Parents, please vaccinate your children!

When I learned that only slightly more than 80% of the children who attend the same school as two of my grandsons have been vaccinated, I was more than a little concerned! They live in Vancouver where there has been an outbreak of measles this month. Nine cases have been confirmed. The number grew from four to nine in less than 24 hours! At the centre of the outbreak is a family whose three children were not vaccinated due to concerns that the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine might cause autism, a belief that has been scientifically debunked.

It may not be a popular opinion, but I don’t think that children should be allowed to attend public schools or any other kids’ programming if they haven’t been vaccinated (unless there’s a valid documented health reason why they shouldn’t be). Vaccines don’t just protect the people getting vaccinated; they protect everyone around them. The more people in a community who are vaccinated, the harder it is for a disease to spread. Having grown up with a dearly loved brother who was severely brain damaged by measles related encephalitis as an infant, I feel very strongly about this!

Some years ago, popular children’s author, Roald Dahl, who lost a daughter to measles encephalitis at the age of seven, had this to say:

Olivia, my eldest daughter, caught measles when she was seven years old. As the illness took its usual course I can remember reading to her often in bed and not feeling particularly alarmed about it. Then one morning, when she was well on the road to recovery, I was sitting on her bed showing her how to fashion little animals out of coloured pipe cleaners, and when it came to her turn to make one herself, I noticed that her fingers and her mind were not working together and she couldn’t do anything. 

“Are you feeling all right?” I asked her.

I feel all sleepy,” she said. 

In an hour, she was unconscious. In twelve hours she was dead.

The measles had turned into a terrible thing called measles encephalitis and there was nothing the doctors could do to save her. That was in 1962, but even now, if a child with measles happens to develop the same deadly reaction from measles as Olivia did, there would still be nothing the doctors could do to help her. 

On the other hand, there is today something that parents can do to make sure that this sort of tragedy does not happen to a child of theirs. They can insist that their child is immunized against measles. I was unable to do that for Olivia in 1962 because in those days a reliable measles vaccine had not been discovered. Today a good and safe vaccine is available to every family and all you have to do is ask your doctor to administer it. 

I couldn’t agree more! In my opinion, people who refuse to have their children vaccinated are putting their lives at risk. Roald Dahl went on to say:

So what about the risks that your children will run from being immunized? They are almost non-existent. In a district of around 300 000 people, there will be only one child every 250 years who will develop serious side effects from measles immunization! That is about a million to one chance. I would think there would be more chance of your child choking to death on a chocolate bar than of becoming seriously ill from a measles immunization. 

I can only assume that parents who have been blessed with perfectly healthy children and refuse to safeguard their health by immunizing them are completely oblivious to the risk they are running. As a parent who has lost a child and a grandparent who has watched a beloved grandchild fight for life; as a sister whose brother never had the opportunity to realize his potential and a daughter who saw her parents’ grief over that, that makes me livid!

Vaccines save lives! It’s as simple as that. There are no treatments or cures for diseases like measles, mumps and polio. The only proven way to protect your child is with vaccines. Parents, please just vaccinate your children!

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Check your facts please!

One of my pet peeves is the amount of false or misleading information that people post or repost on social media. How is it that seemingly intelligent and honest people can be so gullible, so naive, as to believe everything they read? Just because you see something on Facebook, on somebody’s blog, or in an email doesn’t mean that it’s true!

As a teacher, it was part of my job to insist that students learn to check their sources and back up their statements with fact. Perhaps that’s why it bothers me so much when I see people spreading false information like dandelion seeds on the wind. It’s more important than ever to be critical online. The amount of misinformation that is spread on the web is absolutely staggering!

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Some of the false information that is spread on the internet consists of ridiculous hoaxes that play on people’s fears, like the ones that are continually circulating warning us that Facebook is about to make everything we’ve ever posted public. Others are more damaging. Here’s a little video that explains this more clearly than I ever could.

In addition to scams and hoaxes, politics and religion are particularly hot topics for false information, but it goes far beyond those topics. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen people repost missing person reports only to discover when I check that the person has already been found safe and sound, sometimes many months or even years before! I can only assume that people repost these things because they simply don’t know how to distinguish fact from fiction or they don’t know how to fact check.

How to spot bogus stories

  1.  The author is anonymous. If it were true, why wouldn’t the author put their name on it?
  2. On a similar note, beware of quotes from famous people. The internet is rife with false quotes attributed to everyone from Albert Einstein to Abraham Lincoln to Adolph Hitler.
  3. The message is riddled with spelling mistakes. This is pretty much a sure sign that it’s false. Why would you trust someone who doesn’t even bother to use spellcheck?
  4. The message itself argues that it isn’t false. “THIS IS NOT A HOAX!’ likely means that it is and “THIS IS A TRUE STORY” is probably a sure sign that it isn’t.
  5. And then there’s the old adage, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  6. Perhaps above all else, be skeptical!

How to fact check

  1.  Ask the person who has posted the story if it can be verified. If they can’t offer any evidence for the claims that are being made, perhaps they aren’t true.
  2. Check the date and time that the original post was published.
  3. Consider the source. Is it reputable? For example, the internet is rife with wacky health advice. Use the search feature on the Mayo Clinic website to check for accurate information.
  4. If it’s a news item that seems questionable, check to see if other news sources are reporting it.
  5. If a news source is unfamiliar, go to their About tab. It may acknowledge the site’s bias or say that it’s satirical.
  6. Do a Google search. If you don’t find what you’re looking for right away, try other search terms. Whenever I see a missing person report on Facebook, I google the person’s name (eg. John Doe missing) and I can almost always find out immediately whether or not the person has already been located.
  7. Use one of the following fact checking sites. Again, you may have to try different search terms to find what you’re looking for. Be as specific as you can.
    • Snopes.com  Snopes is an excellent go-to for checking out hoaxes, rumours, urban legends, false quotes, etc. The number of topics that they cover is astounding and the site is constantly updated.
    • TruthorFiction.com  TruthorFiction is another excellent site that provides the truth about a wide variety of rumours, inspirational stories, virus warnings, hoaxes, scams, humorous tales, pleas for help, urban legends, prayer requests, and calls to action.
    • Hoax-Slayer.com  Hoax-Slayer is yet another recommended site that is dedicated to debunking email hoaxes, thwarting internet scammers, combating spam, and educating web users about email and internet security issues.
    • FactCheck.org  FactCheck.org is a nonpartisan, nonprofit site that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in American politics.

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So how should you respond to someone who reposts false information? Keep it light. The goal isn’t to make anyone feel foolish. Assume that they weren’t intentionally trying to mislead anyone. Perhaps suggest a site where they can get accurate information about the topic or provide a link to the Snopes article that debunks the myth or rumour that they’ve reposted. Most people will respond well to gentle correction. The ones who boggle my mind are those who respond with something like “I know, but I thought it was interesting anyway” when I point out that they’ve posted something false. So far, I’ve managed to bite my tongue, metaphorically speaking, but in cases like that I’m sorely tempted to be less than polite!

And lastly, what do you do if you share something online and subsequently discover that it’s not true? It isn’t easy to put the genie back in the bottle, but by all means, try! Admit your mistake and do your best to correct it.

One word for 2019

After choosing one word to guide me each of the past two years, I’ve been thinking hard for awhile now about what word to choose for 2019. My word for 2017 was Still and for 2018 I chose Grace. I was absolutely amazed over the past year at how often and in how many different contexts the word grace cropped up. It was even chosen as part of the name of an new online ministry to hurting women that I’m involved in, Renewal By Grace!

As a lover of words, choosing one word for each year is a perfect exercise for me. There’s even a whole #OneWord365 movement on the internet urging members to choose just one word to focus on every day, all year long; a word that sums up who they want to be or how they want to live.

After considering and rejecting numerous possibilities for the coming year, I finally settled on Inspire.

It took awhile for me to accept that inspire was an appropriate choice. At first I wondered if it was arrogant to want to be an inspiration to other people. After all, one of the characteristics of a woman of grace is humility. Would choosing inspire as my word for 2019 be the opposite of that?

In addition to choosing a word each year, I select a scripture verse to go along with it. When I searched for a Bible verse about inspiring others, I found many about being an encourager. Encourage is, after all, a synonym for inspire. That convinced me that the word I’d chosen was, in fact, an acceptable one. The scripture passage that I chose is very simple. The first part of 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.” It’s not a stretch to imagine that saying “Therefore inspire one another…”

Once I settled on my word, I began to think about why I’d chosen it. Why do I want to be an inspiration and to whom? Perhaps it’s the teacher in me. After all, much of what a teacher does is to try to inspire his or her students to learn, to grow, to become all that they can be. Perhaps it’s also the desire to live a life of significance even in retirement.

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As I think about being an inspiration to others, I’m reminded of the verses in Titus 3 that urge older women to be an example to younger women and to teach them the ways of godliness. My life is full of younger women… daughters, friends, students past and present, even some I’ve never met but who read my blog regularly. I am often inspired by them. Perhaps I can also be an inspiration to them this coming year through the words I say, the things I write, and the way I live my life.

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Have you ever thought of choosing one word to guide you through a new year? Can I inspire you to give it a try? Happy New Year!

12 Days of WholyFit

Some of you who saw my recent fitness photos on Facebook have been asking what they were all about. WholyFit is a Christian alternative to yoga that offers fitness workouts for body, soul and spirit. Sessions are taught by well trained fitness professionals using exercise techniques that meet industry standards. Carrie is one such instructor. I’ve known her since she was a child and I took a series of classes from her a couple of years ago. When she introduced a 12 day fitness challenge on her Facebook page earlier this month, I decided to give it a try.

I know that there are some Christians who believe that we should never bend our body into yoga-like poses because in doing so we are bowing to false gods. What absolute poppycock! In very simple terms, yoga is a spiritual and ascetic discipline which includes breath control, meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily positions that are designed to be relaxing and to increase physical strength and stamina. While yoga has its roots in ancient eastern religious thought, it is not a religion and it definitely doesn’t own the poses!

As with anything else, it’s a matter of intentionality. The Bible tells us, whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). As long as we don’t become obsessed with our own physique, when we take care of our bodies, we honour and glorify the God who made them and we equip ourselves to be better able to do the work He gives us to do. If we contemplate or meditate on His Word or His works while we stretch and pose, so much the better!

On December 5, Carrie posted the first challenge. Each day participants were to practice the pose at home, snap a selfie, and post it on their Facebook page. The idea was to try to hold each pose for 5 to 10 breath cycles (inhale and exhale). In some cases, I was able to do that quite easily. In others, not so much! The entire exercise took two weeks to complete because, in accordance with scripture, Sundays were a day of rest. For those of you who haven’t already seen my photos, I’m including all of them in this post. Since Richard is already well practiced at taking photos for the blog and it isn’t easy to take selfies while holding the poses, he acted as my willing photographer.

Day 1  –  Cross Balance

This pose was very similar to one that I’d been working on in a Balance and Mobility program that was recently offered by Alberta Health Services. Though I can hold it significantly longer than I could at first, I’d eventually like to be able to lift my back leg higher and keep it straighter.

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Day 2  –  Side Shield

I honestly wasn’t sure I’d be able to do this pose and was delighted to find that I could!

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Day 3  –  Bell

This one looked easier, but it wasn’t as simple as I thought it would be.

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Day 4  –  Overcomer Side

I discovered after the fact that the palms of my hands should have been upward instead of down on this one which would have engaged different muscles. Oops!

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Day 5  –  Candlestick

As opposed to being a static pose, this one involves slowing lowering yourself into this position and then reversing back up to a standing position keeping the heels lifted throughout.

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Day 6  –  Sword

Carrie gave us two versions of this one and I opted for the simpler one. She advised that we not try the more advanced version unless we had first practiced this one sufficiently as it requires greater shoulder strength. Though lifting weights and paddling the kayak have given me fairly strong shoulders, I knew that I’d best leave the advanced version for the younger set and not take a chance on injuring myself. As on Day 1, I was surprised at how difficult it was to fully straighten my extended leg.

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Day 7

Carrie designated Day 7 Blooper Wednesday. Her instructions were: Post your best blooper picture (if you’ve got one). Spend some time practicing 1 or 2 postures that you’ve worked on so far. Reflect on all the ways God is making you NEW and thank him for it 💕Since I’ve been weeding out photos and getting rid of ones I don’t want to keep, I didn’t have a blooper photo to post, but the latter part of her message resonated with me. Have you ever stopped to ponder how truly amazing our bodies are? Though my body is riddled with cancer and there are various parts that don’t work as well as they once did, I can walk, dance, kayak, hike, ride a bike, hug a loved one, lift weights, and bend into and balance in all sorts of poses! I can hear, see, taste, talk, think, and reason. I have so much to be thankful for! 

Day 8  –  Breastplate

Again, Carrie gave us two versions and this time I was able to do the more advanced one!

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Day 9  –  Forward Dove

This one definitely needs work. Again, it was a challenge to get the extended leg as straight as it ought to be and I kept threatening to tip over before Richard could get a picture!

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Day 10

By Day 10, the poses were getting more difficult and I wondered if I’d be able to do the final two! Carrie’s instructions for this one were to drop one hand or two to the heels. One hand I could do, but two was an impossibility! I simply can’t arch my back that much.

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Day 11  –  Shield of Faith and Fire Extinguisher

Carrie gave us two poses to try on Day 11. The idea was to hold the first pose, Shield of Faith, and then drop one hip to the floor and move into the second pose, Fire Extinguisher. That one just felt like I was relaxing on the floor!

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Day 12

As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about back on Day 10! The final two days weren’t too difficult after all. Overall, I’m pretty proud of what this 66 year old body was able to do.

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If exercise, getting in shape, particularly increasing balance and flexibility, are on your list of New Year’s resolutions, I’d definitely suggest giving WholyFit a try. It’s more than just an exercise program as it offers faith centred health and wellness ministering to spirit and soul as well as body. If there isn’t a trained instructor in your area or you prefer to exercise at home rather than attending a group session, DVDs and video downloads are available on the website.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16

Desperate to go to school

I recognize that even in the most developed nations, schools aren’t perfect. After all, they are a reflection of the society that they’re a part of and are heavily influenced by the political ideologies and trends of the day, but imagine having to sneak your child into school to give them a chance at an education of any sort.

Started in 1983 by George and Jean DeTellis, New Missions has established 35 churches and schools in Haiti and the Dominican Republic that provide approximately 10 000 children with education, a wholesome meal each day, and medical care. Tim DeTellis, George and Jean’s son, grew up on the mission field in Haiti and now serves as president of New Missions. Yesterday Tim posted a video update on his Facebook page that touched my heart and today I want to share his plea with you.

In the video (which I was unfortunately unable to post here) Tim speaks of the fact that parents were going out and finding school uniforms and putting them on their children so that they could slip into class to receive the benefit of education as well as the gift of food and medical care. “Why? Because these children and their families are that desperate,” says Tim. When these unregistered children came to the attention of the school personnel, rather than turning them away, they welcomed them. “Now we’ve registered them and in the last six months, to our astonishment, we have increased our enrolment by 1000 children!” he goes on to say.

We all know that education is not free. Here in Canada and in many other developed countries, public schooling is paid for almost entirely by our taxes, but what of countries like Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere? Who will provide the resources to educate the 1000 new enrolees in New Mission schools? Perhaps you can help.

How? It’s simple. Go to newmissions.org, click on Donate, and give to the Life of a Child fund to help unsponsored children or if you’re willing to make a more long term investment, link up with an individual child through child sponsorship. For just $33 a month you can provide one of these desperate children with an education, a hot meal each day, and regular medical care.

We started sponsoring Marie Kethsia in 2004 when she was nine years old. This spring, in a country where only 2% of the children finish high school (Haitian schools have 13 grades), she graduated! Now she’s enrolled in a 3 year lab tech program which will equip her to be a self-supporting contributor to her family and her community. We couldn’t be prouder!

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Over the years, we enjoyed exchanging letters and watching Marie grow into the beautiful young woman that she is today. Imagine my delight about a year and a half ago when I received a Facebook friend request from her! Though her English is weak and my Haitian Creole is non-existent, we manage to communicate on a regular basis without the benefit of the New Missions staff who translated our many letters over the years.

We took on our second New Missions child early last year when I decided to give Richard a boy for his birthday!

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Rodolson had his ninth birthday earlier this month and is in Grade 3. In his last letter to us, he wrote “I like school and I always study my lesson.”

For approximately $1 a day, you too could give the gift of school to one desperate child!

Renewal By Grace… hope for hurting wives

Renewal By Grace

About sixteen months ago, because of my involvement in similar ministries in the past, I was asked if I would consider helping put together a brand new online series for wives who are experiencing the heartache of their husbands’ past or present sexual betrayal. For more than a year, I’ve been working with a small group of similar minded women around the world to write and edit this new program. It’s been a long journey, but a very rewarding one and I’m delighted to announce that Renewal By Grace is finally up and running!

I would define sexual sin as any type of sexual expression outside the boundaries of a biblically defined marriage relationship. That could include adulterous affairs as well as other forms of infidelity including the use of pornography and masturbation for personal gratification. The emotional trauma that wives experience when they discover that their husbands have been engaging in these kinds of behaviours is often beyond description, but there is help and there is hope.

Given the secretive nature of sexual sin, exact figures are impossible to establish, but the numbers are overwhelming. If you are a wife who is hurting as the result of your husband’s sexual sin, you are not alone and I would urge you to consider signing up by clicking on the link in the first paragraph above. Renewal By Grace is a private place for you to find peace and understanding. You will work your way through a series of 100 short devotional lessons designed to help you find renewal, healing, and hope through the stories of real wives who have experienced many of the same thoughts and feelings as you. You can read one lesson each day or move through the program at whatever pace suits you best.

When you register with Renewed By Grace, you will be offered the option of having a prayer partner who will read your responses and give you feedback as she walks alongside you and offers you support. Each of these women has walked in your shoes and experienced your pain. Each has received training to prepare her to provide godly support and encouragement to the women she partners with. All correspondence between participant and prayer partner is completely confidential.

We need some politically incorrect weather!

I hate to be one to whine about the weather, but when you live in farming country and a prolonged wet spell like we’ve been experiencing lately occurs in the middle of harvest, it adversely affects the mood of the entire community. Early snow blanketed much of the province last week bringing harvest to a halt. Extended exposure to heavy, wet snow or rain will adversely affect the quality of the grain. We desperately need warm, windy weather to dry the crops and the muddy ground so that the heavy harvest equipment can get back into the fields. Livelihoods depend on it. We need what has long been known in this part of the world as Indian summer!

The question I’ve heard asked several times lately is “Can we even use that term anymore?” Is it politically correct to use the title Indian summer? After all, it’s no longer acceptable to refer to the aboriginal people of North America as Indians. In the US, they are Native Americans and in Canada, First Nations.

Clearly, there are terms, such as Indian giver for a person who gives something away and then takes it back, or Indian time which implies that aboriginal people are always late, that are culturally offensive, but what about Indian summer? Is it derogatory to call that beautiful period of warm, dry weather that often occurs in late autumn Indian summer? And if not Indian summer, what should we call it?

The origin of the term is somewhat hazy. Its first recorded use appears to have been in Letters From an American Farmer, a 1778 work by French-American soldier turned farmer, J.H. St. John de Crèvecoeur. There are many references to the term in American literature in the following hundred years or so. There have been many guesses made as to why the phenomenon was referred to as Indian summer, but no one knows for sure. There is, however, no evidence to show that it was ever intended or used in a negative or insulting manner. There are those who claim that because the term refers to a short period of summer-like weather that comes after that season appears to have ended, it like Indian time, implies that native people are always late. I would argue that that appears to be a recent interpretation, probably dreamt up by those who want to prove that the phrase is politically incorrect.

I recognize that many injustices have been committed against our indigenous people. I am as horrified as anyone else by the unspeakable horrors that today’s elders endured growing up during the residential school era. I am not, however, a slave to political correctness. Changing words doesn’t right old wrongs or heal old wounds. Yes, we need to be sensitive and aware of those occasions when what we say is truly hurtful. There are words and phrases that we should no longer use, but Indian summer? Personally, I think that anyone who claims to find that one offensive is simply looking for something to be contentious about.

So, politically correct or not, I’m going to say it. We need Indian summer!

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