From Plans To Reality

Some people are big planners; others are not. I don’t happen to be a natural planner. I HAVE to plan and so I do it, but it’s work for me. It takes considerable effort on my part.

In a perfect world, I would wake up every morning and say, “It’s a brand new day!” You have to say it out loud though, and with a Jamaican accent. And one more thing, you really have to roll out the “br” sound. Try it with me: “It’s a brrrrrand new day!” (Don’t forget the Jamaican accent.) … I know you feel better just saying it.

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That’s how I would love to approach each morning: every day a blank page, and me eagerly awaiting what will happen. The only problem with that is I have responsibilities and I have wants and dreams cluttering that wishful blank page.

This morning in my devotions I read Proverbs 16:9 which says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

That means all that I’ve done in my life so far is really the Lord’s doing. My plans, my dreams and my wants – all the things I’ve gone after – have only come to be because God established them.

That also means the custom platform shoes and knee-length coat with an 8 inch fur collar I bought in the 70‘s was because God established it for me (maybe not, but I really wish I could find a picture of that get up). It means that my plans and dreams that haven’t materialized or worked out are because God didn’t establish them.

I could be sad or angry that I haven’t gotten all I wanted, hoped or planned for, or I could take comfort that I did get what God wanted, planned and dreamed for me so far.

Going on from here, I could stop planning and dreaming, sit back and start each day with “It’s a brand new day” and see what happens, or I could try to figure out what God has planned for me and follow that.

But how can I know God’s plans in advance? And how detailed are God’s plans? Are His plans as detailed as what I will have for breakfast, or whether I should buy a new Apple product – it doesn’t matter what, anything will do. (I’d sure like Him to establish that plan!)

Maybe we can’t live that way. Instead, we have to keep making plans, keep dreaming and hoping but roll with what actually is established. I wonder if most of our frustration is just being upset that God changed our plans on us.

We would be happier if we were prepared for changes to our plans and pleasantly surprised by what He establishes.

Here’s the thing: To live a content life we need to be happy with what God brings our way. We need to be okay when He changes our plans. But we still need to keep planning, dreaming, hoping and wanting. If we stopped, we would probably be dead.

Thanks, Lord for ordering my steps. It’s just what you wanted, so it’s just what I want too.

That’s Life!


Question: How important are the plans you make for yourself?  Leave your comment below.

I’ve Really Let Myself Go

Not very often, on rare occasions, every once in a while, I’ve seen a picture of someone and thought, “Man you’ve really let yourself go!” It’s like they just stopped caring about themselves and let age and gravity do their thing.

I feel like I’ve let myself go lately. It’s only been for the last couple of weeks so there isn’t much to notice. But the bothersome thing is, how easy its been to start letting myself go.

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There are a couple of things that have got me off my game lately: one is busyness and the other is sore body parts. Where I have let myself go is keeping up with my exercising and staying on top of my computer maintenance.

If you were thinking that I’ve gone all puffy, my hair was greasy and down to my shoulders and I hadn’t shaved in a week, you can dismiss that image from you mind (ha, maybe you can’t now).

My appearance hasn’t really changed. I’m still showering every day and shaving when I have to, but I’ve not been doing my daily walks, aerobics or weight lifting.  I know that it takes three weeks to make a habit, but I’m afraid that I’m forming a new habit in record time!

I guess, it’s natural.  When things are let go and unattended, they don’t get better. A lawn gets weeds, a car breaks down, food goes bad . . . when you let them go.

My computer has gone that way as well. My busyness has left me with 33 files and folders strewn all over my desktop, and emails mounting in my inbox. I’ve had too many other pressing things to keep up with.

It all started with a sore knee and elbow I somehow picked up from playing hockey. Nothing serious, but they were bothering me just enough that I thought I better rest them rather than push too hard.

After a few days of non-activity, I started to get pretty good at finding other reasons or excuses for not exercising … and that’s when I stumbled onto this busy thing.

The busy excuse has been working like a charm even after my knee started feeling better. I also found I could use it for a number of other things as well, like my computer.

Now here I am, two weeks into creating my new habit of letting myself go, and the things that were making me busy are completed. I don’t have an excuse now. I could say that I’m always busy but I know I’m not too busy to exercise and execute files and emails.

I’m thinking now that I have to stop creating a habit of letting myself go and start creating a habit of getting back to what I should be doing. But one habit seems so much easier than the other.

Even though I’m a little busy today – I have to travel out of town, and have a few things I need to do before I go – I’m going to get back to my exercises and clean up some files starting today.

Here’s the thing: Things come along to break up your routine of spending time with God.  Sometimes they are legitimate reasons, and they may be unavoidable. But it becomes easy to let them become excuses to keep you away from your time with God. Don’t keep using the same excuse or make up a new one. Decide today to get back to your time with God. He’s waiting for you.

That’s Life!


Question: What is your most used excuse to get out of things?  Leave your comment below.

10,000 Steps A Day

You may have heard this before, but then again maybe you haven’t – I hadn’t until recently.  Research shows that we should take 10,000 steps a day.  Doing so can help to lower your BMI, reduce your waist size, and increase your energy.  It can help with hypertension and lessen your risk for Type II diabetes and heart disease.

If this is true, TVs should be hooked up to treadmills to make them work.  Doctors’ offices shouldn’t have parking lots, forcing us to walk to see our doctors!

10,000 steps equals about 8 kilometers (based on about a 2.5 foot long stride).  That’s about the distance I travel to work each day … and, uh, I would walk it if I … uh … didn’t need my car.

Some people have jobs where they walk all day, but not me.  As a pastor, I don’t walk very much.  I work at a desk and mostly walk to or from my car.  Tapping my feet to music while I work on my computer certainly doesn’t add any steps to my day.  I bought a pedometer to track my steps and, by noon some days, I’ve only taken 500.

So, to get a few more steps in, I started to walk for 30 minutes a day at a fairly brisk pace.  I walk with Lily around our neighbourhood, or go on our treadmill while watching TV.  I would take our turtle, Winston, for a walk but his legs are pretty short and I think I would end up dragging him around.

A thirty minute walk can give me about 4000 steps, which is pretty good, but still a far cry from ten grand!  So I’ve started to do something else: I get up from my desk mid morning and mid afternoon and walk for ten minutes around the sanctuary of the church.

It’s not the most interesting walk – it’s a little boring walking up and down the pews.  The only break is walking up the outside aisles and looking out the windows.  The problem with that is, if you see something interesting, you can’ t stop to get a better look.  You have to keep moving and just hope that it’s still visible on your next lap!

But I’ve found two things that make those walks exciting.  I either take time to think about what I am presently working on, taking my phone along and dictating into it any ideas that come to mind, OR, I use the time to pray.  I’ve found that I have some good times with God in those 10 minute intervals of walking in the sanctuary.  The time goes so fast as I walk that rather boring route.

Here’s the thing:  I’ve done my devotions early in the morning for years.  But I don’t have blocks of time later in the day that I spend in prayer.  I’m finding these 10 minute walks perfect for telling God what I’m thinking or feeling about right then.  I can talk over with Him what I’m wrestling with or what’s captured my immediate attention.  These short spurts of prayer or thought are inspiring and stimulating.  They’re like an injection of energy into my day.  I never would have thought of it.

Until Next Time!

Pastor Paul

Question:  What do you do to keep God in your day?


A Little More Silence, Please!

When I’m studying for a message, the conditions have to be just right.  I wish I was one of those people who could study in any environment – you know, with noise all around, people talking, radio playing, TV blaring – yet seem to be in a quiet zone in their head.

I’ve heard of pastors who study in coffee shops.  That would never work for me … I don’t drink coffee.  Actually, the main reason is I’d get nothing done.  All it would take is for me to look up from my computer and see someone at the counter and I would be distracted.  I’d start wondering what he did for a living, be fascinated at why she picked out that particular outfit, or create a scenario in my mind about that person’s day so far.  Then I would look back at my computer and realize I had drifted from my work for about ten minutes.

What I need is quiet, with as few distractions as possible.  I’ve been known to get distracted by something as small as a piece of lint floating past my computer screen.  If I hear others talking, I want to be part of the conversation.  It takes all my will power not to get up and go and join them.

I have to be in a quiet mood to study, like early in the morning.  It’s then that my mind is not filled with competing thoughts, and tasks.  I can focus on what I’m doing and nothing else.  That’s why I get up early and do my devotions.  It’s quieter in the morning and my mind is quieter.

When that mood gets disrupted, however, it’s game over for me; I might as well pack it in.  My efforts will be wasted, my productivity will plummet, and I’ll start to get all frustrated.  Friday was like that because I had a doctor’s appointment at 9:45 am.

(Oh, I didn’t mention, Friday is the day I finalize my sermon.  If I don’t get it done on Friday, I’ll be working on it on Saturday, my day off … and my wife Lily is not a fan of that!)

When I returned to work after my appointment, the church was a zoo.  Teens were arriving for a youth event on their PA day (I wish I got a few PA days).  It was noisy and distracting, with people in my office, and teens talking, yelling, and running outside my office.  It’s not that I mind it when all that happens.  I like the interaction; I like all the action; I just don’t get anything done.  I thought maybe I should just pack up and go on the “Amazing Race” youth event with them.

They left – finally – and it was quiet, except for my mind – it was racing.  I got back to my sermon but it was slow going after that.  It was past dinner time, when I gave up, packed it in and decided to finish in the morning.

Here’s the thing:  There are so many competing thoughts, appointments, conversations, details, tasks in our day, that it’s difficult to find time to focus on God.  Sometimes it’s best to pack it in and try again tomorrow.  What would be optimal is finding, or rather carving out, some time in your day when you and God will not have to compete with other things.

Until Next Time!

Pastor Paul

Question:  When do you find is the best time to be quiet with God?

He’s Got Your Back

When I was a kid, having a brother was great.  We played together; we always had a buddy to do something with.  On the other hand, we also fought a lot.  It was quite predicable:  one little thing like an innocent bump would lead to a push and then a harder push and a hit.  Then the fight was on.

My brother and I had some pretty classic fights growing up.  Some of our fights could have been on WWE (Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment).  People would have paid good money to see them!  On WWE they use chairs and tables on each other; we used hockey sticks and the threat of knives (just the dull ones you use at dinner).  When we got older, our poor mother would throw her arms up, and walk away saying, “You guys are going to kill each other!”

We didn’t, and we’re still great friends today.  The funny thing was, all those fights we had never lasted.  We would be playing one minute, then fighting, and then a couple minutes later playing together again.

One of the greatest things about having a brother was having someone to stick up for you.  Maybe you never had this feeling before, but having someone come to your side, and stand with you when there’s trouble is an amazing feeling.

One time when we were 10 and 12, we were with a bunch of friends when some other guys came up to us.  One of them was a couple years older, had a reputation as a fighter, and for some reason started picking on me.  My friends didn’t want anything to do with it and kind of backed away.  I’m sure they were thinking he would beat me to a pulp.

But my brother was there.  Though it’s always nice to be able to say, “I’m going to get my big brother and he’s twice your size”, my brother was two years younger and the same scrawny size as me.  It didn’t seem like a great advantage.

Still he was there and he didn’t back away like my friends did.  He got in there and basically the two of us laid a beating on that guy (I think it was all our practice that helped).  We were pretty pumped about what we did and how we felt about each other and we never had any trouble with that kid again.

Here’s the thing:  The other day I was reading Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

As I read that verse the feeling that I got was that same feeling of having a brother come to your side in a fight. The trouble is not necessarily dismissed, but I have someone fighting with me, someone helping me in my trouble.

Reading that verse, I got this amazing feeling of how much God cares for me, to battle with me.  And because He’s God, we’re going to win in the end, and walk off arm in arm victorious together.

God isn’t off somewhere helping remotely; He’s right there with you, and He’s got your back.  God is watching out for you.

Until Next Time!

Pastor Paul

Question:  When you are in a difficult place, how do you feel about God?

Living in Transition

I was thinking the other day that I’m not really living my life; I’m waiting in transition.  It’s not that I don’t feel settled in my home, work, or my relationships.  No, they’re all good.  But I still feel like I’m in transition.  And then it dawned on me, it’s my kids’ fault!

I’ve always been great at blaming my kids for things that have gone missing or stopped working, like when I couldn’t find the remote control, or when the car broke down just after they drove it.  However, blaming my kids for me feeling like I’m in transition takes me to a new level.

It all started in my devotions.  I was praying for my kids when I started to think about what I was praying for.  Basically, it was that they would get through this time in their lives and get settled in careers and all that goes with that.

Both my kids are in their twenties and I’m discovering that waiting for your kids to emerge out of this preparation stage of life takes way too long.  I never felt this way when Karlie and Mike were little, or in elementary school; I didn’t even feel this way when they were in high school.  But now, let’s get on with life already!  They have me feeling like I’m in transition, waiting for them to move into something more permanent, more settled.

I know that one day I’ll look back on this time and think it wasn’t very long …  although if my son stays in school as long as I did, it will be like forever!

Somehow I have to get through this and, as I was thinking about it, it dawned on me that they don’t necessarily feel like they’re in transition. They are just living life as it comes day by day.  So what I need to do is enjoy this stage of their lives and not try to impatiently endure it.

I’ve always enjoyed the other stages of their lives – except maybe teaching them to drive a manual transmission (that poor Honda Civic).  I need to embrace this stage as well, even though to me it seems like a transition stage and life will start when they are done it.  I prayed that God would help me live life with them and not get ahead of them.

Here’s the thing:  the verse in my devotions was Psalm 32:8, “I will instruct you and teach in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”(NIV)

How God does all that (instruct, teach, counsel) is secondary to what He is saying about me in this verse.  He desires to patiently care for me; He’s concerned for me; He has high hopes for me.  God is not feeling like I’m in transition and wishing me quickly on to the next stage.  God is with me where I’m at, patiently caring, concerned, and with high hopes for me … at this stage right now.

That’s a good attitude to have with my kids as well.

Until Next Time!

Pastor Paul

Question:  How can you model God’s outlook and actions with those you’re in relationship with?

I’m Not That Lucky

Like most people, I’m not crazy about getting woken up in the middle of the night.  But that’s what happened last night.  It was somewhere around 3:30 am when I got a text. Who texts at 3:30 in the morning?  Well, possibly our daughter who is two hours behind us and maybe in need of some kind of parental support.

I squinted to look at my iPhone screen, which seemed too bright for eyes that had been in the dark for a few hours. It was like the bright light at the end of the tunnel when you are about to die or something.  I was also squinting to bring the words of the text into focus.  I finally make out the words “congratulations you’ve won . . .” and so I turned it off and tried to go back to sleep.  I never win contests; it had to be a scam.

But by then my mind was engaged, and I started thinking: What have I won?  Why are they contacting me at this time of the morning?  I wonder if I can choose my prize.  What time zone would they have to be in to send this out now?  … I finally got back to sleep.

When I did get up later in the morning that text was burning on my mind.  I checked my phone and found out it was from Best Buy.  I like Best Buy; its one of my favourite stores.  There’s lots of stuff I would like to have from there. So I was intrigued that I had won.  Since I belong to their rewards zone club, I thought maybe my winning was connected to that.

I stared at the text for a while and then decided I would click the link to get more information about what I’d won. As it started to load the website, I got a message that said my browser wouldn’t open it because it was an unsecured site.  As soon as that message appeared, I thought maybe I’d been scammed.  I googled for a Best Buy text contest and found out that, yes, it was fraudulent.

I thought how stupid of me to get sucked in like that.  I know better; I’m usually more suspicious than that.  I just hoped my browser saved me from revealing a bunch of information about me and my contacts.

Right after that, in my devotional reading, I read Ephesians 4:27 which says “and do not give the devil a foothold.”  I started thinking about how tempting some things are, like  things that I want to do, that may seem great because others are doing them, that play into my wants and desires, that I could have for a price.  They’re so tempting and all you have to do is take a simple step, even a click of a mouse.

But then it’s got you. One little move, one click and it’s got a foothold.  It then has access to much more of us than just our thoughts.  It has us hooked.  We’ve committed to it in some way.  All it took is a simple click, a simple act, and a simple decision.

Here’s the thing: I have to be disciplined in my thoughts and decisions, constantly making sure I think of the consequences and possible deception I might be giving in to … disciplined so I “don’t give the devil a foothold.”

Until Next Time!

Pastor Paul

p.s.  If you get a text or email from me that’s suspicious, like from Best Buy, you know I got taken.

Question: What’s one thing that’s a temptation you need to guard against?

Who Else Wants To Be Blessed

In my devotions today I read 2 Samuel 12:13 that says “Then David confessed to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ Nathan replied, ‘Yes, but the Lord has forgiven you, and you won’t die for this sin.’”

When you think about it, David did a lot of bad things in his life, but God still blessed him despite all that.  Though we tend to think of King David as someone God really blessed, the reality is David had his share of suffering and hard times:  he had some serious family catastrophes, spent time hiding from people who wanted to kill him, and he was always at war. Still, I think David was one of God’s favorites.

This morning I found myself comparing my life to King David’s …

 In the sin department, I’m not sure whether he “out sinned” me or not – it’s probably too close to call.  Yet God has forgiven me just like He has David.

As for hardships in life, David had to live with some troubles and personal tragedy for long periods of time.  I, too, have had hardships – maybe not to the same depth of sorrow and hardship as David had, but still, I’ve had my share.

As for blessing, David sure was blessed:  victories in battle, crowned king of the country, wealth and riches.  He lived life at the top!  As for me, my wife is amazing, my family loves me unconditionally, I have a church that supports and cares for me, I live comfortably, and I enjoy life and what I have.

Conclusion:  King David and I come out pretty much tied in all these areas.

So, why do I look at specific (and sometimes small) things to determine if God is blessing me?  In the comparison I just did, I have to admit, my life is just as blessed as David’s was.  But I don’t feel it – even now, I don’t feel it.

You know why? I think it’s because I want someone else’s blessing without their sin or hardship.  I just want blessing.  I only care about being blessed, and the blessings I have received don’t seem to count when I look around.  I just want a blessing I don’t have.

When I read about David, I think, “Wow, God really loved him!  David was really special to the Lord.”  But the fact is, I’m as blessed as David was.  That means God really loves me, and I’m really special to Him, as well.  David isn’t in some elite class all by himself. God treats me the same way.

So why am I not satisfied?  I think it comes down to the fact that I’m a taker; I’ll take all I can get.  I’m really not all that thankful – just bring me more.

This morning, after thinking about David’s life and blessings, I found myself praying:

“Thank you, Lord for all you bless me with.  Thank you for being with me in the times that are hard, and for not walking away from me when I sin.

Forgive me, Lord for being selfish and completely unreasonable in wanting blessing.  Forgive me for having a one-dimensional view of blessings (that it’s all about me).

Lord, help me to take great joy in your blessing.  Help me not to compare others’ blessings with my hardships.  Lord, may I see myself as You see me, just as I picture David.

Until Next Time!

Pastor Paul

Question: How do you measure the blessing of God on your life?  Leave your comments below.

Camping Trip Gone Bad

This morning, as I was thinking about the Bible passage in my devotions, I thought of something that happened when I was in my late teens.  It was a camping trip with a large group of friends on a very hot summer weekend.  We weren’t exactly model campers by any means. We were a bit noisy . . . well, maybe a lot noisy. We played our music too loud, talked too loud, laughed too loud; we were just way too loud, too late into the night.

Several times that night, park rangers visited our sites to give us warnings.  But we just carried on. The next morning, a park ranger told us they were keeping a close eye on us. There were a few more minor complaints during the day and by afternoon it seemed like they were targeting us. As it turned out, they were.

 A few of us made a trip to the park office that had a huge map of all the sites in the park. The park was full that weekend and each site on the map had a mark indicating it was being used. There were over 500 sites in this park, but the most noticeable ones were the 4 sites that had big black “X” marks through them. Those were our sites. We asked what the “X” marks indicated (as if we needed an explanation) and were told that the next complaint would mean eviction from those sites.

Those marks stood out.  Your attention was drawn to them as soon as you looked at the map. The park rangers knew exactly where the trouble was. I probably don’t need to say it but, late on our second night in the park, someone complained about us again and this time they kicked us out – at midnight!

The verse I read in my devotions this morning was Psalm 25:7 that says, “Do not remember the rebellious sins of my youth. Remember me in light of your unfailing love, for you are merciful, O Lord.” (NLT)

When I first read this verse I thought, “I’m with the Psalmist.  I sure don’t want God to judge me on my rebellious past (or black “X” marks).  God, just remember the good parts of my life.”  But the verse doesn’t say that. It says “Remember me in light of your unfailing love.”

That means, even with my life as it is now, the good parts aren’t good enough to be remembered as something worthy.  All of my life is not much more than a black “X” on the map to God.  In God’s view, my whole life has eviction written all over it.

The big black “X” marks on our camp sites stood out so much the camp finally, and rightfully, had to act on them (though, at the time, I didn’t think they should). But, here’s the thing:  having placed my faith in Jesus as my Saviour, God no longer acts on the black marks of my life.  Rather, He remembers me by His unfailing love and mercy – not even by the good I do, or the best parts of my life.  No, He remembers me by His unfailing love and mercy.  That make me glad He is God … and not a park ranger.

Until Next time!

Pastor Paul

Question: How do you personally view God’s love for you?  Leave your comment below.

Presence of Mind

There’s a song called “Holiday in my Head” by a group named Smash Mouth. The song is all about how we can travel to fantastic places and have a great time, while never leaving our home.  One line in the song states, “I’m just looking for paradise in my living room.”

We all remember being in class when we were young and hearing the teacher get upset at a student who was gazing out the window instead of paying attention.  The student was day dreaming.  He was present in class but he wasn’t there in his mind. In his mind, he was either somewhere far away or maybe just playing soccer on the field with another class.

I used to do that.  There were times, while playing with my kids, that I would get very tired.I would end up sprawled out on the living room floor, fallen sleep while my kids would continue to play around me and on me, using my body and limbs as their toys. When Lily would come into the room, she would just shake her head to the kids’ response of, “Look Mommy, we’re playing with Daddy.”  The truth is, I was present in body but certainly not with my mind. We can, at times, be present but not really present.

During my devotions the other day I read a verse from 2 Peter 3:8 which reads, “But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: a day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.”

I have read this verse before but I’ve never really thought too much about it until now. What struck me was what this verse reveals about God.  I started to think about how the Lord is present all the time, in every situation.  If a day is like a thousand years to the Lord, then every day is under a microscope for him.  Every second, every moment the Lord takes in. He’s present, he’s active, he’s personal in it all, right down to the minute detail of the day.

But, then Peter says a thousand years is like a day to the Lord, and here it suggests to me that He sees how all the days unfold before him, that nothing escapes Him. Therefore, the Lord is present, active and involved, knowing how each day and moment of my life fits together in His overall plan and picture.

So this is what I thought: if God is present in every moment of my day, it means he is interested and available to me at any time in my day.  And, if God oversees how all the moments of my day fit into the big picture of my life, it means he is involved and active in the big picture of my life as well.

Unlike us who daydream at times, or me, who at times, played with my kids without really playing with them, God is alway present.  He is interested and available, active and involved in our lives, moment by moment.  God is always fully present with us. That is great to know.

Until next time!

Pastor Paul