Staying Warmer Longer Just Got Easier

I just got a little helper to stay warm longer in the winter.

Staying warm in Canada in the winter – especially this winter – is something that’s on your mind the minute you start getting dressed for the day.

For Lily, it always matters what the temperature is outside; she wants to know what the weather is like no matter what.

There are times I’ve responded, “What does it matter what the temperature is outside? You are getting into a car in a garage and I’m dropping you off at the door of our destination.”

How cold it is shouldn’t matter in those situations, but somehow it does. I’m not going to try to figure that one out.

But for me, sometimes I have to shovel twice, once at home and once at work, before I begin my work day. You have to think about the amount of time you’re going to be spending outside.

But last night I got a little app for my phone that helps take some of the chill out of the cold temperatures we are facing.

It’s a parking app.

Yes, I know they’ve been out there for some time now, but I just discovered their usefulness … and that’s all that really matters to me.

I got hooked on it by accident, too.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve noticed signs in parking lots around town, giving instructions on how to pay for parking through an app.

Well, last night it was one of those damp, chilly evenings where the cold pierces through to your bones, and the wind sucks the life out of you like one of those food sealer gadgets.

I knew I didn’t have change for the parking station, and all Lily had was bills. She handed me a $5 bill and, though I knew the station also accepted credit, I took it anyway.

As I got out of the car and turned around, I saw one of those signs for paying with an app.

I didn’t care that we were a little late for the hockey game. I was cold and couldn’t get my head around standing at a pay station, trying to get my credit card out without taking off my gloves.

I noted the name of the app and the parking lot zone number and got back into the car. I downloaded the app and paid for my parking all in the comfort of our warm car.

Now if they could come up with a transporter feature on the app that would make it perfect! Unfortunately, we still needed to get out of the car and walk a couple of blocks to the arena.

By the way, the app also warns you when you are coming to the end of your paid time. If you need more time, you can buy it right from your phone – no need to go outside and brave the weather just to add another half hour of parking time.

This is definitely my new favourite app right now.

Here’s the thing: In our day and age, we have greater access to God’s Word than ever before. Not only is the printed version so easily obtained, there are free Bible apps for you phone or tablet, giving you access to the scriptures any place and any time. It is so easy to read the Bible. But the one thing you still have to do is open it up and read it. Let’s use the conveniences we have to get God’s Word into our minds and hearts.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What keeps you from opening up the Bible and reading it? Leave your comments below.

It Was Beauty And Treachery All At The Same Time

There are certain times and situations where you find beauty alongside treachery, and this weekend I found it.

I, along with my whole family, were away with my wife Lily’s whole family, celebrating the matriarch’s (my mother in-law’s) 80th birthday.

The place where we stayed was pretty amazing (you can read about it here).

The setting was stunning; the view from the deck was straight off a post card or, in more current terms, an online photo site.

It was perfect; the snow was lightly falling and the trees all had that white frosting look to them. Everything looked fresh, white and pure. It was the kind of snow that invited you to step in it and be the first to make your mark.

But with that thought also came the hesitation, “Do I want to ruin this perfectly smooth, white blanket that is covering everything?”

The last full day we spent there, most of us went down to the lake and cleared the snow off a patch of ice so we could skate.It was a gruelling affair; the snow was so deep. I now know how they came up with the size of a hockey rink though.

We shovelled out the perimeter of the surface so we knew what size our rink was going to be, and then started clearing the inside. When we started, I thought the rink was going to be large. But after we finished, it wasn’t that big at all.

When they first made hockey rinks on ice, I bet they did the same thing. Looking back, they might have wished they made them a little bigger like they do in Europe.

Our rinks are smaller here in North America … possibly it was because we had more snow to remove.

When we were skating around, you couldn’t help but think that we were in the middle of a winter commercial that they would show during the Olympics or hockey games. There were about ten people skating on a lake, with a sea of white around them, and snow dusted trees in the background.

It was a scene of true beauty to stand there and let our eyes drink it all in.It doesn’t get much better than that. It doesn’t get much more Canadian than that.

But there was treachery that went along with it.

That light snow that I mentioned? Well, it didn’t stop for two days. And so what if it was light? After more than 24 hours of it, we had a significant pile of snow …that covered everything included cars and the road.

When our son was leaving, he got stuck on the narrow, up and down, twisty-turny cottage road.

He got stuck several times and, in the process of helping him get out, we got another two vehicles stuck as well.It took several attempts, a reboot in the morning, a snow plow and a long walk for some of us to the main road, but we got him out.

… And it was a beautiful walk back to the cottage through the woods, with all that stunningly white, treacherous snow.

Here’s the thing: This is how sin works – it ropes you in with its pleasure; it tempts you to be like everyone else. It looks like fun, and why shouldn’t you get to enjoy it? But there is treachery in all that eye-catching desire. It will suck you in and cause you harm. Be wise, and don’t take that step. That’s when you will fall.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What sin tends to suck you in by its seemingly good looks? Leave your comments below.

I Went To A Show – I Mean A Basketball Game

Sometimes the show is as big or bigger than the event. That sounds a little cryptic, I know, but let me tell you about my experience the other night.

My son won tickets to a Toronto Raptors game and I was the lucky recipient of one of those tickets. The tickets weren’t just any tickets in the stands; they were one step up from the court.

You get to see a different game down there. It is the closest to the action that I have ever been at a basketball game … and probably ever will be.

To purchase the tickets would have cost about $300 each, and for that price you should catch a little sweat from the players.

We were behind the basket and for part of the game I was trying out the slo-mo feature on my iPhone. I really wanted to capture a dunk in slow motion or even a three pointer going in.

None of my attempts were spectacular but I got a couple of nice slow motion attacks to the basket.

But there was something different about being down low in the arena.

At other sporting events I’ve been to, people are there to watch the game. They come to see their team win.

But at a basketball game – well, at least for the people sitting down near the court – there is a little different focus.

It’s as much about the show as it is about the game. There is action going on everywhere, not just on the court …

… from the cheerleaders to the guys shooting t-shirts into the stands, to the super fan strutting his stuff on the sidelines.

… to the important people making appearances and getting the attention of the fans.

You could tell those who were important – or thought they were important – by the way they carried themselves and made themselves noticeable to others. They would stop and whisper something to the person they were with and look up into the crowd before they would move on to their seats.

There were also the four boys in front of us who seemed to be talking about something other than basketball for most of the game.

Then at half-time they left their seats. I didn’t even mind that they were not back in their seats for the start of the third quarter because the guy sitting directly in front of me had a pretty big head … with that removed, my sight lines greatly improved.

Just to prove that the show is as big a deal as the game, the four boys didn’t return to their seats until the 4th quarter.

I’m not sure what they were doing (though I have an idea), but one thing’s for sure, they weren’t watching the game in the stands.

Even when there was a time out – and in basketball there are plenty of time outs – the players don’t huddle together by the bench like in hockey.

No, the coach makes a big gesture of walking into the middle of the court and the players and entourage circle around him.

It’s quite a show.

Here’s the thing: When you attend church or a small group or even meet with God privately, it’s easy to be more focused on the show than the content. But it should be all about what God wants to deliver to you and about you responding back … then you’re in the game.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: How do you stay focussed on the game and not the show? Leave your comments below.

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!

Paul

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!

Paul

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!

Paul

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!

Paul

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!

Paul

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!

Paul

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!

Paul