mere improvement is not redemption, though redemption always improves people even here and now and will in the end, improve them to a degree we cannot yet imagine. God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind, but to produce a new kind of man.”
     But there are aspects to the observance of Lent besides penance. Giving up something we enjoy but don’t need can make us more grateful, more aware of others who live without, and more mindful of how we use our time. Replacing habits with prayer is a productive and healthy idea.
     Some young people seem to have it right. Here are some thoughts shared by Catholic youth when asked what they were doing for Lent:
     “One year for Lent I wrote a letter each day. I made a list of 40 people who have touched my life in one way or another. Each day of Lent, I wrote a person on the list a letter of thanks for how they touched my life and I prayed for that person on that day. It was a wonderful experience!” – Patty
     “I tried improving on my spirit of giving.” – Peter
      “I gave up my pillow. Honestly, at first it was fun, but it proved to be hard. But it made me realize how blessed I am to even have a bed.” – Sara
     As for my Facebook friends, the one who was not giving up anything for Lent believed the idea was to give up something that was more important to him than God. Since nothing was more important, there was nothing to give up.
     The other, an American, decided to give up political news (not easy in an election year!) and spend the time praying for his country’s leaders instead. I thought that was an excellent idea, especially since he promised to include Canada in his prayers!
     If this appeals to you, here are five more great ideas from young people. For this year, next year, or all year round:
·         Park at the very back of the parking lot.
·         Get to know your neighbors.
·         Leave a post-it with a positive message on it wherever you go.
·         Cut out all screen-time after dinner (phone, TV, computer).
·         Every day take a picture of something or someone you’re grateful for and hang the pictures in your room.

So, there you have it. Different thoughts on Lent… from a Protestant!

Friday, March 23, 2012

But You Don't Look Sick

     This month marks one year since my lung issues made themselves known. Later, other concerns surfaced as well. All told, in the last twelve months, I’ve seen my family doctor, two respirologists, a urologist, and a gynecologist. Next up to bat: an immunologist.
     I have submitted to 4 CT scans, 1 Chest X-ray, 6 Blood Tests, 1 Breathing Test (not to be confused with a Breathalyzer test), 2 Bronchoscopies, 3 Ultrasounds, 1 Pap Test, 1 Mammogram, 1 EKG, 1 Cystoscopy, and a partridge in a pear tree. I have also been prayed for numerous times by numerous people.
     That seems like a lot for a woman who doesn’t look sick, who was previously healthy, who exercises, who doesn’t smoke or drink, and who was blessed with good teeth.
     Nothing life threatening was revealed, though, and for that I’m grateful. I can live with the chest discomfort and the coughing associated with Bronchiectasis (a condition I had never heard of before, and I’m guessing you hadn’t either.)
     The fatigue, however, changes one’s life. You adapt and begin to accept your new normal. But then a year goes by and when you look back and take stock, you realize all the things you are no longer doing. I’ve had to confess a lot of coveting in my life, but never dreamed I’d be coveting friends just for their ability to stay up all day.
     Sorry to be a Debbie Downer. Keep reading, there is a point coming round the bend.
     I hate wasting anything. Especially suffering. I use the term “suffering” loosely here. I realize I’m hardly suffering in the larger scope of things, but for lack of a better word, let’s use it. I figure if you have to go through something anyway, for crying out loud, let it be useful. Right?
     So my ears perked up when a man named Sammy Tippit spoke on this topic at a recent conference. He gave us five reasons for suffering according to the Bible, and I’ll give you my condensed version here.

#1. I Don’t Know.
     If you’ve read the story of Job, you know that near the end, after a multitude of troubles have fallen upon poor Job, God finally speaks. But he doesn’t give Job any answers, only more questions. Let this be a lesson to us. Don’t be too quick to give answers when even God is mysterious with them.

#2. The Benefit of Our Own Character.
     Those of you with an athletic bent fully understand that it’s not the flat-land running that makes you strong. It’s the hills.

#3. For the Sake of Others.
     People will identify more with your suffering than with your victories. Suffering can deepen our compassion and improve the way we treat others. In the end, isn’t that what it’s all about?

#4. For the Glory of God.
     This is hard to grasp, but ask any Christ-follower from a country where he is persecuted for his faith. He’ll tell you straight: “The glory of God comes through much suffering.”

#5. The Presence of God is Manifested in the Midst of Suffering.
     If you read the promises Jesus made that he would “be with us,” most come in the context of difficulty or suffering. It seems we need to suffer to truly know him.

     I can’t pretend I’ve mastered any of these points, but I’d sure like to. Meanwhile, if you can benefit from them, please do. Helen Keller said, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”
     Suffering is, after all, pretty universal. Don’t let yours go to waste.


Friday, March 16, 2012

Quantum Physics Made Easy

     Has your inner clock adjusted to Daylight Savings Time yet? Russia, apparently, is abolishing the time change and I say “good for them!” Russian President Dmitry Medvedev recently announced, "I decided to cancel the shift to winter time, starting from this autumn." Medvedev said the shift in time "may lead to stress and illnesses."
     It’s the one thing Saskatchewan has got right, as far as I’m concerned. Not that it’s a big enough deal breaker for me to move to Saskatchewan. Or to Russia. But really, what is Daylight Savings Time supposed to accomplish? When told the reason, the story goes, an old Native American said, “Only the government would believe you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket, sew it to the bottom, and have a longer blanket.”
The common thinking is Daylight Savings Time saves energy. I’m not sure whose, but I’m pretty sure it’s not mine.
     Moreover, I think it’s downright dangerous. According to Mary Carole McCauley’s March 7, 2012 article in The Baltimore Sun, the annual spring time change causes more car crashes, a higher risk of heart attack, and an increase in the number and severity of workplace accidents—based on statistics during the week following the time change. Turning the clocks back in the fall, however, causes no such tragedies because we’ve all had extra rest.
     If we’re going to mess around with time, why not go all the way? We’re obviously fascinated by the idea of time travel. From books like C. S. Lewis’  Chronicles of Narnia to Steven King’s latest, 11/23/63 (where a man goes back to prevent the assassination of JFK); to movies like Back to the Future and The Time Traveler’s Wife; to TV shows like Being Erica. And who remembers It’s About Time from back in the 1960’s when two astronauts landed their space craft among stone age cavemen?
     Wonderful, now I have the theme song stuck in my head.
     With all this interest in quantum leaping, I figure if we can turn the clocks back an hour each fall, why not turn them back in the spring, too? In fact, why not turn them back once a month? Yes, I realize it would mean living in darkness awhile, but hear me out. After two years, we’d have moved back a whole day. After 183 years, we’d be back a whole year. Eventually we’d be back to the good old days when the only thing to fear was famine and marauding Vikings.
     If you detect a flaw in my calculations, blame it on sleep deprivation.
     Not that anybody asked me, but I think we could get along quite nicely without Daylight Savings Time.
     Then again, you won’t hear me complaining a bit when it’s time to fall back and we all enjoy that lovely “extra” hour.
     Call me fickle. At least I’ve got Quantum Physics nailed.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Only Not as Funny

This is actually Eugene. Same thing, though.
   So I saw my new lung doc again today. It's a little hard to take seriously a guy who looks so much like Eugene Levy, but I do like him. Latest test results haven't shown anything different. I have Bronchiectasis. Good news, it doesn't kill you (except, perhaps, possibly indirectly if you get repeated lung infections and what not over the years.) Bad news, it doesn't go away (barring Divine intervention.).
     However, because I do not fit the mold for how people normally get this condition (I do love being a woman of mystery), he is not ready to give up. Next stop: the Immunologist.  
     And so my little saga continues.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Woo-Hoo! Check out my winning limerick!

Limerick Contest Giveaway: Write Uncaged Mousepad

Confessions of a Grammar Snob

     It ain’t easy being a grammar snob, and I should know. I are one.
     Correcting others’ grammar is a thankless job, but somebody has to do it. It’s not that I don’t want to be liked. It’s not that I never make grammatical mistakes myself. It’s not that it’s cool. Speaking of cool, I lie awake nights imagining hacking into my daughter-in-law’s blog and renaming it “Cooler Than I.” Which, of course, would not be a cool blog name at all. But it would be grammatically correct.
     It’s a curse, I tell you.
     National Grammar Day snuck by us last week, and even though you may have taken down your decorations by now, I thought I’d use the occasion to show you a few neat tricks for beating the most common grammatical errors. I see these daily on Facebook, in emails, and on signs along the road. Drives me nuts. Memorize these six and you’ll have done your part to keep the grammar snobs from cringing, howling, or beating their heads on their steering wheels, causing accidents and even death.

1. Loose for lose. How to remember which is which? Loose rhymes with noose and moose. If that doesn’t help you, remember: if you’ve lost something, lose one of the o’s.
Correct: I sure hope I don’t lose the button that is coming loose.

2. It’s for its. This is tricky because when we make a word possessive, we generally add an apostrophe, right? Not with its. Remember: the apostrophe replaces the letter i, so if you can’t replace its with it is, (or it was), don’t use the apostrophe.
Correct: It’s a holiday in Rome and its citizens are celebrating.

3. Your for you’re. This one is easy because the apostrophe simply takes the place of the letter a. In other words, you’re is a contraction for you are. If you can’t remember, just use you are when you mean you are and you’ll be right every time.
Correct: You’re bringing ice-cream to the party whether or not your cake turns out.

4. Would of for would have. This holds true for could have and should have. Simple. Of is never correct here. Don’t use it, unless you’re looking for a sure-fire way to set my teeth on edge. (This happens because we use the spoken contraction would’ve, and our ears think they hear would of.)
Correct: I should have known you would use that word incorrectly just for spite.

5. Adding an apostrophe to make a word plural. No, no, no. Please don’t do this, I’m begging you. Remember: For this rule, there are no handy tricks. No tricks, no apostrophe.
Correct:  A word’s meaning is sometimes unclear, but words are all I have to make myself understood. 

And, for extra credit…

6. Lay for lie. If you place or put something down, you lay it down. If you have a headache, you lie down. Picture two hens side by side. One is sitting upright and she is labeled laying. The other is flat on her back and she is labeled lying.
Correct:  After I lay the books on the table, I will lie down. Simple, right?
I should stop there. But…

Lay is also the past-tense of lie.
Correct: Yesterday, I lay down in the afternoon. Today, I will lie down again.

And just to make it really interesting, the past tense of lay is laid.
Correct: I laid bricks yesterday. Today, I will lay more bricks.

Now that you are thoroughly confused, you may go lie down. Just learn the first five and you pass!
No need to thank me.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Novel Rocket: A Passion for History

Novel Rocket: A Passion for History: Peter Leavell is the winner of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild’s 2011 Operation First Novel contest . His novel, Songs of Capti...

Friday, March 2, 2012

Portage Has a Prayer!

Over 170 countries celebrate the World Day of Prayer the first Friday in March. Whether or not prayer is a habit for you, I encourage you to pray for someone today. Here is my prayer for our little corner of the planet. Feel free to use it or add to it. I won’t mind and I’m pretty sure God won’t either.

Lord God, hear my prayer.
I get to work in this lovely old castle!
     I lift up to you the City of Portage la Prairie and its people. I pray for its Mayor and Council, that you grant them wisdom, courage and unity. Show them how to make the best decisions, with limited resources, for the people they represent.
     I pray for the many business men and women in our town. May they be people of integrity whom others can hold up as an example. Bless them with success and guide them in all their dealings with customers and employees alike.
     For those in our Department of National Defense and for every civil servant: bless them with joy in their work and a firm conviction that what they do matters.
     Bless our teachers. Grant them the patience of Job, the wisdom of Solomon, and the humour of Jim Carey. Show them, in tangible ways, how enormous their investment in the future is.
     For the clergy of Portage and surrounding communities, I ask you to multiply their efforts a thousand-fold. Help them in times of discouragement to know their work is not in vain. Protect their families and grant them rest.
     Protect our law enforcement, I pray. Thank you for the commitment of these servants who no doubt endure extreme frustration at times. Help them do their work well.
     For all our health care workers, I thank you. Give them keen instincts to diagnose, to treat, and to provide care with compassion.
     Thank you, Lord, for our firefighters and the work they do. Keep their pumpers pumping and their fire engines humming. Protect their lungs in a supernatural way.
     I pray for our new immigrants. Help them to adapt to our severe climate, our difficult language, and our crazy Canadian ways. May they find in Portage la Prairie warmth, welcome, safety, and a place to truly call home.
     For every volunteer in every sport, every church, every school, every organization. Bless them! Take the good they do and create ripples throughout our country and world.
     For those who are ill, whether physically, mentally, or emotionally: bring healing and comfort, I pray.
     Bless the youth of Portage, Lord. May each child and teen know at least one adult who faithfully speaks truth into their life and helps them see their amazing potential. Protect them from the pull of evil. Satisfy their thirst for belonging -- not with gangs, but with genuine family.
     Lastly, I pray for every parent, for they do the most important job of all. Fill their hearts with love, their minds with wisdom, their bodies with energy, and their homes with peace. May they put their children’s needs above their own and draw their strength from You.
 “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” II Chronicles 7:14