My Toothpaste Never Runs Out

Some things seem to last forever and never run out. You can always seem to get a little more out of them.

About two weeks ago I put toothpaste on the grocery list because I was running out.

I actually thought that I was going to squeeze the last out of the tube before we made a grocery run, but every day for the last two weeks there’s still been just a little more in the tube – just enough for one more brushing.

And every day I’ve thought that this was the last, but I keep getting enough for one more.

It’s like overnight it manufactures more toothpaste – not a lot mind you, but just enough for the next time I clean my teeth.

It’s like the Energizer bunny on the commercials; it just keeps going and going and going.

I have a razor that takes a battery and that thing lasts forever, too.

Oil also has that same characteristic. Have you ever put oil in your car and had to wait for the bottle to empty so you could cap the oil spout and get on your way?

You could stand there for ten minutes and there would still be a tiny stream of oil coming from that bottle.

It’s like the Old Testament story when the prophet told the widow to have her sons collect jars to put oil in. She kept pouring oil into the jars until she ran out of jars.

Finally the oil stopped flowing.

That was a miracle … even though it followed the pattern of how oil works.

I will tell you one thing that doesn’t have this forever principle and that is gas in your gas tank.

I’ve tested the theory out several times in my life and you can get the needle on the gas tank pretty low, usually even below the last mark on the gauge.

But if you push it, you’re going to run out of gas.

Probably the worst time that happened to me was about 9 pm one night when I was coming home from visiting a family. It was pouring rain and I ran out of gas on a fairly busy street.

I had to call home and have my son come to the rescue with a can of gas. … I got the impression that he was not too happy about it, especially about pouring the gas into the tank while getting seriously soaked.

But toothpaste keeps going. Today is the last morning I will be using this tube, but before I throw it in the garbage I’m going to see if I can squeeze one more dab out of it.

It’s not that I’m all that miserly when it comes to toothpaste. I don’t really think about it and hence, that’s why I’m still wringing out the last little blob.

… which gets me thinking, “How do they get toothpaste in there in the first place?” That’s a whole other blog post.

Here’s the thing: The grace of God works much the same way. When you think that you have run out of God’s favour, when you think that God couldn’t possibly forgive you, or have anything to do with you, there is just enough grace for that time. Don’t ever give up or look elsewhere; you can always find grace when you seek Him authentically.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: When have you received unexpected grace? Leave your comments below.

We Need More Insiders In Our World

Insiders can really make a difference in explaining things that the general population doesn’t know or understand very well.

This past week I watched an NFL game on TV; the colour commentator was Tony Romo.

For those who don’t have a clue who Romo is, he just retired as quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. You could definitely consider him an insider to the game of football.

For most of his life he’s lived and breathed football. Most of his waking hours found him playing or thinking about the game.

It was his job.

Now it’s his job to give insight to the viewers into what’s happening on the field.

Romo is amazing at it! He gives insights into what the offence and coaches are thinking and going to do next. He provides information – almost like a guru – on how a defence needs to react to the play that’s being called.

And he lets you in on what is going through the head of the quarterback as he calls plays and stands behind the center, ready to receive the ball.

He is amazing at his job! – did I say that already?

I found myself totally into the game he was calling, watching for what he was predicting was going to take place. The game I watched was such a blowout, however, that in the fourth quarter the network switched the telecast to another game.

I was more disappointed to miss Tony Romo’s insider information than I was to see the end of the game.

Football is not the only place we have insiders, though. It seems like there are insiders in every walk of life, speaking to almost everything that takes place.

Sometimes those insiders only give us gossip that may or may not be true … but it sure seems like it’s correct when they are telling us.

There are also insiders who speak about things even though they don’t seem to fit the insider model … like when a movie star gives his or her political, moral or religious view about something.

For some reason they come across as insiders even on topics that aren’t their field of expertise.

For someone to be a real insider, he or she needs to have some kind of experience or learning, or even better – both.

Like Tony Romo – he immersed himself in football from a young age and continued to learn and play the game through high school, college and at the professional level.

When you hear him call a game, you know he didn’t just play a position; he has studied the game and knows it inside out.

He’s an expert … That’s what an insider really is – someone who has so thoroughly immersed him or herself in something that he or she gives amazing insights.

Romo is a good reminder to me to be particular about who I consider an insider: someone I want to take commentary from and believe it to be the truth.

Here’s the thing: If you have faith in Jesus Christ, you are an insider because you have experienced something that changed your life. You know something that many people don’t know about and have not experienced. But you will only show yourself to be an insider if you immerse yourself in your faith. You have to be a student of God’s. Learn God’s word, read it, study it, memorize verses. Then when the game is on, you can give insights that will truly enlighten, amaze, and help.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What are you an insider to? Leave your comments below.

I’m Not Sure I Should Be All That Comfortable With Comfort

All of us like to be comfortable; we all have an idea of where our comfort zone is.

Maybe more than most people do, I like comfort … like with the clothes I wear. I don’t want to be wearing something that pinches and is so tight I have difficulty breathing.

… Except maybe with skates. I do wear very small skates – about 2 1/2 – 3 sizes smaller than my shoe size. I will put up with some discomfort there if it will make me feel more in control on the ice … but that’s another issue.

Before we go outside, we check the weather in order to put on the appropriate amount of clothing so that we are comfortable.

Lily used to make fun of me years ago when I lost some weight because I wore a fleece jacket in the house and at work; I hardly ever took it off. … Well, I took it off when I went to bed, but most of the day and evening I had it on.

I wore it because I was cold all the time. That fleece jacket kept me in my comfort zone.

We like to be comfortable with people as well. That’s why we tend to gather with people we know rather than introduce ourselves to people we’ve never met before.

When you are with your friends, that’s your comfort zone. Your blood pressure is down; you are relaxed and engage in conversation without worrying about what the other person is thinking about you.

When you meet someone new, your stress level goes up, your hands may get sweaty, and you have a harder time thinking on your feet because you just aren’t comfortable.

We also have things we like to eat that we label as comfort food. For some people that’s ice cream. When they are down, or lonely or sad, they grab a big ‘ole bowl of double fudge ice cream and go at it.

For me it’s hot wings, particularly with Frank’s Red Hot sauce.

Now that’s comfort food!

We like to be comfortable in our surroundings, in our office or our home. So we buy a house that fits our idea of comfort and fill it with furniture and accents that make us feel comfortable there.

A year ago, when my wife, Lily, and I were looking for a car, one of the biggest things we were looking for was comfort. We wanted a car that would be quiet on the highway, with seats that were comfortable for long drives.

We were looking for comfort more than performance or what the car looked like or what make it was.

Comfort is a big deal. We want it, and we like to stay in that comfort zone when we’ve got it.

Here’s the thing: I was listening to a message this week and I was challenged about my comfort zone with God. We can become so comfortable with our relationship with Christ that we stop following Jesus where He wants to lead us. Our comfort keeps us relying on our own strength and keeps us from relying on God. It’s comfortable, but it makes for a boring life. Do you want more than comfort in life? Do you want to experience more than you can do on your own? Break out from your boring existence. Step out of your comfort zone and follow where God is leading you. Trust Him.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: In what way do you need to break out of your comfort zone? Leave your comments below.

I Had An Urge I Could Not Let Go Of

I think we all have urges to do something for others. They’re not “all the time” urges, and they’re certainly not “anyone” urges, but we get the urge at times to help someone out.

It might be someone you don’t know, or maybe a neighbour. It could be some cause that stirs you to do something.

It might happen often, or those times may be few and far between.

But when it happens, we can’t help but do something; the urge is overwhelming and we have to act.

I remember years ago starting out on our first day of vacation. We had our van loaded and we were towing our travel trailer to our vacation spot.

We probably weren’t more than twenty minutes on the highway when I saw smoke in my side mirror. I quickly pulled over and found that one of the trailer tires was shredded to bits.

We were on the side of a major highway; it was early morning with people in a hurry to get to work. You could feel the trailer sway when the cars and especially the trucks whipped by.

I started to change the tire on the side of the road and probably was no more than five minutes in and a guy from our church pulled up behind me to help.

He had seen it all, driven to the next exit, turned around and, in order to get to us on the divided highway, drove back past us in the opposite lanes, turned around at the closest exit and came to help.

Amazing! That’s that urge that causes us to do something for others; when everyone else is flying by, we have the urge to do something.

This week I got to spend one night at both my daughter’s and son’s places.

There is something about helping out your kids that you can’t resist doing, even though they are on their own, and have jobs to support themselves.

I found myself looking for ways to help out. What did they need? What could I do to give them a hand?

My daughter needed to get a few groceries the night I stayed with her, and though I added a few things of my own to the basket, I had this urge to pay for it all.

She’s my daughter; I’ve been providing for her her whole life and it’s difficult to turn that off now that she’s an adult.

The next night I had dinner with my son and, of course, I paid for dinner. But back at his place I noticed there were a few things he needed. Before I left in the morning I hit up a hardware store and Walmart and got him set up.

These were all things they could have done themselves but I had this urge in me to help.

It happens sometimes; it happens with family and sometimes with complete strangers.

The bottom line is those urges make a real difference to people. We should never ignore them.

Here’s the thing: After God created people, it took no time before we rejected Him for our selfish wants and desires … and humanity has been on that path ever since. Yet even though we rejected Him, God had the urge to help us, to bring us back to Him. We call that love. He acted on that urge by sending His Son, Jesus, to die for our rejection of Him – our sin. That urge not only can help us now, it can help us for eternity. Aren’t you glad God acted on His urge to do something for others? Reflect on that.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: When was the last time you acted on the urge to do something for others? Leave your comments below.

Don’t Get Tired Of The Routines Of Life

Routines – some people have them and some people don’t. They can be a blessing and sometimes a curse.

In my home, one of us has a number of routines while the other one is not very routined at all.

It may surprise those who know Lily and me, but it’s me that’s the routined one and not Lily.

It’s not like my life is completely scheduled or set up to flow a certain way. It’s more like I have several things that I do the say way, or that I do at certain times on a regular basis … things like  when I get up in the morning, how I go about making my breakfast, or my weekly wings night.

It also goes way beyond that to when and how I study for my sermons each week, when I write for my blog, and making sure I exercise each day.

In some ways it drives Lily nuts that I have to do things a certain way.

She just wishes I would do something different instead of being so predictable … like maybe not have wings on a Saturday night, and instead sit down with her to a nice, leafy arugula salad with delicious oil and vinaigrette dressing.

On the other hand, she takes comfort in those routines because she knows what I’m doing, when I’m doing it, and for how long.

What freaks her out sometimes is when I break a routine … like the other day.

She was in a panic when I got home from hockey, and wanted to know if I was alright, if I had heart pain or something.

After Saturday morning hockey, I usually get home around 8:20 am. This week I was talking with one of the guys when I left and we kept talking in the parking lot for over 20 minutes.

Lily was worried that she would get a call from the hospital that I had had another heart attack.

Now on the other hand, I don’t say too much but I can see how Lily could be a little more efficient if she had a few routines in her life.

Routines take the thinking out of what you do next. They give you tracks to work in. For example, I know the first thing I’m going to be doing Tuesday mornings at work; I don’t have to ponder where I’m going to start or what I should do next.

The routine thing for me has developed over the years because I did not grow up being very routined at all. But I have come to learn that having some routines in life helps you plan and schedule better, and ultimately keeps you moving in the right directions.

Some people see routine as being boring but, in reality, routines help you have more time to be creative because routines open up space and space is what you need to be creative. Did you hear that, Lily?

Here’s the thing: When we don’t have routines, things get squeezed out of our lives in favour of other things – maybe some good things, but not best things. One of the best things you can do is create a routine for your time with God. The space you create there will become an amazing environment to develop your relationship with God.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What’s one routine you try to stick to? Leave your comment below.

I Couldn’t Believe The Progress We Made

It’s always interesting to see the progress in the city after being away for an extended time.

There is something about it that’s exciting, seeing what new things are cropping up, wondering if there’ll be something new to do, and new place to eat.

I find it intriguing and in some strange way hopeful. I guess it’s a sign that the city is growing, changing, adapting.

It’s like when you were in public school and your teacher told you to take a bean home, put it in a glass jar and stick a wet paper towel around it.

We would put it under the kitchen sink, but couldn’t wait to look and see if there was any change to the bean.

It was always amazing to see the sprout that would emerge and to track the growth of that new little leaf.

That’s sort of what it’s like to return home and see the changes that have taken place in the city.

I don’t go hunting all over for them. I just look for the progress on my fifteen minute drive to work, along a major route in town.

This year I have noticed lots of progress.

There is a dentist’s office, a stand-alone structure, at the end of my subdivision. I don’t know for sure what they’re doing, but there is now a huge trench that wasn’t there before my vacation.

It’s deep and covers three sides of the building – one more side and they’ll have a genuine, functioning, modern-day moat.

And I say “functioning” because we have had so much rain this summer that there has to be water in that thing.

I’m not sure if the dentist is worried about an army of gingivitis attacking his clinic or not, but he’s going to be prepared when this thing is done.

There are a couple of high-rise apartment buildings that are making serious progress. It’s interesting to see how high they’re getting, and changing the landscape.

Then there are two things I noticed that kind of surprised me. I wouldn’t consider them progress, but they open the door to new opportunities for progress.

One was a RV dealership that has been there for over 25 years, in a prominent spot. You always noticed the trailers in their lot.

On returning home, the place was deserted – no trailers. The building is completely vacant; they are gone.

Then there was an old style motel, probably dating back to the sixties, that closed a while ago. It took up a good chunk of land.

It’s now completely gone. There is not a scrap of evidence that there was a motel or anything on that land.

That was fascinating.

The only thing that didn’t change is the one thing I thought would have progressed: the reconstruction of a section of the mall where the Target store used to be.

You have to wonder if they found an ancient burial ground in the basement or something because the construction hasn’t changed in months.

Here’s the thing:  It is neat to see progress and change in the city, but what about you? Can you say you are progressing in your life, in your spiritual life? It’s easy to just coast along, and not make any headway in your relationship with Christ. Evaluate the last six months or year. Make sure you are doing something to keep your relationship with God progressing.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What can you do to ensure you are making progress in your spiritual life? Leave your comments below.

A Canada Look-Back, I Mean Ahead

On July 1 we celebrated all that has made Canada what it is today. This was our 150th birthday.

I’ve only shared 61 of those birthdays with the country, but just writing that puts it in perspective how young a country we live in.

I’m only 14 years shy of being half as old as Canada. Wow!

My grandmother – if she was still alive today – would have only been 17 years younger than our nation. Now that would be impressive! My grandmother passed away in 1983 at the age of 99.

It’s all nice to look back on your birthday, but I want to look ahead in this piece.

When I think of Canada’s 150th, it brings a few questions to my mind that I wonder about.

One question I have is, “Will the Toronto Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup in the next 150 years?”

It’s been 50 years since their last victory, but lately they seem to be making some moves in the right direction. I can wait a long time for it to happen, but I don’t have 150 years left in me.

I also wonder, “Will Donald Trump last 4 years in office, or will he even last the year?”

I get a CNN feed on my Apple Watch and 95% of the news that shows up is related to Donald Trump. I have never seen the news/entertainment industry so captivated with one person before.

Trump is like the Beatles were in the 60’s; no one could get enough of them.

As I watched TV and saw a protest on Parliament Hill, one question that came to mind was, “Will we ever come to a resolution with our Indigenous Peoples of Canada?”

The Prime Minister sat with the leaders in a teepee they had set up on the Parliament lawn. When he left, the Indigenous leaders were all encouraged and felt he had heard their heart. But a few hours later the protesters were trying to set up another teepee on the lawn.

I wonder if any real progress will be made on this issue in the next 150 years.

In light of global warming, my questions is, “Will the weathermen become more accurate in predicting rain and snow, or will the forecasts remain much the same – wrong about 50% of the time?”

Another question I have is, “With all the rights various groups have now, will we become cookie-cutter people, forced to think, talk and act like each other? … You know, shades of Orwell’s “1984”.

If that happens, it will cut down on the myriad of choices we have to make now. Things like fashion, interests, and food might not be all that exciting, but we won’t need an opinion; we will all share the same one.

Just think, when you need to buy a car, there would only be a few choices: Will that be a compact, mid-size or SUV?

I’m not convinced that what got us through the last 150 years will carry us on into the next. We are venturing into new territory.

Here’s the thing: We may have many questions about the future of our country and life in this great land of ours. We can’t foresee the answers to many of our questions, but there is an outcome that has already been determined. When Jesus died on the cross for mankind’s sins, He said He is coming back to take those who put their faith in Him to be with Him in heaven. That we can have confidence in. Make sure your faith is based in Christ because you can count on God to know the future.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What questions do you have about the next 150 years? Leave your comments below.

I’m Wondering If Winter Is Coming Soon

I think we are reverting back to winter in this part of the country.

We came through a very mild winter this year, with not much snow, and temperatures that made it easy on the joints.

After a winter like that, the expectation is that summer will come early and be really hot and dry.

Well, all my expectations have been blown apart by what we’ve recently been experiencing. There have been some promising days, but not enough strung together in a row.

At the end of April, we were at our cottage for a week and had a real mix of weather.

One day the temperature got up to 26 Celsius with a good dose of humidity. It really felt like a mid-summer day.

That evening, however, it cooled off and by the next day we were wearing coats and shivering at the sudden 20 degree drop in temperature.

Since then it has been cool and rainy almost every day.

Last Saturday morning after hockey, it was still raining. As we left the arena and walked to our cars, no one could believe the rain was still coming down.

I turned to one of the guys and said, “Take it easy; see you on the ark.”

I haven’t seen the sun for so long that I’m beginning to forget what it looks like. I think it used to be this big orange ball in the sky, but I could be wrong.

Someone reported that it snowed really early one morning this week.

I realize that, at any given time, it is snowing somewhere in the world. But that somewhere is not supposed to be Kingston, Ontario – especially in May!

The weather has been so bad this spring that I haven’t been on the mountain biking trails yet.

I got an email from my biking club this morning that read, “All trails closed until further notice, due to rain and erosion.”

This is killing me!

About a month ago I saw an ad for a competitive baseball league for those over 60. I haven’t played ball in a long time but I thought maybe I would give it a shot this year.

Well, the last three weeks they have cancelled the games because the field is too wet. I still haven’t met the other guys I’ll be playing with.

It seems like somehow we might have skipped through spring and summer and are heading directly into late fall.

The only evidence against that notion is that the leaves on the trees are starting to come out … but they are all curled up – I think they are in protest, refusing to open up until they see a little sun!

All I’m saying is we need a change in the weather. If something doesn’t change soon people from Vancouver will be moving back to Ontario because they can get the same amount of rain and overcast skies right here.

Here’s the thing: When things aren’t going well, or as you expected, it’s easy to get down, discouraged and question what might be wrong. That is exactly what the devil wants and promotes. He wants you focused on the negative and distracted from the truth of who God is and what He has done for you through Christ. To weather the storm, stand firm on your faith in spite of your feelings.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: How have you been weathering the storm? Leave your comments below.

Relationships Come And Go

When you think about it, many of our relationships are short-lived.

People come into our lives for a period of time and then they leave again.

Though there are some relationships that we will have for all our lives, or for good portions of our lives, an abundance of our acquaintances are short-lived.

These relationships may not be completely gone from our lives, but they become more of a memory than an active connection that we keep.

I recently thought of this because, as the chaplain for an OHL team, the players are around for a maximum of four years and then they vanish from our lives.

As a pastor, I have experienced this in a variety of ways. I’ve worked with other pastoral staff who came into my life and then after a time left. When I was a youth pastor, I had teens in my ministry for about seven years and then they would start to leave for higher education or work.

With the transient nature of our society, there are always people coming into my church and then moving on to other places.

They say a church needs to grow by about 10% a year just to stay even because about 10% will be moving on each year.

… There is something about an old relationship that stays with you even after you lose contact and that is the memories.

It’s memories that keep a past relationship current in a small way.

For instance, I have some really good friends from back in my high school days that I don’t see much any more – some I haven’t been in touch with for years.

But I still feel like I have a connection with them, and that link is my memories.

Unless our memories fail us, even when we no longer have contact, there is still some semblance of an intact relationship.

This past week I said goodbye to a few of the Kingston Frontenacs who will be moving on from OHL hockey, and it was a sad parting.

They will be moving on to new things in different places; I won’t see them on a weekly basis. They were in my life for a time and now they’re gone.

But there are memories that will create a bond so that if our paths cross again our relationship can pick up where it left off.

When you think about it, memories are so important to a relationship. The more significant memories you build, the more connected you will remain, no matter how far apart you are, or how infrequent you have contact.

On the one hand, relationship do come and go. People are part of your life for a time and then they are not. But because of memories, they never really leave.

I guess the thing we need to concentrate on more than anything else is to have significant experiences with the relationships we have now. Then when that contact is gone, our memories will serve to keep our relationship active.

Here’s the thing: We should focus on having significant experiences with the Lord so that in those times when we feel alone, forgotten, or far away, our memories will serve to remind us that our relationship with God is current.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What past relationships do you have that are still vivid because of the memories you have? Leave your comments below.

It’s Nearing BBQ Season And I’m Not Ready

It’s a little early in the year, but lately I’ve been thinking about my BBQ.

Maybe it’s because the hardware stores have pulled them out from winter storage and put them on display for all us meat lovers.

Around here, early April is not really BBQing season, but I have a problem with my barbecue and, if I don’t figure out a solution in the next few weeks, I will miss some of the season.

Our present BBQ is about 6 years old which, in BBQ years, is like 15. It seems that when we take the cover off it after a winter, it has aged at least 2 years.

Metal and harsh winter conditions don’t do well together so BBQs start rusting and deteriorating over time.

In essence, my 15 year old BBQ needs some help. … If it were a dog, I could take it to a veterinarian and pay for an operation to help give it a few more years. But it’s not so easy with a BBQ.

Every grill is a different size. Believe me, I’ve checked out every big box hardware store in my city, and I’ve done it more than once.

It’s impossible to find the size of grill you need for your BBQ. You can replace burners and heat shields because they come in universal sizes, but grills? – that’s a different story.

Actually, you can buy universal grills – I’ve tried them before on other BBQs that I’ve owned – but they’re all the same. They don’t work.

Every time you take a scraper to them they shift and fall down onto the burners. Even flipping burgers can cause these universal grills to move and drop off the supports.

We have a cast iron grill now which I think is the hardest to maintain. You have to season it with oil to keep it from rusting … continually … who has the time to do that?

I should really think about buying a new BBQ this year and be done with it. But it’s one of those 4 burner, all stainless steel models with a cabinet underneath. I just hate to have to toss out all that metal just because I can’t find a grill that will fit it.

What I would really like to get is a stainless steel grill that fits because I think it would be easier for me to maintain. But if there is a place that sells such a thing they are not advertising.

There’s a great business for someone to start: making grills for all sizes of BBQs. It would save the landfills, keep people from having to buy new BBQs every few years, and would prevent a whole lot of wastefulness.

Too bad there wasn’t an old BBQ junk lot somewhere, where you could buy cheap parts for aging BBQs … that’s just wishful thinking.

Here’s the thing: As much as I would like to keep my BBQ and just replace what is absolutely necessary, the reality is the whole thing has got to go. Spiritually the same is true when we come to Christ. You might think you can keep certain things in your old life and only replace a few parts, but the Bible says in Christ you are a new creation. You can’t hang on to those old parts that aren’t working properly because they can make you ineffective. Embrace the new nature, your new nature in Christ.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What are you hanging on to that you just need to replace? Leave your comments below.