Thursday, 26 February 2015

Mixed...or Maybe Missed Messages

As a teacher, I'm well aware of how important accessing prior knowledge is to the learning process. But sometimes it seems, the connections are a bit off... which can result in mixed messages...and chuckles:

  A preschooler who was getting ready for bed and noticed a little light blinking on the fire alarm mounted on the wall. He had it all figured out and made sure his father didn't miss it. "Dad," he announced. "You have a text message." 

I agree, it's funny. But after we stop laughing, we need to take a look at the bigger picture and what we're teaching our children.

Even though this little boy seemingly thought all blinking lights meant the same thing, it's a powerful example of just how observant young minds are. He also knows that dad responds to these tiny blinking lights regularly and wanted to ensure he didn't miss this one.

With all the devices we adults cart around, I sometimes wonder what kind of messages we're sending our children. Are we sending signals that these things are of utmost importance, and that we can't function without them? Perhaps even more important than the people in our lives?  

I heard about two boys arguing, and one of them told the other  smugly, "Huh, all you have is a flip phone." Now where would he have gotten the message that if you don't own a smart phone there's got be something wrong with you?

Too bad smart phones don't come with a blinking light that means, "Turn phone off and go spend quality time with the people you love."

You yourselves are our letter, 
written on our hearts, known and read by everyone.  
2 Corinthians 3:2

Monday, 23 February 2015

Anna's Crossing - Suzanne Woods Fisher

About the Book:                                                                                                    When Anna König first meets Bairn, the Scottish ship carpenter of the Charming Nancy, their encounter is anything but pleasant. Anna is on the ship only to ensure the safe arrival of her loved ones to the New World. Hardened by years of living at sea, Bairn resents toting these naïve farmers--dubbed "Peculiars" by deckhands--across the ocean. As delays, storms, illness, and diminishing provisions afflict crew and passengers alike, Bairn finds himself drawn to Anna's serene nature. For her part, Anna can't seem to stay below deck and far away from the aloof ship's carpenter, despite warnings.

When an act of sacrifice leaves Anna in a perilous situation, Bairn discovers he may not have left his faith as firmly in the past as he thought. But has the revelation come too late?

My Review:

What I enjoyed most about this book is its unique setting on the Charming Nancy, a ship that brought some Amish and Mennonites to the New World in 1737. While the storyline is fiction, woven into it there’s plenty of factual information as well; for example the ship itself really existed at that time and it did bring Anabaptists to America. It’s obvious that a lot of research went into this project. I also appreciated that the ending was not predictable –While I couldn’t imagine Bairn, the ship carpenter, becoming Amish and neither could I see Anna leaving her life. Given their feelings for each other, one or the other will have to have a change of heart; that much was clear. I was taken completely by surprise with how the story unfolded.

The part I  felt that could have been portrayed more direly, was when they ran out of provisions. When I think about a ship running short of drinking water half way across the ocean, that's very serious. However, it just didn't come across as something that could be disastrous, or that people were panicking, which would be quite normal.
It’s always interesting which connections our mind makes with a story. The whole time I was reading, I had my own people, the Hutterites in the back of my mind, because they too came to America via a German harbour, but more than a hundred years later. They had lived in Russia before they migrated. I couldn’t help but wonder what Hutterite stories were buried at sea; lost for all time, since very little is known about that time of our history.

My sincere thanks to the author and Revel for sending me this book!

Friday, 20 February 2015

Finding Time to have Outdoors Fun - even on sub-zero days

Each winter we book our school for an afternoon of sledding at Valley View Bible Camp. The hill where all the winter fun takes place is known as Roger's Hill. Without fail, this is always a fabulous time. Our last trip, yesterday was no different. They temperature hovered around -16 degrees Celsius, which made the hill super fast. We need not have worried that it would be too cold for our students - the only time most of them came into the hut to warm up, was at snack time. And then they were itching to hit the slopes again. Some of the teachers have apps on their phones that enabled them to record how fast it really was. The fastest time was 51 Kilometers per hour. Yeah, very fast! And a bit scary for some. I heard one boys encouraging himself as he flew down the hill, "I will not be scared! I will not be scared." It must have worked, for he kept going - riding up and sliding down.

As far as most were concerned the cable that pulls you back up the hill is almost as much fun as flying down. I was not one of them. I chose to walk up, well, ok huff and puff myself back up. True, I didn't get as many rides down, for once I was up there, I had this great urge to stay awhile. You see, the view from the bottom, does not compare with the one at the top. Couldn't be that I needed time to catch my breath and muster up courage to rush down and drag myself back up again. You see, I really don't enjoy holding on to a cable for dear life, slanted back at a ridiculous angle, all the while making sure you don't slip or flip to the other side of it while being pulled to the top. Thus, I decided on walking up (oh, and did I mention dragging the sled along) each time, which makes for a strenuous workout you don't get on a regular basis. (I've almost convinced myself to get one of those thread mills with an 'incline' option. :)

Still, it was all good: walking, huffing and puffing, sliding, riding, 'flying', screaming, laughing... - and all outdoors in the middle of our Manitoba winter. I think that's what they call embracing the cold.

What made it extra fun, was the fact that our friends from another colony school were there as well!

Let's see how long we can stay together.

 Going solo is fun too, because it seems to be faster.

 I really admired the courageous souls who went down head first.

 Hanging on for the ride up.
And yes, that's one view from the top!

I caught one of the teachers racing a rider to the top. 
Looks like the rider is ahead, at this point anyway - if indeed that
was the rider he was racing with. (:  I guess we'll never know.

Never, ever underestimate the importance of having fun. 
Randy Pausch, author of The Last Lecture.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Good Morning!

Walking to school this morning I was greeted by the most striking sun dogs I've ever seen. Some people believe sun dogs mean that there will be a change of weather. I'm not sure about that, as I can't say that I've ever noticed that. I found an interesting article on the Weather Phenomenon and Elements website. It has a scientific explanation of what sun dogs are. This sentence in the article caught my eye: "Sun dogs are sometimes so brilliant that dazzled observers mistake them for the sun." This is what today's sun dogs looked like here in Manitoba - like there were three suns rising in the east.

Update! One hour after I first posted the sun dog picture:

Maybe there's something to this change of weather theory after all. (: We're having a  good old Manitoba snow storm now.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Winner of The Power of Forgiveness

It's time to announce the winner of The Power of Forgiveness. Congratulations to Kimberly H! I have a bit of a problem though - I'm unable to email you, as I failed to mention for people to leave their email address in the comments, when I first posted my review. (I only added this little detail later, once I realized my mistake.) I'm so sorry about this. Kimberly, if you see this, please contact me via the contact form to the right of this post. I'll need your mailing address, so I can arrange to have a copy of the book sent to you. Enjoy!!

Friday, 6 February 2015

The Drop Box - where unwanted babies get a second chance

When I think of the term 'dropbox', it's a spot on my computer that enables me to send and receive large files. That image changed a few days ago when I was invited to screen an upcoming documentary with the title, The Dropbox. The dropbox in this movie is a place to drop off unwanted babies.

About the Movie:

Hundreds of unwanted babies are abandoned on the streets of Seoul, South Korea, every year, forgotten by the surrounding culture. The Drop Box is a documentary about the work of Pastor Lee Jong-rak and his heroic efforts to embrace and protect his community’s most vulnerable children. By installing a drop box outside his home, Pastor Lee provides a safe haven to babies who would otherwise be abandoned on the streets to die. It’s a heart-wrenching exploration of the physical and emotional toll associated with providing refuge to save those deemed unwanted by society.
But it’s also a story of hope. And a celebration of the reality that every human life is sacred, has a purpose and is worthy of love.

My Thoughts:

My first reaction as I watched this documentary, was deep sadness. And it is incredibly sad that so many mothers see no other way out than abandoning their babies - many of them in a dumpster or in a back alley. I can't even imagine reaching this level of despair and hopelessness. How can a government turn a blind eye to hundreds of abandoned babies, many of them dying in the streets? 

However, because of the big heart of Paster Lee, these abandoned babies are given a chance at life - at least the ones that are dropped off in the special dropbox he built. It can be opened from the outside, and as soon as a baby is placed in it, a buzzer let's him know. Taking in and caring for these precious bundles has an emotional and physical toll on Pastor Lee. He's not well and has trouble sleeping, especially since he doesn't know if anyone will continue his heroic efforts, should he at some point be unable to continue. In my humble opinion Pastor Lee should get the Noble Peace prize.

Get your hanky ready, this documentary is coming to theaters very soon. Till then, here's the trailer:

Saturday, 31 January 2015

The Power of Forgiveness - Amy Newmark/Anthony Anderson (Giveaway)

About the Book

Forgiveness frees us to get on with our lives! We can all benefit from letting go of our anger, and the 101 personal, touching stories in this collection will help you see the power of forgiveness and how it can change your own life.

Whether it’s forgiving a major wrong or a minor blunder, forgiving someone is healing and frees you to move on with your life. You don’t have to forget or condone what happened, but letting go of your anger improves your well-being and repairs relationships. You will be inspired to change your life through the power of forgiveness as you read the stories in this book about forgiving others, changing your attitude, healing and compassion.

My Review

Whether we're willing to admit it or not many of us have the tendency to hold a grudge, and some even for years. Sometimes it takes a long time for us to realize that the only person who is hurt by this, is ourselves.  Forgiving the person who asks for it is one thing, but to maintain inner peace we need to be generous with forgiveness even of those people who never ask for it, and who seemingly don't care. For forgiveness is as much for ourselves as it is for the person who hurt us. Jesus taught us to forgive "seventy times seven", in other words every time - unconditional love.

The personal accounts of people in this book, who chose to practice forgiveness are powerful examples that this is the only way - at least if we want to have "peace that passes all understanding'. But how does one forgive a drunk driver who killed one of your parents or someone who is repeatedly unfaithful in a marriage? According to the people who experienced things like that first hand, and carried the burden for years, it's tremendously freeing to let go. I was moved by every story in this book and hope that it continues to touch and change lives for years to come. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is struggling with forgiveness.


In exchange for an honest review Shelton Interactive and Simon and Schuster provided me with a complimentary copy of this book.

If you'd like a chance to get this book for free, just leave a comment. The above mentioned organizations have kindly offered a book for this giveaway. I will choose a winner via on February 7, 2015. I will announce the winner right here, but would also like to contact you should you win, so, please leave your email address. Thank you!