Friday, July 28, 2017

Five Minute Friday: INSPIRE

Today I'm joining the Five Minute Friday community again, writing for five minutes on a given prompt. This week's word is INSPIRE.


I was trying to think recently of what we had last summer that is missing this summer, and then it came to me ....

No, I don't mean heat, although that's true, too. I mean the Olympics. 

When we were on vacation out east last summer, we stayed at my aunt's house and spent a lot of our time in the evening watching the Olympics. Sports competition can be so inspiring. Athletes give everything they have to be the best in their sport. They train, they practice, they sacrifice -- just for that chance to be on the podium.

One of my favourite movies of all time is Chariots of Fire. (SPOILER ALERT if you haven't seen it -- though it is 36 years old.)

It's set in the 1924 Paris Olympics and tells the parallel stories of two British runners: Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell. 

Abrahams is Jewish and is driven to prove himself in a society where he feels looked-down upon.

Liddell is a Christian who postpones missionary work in China so that he can compete in Paris -- only to find out that his heat is on a Sunday. When he refuses to participate, a teammate who has already won a medal gives up his spot in a different race so that Liddell can run. Liddell wins his race, and Abrahams wins his.  

There are so many inspiring moments in this film: it contains all the courage, strength, sacrifice, and determination that the Olympics have come to symbolize. 

But I especially love Liddell's words to his sister, who is worried that he is focused more on running than on mission work:

"I believe that God made me for a purpose -- for China. But He also made me fast -- and when I run, I feel His pleasure."


If you've never seen this movie, I'd highly recommend it. One of the best parts is the iconic opening scene showing the British team running on the beach. Click on the video below to watch it. 


Friday, July 21, 2017

Five Minute Friday: COLLECT

Today I'm joining Five Minute Friday's weekly linkup, writing about the word COLLECT.


 Yesterday I saw this delightful video clip online, about a man named Mark Orsillo who had lost almost all of his beloved DVD movies (over 300 of them) when his family's home was destroyed in a wildfire. 

His sister went on Facebook to ask for help in recreating Mark's collection, and -- as so often happens with these public requests -- the response was overwhelming. Just take a look at the pile of DVD's Mark received, all from strangers.

For most of us, a DVD collection wouldn't be the top priority after the devastating loss of a home by fire. But Mark's sister knew how much it meant to him -- and the expression on his face when he saw the piles of donated movies proved just how significant it was.

Sometimes when I'm online and the words BREAKING NEWS come up on my Twitter or Facebook feed, I feel a little jolt inside and wonder, "What terrible thing has happened now?" 

A constant diet of crisis and controversy can leave us drained and depressed. Stories like this one about Mark Orsillo remind us that there is joy, generosity, and simplicity in the world. 

Just as Mark glories in his collection of movies, maybe we should make a point of seeking and collecting uplifting, encouraging stories (our own, and those of others) to counter the onslaught of negativity and conflict all around us.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Five Minute Friday: COMFORT

Today I'm linking up with Five Minute Friday, writing for five minutes on this week's prompt: COMFORT.


Handel's "Messiah" is one of my favourite choral compositions. Richard and I used to attend local performances of it regularly as a Christmas tradition; we don't go as often anymore, but we have a CD of the London Symphony Orchestra and Choir performing it, so we can listen to it any time we want.

The "Hallelujah" chorus is usually considered the highlight of the piece, and it is pretty dramatic when the entire audience stands for that iconic chorus.

But my favourite part happens much earlier. It's when the Overture is finished and the tenor stands up to sing the very first words of the oratorio: 

Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, 
saith your God. 
Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, 
and cry unto her, 
that her warfare is accomplished, 
that her iniquity is pardoned. 

I find this so moving because it's as if God is speaking after a long silence. We know he has something to say to us, we're all anticipating what it might be ... and his very first words express comfort.




He is our God, the God of all comfort.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Knowing yourself: The Proust Questionnaire

Yesterday a friend published a blog post in which he gave his answers to the Proust Questionnaire, which was popularized (though not invented) by writer Marcel Proust. I'm a sucker for a good questionnaire, and this one is really interesting. Here are my answers -- now go and give it a try! You might be surprised at what you learn about yourself.

  1. What is your idea of perfect happiness? Sitting on the deck with Richard after we've had a nice, peaceful supper -- the kids are contentedly doing their own thing and we're sipping a glass of wine and relaxing. (The winter version would be sitting in the living room doing the same thing: fireplace on, snow falling outside, nowhere else we have to be.)
  2. What is your greatest fear? Fear as in phobia: flying. My more existential fear is about what will happen to our kids when Richard and I die.
  3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Impatience.
  4. What is the trait you most deplore in others? Condescension.
  5. Which living person do you most admire? General Romeo Dallaire, Jean Vanier.
  6. What is your greatest extravagance? Probably buying books, though I am not really that extravagant in general.
  7. What is your current state of mind? A little preoccupied with tonight's music practice for Sunday's church service -- but excited, not stressed.
  8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue? "Authenticity." I do greatly value people being honest and vulnerable when it increases true connection and compassion -- but I am wary of people who seem to be self-revealing in order to get attention or praise.
  9. On what occasion do you lie? I often fudge the truth with Jonathan about what we are going to be doing; otherwise he will talk about it NON-STOP until we do it.
  10. What do you most dislike about your appearance? My very wide face, and my inability to tan.
  11. Which living person do you most despise? Despise is a strong word, but I do find Trump extremely disturbing. I also deplore conspiracy theorists such as people who say the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax, deliberately causing even greater pain to grieving families.
  12. What is the quality you most like in others? Treating everyone they meet as equals.
  13. What is the quality you most like in a woman? I guess as a straight woman I'm expected to say "man" here ... but it doesn't really matter, because (regardless of gender) my answer is the same as for #12: treating everyone they meet as equals.
  14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse? In my writing: "certainly" and "definitely." In my speech: I'm not sure -- maybe someone else will have to point out to me that I overuse a certain expression.
  15. What or who is the greatest love of your life? My husband and kids.
  16. When and where were you happiest? When Allison was a baby and toddler.
  17. Which talent would you most like to have? Being athletic without hurting myself. For example, I LOVE playing Frisbee, but at my age I hesitate to go all-out doing it in case I give myself a serious "weekend warrior" injury.
  18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I'd like to have 20/20 vision and not need glasses.
  19. What do you consider your greatest achievement? Raising my kids without losing my mind (yet).
  20. If you were to die and come back as another person, who would it be? I found this question hard. Perhaps Laura Ingalls Wilder -- she lived such an interesting life.
  21. Where would you most like to live? I love Kingston and my neighbourhood, so I don't want to live anywhere else -- but if I had to answer, PEI.
  22. What is your most treasured possession? Old letters and cards from when I was a kid.
  23. What do you regard as your lowest depth of misery? Breakup with friend.
  24. What is your favorite occupation? Writer.
  25. What is your most marked characteristic? Sense of humour.
  26. What do you most value in friendship? Faithfulness.
  27. Who are your favorite writers? Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, Anne Tyler, Elizabeth Strout, C.S. Lewis, Brian Doyle, John Blase ... to name only a few in a long, long list!
  28. Who is your hero in fiction? Frodo.
  29. Which historical figure do you most identify with? This was also a difficult question; I haven't come up with an answer I'm happy with yet.
  30. Who are your heroes in real life? Those who serve suffering or traumatized people in difficult places around the world, such as Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres), Special Hope Network, or Preemptive Love Coalition.
  31. What are your favorite names? Allison and Jonathan.
  32. What is it that you dislike the most? Having to decide every day what to make for supper, and making it.
  33. What is your greatest regret? Not giving the kids more chores and responsibilities at home. But that can change going forward.
  34. How would you like to die? Peacefully, knowing the kids are looked after.
  35. What is your motto? From The Lord of the Rings: "Such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere."

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Five Minute Friday (uh, make that Sunday): PLAY

This is the second time in three weeks that I completely forgot to write my Five Minute Friday post on the actual Friday. Fortunately the linkup is still open, so here is my contribution for this week.

The word is PLAY.


One thing we like to do in our house is play a game Allison and I invented when she was little. It's called "The Three-Letter Game."

This game is best played with two or three people. We use the Scrabble Junior tiles, which have no point values on them. The first person picks three letters. If your letters can make a word, and you want to make that word, then you make it and set it aside. Then the next person picks three letters, and you just keep taking turns, picking three letters and making words if you can.  Your words must be three letters long or more. Names are only allowed if they are also words, like SUE or ROD. Once you have made a word, you can't rearrange its letters, though you can add to it: you could make PAN into SPAN or PANG.  In a two-person game you will probably end up with 12-15 words; in a three-person game, 8-10.

But now comes the really fun part of the game:  you have to tell a story with your words. So that can affect what words you choose to make: for instance, ONE is a lot easier to use in a story than EON. Here's an example of a story that a player might come up with:

"ROD and EVE left their cul-de-SAC and went to the KEG on ELM Street.  They ordered ginger ALE and scrambled OVA.  But the waiter, who had a ZIT on his chin, ERRed and brought them corn on the COB instead.  Eve began to CRY-- and Rod, who had an enormous EGO, was filled with IRE.  He got in a fight with the waiter, but the waiter had rock-hard ABS and won the fight.  Rod made a VOW he would never go to the Keg again.  The END."

If you and your family enjoy playing games, you might want to try this one. We've been playing it several times a week for years, and it's always good for some laughs.