Prov 17:22

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

Friday, February 23, 2024

Older Than I've Ever Been

I’m turning 65 this week, which of course provides no end of reasons to reflect. Speaking of reflections, did you know the easiest way to look younger is to remove your glasses before looking in the mirror?

At 65, I must acknowledge that I’m no longer middle-aged. How can I be when I’m halfway to 130 and have no intention of living that long?

Lately, fatigue has forced me to say no to several things that I’d dearly love to do, proving that the world is no longer my oyster. Oh well. Never did care for oysters. Lots of positive things can be said about turning 65.

Here are seven.

1.  Old Age Security is the biggest one, of course. I’m looking forward to my first direct deposit, although an actual cheque that I could hold in my wrinkling hands might somehow provide more cause for celebration. I’ll probably splurge on something extravagant like groceries or electricity.

2.  We’re no longer getting calls from life insurance salespeople.

3.  Now we can officially enjoy the senior discounts at restaurants, theaters, and stores without wondering what age they consider “senior.” No question about it. We qualify.

4.  It’s now acceptable to pretend my hearing is going and ignore absolutely everybody. 

5.  I can start new hobbies, like decorating my yard with plastic flowers. Or saving bits of aluminum foil and dryer lint in case my kids want that someday.

6.  I can console myself knowing there are still a few things older than me. The pyramids come to mind.

7.  We can now go to antique shops and visit our old furniture.

Seriously, I’m grateful to have more days behind me than before me here on this planet. Maybe that’s because I agree with C.S. Lewis when he said, “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

Last month I attended the funeral of our friend, Asta, age 93. Family members shared stories about how, with loved ones gathered around her bed expecting her to slip from a coma into eternity any minute, Asta began to pray aloud. For ten full minutes, she prayed for the people in the room. She prayed for healing for others. In her moment of greatest personal need, her heart and mind were focused on others. It occurred to me that such things don’t simply happen on our deathbed unless we have already made them a lifelong habit.

If I’m honest, my lifetime habits will have my deathbed prayers sounding more like, “Help me, help me, help me.”

I know only two things for sure. First, whether I have one day or thirty years left here, my deepest desire is to hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Second, this moment is really all I have. Yesterday’s over. I could be gone by tomorrow.

Those two realities lead to the only logical next question. What does “good and faithful” look like right now, right here, in this moment? It’s not always what we might think at first blush.

A great question to ask at any age.

“For through wisdom your days will be many, and years will be added to your life.” (Proverbs 9:11)

Me at 10 or 11 with one of my kitties.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Even If

Are you the type of person who chooses a theme word or phrase for the year? Something you can use to anchor yourself, to aim for, to help find meaning in life’s ups and downs? I’ve tried this a few times but by spring, I’ve usually forgotten it. This year, when I wasn’t particularly looking for one, a phrase chose me. It grabbed at my heartstrings when a certain song came on CHVN radio one day.

For this to make sense to you, I need to back up a bit.

I’m currently writing a two-book fiction series called the “Even If” series (although each book would stand alone).

Book One, Even If We Cry, will release this November from Mountain Brook Ink. It’s about the British children who evacuated to Canada during World War II and some of the things they, their parents in England, and their host families here went through. I’m currently working on edits.

Fair use,
Book Two, Even If I Perish, releases in the fall of 2025. I’m about one-third through the first draft and up to my eyeballs in research. It’s based on the true story of a little-known heroine, Mary Cornish. Mary was one of the few survivors of the ship, The City of Benares, sunk by a German torpedo while carrying 90 children on one of these evacuation voyages. Mary survived eight days as the only female in a lifeboat meant for 24 people but packed with 46. Six of those people were young boys whom Mary was determined to keep alive at any cost.

My publishing contract includes the possibility of two more books in the series. You can see why the words, “even if,” have been jumping out every time I hear or see them.

Like you, I’ve known my share of faith-shaking hard times. Maybe I’m simply forgetful, but it truly seems as though 90 percent of those faith shakers have occurred in the last five years. You too? Some family stuff, some career stuff, some world-at-large stuff.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised when, driving down the street one day, the words of this song from Rend Collective caught my attention:

“I’ll find a way to praise You from the bottom of my broken heart
’Cause I think I’d rather strike a match than curse the dark…”

Can you relate? The singer goes on to say he’d rather take a chance on hope than fall apart. Is falling apart the only alternative? Surrendering to the dark? He decides no. That’s when the resounding chorus breaks in, with the repeating phrase which so perfectly applies to drifters in a lifeboat on a cold and raging sea in the middle of the night … and which nailed it for me:
“Even if my daylight never dawns
Even if my breakthrough never comes
Even if I’ll fight to bring You praise
Even if my dreams fall to the ground
Even if I’m lost, I know I’m found
… my heart will somehow say, ‘Hallelujah’ anyway.”

Faith does frequently feel like a big gamble, doesn’t it? Some people wonder why, if it’s really true, do we believers need to constantly convince and remind each other and ourselves, even if current evidence isn’t supporting our beliefs.

It’s a valid question. The only answer I can offer is the Bible’s definition of faith: the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. (See Hebrews 11.)

Many thanks to songwriters Chris Llewellyn, Matt Maher, and Gareth Gilkeson for giving us this wonderfully personal song, and giving me my phrase for the year. You can hear the whole song HERE.

Friday, February 9, 2024

A Valentine to My Eight-Year-Old Self

I was in love by Grade Two. Having decided which of my classmates I would marry, I prepared a marriage license for us which my big brother discovered in my room and found useful for endless harassment and blackmail. I dreaded the day my intended groom learned of its existence, but I don’t recall having to endure that humiliation. Maybe my brother was more merciful than I thought.

Valentines Day would not expose my secret since Mom insisted I give a valentine to every person in my class, regardless of my feelings. The only thing under my control was deciding who received which one. I’d agonize over who got my invitation to “Be Mine” and who received the skunk picture declaring, “I’m scent-imental over you!”

I loved those press-out valentines. I loved a little less the envelopes that had to be folded and then glued together with flour and water paste—a method you’ll remember if your parents survived the Great Depression.

In the lead-up to the big day, we decorated our classroom with pink and red streamers and paper hearts. Our teacher brought in a large box and cut a slot in the top. We covered The Box with crepe paper and more hearts and cupids. On the morning of February 14, we diligently hid our valentines until our turn came to insert them into The Box. Little was learned during our morning lessons as we stared at The Box, envisioning all the valentines inside.

When we returned after lunch, cookies and cupcakes in hand, it was party time. Games were played, treats were shared. Finally, the big culmination: the opening of The Box and the distribution of the valentines within.

At home, I’d review them over and over, hunting for clues to a secret love the sender may have hidden between the lines, hope and heartache racing side by side through my little core.

Fifty-six Valentines Days later, I decided to write a valentine to the little girl I was then. Since I don’t have a time machine so I can drop it through a slot in The Box, I’ll share it here.


I know you’re dying to know whom you’ll one day marry. I’m not going to tell you, except to say it’s neither of the boys you take turns having a crush on these days, so maybe hold off on writing marriage licenses. You will marry a good man, but he won’t be perfect. Neither will you. Together you’ll have some wonderful, imperfect children. They’ll bring you joy, laughter, and love. This may come as a shock, but they’ll also hurt your feelings sometimes. You’ll disappoint them, and yourself. There will be days you’ll feel unloved and forgotten, betrayed and alone.

Here’s another shocker: your parents don’t have everything figured out. They’re doing their best to love and care for you, given the tools they’ve been given. They’ll fall short sometimes, too. Even when you’re grown, they’ll second-guess the choices they made for you. If you can understand that, it’ll be easier both to forgive their mistakes and to forgive yourself when your own kids are adults.

What I need you to know more than anything is that you are loved, perfectly and just the way you are, by the One who created you. The more you practice running to Him with your hurts and allowing His love to comfort you, the greater will be your ability to love the people He brings into your life—even when they don’t return your affection. You have a long life ahead, with countless people who will move in and out of it. Only One will be constant. You won’t regret pouring every effort into getting to know Him—Jesus, the Lover of your soul.

Yours truly,

Your 64-year-old self.

Friday, February 2, 2024

Do You Remember "Front Page Challenge?"

I remember my parents devotedly tuning in to CBC television on Monday nights to see who that week’s mystery challengers might be on Front Page Challenge and whether the panel would guess before their timer went off. Would Betty Kennedy be the successful panelist with the correct answer, as she often was? Would moderator Fred Davis need to intercept or intervene? Would Pierre Berton deviate from his bow tie? Would Gordon Sinclair say something crude and offensive like he almost always did? (My dad couldn’t stand the guy and, judging by the mail received by the show’s producers, Dad wasn’t alone. Sinclair’s insensitive antics were all part of the charm that kept viewers tuning in.)

Front Page Challenge premiered in 1957 and ran for 38 years, despite many predictions to the contrary. It began as a six-week summer fill-in show, created by John Aylesworth. The game’s premise was brilliant. Producers chose national or international stories that had appeared on the front page of a major newspaper. A panel of Canadian journalists (three regulars and one guest) would have a limited time to identify the story by asking yes-or-no questions of a mystery guest. When they succeeded, or when the timer buzzed, they had an additional amount of time to interview the guest, asking questions they hoped viewers would want to ask. Each show covered at least two stories unless the guest was famous enough to be deemed deserving of a whole show.

In its early days, when CBC still enjoyed an impressive budget, famous challengers were flown in from all over the world, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Indira Gandhi, Harold Wilson, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Martin Luther King Jr., and Menachem Begin. Canadian headliners who came on as challengers included all the living prime ministers during those years, sports stars like Gordie Howe, and entertainment icons like Anne Murray and Gordon Lightfoot. In those early black-and-white videos, the panelists and guests are often seen with a cigarette in hand or smoke rising from the ashtrays on their desk. How sophisticated.

Why on earth am I researching this obsolete program? Well, the novel I’m currently writing, Even If I Perish, is about the sinking of the SS City of Benares—one of the ships that transported British children to Canada during World War II. In addition to its paying passengers and crew, the City of Benares carried 90 children, along with their escorts. On September 17, 1940, the ship was struck by a  German torpedo. Only 13 children survived. I’m certain the story made the front pages.

I’m creating a fictional story involving one or more of the survivors. I’ve found no evidence that Front Page Challenge covered this story (even though they did sometimes choose headlines going further into the past), but it certainly would have been a good one—particularly if they brought one of the survivors onto the show as their challenger. If I decide to make this happen in my novel, the challenger will be Mary Cornish, the woman who survived eight days as the only female in Lifeboat Number 12, caring for six boys in a boat packed with more than twice the people it was built for. I can already imagine ol’ Gordon Sinclair asking Mary how much she got paid for escorting the children. In real life, Mary never made it to Canada. She did, however, receive the Medal of the Order of the British Empire and she appeared on a British television program in 1956. So it’s not that big of a stretch to think she might have been recruited for our Canadian show. If only they’d thought of it.

You can watch clips from Front Page Challenge on YouTube, including the time Stompin’ Tom Connors stumped the panel, and one from 1984 featuring Mary Simon, decades before she became Canada’s Governor General.

Do you recall a favorite Front Page Challenge story?

Pierre Burton, Fred Davis, Betty Kennedy, Gordon Sinclair (photo from Facebook)