Prov 17:22

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

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Lifetime Benefits of Summer Camp

Did you send your kid off to camp this summer? Was it with fear and trembling or with a sigh of relief? I suspect it depends on whether you shared singer Allan Sherman’s experience at Camp Grenada (“Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah.” Click here if you’re too young to remember.)

I’m not sure which it was for my parents back in the day, but I sure know what it was for me. From the age of eight through 14, camp was the highlight of my entire year. I never suffered from homesickness, but instead found myself “camp sick” when I returned home! I attended Dauphin BibleCamp, a ministry of the Canadian Sunday School Mission (now called One Hope Canada).  I would pack my suitcase far in advance and count down the days until Sunday afternoon when we’d make the two-hour drive, sometimes with my parents and sometimes with the parents of a friend. The trip seemed to take forever as we eagerly noted the landmarks along the way. Arriving on campus felt like stepping onto holy ground. 
It’s funny I loved camp so much, because horsemanship was and remains a big part of DBC and I’m not much of a horse person. Most years, I opted for archery, crafts, and swimming instead. Back then, the pool was nothing more than a concrete box built into the middle of a creek, icy water flowing in one end and out the other. The path leading to it became downright treacherous after a rain, but we loved it. Green scum covered the walls of the pool. The cold sucked your breath away when you jumped in and your teeth chattered through the entire lesson.

The dining hall/chapel had a sawdust floor, and to this day the smell of sawdust evokes pleasant memories. Except for the kitchen, plumbing did not exist. Paths through the woods led from our rustic cabins to an outhouse. Each morning our counsellor would fetch a pail of warm water for us to pour into tin washbasins on a makeshift bench along the outside of our cabin. We found it a novelty to wash up outdoors—you could make as big a splash as you wanted and spit your toothpaste right onto the ground!

This spring, I had an opportunity to return to Dauphin Bible Camp. I felt overwhelmed to see how the place has grown and developed, and thrilled to see it obviously still thriving. Only a dog was present to greet me that Sunday afternoon, so I wandered around trying to get my bearings—a nearly impossible task. Nothing from my day remains except a couple of the old cabins. One thing has not changed: it still felt like holy ground. Camp was a place where I learned to meet with God in the midst of his glorious creation and made friendships that helped me through my adolescent years—at least one of which has lasted a lifetime. My friend Jeanette and I met when we were 12-year-old cabin mates and still see each other as often as possible even though she lives in Alberta. (And yes, even though the boy we both had a crush on invited her to the Saturday night banquet. The nerve.)

It’s not surprising that camp can be such a spiritual highpoint. Jesus did much of his work in the great outdoors—teaching from hillsides and boats, walking from town to town, praying in gardens. More importantly, he held a special place in his heart for children. I admire those who give of themselves so selflessly to bless and encourage kids through camp. If you are one of them, I hope you know you are making a difference. May God reward your service to his precious kids, and may you be granted little glimpses of the impact you have made. Thank you for what you do!

“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, 
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’”

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Painting (my little corner of) the Town Red

Our kitchen chairs before

The door leading from our kitchen to our deck has needed a paint job since we moved in two years ago. One year ago, I got the brainwave that the door would look great painted red, with the two nearby spindle-backed chairs painted to match. Not wanting to rush into anything as audacious as red paint, however, I decided to leave the project until this summer. If it still felt right after a whole year, I could be certain red was the way to go.

This summer arrived, and I still liked my idea.

Not just any red would do, though. With dark green counter and table tops, a Christmas red would be unbearable. Might as well leave the tree up year-round, too.

A whisk and a pair of salad tongs sticking out of my gadget canister held the answer: lighter than burgundy, darker than cranberry, they were the perfect color. I pulled one of the end pieces off my salad tongs and took it to the paint store. Found the exact shade and discovered that the great color-namers in the sky had called it “Dinner Party.” I took home a quart and looked forward to a Saturday morning painting spree.

I lugged my two chairs to the garage, sanded them a bit, and opened my dinner party in a can. “Uh oh,” I muttered. “That looks mighty pink.” But, knowing paint darkens as it dries, I painted one chair. It reminded me of the ever-so-popular “Dusty Rose” from the 1980s, and I most definitely did NOT want dusty rose in my kitchen or anywhere else in my house! 

I needed a second opinion. Naturally, I turned to Facebook. 

With a layer of wet "Dinner Party" red
I posted a photo of the chair along with a sample of “Dinner Party Red” from the paint company’s website. Soon, I had second, third, and seventh opinions. The consensus? The two colors were not the same. Most commenters felt adamant the paint store had blundered the mixing job and I should take it back.

By now, the store was closed for the remainder of the weekend and I would just need to wait. But guess what? Once everything dried, it was indeed the same color as my salad tongs. The store had not made a mistake; they’d given me what I asked for. I should have asked for something else—something that would really “pop” against the dark green.

Rather than belabor this story—riveting though it is—I’ll just tell you that after bringing home paint chips like I should have done in the first place, I bit the bullet and bought a quart of “Caliente” red instead. Why had I been so sure I knew what color I wanted? 

The moral of the story is: never buy paint without first bringing home a variety of paint chips to compare in the actual room where you’ll use it. Don’t trust your salad tongs. 

Our kitchen chairs, after. Couldn't get a decent shot of the door.
The bigger thing I realized is this: the old me (technically, a younger me) would have settled. She would have been too impatient to wait for the store to reopen on Monday. She would have painted everything Dinner Party Red and lived with a color she couldn’t stand, trying forever to convince herself it was fine. 

I’m glad I’m not that person anymore. I love my red door and chairs. It was worth the extra wait, the extra work, and the extra expense. And come December, it’s going to look awesome with a Christmas wreath.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

"Why don't they just...?"

Sit in any social circle where government decisions are kicked around, be it the coffee shop, bar, or the dining room table, and you are sure to hear the phrase, “Why don’t they just…?” or “I don’t understand why they don’t just…” The speaker then completes the sentence with a perfect solution to whatever current hot issue is under discussion.

I hear it in my home, especially when the in-laws visit. I heard it when I worked for a church. And now that I work at City Hall, I hear it even more. One thing that has become apparent to me is that the person making the comment usually believes they know the whole story. Their solution, based on their knowledge of the situation, seems straightforward and obvious. Their statement, when taken literally, is correct: they actually do not understand why certain decisions are made.  There might be a very good reason—a reason they haven’t thought of because it’s not something they deal with every day. In some cases, the person doesn’t necessarily want to be better informed—they only want to express their opinion.

Expressing your opinion is great, and we’re fortunate to live in a country where we are free and encouraged to do so. Voicing uninformed opinions, however, can make you look … well, uninformed. Getting all the facts may or may not alter your view. But doing all you can to obtain information before expressing—or even forming—an opinion will make you appear wise, gain you respect, and raise your credibility level.

When our local paper reported that Council was reviewing Portage la Prairie’s by-law regarding school speed zones, a Facebook friend of mine posted a link to the media report and expressed his opinion. I rarely jump in on anything political, but because I had seen the actual report and because I knew it was available to the public, I commented on my friend’s post with a link to the Report to Council on the City’s website. It included a lot more detail than the media could cover, and made it easier to see why the RCMP and School Board favored maintaining the by-law as-is, based on results in other cities. My friend read it, posted it for everyone, and agreed he needs to take advantage of these public records more often. I don’t think his view changed, but he was more informed and better able to back his opinion either way.

So today I want to remind you that all reports going to our City Council for review or resolution are matters of public record. You can view them by noon on the day of a Council meeting by going to and clicking on Government, then Council, then the link to the meeting agenda. You’ll see exactly what Council sees, in most cases two weeks before a decision is made. Items on the Committee Agenda are up for discussion and will appear on the Council Agenda in two weeks’ time. Items on the Council Agenda will be resolved that evening. And directly below those links, are links by which you can email any member of Council to share your view. Following Council meetings, the minutes are posted by the end of the week and remain available to the public for years.

Take advantage of this information, and next time you hear someone say, “Why don’t they just…?”, you might surprise them with the answer to their question!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Day I Stepped Out of Line

I should know better than to go to a certain retail outlet on a busy Friday afternoon, but I needed to grab a birthday gift for our grandson. In spite of the crowds, it didn’t take long to find the desired Lego set plus a couple of things for myself in the cosmetics department. With my purchases in hand, I made my way to the express lane where you don’t know which cashier will serve you until you get to the front of the line. About ten people waited ahead of me, but the line was moving quickly.

Just as I reached the front and stood waiting for that magical “Please proceed …” instruction, an employee flagged me and said, “I can help you at Customer Service.”

I obediently followed her, but when we got there, someone else had arrived at her counter—someone whose shopping cart bulged with groceries they were buying on credit. The clerk gave me a sheepish glance and started taking care of her customer. I looked longingly back at the express line to see if I might be able to sneak back in, but another ten people had accumulated. I stayed put. 

I’m not sure how much time went by, but I watched while the Customer Service clerk scanned the cartload of groceries, stopping intermittently to answer the phone or call for assistance. At some point she made an error and needed to start over. Three or four people now waited in line behind me. By this time, I was pretty sure the guy who’d been behind me in the original line was at home in his jammies. I started looking around for the hidden camera that would land me on Just for Laughs.

The waiting provided ample time for me to realize I had two choices. I could become bent out of shape, maybe even make a scene. I could call the clerk names and later rant about the store on Facebook. If I wanted to, I could probably work myself into a real dither.

Or, I could go easy on my blood pressure and remind myself of a few things, like:
1.      The fact that the clerk meant well. She really did have good reason to believe she was speeding progress when she called me out of that line.
2.      The fact that the clerk looked quite young. Could this be her first job? Possibly even her first week on the job? I remember those stressful, scary days.
3.      The fact that I was in no real rush, and even if I had been—would an extra ten minutes make much difference in the big picture? 

Click here to hear the song.
I started humming a song that Agapeland came out with when our kids were little. Maybe you know it. Herbert the Snail sings:
“Have patience, have patience, don’t be in such a hurry.
When you get impatient, you only start to worry.
Remember, remember, that God is patient, too.
And think of all the times when others have to wait for you.” 

My patience was rewarded when I finally stepped to the counter and the manager said my purchases would be free.

Actually, I made that part up.

But on my way home, I came across a multi-vehicle accident in which I’d probably have died had I left the store ten minutes earlier.

Actually, I made that part up, too.

But I did leave the store with my dignity—and the clerk’s—still intact. Sometimes patience is the only reward required.