Prov 17:22

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

Friday, November 27, 2020


In 2018, I heard an idea that intrigued me. Since the Gospel of Luke is 24 chapters long, the plan was to read one chapter a day starting on the first of December and finishing the book in time for Christmas. Luke begins with the birth of Christ and covers his life, so by the time you reach December 25, you have gained a much better handle on who we’re celebrating and why.

I took the suggestion a step further by purchasing a nice journal (I like the spiral-bound kind so you can easily use both sides of every page). Each morning, as I read the day’s corresponding chapter, I would write out whichever verse jumped out at me. Then I’d fill the rest of the page—and usually one or two more—with my own observations, prayers, and plans. Even a little decorating with gel pens if the mood hit me.

I made it an annual tradition and determined two things: to use a different version of the Bible each year, and to try to read Luke’s account with the eyes and mind of someone who has never heard the story before. I used The Message in 2018 and NIV in 2019. For 2020, I plan to use the good old King James version. It’s fun to look back in this December journal and see what I wrote in previous years.

I confess, the externals surrounding this exercise add to the attraction. The quiet of the wee hours while it’s still dark. The glow of the Christmas tree. The warmth of my fake fireplace. The fragrance of a nearby candle scented like cinnamon rolls. Soft instrumental carols playing. A fresh cup of coffee with my favourite creamer at my elbow. All senses fully engaged, ready for what God wants to show me.

I enjoyed my morning routine so much that when I reached the end of Luke, I wanted to continue. That’s when a friend told me about Shannon Long describes herself as, “Wife. Mama. Techie. Brain tumor survivor. Kindness ninja. Lover of Jesus & all things monogrammed & random acts of kindness.” Each month, she puts together a Scripture Writing list of 31 short passages (2-10 verses each) that addresses a common theme. She creates an attractive, printable check-off sheet. You can choose the month she designated or any theme that meets your need. Some of my favorites have been Courage, God’s Timing, and Perseverance.

Writing out the day’s passage in my journal triples the effectiveness over simply reading. I’m slowed down, forced to focus on every word. Making them tactile and personal helps me remember them better. I fill the rest of the page and the few that follow with my own journaling, like I did with the December book. I rant and I ramble. I figure God knows my thoughts anyway. Writing them down helps me sort them out for myself.

I challenge you to try it this December. If the practice turns out not to be for you, that’s okay. It’s only 24 days. But I believe God will honor your desire to know him better. If you find you love it and want to continue, check out the Sweet Blessings website.

This year’s Christmas will be different from any you’ve experienced. Why not make it a “good” kind of different? Without the frenzy of frantic shopping, parties, and concerts, is it possible you could discover that elusive ‘peace on earth’ in the middle of it all?  Could this be the year we finally remember what Christmas is all about?


Friday, November 20, 2020


If you’ve heard a rumor that I’m once again working at City Hall in Portage la Prairie, you heard right. And you heard wrong.

After 18 months of retirement, the City invited me back to help out until my old position can be filled once again. The request came completely out of the blue, but I knew I was supposed to say yes. I’m discovering that being pulled out of retirement is proving excellent for the memory.

Portage la Prairie City Hall

Day One felt the way I imagine it feels to come out of a coma. Slowly, gradually, I began to recall how to do various tasks I hadn’t given a thought to for a year and a half. Despite dead brain cells, the job was coming back to me and it felt good.

Until I returned home, too exhausted to do anything else. Then I remembered why I’d been so eager to retire.

Commuting to work on foot reminded me how lovely it is to feel alert and fit at 8:15 a.m.

Until I arose one mid-week morning to ice and snow. Then I remembered why retirement had felt so delicious.

Back at work, everyone was so appreciative and nice to me, I remembered why I’d been hesitant to leave in the first place.

Then I handled a phone call from a disgruntled citizen and remembered how little I’d missed work.

By the end of my first week, the work seemed like second nature. I felt competent. Useful. Accomplished. I remembered what I liked about working.

Then I suffered a restless night and remembered why I’d wanted to retire.

Until my first payday. Then I remembered why I spent most of my life employed.

Until a writing deadline loomed but my limited brain energy was all drained at city hall. Then I remembered how desperately I’d longed to retire.

Then one of my co-workers said, “I’m so glad you’re back. It feels like all’s right with the world having you here.” Which may have been a tad dramatic, but it made me remember what I loved about being at work.

Then I referred to Davy Crockett and another co-worker asked, “Who’s Davy Crockett?” and I remembered that I’m the oldest person in the building.

After three weeks, Covid restrictions tightened again, and I’m now spending my mornings on a city laptop in my house, remotely connected to files on the city’s server. And I remember how, even before retirement, I’d often thought I would like to try working from home. Except not under such sad circumstances.

While my memory bank is yanking me around like a kite in the wind, I confess I’ve wondered what God is up to in all this. It may be as simple as my easing another’s load for a while. Or maybe God has unfinished business for me. Or he’s simply providing for our financial needs in a surprising way. Maybe he wanted to remind me of the importance of not burning your bridges. Perhaps it’s all of the above or something I have yet to discover. Regardless, lessons can be learned in every expected and unexpected turn in the road and I don’t want to miss them. If my memory has retained anything, it is this: you are never a mere pawn moved around by a mysterious higher power. God opens doors and gives us the freedom to choose whether to step through or to stay put. Choose well. You’ll make some great memories.

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)


Friday, November 13, 2020


If you are a regular shoebox packer for Samaritan Purse’s Operation Christmas Child, you probably know OCC typically receives more boxes for girls than for boys, and for younger children than older. Their greatest need is for the oldest category of boys. I used to try to help fill this gap.

Then God gave us five grandsons and I became a rebel. The annual shoebox project has become my once-a-year opportunity to buy little girlie things. In 2019, I had great fun packing a shoebox for a girl around four years old.

Before I started shopping, I prayed. God already knew who was going to receive my box, so I asked him to show me which items she most needed and would like. In addition to the practical hygiene items and school supplies, I found a pink skipping rope, hair accessories, a pink notebook, and more. When I placed them all in the box, I discovered that by removing most of the packaging, I still had plenty of room for more.

I went shopping again. I prayed again. This time, I found a package of little girl underwear and a “Canada” t-shirt for her. But I knew the box still had space for one more toy. A little stuffed animal was in order. I sifted through the store’s bin of little stuffies. Which one would she like best, Lord? Please help me spot it.

I narrowed them down to three: a puppy, a panda bear, and a cute, snugly bird. I couldn’t decide. That’s when I noticed a man shopping with his little daughter. She appeared about the same age as “my” little girl. I wondered which toy she would pick.

As they walked toward me, I smiled at them. Holding up the three options, I asked the dad, “Is it okay if I ask your little girl which one of these she likes best? It’s for another little girl.”

Before I could even finish asking, she pointed with enthusiasm to the panda bear. I thanked her and put the other two back, hoping I hadn’t created a dilemma for her dad.

When I took the items home and began packing my box, I discovered something. The little pink hairbrush I had picked out on my previous shopping trip featured a panda bear on the back. A perfect match! The two bears looked terrific nestled in among all the pink.

Don’t tell me God isn’t in the details. I know this box landed in the hands of a little girl in a developing country—possibly even the same part of the planet from which the man in the store and his daughter came. A little girl who never received a gift before in her life. A girl who likes pink and who is especially fond of panda bears. I hope she also discovers that God is especially fond of her.

If you have never participated in Operation Christmas Child, I encourage you to consider packing a box this year. If shopping is too hard for you right now, your can fill a box online by going to OCC’s website.

“Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:40 (The Message)