I’m Feeling The Christmas Pressure

It must be time to put up the Christmas lights; I’m feeling the pressure.

Today I’m watching Lily decorate our upstairs Christmas tree. That’s right, we have an upstairs and a downstairs Christmas tree.

The upstairs one is hers. She decides what goes on it, and she does all the work. The downstairs tree is sort of the family’s tree; it has home-made decorations that we have given each other over the years.

Lily pretty much … well, actually completely puts that one up, too.

My line is that she takes care of the inside and I do the outside.

Just watching her do her thing puts the pressure on me to get moving with the outside lights.

But that’s not the only place from which I’m being pressured to get my task done.

There are several neighbours who already have their lights up. And when I drive down the next street, the homes there seem very much into the Christmas spirit.

About seven years ago I started thinking that people were putting more effort into Halloween decorations than they were Christmas. Now I think people are putting the same effort into decorating for Christmas as they do for Halloween.

For generations Christmas lights have basically been the same. You figured out a pattern of lights that worked on your house and you put them up every year. The only thing that you changed was the bulbs when they burned out.

Now there’s way more stuff!

They have big blow-up Christmas characters – I’m not talking about the baby Jesus and wise men; I’m talking about Frosty and Santa. Some of these blow-ups are as tall as a house!

There are also elaborate laser light shows that change rapidly and cover the whole front of a house.

It’s a big deal! And it seems that every year it’s getting to be an even bigger deal.

Not for me though. I’m old school; I have my pattern of how the lights go up and I just repeat that every year. I’m not trying to add anything new. I just hope that I can find the same eavestrough hooks I used last year.

What’s got me feeling the pressure to get my lights up today is that so many of my neighbours have their lights up, but I’m the Christian guy.

I’m the one who is really supposed to be into Christmas and I feel like not having my lights up yet is saying to them all that I don’t care as much as I should.

There is one other pressure and that’s the weather. It’s a nice day out there today – a balmy 8° Celsius (46 Fahrenheit). The chances that it will stay this warm for much longer are slim.

So between my wife, the neighbourhood, my perceived neighbours’ expectations of me and the weather, today’s the day when the lights go up.

I’m feeling the pressure.

Here’s the thing:  We feel pressure to do outward things, but do we feel pressure to do inward things? It’s hard not to give in to what we see in the world around us or what others are doing. But are you compelled in the same way to respond to what God wants you to do? The pressure to do outward things like put up the lights comes from within; we pressure ourselves. We should put that kind of pressure on ourselves to respond in obedience to what God wants us to do. Faith without obedience is not much good at all.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What should you put pressure on yourself to be doing? Leave your comments below.

No Way Your Streets Are As Bumpy As Mine

The Beatles sang about the long and winding road; I’m singing about the long and bumpy roads … but my song is not a happy one, filled with cheer and merriment.

The song I sing is more of a dirge, like you might find being sung in a funeral procession down the streets of New Orleans.

At this time of year, I notice the conditions of the streets more. Now that fall has come, on a weekly basis I make my way down to the K-Rock Centre hockey arena. Getting there takes me down Queen Street, which arguably is the bumpiest road in Kingston.

But it’s not the only one.

I’m concerned as they put in new sewers and things to update the city’s infrastructure. They are digging up roads or portions of roads and then just patching them back up.

I don’t like the time and trouble it takes to pave these roads, especially when over the long-term, the only ones who seem to benefit are the mechanic shops in town.

When I drive down Queen Street I feel like I’m in downtown Toronto many years ago, with its cobblestone streets and trolley car rails.

You come away feeling much like a James Bond drink – shaken, not stirred.

I understand that you can’t repave all the roads at once, but this street has been a mess for as long as I can remember.

When we got our new vehicle last fall, I thought the ride down to the arena would be a lot smoother.

Our new car is bigger, the shocks are firmer, but it hasn’t seemed to matter at all. The road has us bouncing around like a carnival ride.

I now know what it’s like to live in a Hutterite community and take your vegetables to market. I don’t have to ride in one of their horse-drawn buggies; I just have to drive down Queen Street in Kingston and I get the full experience.

Maybe that’s what they should do … There are some turn-of-the-century historical homes and buildings along the route. The city could turn the street into a pioneer village tourist stop.

They could add big windows to the fronts of buildings and we could watch a woman in period costume stoke the fire in her kitchen, or watch as the children milk a cow by hand in the yard.

They could put a toll booth at the top of the street, and we could just throw change into big receptacles as we turn onto the street, as a charge to ride the bumpy road and see the village people do all their chores by hand.

It would give us all a fresh appreciation for the conveniences we have in 2017. It could be a real teaching moment for parents with their kids.

You wouldn’t even have to get out of your car. It would all be drive-by learning.

Oh, and what they could do with all the money they collect from this fabulous pioneer village ride is PAVE QUEEN STREET!

Here’s the thing: When we experience inconveniences in life, interruptions to the good life we live, we should remember the inconvenience God willingly took to come to earth as a man to rescue us from the path we are on – a path that would take us to a place we would never want to go if we knew what it was really like. Be thankful for what Christ has done, with a new appreciation for the inconvenience you are experiencing.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What inconvenience really has you exercised? Leave your comments below.

I Need Those Batteries Now

These days you can’t go very long without needing a bunch of batteries to replace ones that have worn out.

There is a clock in the sanctuary of my church that reads 5:05. That’s not the current time; it’s been showing that time for a week now.

It needs a new battery.

I wear a mic when I preach and every week I take out the batteries and charge them so they are ready to go for the next week.

I’ve been noticing that even rechargeable batteries can’t be recharged forever.

What would we do without being able to quickly pop in a new set of batteries to run our clocks, lights, mics, vacuums, you name it – even our drones?

Especially drones!

I have two drones and the batteries in them don’t last very long.

The battery in my little drone only lasts about seven minutes and the one in the bigger drone only lasts about ten.

I don’t get much flying time before I need to replace them.

The problem is they don’t take standard AA batteries. They have their own shape and connections so you can’t just go to the store and buy new ones.

You usually have to order them online and they generally come from China which takes a long time. … Replacement batteries for my little drone arrived the other day and I’d been waiting for them for two months!

I think it’s China’s secret way of crippling the west. If they just hold out on the batteries,  we in North America will be at their mercy.

Forget weapons and armies, they’ve got our batteries!

And the batteries for these drones are a step backward in technology. You don’t want to overcharge them; that will damage them.

You don’t want to recharge them if they still have some charge left in them either. They have a memory, so they will only remember to charge for the shorter amount of time.

And you don’t want to let the battery run down too low because, if it does, it won’t take a charge at all.

My brother found that out the hard way; that’s why he has two batteries on order right now.

We need batteries to be more reliable and to last longer. They can figure out how to get a car to run on batteries for an hour; we need someone with that kind of know-how to make our drone batteries last that long.

The keyboard I write this blog on needs a battery to power it. I’ve had it for over a year now and I still haven’t had to change the battery … That’s the kind of battery life I’m talking about.

And while they’re at it creating a better battery, they should make sure we can just leave it sitting around for a month or two without fear of it draining all on its own.

After all, it’s not like the energy produced by Niagara Falls, where we have to use it right after it’s produced.

Here’s the thing: This week I was reminded that a Christian has everything we need in us for life and godliness – that everything is the Holy Spirit. He never runs out, never has to be recharged. We just have to use Him and work with Him to produce in us the character qualities that God wants to see in us.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What do you need recharged right now? Leave your comments below.

It Was A Second Thought That Got Results

My second thought produced success. You know, that’s when you had decided against something, then changed your mind, and it turned out to be the best decision you made.

Recently I bit the bullet and bought a new MacBook Pro. I was about due since my last one was eight years old.

Once my new computer was in my possession, the big task was to transfer all my files, applications and information from my old mac to my new one.

Luckily, Apple has an easy way to do that. Basically you hook up the two computers together and clone the old one on to the new one.

In the end, everything is there – passwords, logins … there’s virtually no other set up to do.

Sounds nice and easy … except my old mac is so old that hooking up the computers is a little more difficult. To make things worse, the new computer has a connection that is not common yet: USB-C.

So I went on a search for the connection I needed. I went right to the store I purchased my new laptop from. I searched the aisles and then had an employee search the aisles. The connection was nowhere to be found.

I tried a second store that was close by and, though the employee was very helpful, he was unable to locate the adaptor that I needed to connect my two computers together.

So I tried a third store. This time I was fairly confident I would find what I was looking for.

This store is not an official Apple Store but it’s the closest thing to it. It even looks like an Apple Store in its set up. And like the official retailer, this place only sells Apple, and Apple-related products.

Unfortunately, they didn’t have the adaptor either. Not only that, but the employee didn’t even know what I wanted to do.

The one place I thought would understand my need offered no help or even knowledge.

I questioned the clerk, “You’ve never heard of Apple’s migration processes?”

He replied, “I’m a law enforcement student.” … interesting information about his future plans but his answer had nothing to do with the question I asked him!

I left the store discouraged and ready to give up my quest for the day.

There was one other store within walking distance, but I figured since they specialized in PC’s they weren’t going to have the adaptor I was looking for.

Besides, if a Mac store didn’t have it, what were the chances?

I started walking in the direction of my car.

But then I had a second thought: “I’m so close to this place, why not just go in and see?”

I walked the three blocks up the street, went in, and within about 30 seconds, spoke to an employee. I told him what I was looking for and he walked me directly to a shelf, reached up to the very top and then handed me my adaptor.

Amazing! … On second thought, I was super happy.

Here’s the thing: When is it the right time to give up on seeking something from God? You may have been asking Him for direction, or a solution, or even a miracle, but so far you’ve received nothing. Is it time when you’re feeling hopeless? … On second thought, your answer might be just around the corner.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What have you almost given up on? Leave your comment below.

I Was All Ready, But Not Really

I was ready; I had my things all set to go. I just needed to get there in time, or so I thought.

We were up at our cottage and the sun was finally going to come out at the end of the day. I thought this was my chance to finally film a sunset with my drone.

Not long ago, I wrote how I lost a drone in an attempt to get some video of a sunset over Lake Huron (read here).

Well, after that disaster, I got a replacement drone and this was the first time I was back at the cottage with it.

I wasn’t sure I would get a chance to capture a sunset; it had been cloudy most of the day. But I was going to be ready … just in case.

I had charged the battery and had my phone, which acts as the controller for the drone, charging as well.

I knew I was set, but as it got closer to the time that the sun would sink below the horizon, I got busy doing something else.

So though I was all ready to go, I suddenly had to fly into hurry mode, to gather my equipment and head down to the beach.

I walked as fast as I could, but my sore ribs from a mountain bike crash a week earlier (read here) kept me at a slower pace than I wanted to go.

The sun was still in the sky as we got onto the beach, but I knew it would drop fairly quickly out of sight.

I synced the drone with the controller and waited, not very patiently, as it acquired the necessary satellites to operate.

It seemed to take forever, but finally was able to take off. I cautiously wanted to keep it from flying out over the water like the last time I tried to film a sunset, so I didn’t take it up too high.

I thought I would snap a few pictures first, although when I went to do that I didn’t hear the usual shutter sound. That didn’t stop me from taking a few more.

Then I turned on the video camera and that’s when I realized I had all my stuff ready to go except one thing.

Nothing happened when I pressed “record”, but a little dialogue box came up on my screen. It read, “no SD card on board”.

“Whaaaaaat?!”, I muttered. And then I remembered the one thing I didn’t do was put the SD card into the drone. It was back at the cottage.

Unbelievable! I had been dying to take some sunset scenes at the beach; I even lost a drone doing it. Now, after anticipating it for so long, I had forgotten to bring the little card that would enable me to record the sight.

This picture is the scene I missed capturing with my drone.

Here’s the thing: You can think you are ready for what is coming next. You can have your relationships in order, your finances in order, even have your health right where you want it to be. But if you miss one thing – a relationship with God through Christ – you will miss capturing what will matter to you eternally. Don’t neglect those things that you think are secondary or down the road. Be ready now.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What have you missed that was really important? Leave your comments below.

It Was The Worst Or The Best – You Be The Judge

I crashed my bike the other day and it was either the worst or the best crash of the year.

I usually have a number of crashes to pick from in determining my most spectacular crash. This one rated up there. The bike was alright, but my body suffered a little more than usual.

On the trail I was riding, there is a section that goes right through a corn field. It’s pretty cool riding along a 4-foot wide trail with walls of corn about 6 1/2 feet high on either side of you. Your elbows slap the sheaves of corn as you ride through this gauntlet.

On one bend in the trail, I took it a little fast and maybe a bit wide. I got too close to the stocks and, before I knew it, I spilled all over the place.

I hit my head on the ground; I think I bounced at least once. I had the wind knocked out of me, so I gasped to get my breath back.

And, oh ya, I was sore.

The thing is all I could think about was the guy gearing up to go biking when I had set out. I figured he would be coming along at any moment. I was hidden by the corn and a curve in the trail so I could see an even bigger crash looming.

The only thing I could think of to do was what you do when you get hit in hockey: get up fast and try to make it look like you’re not hurt.

I was aching and still a little dazed but I kind of flopped on my bike and started riding.

By the time I got out of the corn I didn’t think of checking to see if I was okay. My head cleared and the pain had subsided.

I just rode on.

As I continued on the trail, I kept thinking, “I’m going to be sore tomorrow.”

I was right about being sore, but wrong about the timing! I started feeling really sore on the drive back, and by the time I got home I was not moving very well.

The ground where I had fallen was like cement and, in talking to a guy who farms, I learned that the corn sucks everything out of the soil.

I’ve felt sidewalks that have more give to them than the spot where I fell!

I figured I had bruised some ribs, and though my wife and daughter think I might have cracked a few, I’m holding to my diagnosis.

I talked to a friend who said cracked ribs can take 6-8 weeks to heal … I definitely don’t have that kind of time to give to the healing process.

Here’s the thing: Depending on how you look at something difficult, it can either be the worst or the best. My fall may have been my worst crash this year, but certainly not my worst crash ever. I could also look at it as the best crash this year, the most spectacular because it was a big crash but I walked away from it. In your life, God can give you the right perspective to have when going through difficult or troubled times. Look to Him – what you’re going through could be the worst, or maybe it’s the best.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: How has God helped you see the positive in difficult times? Leave your comments below.

I’ve Been Programmed By My Wife

My wife has somehow programmed me to do something I’m against doing.

I just realized I will now do this even when I’m on my own. Have you ever found yourself in those shoes?

You see, for years my wife, Lily, has been washing out plastic ziplock bags and reusing them. It’s something that I just don’t agree with and I’ve told her repeatedly.

I’ve even blogged about it (you can read it here).

When we clean up after a meal there is usually a few things that don’t make the dishwasher, so they get washed by hand.

Lily is the washer and I dry what’s on the rack … but I don’t like drying those plastic bags!

My feeling is they’re good for recycling material; I shouldn’t have to waste my time with them. We should just pull out a new bag from the box when we need one.

But for years she’s been washing them and I’ve been drying them.

Last week when I was on my own at our cottage on my planning/study week, I had to wash the dishes on my own.

I let them pile up over the day and cleaned them up in the evening … or sometimes the next day.

Hey, I got to use most of the dishes in the cupboard instead of the same two or three at the top of the pile. I like the idea of giving all the dishes and cutlery a chance to be used equally.

One day in the pile of dishes I had used, there was a plastic bag I had stored some food in. The plastic bag was in the sink and I didn’t think anything of it. But when I went to do the dishes I found myself washing out that plastic bag.

Without thinking I gave it a good soak, stuck the dishcloth in the bag and swirled it around. I rinsed the soap off it and put it on the drying rack.

When all the dishes were washed, I grabbed the towel and started drying them.

I’ve done this a million times. But when I picked up that wet, clingy ziplock bag, I at once realized what I’ve done …

I’ve become like my wife! I’m now washing out plastic bags to be reused again!

Well, I kicked with myself for even putting that used, dirty plastic bag in the sink and not in the trash.

But there I was holding a towel in one hand and a wet, limp plastic bag in the other.

I stared at it for a moment or two; I considered what my next actions were going to be.

I looked around (nobody was there), and I tossed that plastic ziplock bag in the garbage can.

I had to do it so that I could break the programming Lily has attempted to download into my brain.

Here’s the thing: There are a lot of things we do without thinking – unconscious actions that don’t need to be thought about or decided upon. We just do them. It’s not always a bad thing. If you will consistently involve God in your decisions, actions, speech and thought, you will get to the place where you will automatically involve Him and do what He wants. You will do it because you’re accustomed to it; it will become your natural conduct.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What do you need to program into your life? Leave your comments below.

I Found Out I would Not Be A Good Pilot

Someone recently told me that I was going to lose my pilot’s license. I did more than that … I lost the aircraft.

It all started back at the end of December when Lily got me a mini drone for Christmas.

It was mostly an indoor drone and I learned to fly it around the house, bashing into things in those early stages of pilot lessons.

On vacation I decided to get a little bigger drone, one I could fly outdoors.

I was pretty happy for a few days.

I flew it around our cottage and got some video of our place and the roof tops of the cottages around us.

Oh, and yes, I also crashed it into things, mostly trees and cottages.

It was just after one of those crashes that my neighbour came onto his deck and called out,  “Paul, you’re going to lose your pilot’s license”. I called back, “I think I’ve already lost it”, as I tried to pick my drone out of a tree.

It was soon after that that I decided it would be neat to take some pictures and video of the sunset with my new drone.

So at the end of the day, just before the sun sunk below the horizon, I went down to the beach and launched my drone.

For maybe 10-15 seconds it flew very well, but in my haste I didn’t realize that there was a wind and it was blowing out towards the lake.

My drone made a turn towards the water. I tried to get it to turn back, but before I knew it, it was over the water and I was struggling to bring it back to me.

I watched it go farther and farther out over the lake … none of the controls were doing what I wanted them to do. I lost visual sight of it, it was so far offshore.

I hit a button that was to automatically bring the drone back to me and I could see on my screen that it was pointing towards shore.

But it couldn’t fight the wind.

Two nights before I had seen a documentary on how JFK Junior’s plane went down on his flight to Martha’s Vineyard years ago.

They said, among other things, he made a risky decision in turbulent weather to fly over water instead of flying along the coast and he got disoriented.

Well, I know how that can happen! In my panic to bring my drone back, I forgot to press a speed button which would have given the drone more power to battle the wind.

From the camera on board the drone, I could see it was still in the air, but then the screen went staticky and then blue.

I lost my drone … somewhere out in Lake Huron, along way from shore. It’s gone.

Only the SD card can tell the real store of what happened.

All I can say is don’t get into a plane if I’m the pilot.

Here’s the thing: Sometimes we are not the best judge of a situation or the best one to make a decision. There can be so many things to take into account and we can’t consider them all. But God knows all the issues, and all the scenarios. If we ask Him to guide us, He will help us make the right moves to keep us moving in the right direction.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What decision do you need to take to God right now that is past your skill level? Leave your comment below.

I Couldn’t Find One, So I Created It

There are times you have to create something because you can’t find what you’re looking for anywhere.

Have you ever needed or wanted something but just couldn’t find the right thing? … Maybe it was an item of clothing or a tool, but no place had the right colour, or style you were looking for. You couldn’t find what you had in mind.

Maybe you needed a tool to do something that it wasn’t designed to do and you couldn’t find one that was.

It’s in those moments that you get an urge to create, to make something that will work for your need. Maybe it’s not a total new creation but an adaptation on something that already exists. You feel the need to design something different.

Well, that happened to me the other day.

I was building a new trail to bike on (you can read about that here) and I needed some kind of a scraping tool – a tool that would take the top layer of pine needles and half-decayed leaves away to expose the dirt below.

The logical tool was a rake. But how do you carry a rake with you on your bike when you are traveling through the woods, going up and down hills and around tight corners?

It’s just not practical. I needed to create a tool that would work for my application.

I first looked for options online and found I could purchase such a tool. It had a telescoping handle but was still too long … and it only cost $240.

I thought, “Wow, that’s a lot of money for a rake!” but there was more: you could also attach a saw or a shovel to this handle.

The price for the whole kit was over $600!

You’d have to be a paid trail maker to buy one of these kits. Building trails would have to be a full time job for you to justify paying that much money.

I needed a simpler solution for my trail building, so off to the hardware store I went.

I found what I thought would be perfect. It was an 8-inch wide plastic rake with a 12-inch handle.

The rake part was great but even a 12-inch handle was too long for me to put in my backpack.

An idea came to me to use the forest’s resources.

I was set. All I needed to do was take the handle off the rake. Then when I got to where I was building the trails I could find a tree limb, insert it into the rake and somehow secure it.

After several tries, the use of a drill, screwdriver, pliers and a heat gun, I extracted the handle from the rake.

I got a few drywall screws and a couple of plastic washers and off to the trails I went.

Everything fit in my backpack perfectly. And when I got to my spot, I had a whole selection of handles for me to pop onto my rake.

My new tool works great and the cost to me – just $8.50!

Not a bad creation. … Now I just need a patent.

Here’s the thing: When you find yourself in a place where you need something that you don’t have the resources for, know that you have a God who is the greatest creator there is. He has the solution to your need if you will seek Him, listen to Him and act on what He provides.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What have you been in need of lately that might require some kind of creation? Leave your comments below.

I Just Developed A New Skill

I’m adding a new skill set to my resume: trail builder.

With the wet spring – and now summer – we’re having, I’ve had to get a little creative with my mountain biking.

There is a place that I go biking in the summer that normally has a few wet spots. But this year there is so much more water, it has created the need to carve out some new trails to bypass the wet zones.

What got me inspired was finding that someone had built a new section that continues on from a trail I normally ride. It’s a great addition so I thought I should do some building of my own in another area of the system.

I normally carry a folding saw with me, the kind that is used in gardening. The saw folds up like an extremely large pocket knife so I can keep it safely in my backpack when I ride.

I use it mainly when small trees or limbs fall across the path. But this year I’m using it to build some detour trails around the bog areas.

There is a section of trail at the farthest point of my ride that is blocked by soft, wet, boggy muck and this year there is no getting around it.

Up until now I have been getting to that point in my ride, then turning around and riding back again. But what I would really like to do is complete the loop.

So where the bog begins I’ve turned off the trail and have been cutting a new path.

I’m not cutting down trees or anything, mostly picking my way around trees or between them. I cut off the little dead branches that stick out and clear trees and limbs that have fallen or are already dead.

It’s been fun, like trying to put together a puzzle. I have to figure out which is the best way to go and sometimes I have to look at it from more than one angle to discover the best route.

Trying to get to the end in a straight line is out of the question.

The bugs – especially mosquitoes – have been pretty bad, but I’ve been loading up on bug spray and found that, though they are flying around me, they aren’t landing on me very much.

I’ve also been checking for ticks every time I get back, just in case one of those little beggars has attached himself to me.

I just have to build one more small section to connect the loop, and then I’ll rake the path to give me a harder surface to ride on and create some definition to the trail.

I’ll write about my rake in my next post; I had to use a little ingenuity on that one.

I’m feeling pretty good about my new found skill. Though it’s just a small section – it’s not like I’m creating a kilometre or more of trail – I’m creating something out of nothing.

Here’s the thing: Sometimes in life we hit a wall and have to go in another direction to get around it. Where do you find the inspiration for that? Don’t stall out; don’t turn around and go back the way you came. Seek God for the path He wants you to take to get past that wall. He may tell you through the Bible, through a pastor, a friend or even something you read … Be listening.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What wall have you come up against recently? How are you getting around it?  Leave your comments below.