How Mistakes Can Become Opportunities

From time to time I repost an article I’ve written some time ago. This post was written in December 2012. Enjoy

Sometimes mistakes can turn into opportunities.  A week ago, a man came into the church and asked if I could help him with some grocery money.  This is not an unusual occurrence – on a weekly basis, people make the same or similar requests.

I can think of one guy who has come in enough over the years that we’re on a first name basis.  One time he asked for grocery money or vouchers, and when I didn’t have any, he asked for a computer.  When I told him I didn’t have a computer to give him, he asked for a guitar.

I actually did have a guitar I could give him!  I had just bought a new one and my old guitar was taking up space at home.  When I gave him the guitar, he right away thanked me, and then, with hardly taking a breath, asked me if I had a case for it!

A couple of days later, I saw him walking downtown on the main street, with my old guitar in his hand (no case).  But about a week after that, he came to me again and asked if I had another guitar, because the one I gave him was stolen.  I had to break the news to him that I had run out of old guitars.

He accepted the news quite well.  I say that because some people don’t take a negative answer very well.  Sometimes they get upset, so I’m careful not to promise what I can’t deliver.

That’s how I made my mistake a week ago.  There was something about this man who had asked me for grocery money.  As I listened to him briefly tell me his situation, something about his story seemed to stick with me.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have anything to give him at the time.

I told him to come back the next day and I’d have a grocery store gift card for him.  That was all fine, except I forgot to purchase the gift card.  So, when the appointed time came, I still had nothing for him.

I quickly looked around to see, if by chance, there was a card we could give him . . .  nothing.  Then my associate, offered to go and purchase a gift card while the man waited at the church with me.  It seemed like our only solution, so of he went.

I decided to use the time to get to know this man a little bit.  We had a conversation about his life, what had gone wrong, and his plan to get back on track.

Then I just started sharing about how God loved him and wanted to help him in his life.  I explained to him who Jesus was, what He came to do, and what He has offered us.  By the time my associate came back with the gift card, we were talking about how he could have a relationship with Jesus.

In the end, I prayed with him, gave him a Bible and the grocery gift card.  He left satisfied on a couple of levels.

Here’s the thing:  If I had not forgotten to get that gift card, I would have had a brief conversation with that man and sent him on his way.  But my mistake led to an opportunity to share Christ’s love with a man who really needed it right then.  I need to remember to always look for opportunities … even in mistakes.

That’s Life!


Question:  What mistakes have you made that turned into opportunities for you?  Leave your comment below.

The Music Captured My Attention

Music has a way of capturing your attention and putting you in a mood. I guess that’s why the soundtrack of a movie is so important.

If you’ve ever watched a movie with no soundtrack and just the actors’ lines, you really feel like there is something missing.

The background music draws out the emotion in you that the scene is trying to create, whether it is tension or laughter or joy or sadness.

A scene with a car cruising down a beachside freeway will boost the emotions when the music is something like the first 20 seconds of Steppenwolf’s, “Born To Be Wild”.

You can instantly imagine yourself in the car, taking those curves, looking out at the waves crashing on the beach below you.

Well, the other day my wife, Lily, was watching the opening song for the country music awards.

I wasn’t watching but from the other side of the room I said, “That sounds like … like … like (it took me a while) Hootie.”

Then it came to me. It was a song by Hootie and the Blowfish and the lead singer – who is not Hootie but Darius Rucker – was featured in that all-star cast rendition of “Hold Your Hand”.

It was a fond memory and the song was so good it hooked me in.

I spend the next hour or so on YouTube listening to different renditions of that song and others by Darius Rucker’s band.

I can’t really explain it, but listening to that song highjacked my evening and got me in a mood to listen to more of the same.

That’s what songs do. They capture your emotions and reel you in so that you feel something you weren’t feeling just minutes before.

When you think about it, music has a great power.

When Lily and I went on our honeymoon, we drove to our destination at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, about a 16 hour drive away.

We had lots of time in the car and there were a few songs that really captured our attention. We can both still remember those songs today.

That was 32 years ago, yet when we hear those songs now we both look at each other, smile and remember that drive.

Music has such a profound impact on emotions that you can find it being used everywhere to put people in the right mood …  whether it is in an elevator, a department store, a commercial, your car, or even at the hockey arena.

A few years ago, I think the rink where I played hockey was experimenting on us. They pumped happy, easy-going music into the dressing rooms and the arena.

I think it was to see if it would calm us down and keep the altercations to a minimum.

I never did find out the results of that study … if it was one.

Music is around us most of our day; we are rarely without music in our lives. We wake to it, fall asleep with it and it is a soundtrack to our day.

Here’s the thing: God created music to move our emotions. And some of the time our emotions should be moved towards God. Don’t neglect ensuring that your emotions are stirred towards the God who loves you, cares for you and has given His precious Son, Jesus to die for you. Whether secular or spiritual, your music on a regular basis should draw you to give God glory and worship Him.

That’s Life!


Question: What song stirs up your emotions? Leave your comments below.

I Wouldn’t Say You Can Never Go Back

They say you can never go back, and I would say that is only half true.

Recently I had a chance to go back to a place from my childhood. I got there alright, but it wasn’t the same.

When I was a child, my family used to go to Muskoka (Ontario, Canada) to a Christian conference centre. It was a summer resort for people who liked to go to church at least once a day … just kidding, but half serious.

The place was called Canadian Keswick Conference, and it was in the heart of the Muskokas on Lake Rosseau.

If you know this area it is an amazing summer cottage paradise.

And Keswick was an amazing place: it was luxury in the heart of astounding nature.

On a lake that is deep and large, Keswick was situated on a point that led into a bay. It had a swimming area with a big slide in the middle of the bay and a large boat house with those old wooden inboard boats … though they weren’t all that old back then.

The main building was a large hotel with a fancy dining room. You had to dress up just to eat in there. On the bottom level was a tuck shop.

The name “tuck shop” didn’t really do it justice. Sure, you could get ice cream and candy there, but this place had rows of crystal and fine ornaments that kept kids like me on our toes so we didn’t break anything – besides, it was my aunt who ran the tuck shop; I had to be good!

In the early 70’s Keswick fell on hard times and the bank took it over. For many years it just lay vacant.

But last week my wife, Lily, and I happened to be going to a retreat near there so we decided to make a detour to try to see the property.

When we got there the gate was closed. We drove a little further and found a gate that was open, so we decided to drive in. I thought it might be part of a private golf course or something.

There was a crew there working on the property, clearing tree limbs and blowing leaves. We drove around the property like we owned it and no one stopped us or asked us any questions.

We got out, walked around the swimming area, and then along the dock. Everything had changed so much I was slightly unsure this was really the right spot.

I walked up and around where the old main building had been, now replaced with a beautiful, palatial structure overlooking the lake.

I took pictures and video and then we got back in our car and drove up towards the gate that was locked. As we approached, it automatically opened for us.

That was cool.

To confirm that we had found the right spot we stopped at a real estate office in Port Carling. We inquired and found out that the property is now a private summer cottage.

The palatial structure we saw was the cottage … more like a multi-million dollar mansion!

The real estate agent was very surprised we had gotten in. Well, getting in was nothing; we had walked all over the place, taking pictures and video.

It was great to go back to Keswick, even though the landscaping had changed, the appearance was different, and all the buildings had been replaced.

I went back, but it wasn’t the same.

Here’s the thing: When you find faith in God, you might have occasion to go back to things that held your gaze before. But they won’t have the same sparkle or provide the same emotion as they once did. God has made a change in you.

That’s Life!


Question: What past thing no longer holds your interest like it once did? Leave your comments below.

This Time Change Is Really Affecting My Rhythm

I never really noticed how the time change affected me before, but my sleeping sure has been altered in the last two nights.

I like the fall change because you get an extra hour of sleep … or at least that’s the theory.

In reality, it’s a license to stay up an hour longer … but even that turns into more like two hours.

So I actually get less sleep but only half as much less sleep than if I had stayed up two hours later the night before the time change.

I usually like to get to bed early on Saturday night because I have to preach the next morning. I don’t know why, but this Saturday night I was wide awake, so I stayed up a little longer than I should have.

For some crazy reason, however, I woke up way earlier than normal – at 4:30 a.m.! And I’m not that guy who gets up by my internal clock. I need an alarm or I would keep sleeping.

I just lay there going over my sermon in my head. By the time 6 a.m. rolled around and it was time to get up, I had basically rehearsed my whole sermon in my mind.

If you’re doing the math, no, I don’t preach for an hour and a half; there were gaps and times I struggled to remember what came next.

Surprisingly, when I got up, I didn’t feel tired or like I hadn’t gotten much sleep that night. I did, however, take a rather long nap Sunday afternoon.

I thought it was a fluky thing until this morning. Again I woke up very early, and again I rolled around in bed, this time without a sermon to keep my mind occupied.

I thought of random things for about an hour until my alarm went off and it was time for me to get up.

Now I’m thinking that the time change has affected my sleeping patterns and I hoping it won’t last too long.

I also found out that this time change is a lot more dangerous than I ever imagined it would be.

It turns out there are more accidents on the roads the Monday after a time change.

And then there are the physical problems! Apparently studies show there are more heart attacks, strokes are more frequent, and cases of depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) also rise.

… Not to mention headaches for those who suffer from them.

They say it all has to do with our circadian rhythm being disrupted. Your circadian rhythm regulates your 24-hour internal clock and it does it based on light.

I don’t know much about all that stuff but I want my rhythm back before something disastrous happens!

Here’s the thing: There are many things that can disrupt your walk with God. It might be sleep, it could be sin, or it could be some distraction that you are focussing on. My advice is to stick with a routine of meeting with God, continue to confess your sin, keep praising Him, keep looking into the scriptures for what He’s saying to you. You will get your rhythm back. Check out what Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message by Eugene Peterson); its all right there:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

That’s Life!


Question: What gets you out of your rhythm with God? Leave your comments below.

Resisting Temptation Is Proving Difficult Right Now

This is proving to be a season in which it is difficult to resist temptation.

I’ve done pretty well for about eleven months at cutting down my sugar intake. In that time I’ve lost some weight, I’m feeling better, I’m enjoying participating in sports more.

Physically everything is good; I think my health is also good. I have an exam coming up and then I’ll know for sure.

So with all that’s going well for me right now, it’s surprising that I’m having a hard time staying off the sugar.

Since about the middle of October I’ve had a greater urge to indulge in the sinful pleasures of candy, sweets, and all things sugar.

I’m a pretty disciplined guy when I decide to do something, but the temptation just seems greater right now.

I’ve wondered if there is some crazy gene in me that wants to store up some fat so I can make it through the cold, harsh winter months.

I don’t think I’m getting ready to hibernate until spring, but I’m having to keep up my exercising to ensure I don’t start looking like a bear!

I think the problem is we are entering a really dangerous time of year. Halloween is happening today when this blog is published.

About a week ago, my wife, Lily, bought two boxes of candy to give out. She opened them up and said, “Take what you want.”

Well, I have and I hope we don’t get too many kids trick-or-treating because the candy stockpile is getting lower.

Right now I’m just sampling the candy I like best. But after the big night I will be forced to eat the bonbons that I don’t really like as much.

And the problem with Halloween is that by the time you finish off all those mini chocolate bars that get left over from October 31st, you find yourself gearing up for Christmas.

And Christmas has its share of candy AND the added bonus of cookies and baking and really fattening food.

You can see my problem: the temptation is all around me, urging me, calling me, begging me to reduce the sugar in the world by consuming it myself.

I might save one or two children’s lives by eating this candy … well, at least keep them from contracting diabetes.

All year I don’t think the temptation to chow down on a good old stick of licorice has been as great as it is right now. In fact, I can imagine the smell of that strawberry licorice and it’s only 8:30 in the morning.

Though the temptation is strong, I have to be stronger, more disciplined. I have to get Lily to stop putting things in my way that will lead me to fall into temptation.

Maybe I’ll have to put a big box of candy at the end of my driveway on Wednesday morning with a sign that reads, “free” on it.

Here’s the thing: All temptation to sin is not the same. Sometimes the intensity of temptation is greater than at other times. To stave off temptation, first identify what your big temptations are. Then put action steps in place that keep you from being exposed to that particular temptation. Thirdly, practice those action steps consistently. Focus on disciplining yourself to maintain your action steps rather than trying to discipline yourself to keep from the temptation.

That’s Life!


Question: What action steps do you need to put into place? Leave your comments below.

Man, Was I Ever Set Up 

On a phone call to correct a mistake, I got set up for a fall.

The other day I made a phone call about a product I had purchased. I was hoping to get some help for a mistake I had made in ordering, but boy did it ever turn bad!

I had ordered a portable coat rack for my church and, when it came, I realized it was not going to work well at all.

The coat rack holds a high volume of coats and if we lived in a southern climate it would have worked perfectly. But here in Canada, we would be using it mostly over the winter months and there is no way it would work.

Instead of a bar that you would put hangers on, it came with hooks – 120 hooks to be exact – in groups of three.

This was a completely foreign concept to me, and somehow I thought we would still be able to use hangers on this coat rack.

When it arrived, however, I realized pretty quickly that hangers wouldn’t work. So I made the call and got set up.

Setups are common, especially for jokes. Jokes usually involve a rule of three: You set up a joke with two things that get the audience thinking in one direction, and then you slip in a third line – the punch line – that takes them in a different direction than they were thinking.

… Like what one comedian put on his answering machine: “Sorry, I can’t come to the phone right now. I’m either speaking at a large conference, appearing on the Jimmy Fallon show, or I’m taking a nap. Please leave a message. I’ll call you back when I wake up.”

The third response throws a curve ball. And speaking of curve balls, baseball pitchers use a setup to get batters to strike out. A pitcher might throw two fastballs for strikes and then, for the third strike, throw an off-speed pitch like a change-up or slow curve to fool the batter.

This is exactly how I got set up. I made my phone call, talked to a receptionist, and told her my story. She very pleasantly said she would put me through to customer service.

The customer service person was also very friendly and you could tell she was there to help. But when she found out I was calling from Canada, she said, “I’m sorry. I will put you through to our Canadian office.”

A few seconds later, I got this guy on the phone who said in a gruff way, “What’s your issue?” Right away I could tell he didn’t want to help me at all.

I explained my mistake in ordering and he responded with, “I will have to check to see if they will take a return. It has to be in its original box, and you will have to pay a 15% restocking charge and make your own arrangements to ship it back.”

Did you see that? I got set up by two very pleasant people and then hit by the punch line from out of nowhere!

Here’s the thing: Life is often a setup. Things are going well, you expect more of the same, and then, the punch line, the curve ball and you never saw it coming. God is perfect for the setups in life. Just lean into Him to keep yourself from falling apart. He’ll get you through.

That’s Life!


Question: How do you normally deal with being set up? Leave your comments below.

My Internet Issue Is Beyond Explanation

I have an internet issue that just doesn’t make sense to me, but I know there must be an explanation.

It’s been incredibly frustrating.

From the first day that we opened up our cottage last spring until we closed it up just now, we had issues with the internet.

We couldn’t seem to keep our modem connected.

For a while I thought that the modem might have been faulty, so I replaced it. The new one worked at first, but then later stopped working.

Then I thought, “Maybe it’s not the modem; maybe it’s something else.”

For most of the summer I figured it was the splitter that splits the signal between the modem and the TV.

I bought a new splitter, but that didn’t work either. In fact, it made the signal worse for the TV. I guess I bought a cheap splitter.

But when I put the old splitter back on my modem, it worked again.

That started a little dance with me and the splitter. Petty much every morning I had to go outside, underneath the cottage, and unhook the splitter. I would wait about 10 seconds and hook it back up.

This routine seemed to work. The modem would connect and we would have internet service in the cottage for a length of time … but I never knew how long a time.

Sometimes it would connect for an hour, but other times it would be good for most of the day.

It seemed that if the weather changed, that caused the internet to cut out. And with our weather this summer, we never went more than a couple of days without some amount of rain.

I wanted to get a really good splitter, but after my first attempt I was hesitant to buy another one for fear I would get the same results.

I felt like I was back in the day when one would try to bring in a TV signal with rabbit ears.

You remember – if you held the antenna with your right hand, stood on your left foot and opened your mouth, then you could see a picture on the TV.

You just couldn’t move; you were stuck in that position while everyone else got to see the show.

It just didn’t make sense to me. I was doing something that I didn’t think should make a difference and it was working … but I don’t know how or why it worked.

A neighbour offered me a really good splitter that he wasn’t using, and it seemed to work well for the day.

I thought maybe that was it; problem solved.

But when we came up to close the cottage for the winter, guess what? No internet.

I had to go out and dance with the splitter again.

My only other explanation is that the upload signal is weak and that’s why it has a hard time connecting.

I’m going to have to wait until next year to test that theory.

At least I won’t have a hard time remembering what to try. When I go up there in the spring and the internet doesn’t connect, the memory of this year will come flooding back to me.

Here’s the thing: We like to understand things. We don’t like it when something doesn’t make sense to us, so we often draw our own conclusions. They don’t have to be right; they just have to make sense to us. Be careful you don’t do that with God. He is above our understanding.

That’s Life!


Running Shoes Don’t Last Forever

I guess the life expectancy of my running shoes had reached its limit and then some.

I can’t remember when I bought them, but I do remember buying a pair about 22 years ago. I can’t say for sure that the runners I have now are those, but let’s just say I’ve had this pair for a very, very long time.

There was a time when I would go through a pair of running shoes every year. They were my go-to, every day shoes.

Since then I find I don’t run very much, so they just stay in the closet, collecting dust until I go on my treadmill or rowing machine. … I guess that’s why I’ve been able to keep them so long.

This year though, I decided to play baseball, so out came my trusty running shoes.

I wore them every Monday this spring and summer, but these shoes will never feel my feet inside them again.

Last Monday they simply disintegrated. I don’t know why they chose this past week to break down and I don’t know why they blew up all at once instead of gradually.

When I put them on before ball, they seemed to be in really good shape. I had no thoughts of needing to replace them this year at all.

The only thing I can think of is that the infield was made of red clay and was pretty wet … and we were just taking batting practice.

The pattern was to hit 10 balls, take a break while another guy hit ten, and then hit another 10 balls.

It might have been a combination of things, including extended time in the batter’s box dragging my toe through the wet clay as I swung through the pitch.

For the first 10 balls, I decided to hit right-handed. I noticed that a bunch of clay had gotten up inside the tread on one shoe.

For the next ten, I decided to hit my natural way – left-handed – and this time it was the other shoe that filled up with clay under the tread.

I then took my turn fielding balls.

By the time I finished my next at bat, the soles of my shoes were flapping like the tongue of a big old dog who’d just finished slurping down his dinner meal.

I walked back to my car feeling like I was wearing clown shoes! It was such an odd feeling.

The shoes were done, finished, not even good enough to cut the grass in.

Last night I went out looking for a new pair of running shoes. Cross trainers seem to be the type of shoe best suited to my activities. … $100 later and I’m ready for baseball next week.

Here’s the thing: In life, most of the time, we manage just fine. We even handle struggles with not too much sweat. But every once in a while the wheels fall off, the shoes disintegrate, life blows up in our face. This happens when we are least expecting it, usually when we are not ready for it. If you’re not in the habit of turning to God, you can really find yourself lost, floundering, panicked. Begin a relationship with God today – if you haven’t done so already – because He can put your life back together.

That’s Life!


Question: What unexpected thing has blown up in front of you? Leave your comments below.

My Life Is In Flux Right Now

I’m in a state of flux right now. Though it’s early in September, and I’ve had a long planning session for the upcoming year, I still feel a little out of sorts.

My planning went well and I came away from that week with some solid tracks to run on. But when I sit in my office, I don’t feel settled.

The reason for that? – my office is a mess!

During the summer we had a huge rain storm. The church basement flooded and we had to have a company come in to help clean up the mess.

I was away on vacation at the time; my office was locked and there was no need for anyone to go in it.

So when I returned after being away for several weeks, the first thing I noticed was the damp smell and then the ceiling tile that had fallen down.

There had been a leak in the roof and it had soaked through a ceiling tile, which had fallen down beside a bookshelf.

The amazing thing about it all was, though the ceiling tile was still soggy wet, the leak never touched any of my books.

I was sure happy about that, but it left me with a bit of a mess and forced me to make an even greater mess.

I took all the books off the shelf and put them in piles around my office. I then moved the bookcase out from the wall so that someone could examine the situation and put the ceiling back together again.

Well, things are moving rather slowly and my office has been in the same state for a couple of weeks now.

… And that’s why I feel so unsettled in my office.

It’s that same feeling you have when you’ve moved into a new home and you have boxes everywhere. You’re excited to be in the new place but you don’t feel right until all your stuff is where it is supposed to be.

I’ve been meeting with people in another room because my office chairs are being used to support three foot high piles of books.

I also have a bookcase that is standing in the middle of my office.

My office feels more like a storage space than an office. It’s not conducive to focussing on work.

When I look up from my computer, I often wonder if one of the piles of books looks like it’s leaning a little too much. I start to imagine it as the leaning tower of Pisa.

I really hope that I don’t need any of those books. If I do, I’ll be forced to play that block game Jenga with them … and I’ve never been particularly successful at not toppling over the stack of blocks.

I think the sooner my office can get put back to normal, the sooner I will start to settle down for the fall.

Here’s the thing: Many things can come up in life that cause you to feel unsettled – a health issue, job pressure, a move or even a flood. There may be nothing you can do to get life back in order, leaving you tempted to completely lose focus. However, you can keep order in your spiritual life by spending regular, quality time with God. If you do that in the morning, it will start your day off right, even if other aspects in your day are still in flux.

That’s Life!


Question: What has got you feeling a little unsettled? Leave your comments below.

I Can’t Believe I Broke My Streak

I knew there would come a day when my streak would come to an end; I just didn’t want it to be today.

Near the beginning of the year, I started a calorie burning streak that has lasted over seven months.

One of the things I’ve been doing this year to improve my health is to make sure I’ve hit three goals each day. The goals involve the amount of standing I do per day as opposed to sitting, exercising at least 30 minutes each day and burning a certain number of calories each day.

Since January 9th I’ve not missed my calorie burning goal. Along the way the goal has increased several times, yet I have not missed reaching it every day for the last 231 days.

But that all came to an end tonight.

What an awful feeling …

… like your favourite TV show went off the air for the last time: no more Flintstones; no more Seinfeld.

… like a dear friend has moved away or passed away; you won’t see them any more.

… like years ago when we were traveling from Alberta to start work in Kingston, Ontario. About 3 days into our journey, our 5 year old son said, “I want to go home.” His big sister who was trying to comfort him said, “Michael, we don’t have a home.”

It’s gone and it’s not coming back!

I now have to go the next 232 days just to beat that streak.

It’s not that I hadn’t almost broken the streak earlier in the year.

There were times when I was doing jumping jacks in my bedroom 2 minutes before midnight to try to reach the goal before the clock reset.

Each time I was able to squeak in under the wire and reach the goal.

But this time I just wasn’t thinking. I had already accomplished my standing goal for the day and had completed my exercise.

Normally after I’ve exercised, I’m really close to reaching my calorie goal as well. But I made a mistake at the start of the week and hit the submit button on my watch before I adjusted the suggested weekly calorie goal.

As a result, I still had lots of calories to burn after I had exercised, which meant I needed to stay active a little while longer.

But I was tired that night and decided I would go to bed a little earlier … and forgot all about my calorie goal!

In the morning, you can’t imagine how disappointed I was.

… like the time when I was a kid and I lost my iguana outside, about an hour before we were to leave on a two-week vacation.

I was very sad leaving the house, knowing that my pet was on the loose, that he probably wouldn’t survive the outdoors, especially at night.

I’m happy to say that my iguana did survive those two weeks. He was so cold he hadn’t moved the entire second week!

Unfortunately, I’m not getting this streak back. All I can do is start again.

Here’s the thing: The downside about sin is that you feel so rotten when it happens, you may feel that you let others down, yourself down, and God down. You might even experience guilt that prevents you from moving on. But when you seek God’s forgiveness, the good thing is you start again. And starting again IS a good thing.

That’s Life!


Question: How hard was it for you to get back after you broke a streak of some kind? Leave your comments below.