Prov 17:22

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

Thursday, November 28, 2013

It's a Christmas Miracle!

Finished your Christmas shopping yet? Not me. 

When it comes to gift-giving, I envy and admire those who know how to pick out the perfect present. They foster a knack for listening and understanding another’s heart, to know what will bring the recipient joy. I recall once or twice when I’ve managed to hit the bull’s eye, but too often my pragmatic side tends to look for things people can really use or what I think they need rather than what they truly want.

I’d love to give my readers each a Christmas present, too. Something meaningful, memorable, and deeply desired. A Christmas miracle.

A miracle is defined as an event “not ascribable to human power or the laws of nature and consequently attributed to a supernatural, especially divine, agency.” Sometimes thought of as an interruption of the laws of nature, the word “miracle” might also characterize any beneficial event that is statistically unlikely. Or, it could simply describe a wonderful occurrence, such as a birth. Other miracles might be survival of an illness diagnosed as terminal, escaping a life-threatening situation, or beating the odds. 

You can define your own idea of the word, but let me ask you something. If you could trade all your Christmas presents for one miracle, would you? I suspect most of us would. Everybody needs a miracle. Everybody carries their own private pain, their secrets, and their longings. We live with circumstances we desperately wish we could change, yet feel oh-so-powerless to do so. Failing health, broken relationships, and shattered dreams are universal. If none of those things have intruded on your life yet, they will. You may have already learned that when you think you finally hit rock bottom, something else happens and rock bottom is much deeper than you thought. Often, the pain most difficult to share is the one that cuts the deepest.

Third Day sings a great song with these lyrics:
No matter who you are and no matter what you’ve done
There will come a time when you can’t make it on your own
And in your hour of desperation
Know you’re not the only one prayin’
“Lord above, I need a miracle.”

I’m convinced the best gift I could give you—or anyone—is a miracle. Unfortunately, I don’t possess that power. But I know someone who does, and I talk to him daily. So, if you want me to pray for your miracle, send me an email  and tell me what sort of miracle you need. I can’t promise God will answer when you want or in the way you hope. In my experience, he rarely does. 

But I ask anyway, because sometimes he does. And sometimes he provides something better. I ask anyway because he promised to heal the broken-hearted and bind up their wounds. And I ask because, in all my 54 years, no one has shown me a better alternative.

Here’s what I can promise: I will pray for you and I will not write about you or talk about you. You don’t even need to tell me your name if you don’t want to. I won’t demand your Christmas presents in exchange. I only ask that you let me know if and when your miracle happens, because I could use a faith lift, too.

My offer’s good until Christmas…maybe longer if the miracles start rolling in. If that happens, I’ll consider it the best Christmas shopping ever. And I deeply hope you will consider it the best Christmas present ever.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Two Tales of a City

Tale #1:

Reports of my deafness are greatly exaggerated.

Hubby and I attended the Prairie Players’ hilarious production of Neil Simon’s Rumors at the William Glesby Centre last week, and to get to our seats we needed to squeeze past three already-seated audience members. I didn’t recognize them, but they apparently recognized me—which is a little disconcerting when you consider it was my backside in their faces as I excuse-me’d all the way across their knees.

After we were seated, these ladies began trying to tell me something but with my husband in the seat between us and numerous other conversations around me, I couldn’t tell what they were saying. Their nods and smiles gave me a vague hunch their words might be complimentary and that I should say “thanks.” But what if I was wrong and they were merely pointing out the spinach in my teeth? Or my shirt was on inside-out? Or I was dragging toilet paper from my shoe?  I nodded and smiled back. Better to say nothing and be thought a fool than open my mouth and remove all doubt.

“They’re saying they read your column all the time,” Hubby finally interpreted. “They never miss it.”

“Oh. Thank you!” I said. “I’m a little deaf.”

“Oh? You sure can’t tell it from your column,” one of them assured me. At least that’s what I think she said. 

This is how rumours get started, folks. Although, what better place to start one than at a play by the same name? But since I’m the one who sparked it, I figure I should be the one to douse it. You saw it here, readers: I’m not deaf. A little selectively hard-of-hearing, maybe, but that’s another topic.

I hear well enough to know that the Prairie Players cleaned up the language in Simon’s original script (greatly appreciated) and that they danced like crazy people to La Bamba (my favorite part of the show!) Thanks for a great night, everyone! Enjoy having your lives back.

Tale #2:

Two days later, my daughter-in-law, my sister, my niece, and I enjoyed Habitat for Humanity's Homes for the Holidays together. Before the tour, we grabbed a quick lunch at my house. There we were, four grown women enjoying a cozy, adult lunch. The Niece and The Daughter-in-law were discussing what a treat it was to enjoy an afternoon away from their young children. Suddenly, The Niece knocked over her water glass, soaking her mother’s pants, socks, and chair.

“Sheesh. Wish I could get away somewhere without MY kids,” her drenched mother wise-cracked.
(Clearly, I’m not the only bratty sister in this family.)

We were all a little damp by the time our tour of the five homes was complete, given the drizzles that ushered in winter later that day. Nevertheless, we had a lovely time looking at lovely things and lovely homes. I returned to my own eager to start decorating for Christmas. 

Many thanks to the army of volunteers who made this event happen—all the decorators, the hostesses, the sponsors, and those who offered their houses. Great job for a great cause! God bless you.

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Box Full of Hope

What did you receive for Christmas last year?
How about the year before that?
And before that?

I’m guessing the majority of my readers need to think hard to recall what gifts they’ve been given for Christmas, birthday, or other events in recent years. I know I do. That doesn’t mean I didn’t appreciate or like them. It probably just means I have received much.

Suppose you had received only one gift in your entire life. Do you think you’d remember what it was? Who gave it? Would you cherish it? Might you still have it? 

Somewhere this year, a child will receive the first gift he or she has ever—and may ever—receive. He will remember. Will it come from you?

Thanks to Operation Christmas Child, this scenario will repeat itself millions of times as the program continues to grow.

In 1990, Damaris Vezantan lived with her parents in Romania and was one of the very first children to receive an Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift packed by someone like you. She still remembers the occasion. The Eastern European nation was just coming out of decades of brutal leadership, and conditions were so bad that water was available only until noon each day.

“The shoebox I received when I was nine included items like soap, a small doll, crayons and markers, hair clips, and a notebook, with a locket that I still have.” Damaris said.

The box also included a picture of the family who packed it for her, with a Bible verse on the back: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:15, NIV).

“Reading the verse over and over and trying to remember it, I saw it right there: “For God so loved the world that he GAVE. It was the greatest lesson I learned that day,” Damaris remembered. 
Today, Damaris is a Canadian citizen and participates with her family in Operation Christmas Child. She has even travelled to Senegal and presented children with shoebox gifts in person, watching the joy on their faces as she recalls the impact such a gift made in her own life.

For some kids, finding a notebook and a few pencils in their shoebox means the difference between attending or not attending school. When you consider the ripple effects a gift like that can make as one child receives an education and the trajectory of their life changes, you can see how something so little can mean so much. That’s why they call it the ripple effect. You touch one tiny spot on the water, and it grows all the way to the shore.

You will probably never meet the person who receives your gift or hear their story of the way it changed their life.

Then again, you just might.

You’ve got until November 24 to pack your box and deliver it to the Portage Mall. Don’t miss out! The one who said “it is more blessed to give than receive” knew what he was talking about--he gave the greatest gift of all. Let’s spread the love around and do our part to keep those ripples moving all the way to the shore.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

How to Write a Letter to a Soldier

Want to do something more significant with your family this Remembrance Day than merely having a day off? How about writing to a soldier?

If you have a family member or friend currently deployed on overseas mission, you may already know that until January 11, 2014, you can send parcels for free at any Canada Post retail outlet. Letters up to 500 grams to deployed troops can also be sent free of charge until 31 Dec 2014. The above is applicable to mail going to any of the PO BOX STN FORCES, Belleville, Ontario addresses and to any deployed Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships. Parcels and letters must be addressed to a specific soldier, include rank and mission information, and must not be deposited in street letter boxes.

If you don’t know any soldiers but would still like to write to one, you can address your letter to “Any Canadian Forces Member,” but postage will be required. You can find detailed instructions on their website.

Wondering what on earth you might say to a soldier you don’t know? I asked that question of my friend James, who served in Afghanistan a few years ago, and James gathered additional input from his colleagues. I also connected with some soldiers’ wives. Here is a brief summary of their collective wisdom.  

Things not to say
Remember, the Canadian Forces has rules soldiers must follow in what they can and cannot communicate. Never ask things like how many people did you kill? How many firefights were you in? How many rounds did you fire? Do you know how many people were killed and wounded? These questions pull soldiers back to negative or unpleasant experiences.

Keep your political views to yourself. James says, “The missions the Canadian Forces are sent on and the ones we never are deployed for are not within our power to change. We serve at the direction of the Government of Canada and we follow that direction. Receiving comments about these issues is not helpful or constructive.”  

Things to say
James and his friends tell me they love hearing expressions of pride, admiration, and respect. “Like anyone else, as a soldier, I like knowing what I do has value. I like knowing people are thinking about me and my safety. I like knowing I represent Canada and Canadian values overseas, where my fellow Canadians cannot go.”

 Expressions of comfort and understanding are also valued messages.

Soldiers like to hear about where the writer is from and what they are doing. Tell them about your hometown, your weather, your work or school, community involvements and hobbies, or family life. But keep it positive.

Funny stories also help soldiers get their minds off their situation and help them relax. As you can imagine, after spending up to two years with the same group of soldiers, with the same stories and the same personalities, your letter can give them something new to talk about, complain about, worry about, and laugh about. Stay positive. Enough negativity goes around as it is. Your soldier does not want to be where he is or doing whatever he is doing, so keep it positive to help him through the day. Don’t forget to say thank you and tell your soldier he or she is making a difference. Happy letter-writing!