I Wanted To Have A Better Memory

Most people would probably say they’d like to have a better memory.

And in speaking with people in the second half of their lives, most feel having the ability to increase their recall of information would liberate them.

In the spring I read a book on improving your memory. When I sat down to write this piece, I thought I might have written a blog post on my first gleanings of the book, but I can’t remember for sure … ha ha.

How’s that for a memory?

But I have applied some of the principles in the book to my preaching and I’m surprised at how well it works … though I can’t say I know how it works.

Everybody has their way of preparing a talk. I happen to manuscript what I’m going to say, and then go over it several times so it doesn’t come across like I’m reading it.

I usually speak for just over thirty minutes, so that’s a lot of words on a page … it would be difficult to memorize them all. But for a few months now I’ve been using a technique to put a lot more info from my sermons into my brain.

In the book it was explained that we have long-term memory, short-term memory and mid-term memory. They are all used for different purposes.

Long-term memory involves things that are locked in your head, which you don’t even have to think about; you just know them. They’re things like your phone number, your address, your way to work, where things are in your house, etc.

In your short-term memory are thing that are current. For instance, when you read something, you can spit out some facts from what you read for the next few hours or even days. But good luck trying to recall that data a week or two from now. It was just short-term.

Often the names of people we just met go into short-term memory.

For example, you remember a guy’s name for a little while, but later that day when you’re telling someone about the person you met, you can’t remember his name any more.

It’s no big deal. You can just ask him his name the next time you see him … if you’re not too embarrassed that your short-term memory is so bad!

Then there is the mid-term memory – being able to remember something in that gap between long-term and short-term memory.

Sometimes we need to remember something for a few days or for a certain event, or until we write our exam. Then we can forget it.

That’s what the mid-term memory is for.

… This is going to be a two part post so I will keep you in suspense until the next one (read part 2 here).

But the key to remembering something for a specific time and place is combining your long-term and short-term memories together.

It’s like combining the colours blue and yellow; they produce green.

You combine long-term memory and short-term memory and what you get is mid-term memory that you can use for a particular purpose.

Here’s the thing: God’s memory is pretty complicated as well. On the one hand, He loves you with an everlasting love – that’s long-term; he’s not going to forget that He loves you. On the other hand, when you repent of your sins, He forgets about them like they never happened –  that’s great news for us.

That’s Life!


Question: What could you use a better memory for? Leave your comments below.

I’m Realizing How Dependent I Am

The other day, I realized how dependent I am on my glasses. I don’t have a prescription, and I don’t wear them all the time, but I can’t do without them.


It started in my 40’s. I noticed after studying for a period of time that my eyes would get all blurry. I couldn’t focus on anything.

That’s when I got my eyes checked. The eye examiner said that I needed reading glasses and handed me a prescription.

I never filled it. Instead, I went to a drugstore and found a pair of readers with a mere +115 strength. They seemed to work fine.

Well, I’ve been doing that for the past 18 or so years, but now my glasses are +250 or +275 … I can’t tell for sure; the marking has rubbed off.

Over the years, I’ve realized I need to keep my glasses close by, even though I don’t need them all the time. You never know when someone will want you to look at a picture on their phone or I will need to read a label of some kind.

I remember times when we would rent videos and I would forget to bring my glasses. I’d say to my son, Mike, “read the description on the back for me, will ya?” I couldn’t see all the tiny print.

Now I keep a few pairs of glasses at home, and a pair on my person. But the other day, I forgot them.

I left them on my night table … something I almost never do.

I got to work, fired up my computer, and within a minute knew that I wasn’t going to be able to work without glasses.

Fortunately, I had a spare pair at work. Now the problem with always having your glasses with you is that you don’t pay attention to the spare pairs you’ve put in places you might need them.

It had been a few years since I needed to use that spare pair at work. And even at that, it was just once and then a year of so before that.

So I flipped on those glasses in my desk, and I could tell right away that they weren’t strong enough. So I searched around to see if I had another pair.

I did, but I think they were even older. I had to put one pair of glasses on and then stretch my arm out as far as I could to try to read the strength of the lenses printed on the arm of the other glasses. It read +125.

Well, that ship had sailed a long time ago. I’m double the fun and double the strength now.

I knew that if I continued to work with those glasses, I would have a hard time finding the door of my office in about 25 minutes.

So I took off to the nearest drugstore and bought a pair of beauties. I don’t really want to be seen in public with them on, but I was able to work all day without the feeling that I was watching an old 3D movie without the glasses.

Here’s the thing: Your Christian life should grow more dependent the longer you are a Christian – just like how I need my glasses more and more and at greater strengths. We should become more and more dependent on Christ in our daily life. Never think that you are set, now that you’re a Christian. You need more of Christ and in stronger doses.

That’s Life!


Question: How have you become more dependent on Christ? Leave your comments below.

You Can Trust Your Memory

I don’t know about you, but I don’t always trust my memory. I find I more readily trust what I’ve written down or am able to look up somewhere.


Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but I don’t trust my mind with the information I gather. I feel I must write it down or I think I will forget it. The truth of the matter is I probably will forget it.

The process of writing something down seals it in my mind so that I don’t have to worry about using my mind to remember it at all.

But my mind is more powerful than I give it credit for. This week was proof of that …

I was in the research phase of sermon preparation, gathering information and gaining insight and understanding of the passage I would be preaching from on Sunday. I was recording this information, making notes on my computer.

At noon I stepped out for lunch and, when I came back, my computer was off. I hadn’t plugged it in and the battery had run down. My computer is six years old now so the battery doesn’t last as long as it used to.

I plugged it in and turned it on. Often in this case, the computer has just gone into a deep sleep, like a hibernation. It’s not really turned off, but it almost takes as long to boot back up as a fresh start up. The difference is all the programs are still open when it’s comes back on.

Not this time. I had to start up my computer and then open my programs again. When I did that I found I had lost all my notes.

It reminded me of the early days of computers when, if you didn’t save your document regularly and your computer crashed, you lost whatever you hadn’t saved.

I learned through many losses to save every time I paused from typing.

Now word processing apps save data automatically … but I don’t use a word processor to record my sermon notes.

I lost it all.

The great realization I made, however, was that I could remember a lot of the notes I had made.  The next day I was able to retype them and continue from there to make more notes.

I made triple the amount of notes I had typed the day before, but then had to leave for a meeting.

By the time I came back to my office, my computer had shut down again. And once again I lost all my notes.

Yes, everything! – the retyped notes from the day before and all the new notes I’d made in the morning.

On my third attempt to record my commentary, I made sure that I closed the program before I left my computer alone. Again I was amazed at how much research I remembered as I reentered my data for the third time.

The process of writing something out locks it into your mind more securely, which in turn allows you to trust your memory with that information.

Here’s the thing: Many people say they can’t memorize or remember scripture passages. You’ll find you are able to remember far more scripture if you write it out. If there is a passage you want to remember, write it out a few times, say it several times and you will find it sticks in your mind better than you thought it would.

That’s Life!


Question: What is your method for remembering scripture? Leave your comment below

The Danger Of Going Down Rabbit Trails

Yesterday, as I wrote my sermon, I kept going off on rabbit trails … putting aside the main thing I was working on to focus on some tangent, or supplementary topic.


It happened quite naturally. In writing my sermon, I came to a place where I needed an illustration. As I got an idea, I started to research it in order to be able to use it in my sermon.

The problem was I got hooked on my research and about a half hour later found myself still working on finding out more about the subject of my illustration, instead of my sermon.

I felt like my brother’s dog, Chopper. He’s an adorable looking – in an ugly kind of way – Old English bulldog. … I guess what I’m trying to say is he makes you smile when you look at him.

He’s not the most active dog, though he can be. Most of his day he spends lying down, taking lots of naps, and just hanging out.

But if you say, “chippy”, he leaps from whatever he’s doing (usually laying down pretending to watch television), and he’s off, ready to case down some imaginary, furry little rodent, in the other room, in the back yard, wherever.

Well, that’s what I was like with this illustration, and the thing was I didn’t just do it once, but several times.

I kept catching myself getting lost in some story or detail that was way more than what I needed for my sermon.

It made for a long day of writing. I would write a little and then investigate something that I could relate back to my sermon but that in no way would get me closer to finishing my sermon.

I’m sure most people can not relate, but likely everyone, at some time or other, has had those moments when they got lost in doing something while they were supposed to be doing something else.

In the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator, the ENFP personalities are a little like that. Their prayer goes, “God, help me keep my mind on one th… LOOK, A BIRD! …ing at a time.

That’s not my personality type but I could own that prayer … at least yesterday I could.

Normally, if I struggle writing my sermon, I eventually get a little frustrated. The funny thing was this time I didn’t. I guess it was because I was discovering new things and I was fascinated by them.

There was a part of me that wanted to finish writing but another part of me that wanted to soak in other stories and interesting anecdotes.

I did finally finish writing, and it’s a good thing too because, though it was Friday, Sunday was coming.

Here’s the thing: Life can take us down various rabbit trails. Sometimes those trails have to do with hurts or opportunities. They can take our focus and interest for a long time, even years. But they prevent us from getting back to the main thing. And there is a deadline to that main thing; we just don’t know when it is. Be sure your sins are forgiven and that Christ is functioning as your Lord – that’s the main thing. Everything else is just a rabbit trail.

That’s Life!


Question: What has been a long rabbit trail for you? Leave your comment below.

Has A Problem Got You Stalled?

This week I had a problem that put me in stall mode. What I mean is that I couldn’t go forward or backward until I figured out my problem.


Another time this happened to me was when I was finishing our basement. I had framed a few walls but then I got to a section that I didn’t know what to do with.

So I left it; I was stalled. I didn’t do any work on the basement for about a month. I just didn’t know how to proceed.

Finally Lily said, “That’s enough!” and she got a guy in and paid him to finish the framing.

I didn’t solve my problem, but the problem got solved.

It worked out great in that instance, but what if you can’t just turn your problem over to someone else? What if you are the only one who must solve the problem?

I ran into that this week working on my sermon. I got to a spot and realized that I wasn’t sure what the text was really saying.

I re-read the text over and over, looked at all the commentaries, and checked various translations of the Bible to get a different perspective on the text. I even listened to a guy preach a sermon on that text.

But nothing seemed to help me solve my problem. In all my research, they hinted at answering my issue but nothing I read or listened to gave a definitive answer.

It was like they all beat around the bush on the subject.

Still I couldn’t move forward on my sermon until I solved my question about the text.

I felt handcuffed, in prison, unable to free myself from my cell. It was like I was paralyzed and couldn’t move.

I couldn’t enjoy anything; my mind kept coming back to the subject. I was discouraged, filled with doubt. I was down, really down.

My wife, Lily, and I went to a hockey game to get my mind off my problem, to brighten my day.

The game was great; it was exciting. Our team won, but I still had my problem churning inside of me, not letting me escape its clutches.

I felt like Jonah in the Bible – no matter how far I ran from my trouble, I couldn’t outrun it; I couldn’t escape it.

I needed to preach something on Sunday regardless of whether or not I solved the text. That deadline only added to my tension.

What I was looking for was a definitive response to the text from a respected (by me) Bible scholar. And there wasn’t one to be found.

And that’s what froze me. I didn’t trust my interpretation. I didn’t want to risk that I might be wrong.

It’s a tough place to be in when you are unsure of yourself and are afraid of making a mistake. It’s a lonely place to be, with no hope on the horizon.

Here’s the thing: We all find ourselves in that place at one time or another. It’s a tough place to be in, but God can solve your problem if you will ask Him. Listen to His solution and then, in confidence or trepidation, follow through on His solution. For me the confidence came as I followed through.

That’s Life!


Question: What has paralyzed you in the past? How did you get unstuck? Leave your comment below.

What A Mind I Have!

Sometimes our minds surprise us; sometimes they let us down.


It is a rare occasion when I’ve finished writing my sermon before about 6 pm on Friday night. But this past week I finished writing my sermon at 1:40 pm.

I can’t tell you how good it felt to be done that early in the day. It was like a burden had been lifted from me.

There is a weight that preachers carry with them as they prepare sermons. It feels heavy like a backpack that you can’t take off until you get to your destination.

But when the sermon is done, the backpack comes off and you feel light again.

I celebrated by going for lunch. I decide to try a new chicken fast food restaurant close by and I even got myself a pop. I was feeling good.

The crazy thing was, though I finished my sermon in record time for once, I still had more writing to do. So after a not-so-inspiring chicken lunch celebration, I was back at it. This time writing a funeral message.

The amazing thing was I was still focussed and by 6 pm I had finished that message and I was really done for the night.

I was feeling great, mentally exhausted, but ecstatic that I was all done.

In the evening, Lily and I went to a store and saw someone we knew from a distance. About two minutes after that I realized how my mind had let me down despite how focussed I’d been in writing messages that day.

Seeing that guy reminded me that I had forgotten to do something very important earlier in the day.

My message had flowed out of me like a tap turned all the way on, but I had forgotten to fill the baptistry tank in the sanctuary!

You see, another church had asked to use our church for a baptism service on Sunday afternoon and the guy I saw Friday night while shopping was from that church. Seeing him triggered my memory.

For a Sunday baptism, the tank must be filled and the heater turned on by Friday so the water will be warm enough.

I was ripped, upset at myself for not remembering. I was devastated that I would have to spend the rest of the evening babysitting a baptistry tank (it’s a 2 hour process).

How could my mind be so sharp that day but still let me down so badly?

I wanted to blame someone, or something, for how my day turned out. But in the end I had no one to blame but myself.

Here’s the thing: When something goes wrong, we want to blame someone else. It doesn’t change the outcome, but we feel justified being angry at whomever we pin the fault on … even if it’s God. However, accepting responsibility enables us to see how God works things out. I normally have a long day writing a sermon. This week God enabled me to write both messages in the time it usually takes to write one. Though the baptistry issue cost me time Friday night, God used that guy I saw to remind me about what I’d forgotten. When I put the blame in the proper place I can see how God helps me even when my mind lets me down.

That’s Life!


Question: How has your mind amazed you and failed you in the same day? Leave your comment below.

Sleepless In . . . Kingston!

I just had one of those nights where you find yourself wide awake at 2 am. I’m not sure if this kind of thing is contagious, but a friend of mine was telling me the day before how he had had a sleepless night.


The very next night, like someone had sneezed right in my face, I rolled around in my bed like I was doing laps at the track.

It makes you crazy when you can’t stop thinking about something, even though you can’t solve it. It just hangs on in your mind. And even when you try to redeem the time by thinking about something else, you always come back to that unrelenting, unpleasant thought or issue.

And, after a while, you realize that unless you do something, you will not be able to sleep at all.

When I get to that stage, I just get up. I need to change my position; I need to get away from the heavy breathing of someone deep in sleep beside me.

So, the other night I got out of bed, went downstairs and started to work on my sermon for the next week. So what if it was Monday morning at 2 am? I have some of my best and most creative thoughts at that time of night.

I worked on my sermon and made great headway until about 3:30 am when I thought I’d better try to sleep. Even though I was still very awake and stimulated from my late night study time, I grabbed a blanket, laid down on the couch and turned the TV on.

If there is anything that will put me to sleep it’s the TV – not those infomercials though, they get me thinking of things I could make or buy. (I think I wrote once about the ab-dolly my son and I made after watching an infomercial.)

No, I need some kind of drama. In my flicking through the channels I came across a TV show I like, called “Castle”. It’s a detective show where a mystery writer helps the police solve crimes.

But the only crime I wanted solved was catching the guy who stole my sleep so far that night! And don’t worry, I won’t give away the show’s ending – only because I can’t … I was asleep in probably 15 minutes.

Actually, all I need is two things to put me to sleep: TV and being horizontal. It works every time. It works for Sunday NFL games, TV shows, and for romantic movies my wife sometime cons me into watching with her.

In the morning it was Lil who woke me up. I had slept through three alarms and never heard one of them. She came down wanting the room for her workout. So I trudged upstairs, and crawled into bed. But by then the day had started in my mind and it wasn’t long before I was up and moving.

… Maybe a little slower than normal, mind you.

Here’s the thing:  Sometimes we are awake because we’ve seen or experienced something that has shocked us. Sometimes it’s just indigestion from bad pizza late at night. But one thing you can do to redeem the time is spend it with God. In those quiet hours, when nothing is moving except your mind, take the time to talk to God. He may have something to say to you.

That’s Life!


Question: What can trigger a sleepless night for you? Leave your comment below.

So . . . I’m Easily Distracted

Writing a sermon is a curious thing. I’ve been writing them weekly for over 17 years now and I still haven’t found a formula that makes the process easy and predicable. There are parts that I have systematized, but the actual sit down and write part, it’s like a new adventure every week.

distracted guy

Let me give you a little insight into my week. I’m pretty regimented early in the week because I know if I’m not ready to write by Thursday, the end of the week will be a disaster.  And we don’t like disasters, do we?

When I first started to preach, I worried about staying up all night Saturday to get ready for Sunday morning. That fear was real because every paper I ever wrote from high school until the day I graduated with my degree, involved burning the midnight oil.

The day after a paper was due I was a zombie. I needed coffee bad – except I didn’t drink coffee, so I’d substitute Super Big Gulps to get me through.

There was no way I would be able to sustain a weekly routine like that for very long. So I decided I needed to have a routine for preparing messages: I start on Monday and do a little work each day.

But I don’t start writing until Thursday or Friday and that’s when all the scheduling, routine, and systematizing goes out the window. It’s new every week. There are distractions, interruptions, unexpected issues to deal with.

But probably the worst issue of all is me. I need to be mentally and emotionally ready to write my sermon. And if I’m not, oh baby, it’s going to be a long day.

That’s what it was like this week. I had a great Thursday, finished my outline, even wrote the introduction to my message. But Friday … I just couldn’t get my mind to settle down. I might have ADD – but in my day the medication for that was a slap on the back side of the head and a scolding of “PAY ATTENTION!”

So Friday I was on my own with no chemicals or synthetics to bring my mind into sync with my sermon. My mind even had the added bonus of a few interruptions to my day that lured it to wander in unnecessary directions long after the interruptions ceased.

By the afternoon, everything and anything was a distraction. The lint that glistened in the light streaming through my window caught my attention for a while. I read an email that lead me to a website which led me to watch a video debate on science versus creation.

My message is not on creation this week. It was interesting, but I couldn’t even extract an illustration to work into my sermon. I was so distracted that I forgot I had brought a lunch to work, so I went out and bought my noon meal, only to come back and see my lunch sitting on a table in my office!

It came in handy because I worked so late I ate that forgotten lunch for dinner and kept working.

Here’s the thing: You may not get distracted like me, but every one of us runs into distractions of some kind. When we get distracted from serving God or spending time with Him, that’s when it’s time to employ a strategy to deal with those distractions and get back on course.

That’s Life!


Question: How have you been distracted in the past?  Leave your comment below.

I Just Couldn’t Find it

Have you ever looked for something that you were certain of its location, but still couldn’t find it?  Don’t those times drive you insane?  I find myself living out the definition of insanity, “doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.”  We probably all do that at times.


You either dig around in a drawer or a room, searching the same spots over and over,  hoping to find what you are looking for.  You start talking to yourself, your blood pressure rises, you get angry with yourself, and then at the thing you’re looking for, until you don’t even want it anymore.  In fact, you hate it now, but you just HAVE to find it!

We’ve all been there; it’s not a pretty sight.  Your family starts out sympathetic, even helpful, but as you start to get frustrated, they start to vacate the area.  As you start to sound like Gollum (from the Lord of the Rings), your family members look for things to do, errands to run, other places to be.

The other day, while preparing my sermon, I had three illustrations I wanted to use: one was a personal story, and the two others came from books.  I could remember some of the details for one of the illustrations, and even remember the book I had read it in.

I had seen the title of the book the day before on one of my shelves, so I went directly there.  With the book in hand, I sat down at my desk and started looking for the story.

I looked at the beginning of each chapter because often times they started with a story.  That didn’t help.  I looked at the chapter titles to see if any of them would ring a bell.  I was sure the story was in this book, but I wasn’t having any luck finding it.

I was getting a little frustrated and I lost my confidence that I was even searching the correct book.  I got another book out by the same author and started looking through it, even though I didn’t think it was in there.  Then I turned to the internet.  I googled the gist of the story with the author’s name.  I had to change my search three times before I got some results that seemed promising.  I looked at several hits but none of them were helpful.  Then I discovered a document someone posted referencing the story.  Finally some hope.

The bad news was the document didn’t have the story details.  The good news was it confirmed that the story was, in fact, in the original book I had been looking in.  So I set to work to find the story.  I started at the back of the book this time.  I looked on pretty well every page for mention of it.  I finally found it . . . in the INTRODUCTION!

Here’s the thing:  In these situations, I often get all caught up in what I’m doing.  I know what to do, and it’s usually something small, within my power.  What I don’t do is ask God for help right away.  I fuss and stew instead of turning to the One who can guide me right to what I’m looking for.  I definitely need to try that next time.

Until Next Time!

Pastor Paul

Question:  What have you learned from frustrating times like I described?  Leave your comment below.

Inspiration Can Be Unexpected

Inspiration can come at any time – sometimes when we least expect it.  This week I was woken up at 5 am with inspiration.  I don’t normally get up at 5.  My alarm regularly goes off at 6 am and if it doesn’t, I’m afraid that I would naturally wake up around the time my 21 year old son does on a Saturday.  Does noon sound like a good time to get up?

Five in the morning was pretty early for me to wake up on my own, but there I was, wide awake, looking at the red glowing numbers on our ceiling.

I like my projection clock because I don’t find the blazing white light of an alarm clock staring me in the face when I turn in bed … that’s too much like heading down a tunnel with a bright light at the end of it!

This particular morning I wasn’t just awake; I was awake and focused.  My mind was fully engaged and I was ready to get out of bed.  I had struggled the day before putting my sermon outline together, and just couldn’t see how I should organize what the passage was communicating.  I was extremely frustrated and my deadline for completing my sermon was clearly on my mind and getting closer.

In the midst of my frustration I did what you are supposed to do when you are in a jam – I prayed. I asked God to help me complete my outline.  After all, I want to preach what God wants the congregation to hear; it’s really His message.  Maybe that bugged me even more when I didn’t get the outline by the end of the day.

The week before I had been in a similar place and somehow it all came together by Friday.  But that was last week.  That was little comfort given my current situation; I was not happy.

It’s totally quiet in our house at 5 in the morning … not even the turtle is stirring at that time of day.  What woke me up, and what captivated my thoughts was my message.  I popped out of bed, and for the next hour I finished putting together my outline.  It was all in my head; my mind was brimming with words and verses and how they connected together.  It wasn’t like I was working; it was more like I was a secretary taking dictation. God had filled my mind with what He wanted communicated.

I closed my computer at 6:08 and got ready for my 7 am men’s prayer meeting.  I was energized, my outline was complete, and I wasn’t just ready to write my sermon, I was eager to get at it!  It’s funny how God didn’t give me the outline piece by piece the day before when I had asked Him.  Instead, He put it all in my head during the night.

Here’s the thing:  I write a sermon every week and I can become comfortable thinking that it is my sermon, my message that He’s helping me complete.  This week God reminded me that it is His message, and His sermon that I preach.  No matter what we do, we work for Him; He doesn’t work for us.  How often do we forget that?

Until Next Time!

Pastor Paul

Question: What has God inspired you with this past year?  Leave your comments below.