It Was A Plan B Picnic

Our annual church picnic turned out to be a big hit in more ways than one.

We hold a picnic every year in June; we’ve been doing it for years. This year, however, there was a little hiccup to putting it on.

We normally get a permit to hold it in the park. That permit gives us control of the large stone BBQ pit and covered pavilion … oh ya, and access to the baseball diamond.

This year we couldn’t get the permit. Some other organization must have beat us to it.

Our options were to either just show up at a park, bring our own BBQ’s and have our picnic, or to hold it at our church. We have a large lawn behind the church with trees along the edges.

Well, we decided to go with the church lawn as the site of this year’s picnic. It was easy to get people to come since we hold it right after our service on Sunday.

But the downside was that we don’t have any of the features of a park, like a climbing centre for kids or a ball diamond. We don’t even have swings.

So we purchased a jump and slide castle for the little ones, and came up with several games we could play on the field.

The week before the picnic, I sensed God speak to me about inviting the people around the church, and giving out free hamburgers.

I told the congregation and everyone thought that was a great idea.

Since our church boarders on three streets and we are across from a shopping centre, there is a lot of vehicle and pedestrian traffic that goes by our church.

What we decided to do was put up signs along the road, that just said, “Free BBQ. Come on over.”

Not only did our congregation get to enjoy hamburgers, salads, cake and desserts, but so did many people from our neighbourhood.

Maybe what put a smile on my face more than anything else was seeing people in our congregation interacting with those who stopped by.

People weren’t shy to chat it up, and the fact that the food was free made them all the more curious to talk and ask questions.

Several moms came with their kids and, of course, the kids wanted to jump in the castle and play the games.

The one thing we didn’t have, though, was a petting zoo. … Apparently there were a few moms and kids who came because they had seen on Facebook that the church had a petting zoo.

That was unfortunate for the church around the corner. I guess we got some of their potential guests.

When it was all said and done, it was a great day. People were well fed, had fun, socialized and we made contact with a lot of people we might never have met.

Maybe next year we need to offer pony rides. Just kidding.

Here’s the thing: Sometimes in life you can get discouraged when Plan A doesn’t work out and you have to resort to Plan B or C. The thing is our Plan B might just be God’s Plan A all along and we didn’t know it. God can turn any plan into the right plan if we choose to listen to His direction.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: Have you had a Plan B that turned out to be Plan A? Leave your comments below.

How To Get The Pie You Really Want

Most people like pie. In fact, if you ask anyone, they will tell you what their favourite pie is.

Classic-Raspberry-Pie-2

We all have a favourite.

When I was young, my aunt took me to a restaurant and for dessert she ordered me a piece of lemon meringue pie.

That immediately became my favourite … but I was young and impressionable at the time and I did not have a lot of experience with pie.

I learned over the years that there were many pies that I could consider as dear to my heart. But there became one pie that stood out from all the rest …

Raspberry pie.

You see, we had a large raspberry patch in our backyard and we enjoyed raspberries for a good portion of the summer. Every year my mom would make one or two pies from the fruit of the patch.

It takes a lot of raspberries to make a pie … well, to make a real pie –  it’s just raspberries and sugar. (My mouth started to water as I wrote that last sentence.)

I would savour that pie and, if I was lucky, I would get two pieces. They were so good I had to lick the plate! I know that’s not polite to do, but when something is that good you can’t let any of it escape your taste buds, can you?

Since that time, when I’m looking for a piece of pie, I’m always on a quest for raspberry.

I remember one time stopping on the side of the road in the country. A little old woman was selling pies and she had a raspberry one. I was so excited I bought it and couldn’t wait to get it home to eat. But my joy turned to disappointment at the first bite.

I couldn’t believe a grandmotherly, farm lady would make her pie out of jam! There should be a law against that.

You get the idea that raspberry pies are sacred to me and they need to be crafted in a purely natural way, without foreign additives.

So you can understand that at our church Christmas dinner, where the men were requested to bring pies for dessert, I kind of put a plug in for raspberry pies.

I had good intentions. I figured that since I was usually near the end of the line when it came to the meal, if there were a few raspberry pies, I might have a chance to get a piece.

Well, yesterday was our church Christmas dinner, and I guess I pumped up the raspberry pie pretty good because someone told me there were about six!

I shouldn’t have been worried. I should have been patient, but when I saw the lineup for dessert, I couldn’t help but eat faster.

I was one of the last to go through the meal line, and many were finishing their dinner when I was starting. So when I finished my food, I snuck to the front of the dessert line and snagged me a piece of my precious!

I’m not proud of it, but it didn’t sour the taste of that delicious raspberry pie going down … with a little whip cream on top too!

Here’s the thing: We go to great lengths to get something that we really like or want. We don’t let obstacles get in our way. We need to be that way with God. We should not let anything get in the way of our relationship with Him. Let nothing stop you from spending time with Him … that”s how much we should want God.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What lengths have you gone to to get your favourite pie? Leave your comment below.

Have You Become Desensitized To Life?

Have you ever thought that you may have become desensitized to something? Have you got to the place where you don’t notice something or it’s not as effective as it once was?

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For instance, if you walk into the house when someone has just cooked up a batch of fish, the fish odour is overpowering. You want to plug your nose, try not to breath more than you have to. But after a while, if you stay in that environment, you don’t smell the fish any more; you become accustomed to it.

This same thing can happen in our bodies. If you take a certain penicillin for a long enough time  it doesn’t have the same benefit for you. Your body becomes desensitized to it and you need to find something else to help you get better.

It happens all the time and every day. We just don’t appreciate what’s around us.

Take, for instance, the beauty of the trees turning colour. We can be driving through rural Ontario during the height of the colour change of the trees yet not really notice it. We’ve seen those colours so many times that we don’t “ooh and awe” around every bend in the road.

This week it happened to me in another way.

We had a guest at our church who came to give us a report on a ministry he was involved with. Just before the service, as usual, the worship and tech teams gathered in a corner near the front of the church to pray. I then went to sit down with our guest and the worship team took to the platform.

Just as they hit the first few notes of the first song, our guest turned to me and said, “You have a really great team there”.

I said something like, “Ya, they are a great bunch”. But then I looked at them – no, I really looked at them.

As the music started to emanate from their instruments and their voices blended together, I started to have a new appreciation for our worship team.

I got a little proud of that group up front.

It’s not that I didn’t think they were great before our guest made that comment, it’s just that I had become accustomed to them being up there. I was desensitized to what they bring to the service, to how good they sound together, to the skill with which they perform.

It was great because, as we continued with the worship, it was like I was experiencing it for the first time, all over again.

It wasn’t new, but it was like it was new, fresh for me again … like the first time in the fall when you see a maple tree with its leaves turned bright read. Your senses are awakened and you soak it all in.

Here’s the thing: We can become pretty complacent at church, so much so that we focus on the negatives: I don’t like the songs; the sound wasn’t right; I didn’t like the topic; the people weren’t that friendly; there were too many people, or not enough people. (Feel free to add your personal favourite complaint of church.) All of that comes from being desensitized to the wonder, the beauty, the goodness that’s around you. The great news is that you can be re-sensitized to it all so that it’s fresh and new and amazing again. Just step back and reset your senses and then take in all the beauty of the colours of the landscape before you.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What do you find you get desensitized to most easily? Leave your comment below.

Who Likes Garage Sales Anyway?

I’ve never been a huge fan of garage sales.

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It’s not that I think they should be outlawed or anything like that. I’m perfectly fine with people setting up shop in their driveways with their unwanted stuff. And it doesn’t bother me in the least to see people stop and browse that stuff in hopes of buying some of it.

I just don’t like going to them. Don’t get me wrong, I like a deal just like everyone else. It’s that I haven’t found any real deals at the two garage sales I’ve visited in the past.

That’s right, I think I’ve been on other people’s property, with items strewn over their driveways for the purpose of selling, a total of two times.

It’s not my thing. I know people who find treasures at these sales. I’ve even been in homes where the owners have pointed to some prize antique-looking ornament in their living room and have said to me, “I got that at a garage sale”.

It looked great; it fit well in their decor; I was truly impressed. For an instant I felt like right then going to a garage sale to see if there was something for me. But that feeling wore off as fast as it came upon me.

My problem with garage sales is all in my eyes. It has nothing to do with the fact that my eyes are green or I need to wear glasses to read. It has everything to do with what I see when I survey the merchandise at garage sales.

What I see is . . . junk! That’s right, I see stuff that someone doesn’t want any more, things that are past their prime usage point, items that I don’t need. I just see junk, and I can’t get past that.

I’ve tried twice and the garage sale concept hasn’t taken on me. I don’t really care if I can get something that I don’t need (and may never really want) for a buck. And it gives me no thrill to talk the owner down to 50 cents either.

I’m sure that if I went to enough garage sales over a long enough period of time that something of value, some uniquely and intricately created treasure would emerge from them. But that sounds too much like evolution and I don’t believe in that either.

And even if it were true, I couldn’t wait the billions of years for that treasure to materialize!

So, I don’t go to garage sales. I do drive a little slower when I go by them in my car though. But that’s not to try and get a glimpse of what’s up for sale. It’s so I don’t clip some wild-eyed garage saler with my car as he darts across the street to get a used novel for 75 cents.

I don’t need a middle-aged, heavy-set guy rolling up the hood of my car or getting caught up in the undercarriage.

That’s how I feel about garage sales. But having said all that, in part two of this blog (read here), I’ll reveal some astonishing findings.

Here’s the thing: It is one thing to seek treasure; it’s a whole other thing to seek treasure in the right place. Sometimes we seek treasures – like joy, peace, comfort, love and hope – in places where they are worn out, broken and useless. Seeking these things from God is the only place to find lasting treasure.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What’s the greatest treasure you’ve found at a garage sale? Leave your comment below.

Why Having the Right Equipment is Necessary

Having the right equipment for a task makes it much more enjoyable. Having the wrong equipment or substandard equipment makes that task a hardship, even dangerous.

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This past week, seventy plus cyclists arrived at our church to stay overnight. They didn’t just drop by; it had been arranged for them to stop here.

I’ve been a mountain biker for some time, and I’ve been to events where I’ve seen all kinds of shapes and sizes of bikers. Some of them look like they ride their bikes all the time, while others, well, if you didn’t see them with their bikes, you wouldn’t think that they ever rode one!

This group was no different; there was a wide variety of people on this ride. But what did surprise me was the different shapes and sizes of the bicycles they were riding.

Some of the bikes were clearly road bikes made to ride long distances. But there were many bikes that I wouldn’t take farther than to the nearest convenience store and back!

A few bikes looked like they needed to be traded in for real ones, let alone be allowed to leave a city on a tour. I was impressed and humbled that some of those riding and raising money for the “Love in Motion” tour were doing it with great hardship.

The morning they left our church, one rider mentioned that her bike wouldn’t shift properly. I decided I would try it out, so I rode it around the parking lot … I wouldn’t take that bike on a two hour ride – certainly not a week-long trip or across the country!

Her shifters needed to be tuned, her handlebar grips needed replacing, and a brake pad was rubbing so badly that it was like she was riding with her front brake on all the time.

Fortunately, we were somewhat able to help her out before she left for the next leg of the journey.

These riders seemed to be oblivious to the fact that their equipment was less than ideal for the type of cycling they were doing. They just saddled up in the morning and got going again.

But I had watched them come in the day before, after a 167 kilometre ride from Cobourg to Kingston. The toll on the body, and even the mental state, was far greater on those with substandard bikes.

They were doing it. They were making it (which I thought was amazing), but it was a real hardship for them. I wondered what a difference a proper bike would make for some of these riders.

Here’s the thing:  We can get through life on our own. We can get by with just a minimum of faith in God. But at what cost will we make it through? … We will miss the fullness of what God has for us in this life. We will deal with hardships on our own that will create wounds and bitterness that will burden us the rest of the way. We will carry regrets and guilt with us that will rub against us and all those we come in contact with. Oh, we can get through life on our own; we can say we did it. But at what cost to us? Better that we submit our lives to God, walk in His ways and in His will, and be properly equipped to face the elements along the journey.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What have you attempted with wrong or inadequate equipment? How did it turn out?  You can leave your comment below.

The Secret Sauce In Serving

There is something about serving that pays back greater value than just being part of something.

church-picnic

This past week our church had two events that required groups of people to come together to serve others. On Wednesday we had a funeral at our church which included putting on a lunch reception after the service. Four days later we had our church picnic, which required a group of people coming together to serve all those attending.

Both of these events involved food, and lots of it!

They say there is a connection that is made when we eat together. And you can sure see it. When people have a sandwich, or hamburger, being mangled between their teeth, though it’s difficult to understand what they’re saying, there seems to be an easy flow of words.

Give people food and they will gather and they will talk. Food loosens us up; it makes us more social. Food gives us something to do with our hands.

Maybe it’s a distraction from standing face to face with nothing but a few inches of air between us. With food you have this other thing you’re doing on the side while you chew the fat with the person across from you.

… But when the food is gone and the conversation ends, you get up and walk away.

Serving goes deeper than that. Maybe that’s why it’s more difficult to get people to serve – more is required but more is gained as well.

When you serve at these kinds of functions you are doing more than eating and talking. You are part of making it all happen. You are the ones that make it possible for someone to feel comfortable stuffing a grape in the corner of their cheek while explaining what their family is up to these days.

You get to eat and talk too, but you’re an insider. You were there to set up, or cook, or clean up.

There is some kind of satisfaction you have when it’s done. You don’t just get up and walk away. There is a feeling of “we did it; it all came together … we helped” that those who just attended don’t have.

And that’s the secret sauce. It does take more effort, but the payoff is much greater. You don’t just walk away and forget about the event. You’re glad you made someone’s day, or that you helped make it happen. There’s a sense of connection with those you served with.

Between the funeral and the picnic this past week at our church, there were many who helped out and served. I’m proud to be part of a church that pitches in, digs down and makes something happen for the benefit of others.

Thanks KAC! You know who you are and what you did. I just want you to know I appreciate it all. And I hope you tasted the secret sauce of serving at these events.

Here’s the thing: When you serve the Lord, no matter how great or small, the secret sauce you taste is knowing that you’ve pleased your heavenly Father, that you have done something that has lasting, eternal value, and that you’re developing a deeper connection with Christ (and starting to look more like Him). Keep serving.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What is one highlight you have from serving the Lord? I’d love to hear from you; leave your comment below.

How To Keep From Following The Wrong Truth

You can believe something to be true, can work very hard at following that truth through, and you can still be completely wrong or off course.

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A couple of weeks ago, we had a glitch with our church website. We couldn’t post recordings of messages to the site any more. The file size had to be so small that our sermons couldn’t be uploaded.

I remembered that this was an issue a year or so ago.

And, I remembered I had fixed the problem by going into the guts of the website and creating a file I didn’t understand, in an environment beyond my comprehension, using code that superseded my cognition. I thought I was hypnotized.

I figured I had to dive in and do that again. But a year had passed and I was grasping to remember what I had done.

One thing I was sure of was that this was a problem I needed to fix and not something I could ask the nice techie dudes on the support site about.

I tried three different times to correct the problem. Each time took about an hour or more of looking at the inside of our website – it’s the side of the site that nobody sees, with files and folders.

Finally, I exhausted all hope that I could figure out how to correct the problem. I decided to go to the people who live inside computers and beg them to help this poor dense sod solve his problem.

I made my request, left my computer and went to a meeting. When I got back from my meeting, the problem was fixed!

It turned out that I couldn’t have fixed it. This problem was something the support people needed to correct. I was thinking it was something I had to do, but I was wrong.

And that reminded me of a time I thought a plane I was to catch left at 2 pm in the afternoon, and I was cutting it close to make it before take off.

So I went to the front of a long line of people and asked to butt in because my plane was leaving in 15 minutes … only to find out from the ticket agent that my plane had left 45 minutes ago!

I was sure I knew the time, and I had made my plans based on what I was sure of. I never actually checked the ticket. I thought I knew the time, but I was wrong.

Here’s the thing: I thought I needed to figure out my website problem, so I worked hard to come up with a solution. I thought I knew when my plane left so I showed up at the airport at the appropriate time. I actually worked for nothing and showed up too late! We can do the same when it comes to the end of our life. We can work hard to be prepared for the end, but if we work at the wrong things, it’s for nothing. Or we can think we have more time than we really do, and so we are not prepared. Make sure you have a clear understanding of the relationship you need to have with God. You can only get that by knowing what God says in the Bible.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What have you been sure of only to find out you were dead wrong? I’d like to hear from you; leave your comment below.

How An Ice Storm Can Show Up Your Limitations

For the first time ever we canceled our church service, all because of an ice storm. I really hate giving in to the weather, but I just couldn’t get my car off our street.

ice storm

The day before, I drove to Toronto and back in the freezing rain, and though the trip took longer than normal, we made it … and my hands were not even so cramped that Lily had to pry them off the steering wheel.

But Sunday morning was a different game all together. Saturday I drove over 600 kilometres; Sunday morning I only made it down the driveway – about 25 yards.

I even took two stabs at getting out. With the first one, I couldn’t even get to the end of the driveway. But when I got out of the car to survey the situation, I realized I had a flat tire.

Suddenly a memory from the night before made sense to me. We were pretty tired when we got home from Toronto late Saturday night, but I remembered that as soon as I turned off the car in the garage I heard a hissing sound.

I wondered for a moment what that was from and when I opened the car door I could still hear it. But then Lily said something that got my attention away from the faint warning sound and I didn’t think to check into it further. We just emptied the car and headed for bed.

That hissing sound I heard when I got home was my car tire going flat. After 617 kilometres (383 miles), my tire went flat as soon as our trip was done. It didn’t happen along the way in the freezing rain, in the middle of nowhere. It happened as soon as we were safe in our garage at home. That’s pretty amazing … thanks, God.

So feeling really thankful, I pulled the car back into the garage and changed the tire. My second stab at getting out I thought I would make it for sure. But as easy as it was to get down the driveway, when I got onto the snowy, ice pellet covered ice rink underneath, all I did was spin my tires.

I had to pull the car back into the garage. And we started the process of informing our congregation that there wouldn’t be a service because the pastor couldn’t travel the 8 kilometres to the church.

It was brutal, especially when I had been through a worse ice storm 15 years earlier and still made it to the church, no problem. We had a service then, mind you there were only about 17 of us who showed up.

That time the whole city was hit. They had to call in the military, hydro trucks and personnel from other cities. People were without power for days, huge trees came down, and power lines had to be reconstructed. The city looked like a war zone and I still made it to church!

This time, I just felt like a wimp who got beat by the weather.

Here’s the thing: As independent and capable as we think we are, as sure as we are that nothing will keep us from doing what we want or need to do, we can’t do it all. Sometimes it’s something very small that stands in our way. Take it as God’s message that He wants you to depend on Him and not yourself. Know your limitations and humble yourself before God.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What little thing has kept you from doing something you thought nothing could stop you from doing? Leave your comment below.

When Men Rise To The Challenge

In our world, men usually get a bad rap. It used to be a man’s world, but now it is anything but a man’s world.

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On television, whether in shows, commercials, or movies, men are portrayed for the most part as babbling, goofy, unreliable, can’t-get-the-job-done idiots, while women and children are mostly seen as smart, capable and in control.

That is except in the movie I saw last night. There was barely a woman in the movie and the lead character (a guy) shot and fought with superior wisdom and stealth to defeat the enemy single handedly. I was proud to be a man!

It reminded me of the pride I had in being a man at my church’s Christmas banquet. I know, how could I be proud of being a man at a banquet? Women do the cooking and cleaning; they do all the real work, the men just do the eating.

Well, not at this banquet. Yes, we had some token women who worked hard and did an admiral job. But this banquet was the guys’ from start to finish. The whole idea for it came out of the mind of a man.

The men of our church planned it, executed it and got the job done. It was a beautiful thing. There were men in the kitchen cooking, men serving the food, men in the hall setting and taking down the tables and chairs, and men washing and drying the dishes.

Men, I guarantee, also did most of the eating. If you were a woman at our church banquet last week, there wasn’t much for you to do, although I saw some women desperate to get in on the glory, trying to make punch, and help clear some of the tables.

Sure, some of the wives helped their husbands prepare some of the food at home. And sure, the stores really cashed in on the pies that were bought for our dessert. But this was a guy thing all the way, and we pulled it off.

To me, this all shows the adaptability of men. There was a day when there wouldn’t be enough men that could pull off a banquet like we did. There might have been appendages in the carrots, undercooked meat, styrofoam plates and plastic cutlery.

But the 21st century man can do it all. We are tough enough for the big jobs and gentle enough for the delicate jobs as well. In a day and age when men can’t seem to get a break from the put downs, this was an heroic moment.

I think the women of the church had a hard time believing it was all real. They kept taking pictures of the men working throughout the whole meal. It was like they needed to record this for history.

I do worry, however, that the pictures may be used against us at the next church Christmas banquet. The women may haul out those pictures as evidence to support the men doing it again.

Here’s the thing: We are all capable of doing things that we are not normally in the habit of doing. We don’t imagine ourselves doing it so we don’t even try; we might even argue  against it. God wants to stretch you to grow in your relationship with Him. And that will mean doing things that you are not in the habit of doing. Maybe it’s journalling your devotions, or spending more time with God, or serving in a new capacity. Whatever it is for you, don’t make excuses. You are capable; just try it and grow.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What have you done lately that is out of your comfort zone? Leave your comment below.

Sunday Morning Blues

There is something about a rainy day that makes us lazy. I wonder if there is some kind of chemical that reacts with the air and then is released in an invisible form. We then breath it in and get lethargic.

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It’s Sunday morning, I’m on vacation, but it’s raining. You know, one of those days where the clouds aren’t going anywhere, and if the rain stops falling from the sky, it’s only for a short twenty minute coffee break before it’s back to that constant dripping from the heavens.

Before I was really awake, I’m sure I was breathing in that invisible mist that got me thinking negatively about the day. I started thinking that maybe I wouldn’t bother going to church. Ya, maybe just take it easy and sit around the cottage doing nothing. That seemed attractive for a while.

… Until I started thinking of what that would entail. It would mean I could stay in my sweats a little longer, look out the window at the rain and complain about what a crappy day it was.

When I thought about it, it didn’t sound all that fun. I guess if I drank coffee and never got a chance to read, I might look forward to a dull, overcast, drizzly kind of day. I could sip a big mug of coffee and curl up in a big sweater or afghan and read some fluffy novel.

But then I would not only have to love coffee, I would also have to be female! Most guys would just mope or find something in the basement to fix or tinker with, all the while complaining at how crummy the day was.

I’m not sure what it was … it could have been that my pillow acted like a gas mask and prevented the air-born, mood-altering drug from entering my system … but I actually started to think rationally.

It was then that I thought I needed to make this day count for something.  I should go to church. I should go to church because it’s an opportunity to praise God and hear something from the Bible that I could apply to my life.

Hey, on a day like this, all gloomy and damp, I should go to church because I’m doing nothing else anyway. Why would I stay home and do nothing when I have a standing invitation to show up with other people and be challenged in my relationship with God?

At the very least, if the rest of the day would be spent watching someone else drink coffee and read a novel, at least for an hour or so I could get some relief from that.

I might later be able to go to the beach, or play golf, or go on some kind of excursion, but now I could recoup a small portion of the day and get some positive spiritual input for my weary soul.

Here’s the thing: It really doesn’t take all that much to get us to excuse ourselves from doing something, just to do nothing. We don’t feel any better doing it, it doesn’t make the day more enjoyable, but it does prevent us from gaining something spiritual that we might not get otherwise. … I’m getting my crew going this morning and we’re off to church.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What tempts you, more than anything else, to excuse yourself from church? Leave your comment below.