Prov 17:22

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

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Confessions of a Techno Twit

I hate learning new technical stuff. Unfortunately, an unwillingness to learn new technical stuff these days will make you obsolete faster than your palm pilot can drop into your Jolt cola.

So it was good news for me when I signed up for the tech team at my church, operating the computer program that projects lyrics, scriptures, and whatever else the congregation needs to see onto the front screen. The software had not changed in ten years. Back then, I worked on staff at the church and used it weekly, setting up the Sunday schedules and even training others how to use it. A brief refresher and I was good to go.

But, as my dad used to say, “I learn to say yam and they change it to yelly.”

It was inevitable that just as I was getting comfortable, the church would purchase new software, requiring the team to learn not only a different program but one that operated on a Mac computer when all I’ve ever used is Windows.

The lovely Demi Moore as G.I. Jane
Oh, and did I mention? Not only am I the only female on this team, I am the oldest person on this team. I felt like a senior version of G.I. Jane going off to boot camp. (Well, except maybe for the shaved head, the one-handed push-ups, and the whole getting-the-snot-beat-out-of-me thing.)

“Soldier on,” I pep-talked myself. “What’s the worst that can happen? You mess up so bad that the huddled masses who intended to get right with God that Sunday change their minds, never to return? Don’t overestimate your own importance.”

The real fears had more to do with my prideful heart. Would I look like an idiot when I couldn’t catch on as fast as the 12-year-old training beside me? Break down crying in frustration? Make so many blunders they’d invite me to leave the team? 

All distinct possibilities. None life-threatening.

I attended the training session and found Jed Neudorf a great teacher. I didn’t cry, but I did return home with my head swimming. Now to work through the online tutorial videos. Soon I will be tested in an actual service. I’ll be as nervous as a nudist at the porcupine ball, but it will be worth it…eventually.

Here’s what I love most about serving in this capacity. Coming early to practice while the music team rehearses means I experience all the worship songs at least three times instead of only once, like the rest of the crowd. I learn the songs better and they stick in my head throughout the week. And that’s a good thing.

Praising God is always a good thing.

This week is Palm Sunday, the day Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem while the people sang his praises, waving palm branches (symbols of victory, triumph, peace, and eternal life) and tossing their own coats in his path. “Hosanna!” they cried, which means “I beg you to save!” or “please deliver us!”

So, as Jesus rode the donkey into Jerusalem, the crowds were perfectly right to shout “Hosanna!” Theirs was a cry for salvation and a recognition that Jesus is able to save.

He deserves the same adoration from us. If you’re not already planning to attend Palm Sunday, Good Friday, or Easter services at another church, please join me at mine—Portage Alliance Church at 11:00 a.m. I can promise joyous music, a warm atmosphere, and an inspiring message.

And if the technology should fail… that whimpering sound you hear might just be me.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

What Will They Think of Next?

My father-in-law, Basil, was in the earlier stages of dementia and my mother-in-law was determined to find fun events we could enjoy together as a family that Dad would still like, too. She arranged for us to meet at an agricultural museum near their home in Alberta. Dad grew up on a farm and spent most of his adult years farming in one form or another, so it seemed like a great fit.

As we wandered the grounds, I tried to stay at least mildly interested in the seemingly endless display of old vehicles and farming equipment. It was a gorgeous summer day on the Canadian prairies, and I knew Dad would have been in his element in his healthier days. He didn’t say much and it was hard to tell what he was thinking, but I chose to believe he was relishing this time with two of his sons.

When we got to an antique fire engine from the 1930’s, my husband and his brother were studying the chain-driven rear axles—no doubt innovative for their time. Dad took a good look at what they were admiring and chuckled. Then, with all sincerity, he said, “What will they think of next?”

This week marks two years since Dad’s passing. Though we miss him, this little story continues to give us a laugh and will remain one of my fondest memories of him. 

I’d love to show my father-in-law a few recently thought-of inventions in answer to his question. Volkswagen has initiated something called The Fun Theory. Have you heard of it? The theory is that fun can change human behavior for the better. In Stockholm, they observed a side-by-side staircase/escalator and asked whether they could make more people take the stairs by making it more fun. You can observe the “before” video footage, where the stairs remain nearly empty while the escalator is packed with people. 

Overnight, they turned the stairs into a giant piano keyboard. I can’t imagine what this engineering feat cost, but the next day cameras rolled as folks discovered the fun new stairs. As you watch the video, you can see more and more people take the stairs until the escalator sadly rolls along by its deserted self.  66% more people than normal chose the stairs, proving their theory that fun can change behavior for the better.

In Norway, they asked whether installing a special trash bin would make more people place their litter in the appropriate place instead of throwing it on the ground. When you toss in a piece of garbage, the bin produces a long whistling sound as if the trash is falling from a high cliff in a cartoon, complete with a crash when it “hits bottom.” 72 KG of trash was collected in that bin in a single day.

In Mexico, innovators wondered if they could coax more students to use a foot bridge rather than jay-walking through traffic. They crisscrossed the bridge with bands that make funny squeak-toy sounds when stepped on. Within two hours, traffic flow doubled on the foot bridge.

You can watch these and more fun videos on You Tube or go to .

Now if someone could figure out how to make filling out tax returns fun, we’d all have it made. Would some smart person out there pleeeeze think of this next?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Sleeping with a One-Armed Man

Do you ever wonder what can happen in a marriage and family when a healthy adult suddenly faces a permanent disability? 

I can answer that question. But not in this blog post. Questions of such magnitude call for bold measures when you’re a drama queen. That’s why rehearsals are underway for a never-before-produced play the Prairie Players will take to the 2015 ACT Festival in Dauphin the first weekend in May. The play is called Sleeping with a One-Armed Man

As the writer and director of this piece, based loosely on our own true story, I confess I’ve been a bit chicken to see it moving forward. Since writing it 15 years ago, I always figured it was merely a therapeutic effort that would never actually see the stage. But its 35-minute running time makes it a good fit for the ACT Festival. And since this fall will mark 20 years that I’ve been sleeping with a one-armed man, the timing seemed right. (And yes, we’re doing this with the one-armed man’s blessing.) It features the stellar cast of Christopher Kitchen, Laurel Giesbrecht, Vicki Hooke, Rosa Rawlings, and Terry Tully. Stephanie Kauffman rules as our capable stage manager. 

Now that rehearsals have begun and I can see what a terrific job my actors are doing, I’m getting excited. But then, the potential for making audiences laugh, cry, and think new thoughts always excites me. In order for our families and friends here at home to see this play, we’ve decided to open our final rehearsal to the public. 

Although it would be worth the price of admission just to see Chris Kitchen undergo an amputation, we’ve decided to let folks in for free and collect donations for Manitoba Farmers with Disabilities. MFWD is dedicated to educating the public about farm safety and to providing a support network for farmers living with disabilities in our province.

Based out of Elm Creek, MFWD recently constructed a new headquarters from which to carry out their mandate. They know that after a serious injury or illness, a person may experience symptoms of overwhelming guilt, issues of acceptance, and the inability to communicate with family and friends. An important part of the healing process involves talking about your situation with someone who will listen and understand—someone who perhaps has gone through the same experience. 

In addition to networking, MFWD provides resources like books, downloads, videos, coloring books, peer counselling, newsletters, and more. It’s one of those groups no one ever hopes to belong to, but when you need it, you’re glad it’s there.
An old African-American hymn says, “Time is filled with swift transition, none on earth unmoved can stand. Build your hopes on things eternal, hold to God’s unchanging hand.” 

Such is the theme of this story. We hope you can join us on Wednesday, April 29, 7:30 p.m. at the William Glesby Centre in Portage la Prairie. Mark your calendar and watch for more details.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Little Good News Today

Imagine you’re walking down the street and a reporter approaches you, sticks a microphone in your face, and asks, “Is poverty in Canada on the rise?”  

How would you answer?

The prevailing belief seems to be that yes, poverty is definitely on the rise. Four million people live below Canada’s poverty line. That’s more than 11% of us.
“What about the world at large?” the reporter asks.

“Oh, it’s definitely getting worse in third world countries,” you might say. You’ve seen the footage of the hungry and homeless, the unspeakable human suffering caused by war and draught. It’s true that while extreme poverty is all but eliminated in developed countries like Canada, it remains common in many developing countries. (The World Bank defines “extreme poverty” as living on less than $1.25 per day, being unable to provide emergency health care, education, clean water, adequate shelter, or enough food for your children.)

However, despite population growth, 700 million fewer people live in extreme poverty today than 25 years ago. For the first time in the history of Latin America and the Caribbean, more people live in the middle class than in poverty. Vietnam’s percentage of people living in extreme poverty dropped from 58% in the 1990s to 10% in 2010. China, India, Malaysia, and Thailand are all pulling ahead in this war.

Six million fewer children under age five died last year than died in 1990. Polio is nearly eradicated, and 3.3 million fewer people died from malaria in the span of 12 years. Adult illiteracy has been cut in half since 1985, and in the past 25 years, 2.3 billion people received access to clean water.

For some reason, these positive statistics are slow to spread. Is that because it’s easier to believe it’s hopeless and just give up? When people believe it’s impossible to eradicate extreme poverty, concern dwindles. We become apathetic or cynical. I don’t tell you these things because I want to be Pollyanna, but to reveal another truth besides the endless devastating TV news stories about disease, war, and famine. In many ways, progress is being made and you can play a role in it. Yes, there are grim stats, too. Child poverty right here at home is up several points from the 1990s. There are certainly still far too many hungry people on this planet. But we are making headway, one child at a time. Think how you will feel when statistics look still better 20 years from now, knowing you played a part in it!

I was pleased to learn two of my favorite charities, Samaritan’s Purse and Compassion, made the top ten list of charities known for their exceptional financial management. But you have many others to choose from. To give where you know your money will really count, you can check out rankings at
Because we sure could use a little good news today. And because every one of us can help create a little good news today.