Prov 17:22

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

Thursday, January 31, 2013

How Cold WAS It?

If you’re reading this, it means you survived January. Congratulations!

A writer friend of mine who lives in Texas flew to Toronto last week to do a TV interview. She bemoaned the extreme cold temperatures there. Why, one day it dropped to -10 C! With every drop of compassion in my sweet little heart, I told her “suck it up, Buttercup.” I’m nice like that.

It’s hard to feel sympathetic when you’re emptying your freezer so you can crawl inside to warm up. The weirdest things go on around you in these -30 temperatures. Take last week.

On Monday, I was on my way home from work when I saw a rooster running in to KFC begging to use the deep fryer.

On Tuesday, I noticed Tim Horton’s was offering coffee on a stick.

Wednesday, I tried to say something to my husband while we stood outside but my words froze. I had to gather up handfuls of sentences and take them inside to thaw before he could hear them. He suggested I toss them in the freezer so he could take them out one at a time at his own convenience. They’re still there.

While dashing from the office to my car on Thursday, my shadow froze to the sidewalk. I decided I’ll just leave it there until spring. By then, as my friend Doug Hyde pointed out, it will be a former shadow of myself.

Friday, my hubby climbed onto the roof to chisel smoke off the top of the chimney.

Saturday, we babysat our grandsons and when I tucked the middle one into bed, he asked for a toaster to cuddle instead of his teddy bear.

On Sunday, our doorbell rang. A snowman stood on the doorstep, asking to come in and sleep on our couch. I sent him back out just in time to see a dog trotting by, wearing cats around his neck.

And if you’re still reading, you survived my jokes and truly deserve a break in the weather!

Random winter person.
If you’re a winter person, I admire you. I really do. I wimply don’t do outdoors in January if I can help it. God blessed me with an attached garage, so I don’t really step out until I’ve parked my car at work and run inside. Then I do the same in reverse. If I must go for groceries or other errands, it’s more quick dashes across the glacial parking lot and that’s it. If you add up all my outdoor time so far this winter, including the hour of sledding with my family on Christmas Day, it probably totals 66 minutes and 12 seconds.

So why do we live here? When I asked my daughter that question one frigid day when she was about eight years old, she looked at me and, in a tone that made it sound like the most obvious answer in the world, she said, “because all our friends live here!”

She had a point. Who but fellow Manitobans truly get it? We love commiserating about the weather and groaning over lame how-cold-was-it jokes. There’s some kind of sick pride in knowing we have it colder than most of the planet, like this makes us tougher and stronger. Maybe it just makes us stupider. Either way, we’re in this together and that’s worth something.

So as you flip your calendar over, cheer up. Having January behind us can mean only one thing: another two and a half months of winter. Spring has to come eventually, and no one on the planet appreciates spring more than we do here. Hang in there, folks. And stay warm.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Attention, Real Men.

A grown man first paid to use Trisha Baptie’s body for his sexual pleasure when she was 13 years old. That would continue for the next 15 years with no interference by anyone. She recalls being on a “date” one night, in the front seat of a man’s car. She saw him reaching under the seat for something and assumed it was his wallet. She remembers a crowbar coming through the air toward her head. The next thing she recalls is waking near a phone booth where someone was dialing 911. Then she remembers waking again, in a hospital. The first thing asked of her was, “what did you do to make him so mad?”
            After escaping this horrid life in 2002, Trisha found her voice when she covered the Robert Pickton trial as a citizen journalist from her intimate knowledge of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and her perspective as a friend of Pickton’s victims. (Courts convicted Pickton of murdering six women and disposing of their bodies on his pig farm. He may have killed as many as 49 victims in total.)
For this coverage, Trisha Baptie won the “Courage to Come Back” award. In 2008, she founded Honour Consulting, a resource for education, networking, and coordinating current events around the abolition of prostitution.
            Trisha tells an ancient Dene First Nations legend about some women working at the river together when they saw a baby floating in the water and rescued him. Naturally, they were astounded. But soon, they saw another and another. They continued to pull babies out of the river, dry them, warm them, and feed them. More babies came until the work became overwhelming. When one woman turned to leave, the others called her back. “What are you doing?” they called, as she walked upstream. “Come back here and help us!”
            “I’m going to find out who is throwing these babies in the river and put a stop to it,” was the answer.
            The point of Trisha’s story is not that prostituted women and children are helpless babies. The point is that social workers and rehabilitation professionals can only do so much. The real problem is upriver. The answer is to target the origin. “We need to stare evil in the face and say, ‘No more. Not on my watch!’” she says.
            Since 1999, Sweden, Norway, and Iceland have implemented Nordic Law, which penalizes the buyers of sex while decriminalizing those being sold. Each country has seen a reduction in prostitution and sex trafficking and an increase in the stigma of buying and selling of people for sexual acts.
            By contrast, in The Netherlands, where prostitution is legal, the attitude toward women in general has deteriorated. In 2010, Dutch female nurses launched a national campaign against demands for sexual services by patients who claim it should be part of their standard care. The prevailing attitude is, if prostitution is acceptable, why not extend the same expectation toward all women?
            But this is not just a women’s issue. This attitude sells both men and women short. Men, you are so much more than that. I challenge you to stand against this and all forms of violence against women. Teach your sons and daughters that they are so much bigger, and this is not okay. What would happen to human trafficking if no one was buying?
            If you are a man who is also a Christian, your responsibility is greater still. One of Jesus’ dearest friends was a prostituted woman he personally rescued, so you’d be in good company by doing the same. Isaiah 58:6 says this: “I’ll tell you what it really means to worship the Lord. Remove the chains of prisoners who are chained unjustly. Free those who are abused!”
            You can read Trisha Baptie’s powerful story on her website Better yet, you can hear her (and others) in person at the Defend Dignity Forum coming to Portage la Prairie. It will be at Portage Alliance Church, 2375 Saskatchewan Ave. West on Sunday, January 27, at 6:00 p.m.
            Please consider this my personal invitation to come and make a difference. Prostitution is not the world’s oldest profession. It is the world’s oldest oppression. Defend Dignity believes that together, we can end it in Canada. Let’s find out how.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Rip-offs and Other Facts of Life

Mr. Nasty Cold Virus

Confession time for this big fat liar.
In my column a couple of weeks back (Never Say Never, January 3), I waxed eloquent about how healthy I am becoming. No sooner had I hit “send” than Mr. Nasty Cold Virus rang my doorbell and by the time you were reading said column, he had pushed his way through and flattened me. What a rip-off! I really thought all the discipline and healthy eating put me above the law. Not so, apparently.
My friend Jim tells me no amount of healthy lifestyle can protect you from snotty-nosed grandkids. My conscience whispers it’s all the forbidden food I ate over Christmas. Dr. Bruce Narvey calls it tempting fate. The Bible says pride goes before a fall. Whatever you call it, boy, did I feel dumb.
Oh well, it was true when I wrote it. Honest.
To add insult to injury, while the bug still lingered, I visited my lung doctor who told me the scan taken back in December not only showed no improvement, but my lungs actually appear a little worse! How can that be, when I feel so much better? I guess it means I’m healthier overall, in spite of the disease. Not necessarily a bad thing, but still. This, too, felt like a rip-off, but I thought of a few possible ideas of how it may have happened:
One, my lungs just happened to be having a bad hair day when they took the picture. They’re normally much prettier.
Two, all my saxophone playing caused the nodules in my lungs to expand with air.
Three, I’m thinner now than I was in the previous picture, thereby making the nodules appear larger in perspective.
Four, with all the vegetables I’ve been devouring, I probably inhaled some broccoli and it showed up on the scan.
Five, my scans got mixed up with those of some bloke who worked 40 years in an asbestos factory.
I suspect none of those theories would hold up for long. However, I’ll tell you three things I know for sure. First, I feel much better and no test results can take that away from me. Second, my naturopathic doctor has helped me far more than any other, so what kind of idiot would abandon her advice now? Third, I believe with all my heart God could heal me instantaneously if he chose to. He’s done so for others, and perhaps he still will for me. But if he chooses not to, it means he has a more important road for me to travel. For some reason I cannot see, more growth, more opportunity, and more blessing exist on this particular road. I won’t lie, though. Some days, it feels like a rip-off.
Recently, I received an email from author Mary DeMuth. She included a list called Nine Daily Truths to Say to Yourself which I promptly hung on the bulletin board over my home desk. Four are particularly pertinent to me right now:
God delights in showing His strength in my weakness.
God is sovereign. Even when I don’t understand what He’s up to, I can be assured He’ll take my mess and bring redemption to it.
God gives me what I need each moment to succeed in this day.
God will take care of my needs whether I fear or not. I may as well trust Him.
I love Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Proverbs 3:5 & 6 in The Message: “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.”
I hope these truths will encourage you, too, on whatever road you find yourself and whatever rip-offs come your way today.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Parlez-vous anglais?

You’ve probably come across lots of poems or prose expounding on our weird English language with its myriads of confusing inconsistencies.
Take the word “treat.” It can mean a luxury or extravagance. It can mean “to pay for.” It can be the way you handle a situation. It can be something your doctor does for a patient. Or it can be to indulge yourself or someone else. It’s enough to make you say, “Huh?”
We have lots of words like that. Sometimes they sound different, sometimes not. Try to wrap your head around these:
The bandage was wound around the wound.
The farm was used to produce produce.
The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
We must polish the Polish furniture.
He could lead if he would get the lead out.
The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
“There is no time like the present,” he said when it was time to present the present.
At the Army base, a bass was painted on the head of a bass drum.
When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
I did not object to the object.
The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
They were too close to the door to close it.
The buck does funny things when the does are present.
To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
After a number of Novocain injections, my jaw got number.
Upon seeing the tear in the painting, I shed a tear.
I had to subject the subject to a series of tests on different subjects.
How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
I spent last evening evening out a pile of crushed rock.
Think about the names we give our clothing. Shirts. Skirts. Skorts. Shorts.  Huh?
The other day I got rid of a bunch of odds and ends. Now I have only one left and I don’t know what to call it. Is it an odd? Or an end?
No wonder language experts say English is one of the hardest to learn. And no wonder so few of us tackle a second.
I have the utmost respect for anyone who learns English as an adult. My sister Shanon teaches English as an Additional Language at the Portage Learning and Literacy Centre. She says:My students have told me that when they first arrive in Canada it seems like everyone is just saying ‘blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. blah.’ It takes a great deal of courage, perseverance, and the ability to laugh to acquire a new language. I admire my students so much.”
I’m proud of Portage la Prairie for embracing newcomers to Canada and providing assistance in language and other transitions. There’s a song from the 1980’s called Love in Any Language, and I truly hope the words of it will be true here in Portage and all of Canada:

“Love in any language, straight from the heart
Pulls us together, never apart;
And when you learn to speak it, the whole world will hear
Love in any language, fluently spoken here.”
(Words and music by Jon Mohr and John Mays)