I’m Finding I’m Having A Challenge With Change

I will be doing something this week I don’t like to do: change.

There are some things I like to change, and others I have no problem changing, but there are some things I will avoid changing at all costs.

Change is a curious thing. I have an Apple Watch with several very different bands. I like that; I like to be able to change my watch strap.

In fact, before I got my Apple Watch, I had a collection of watches in all shapes and sizes because I like to change them up.

I’m not sure I would have been all that excited about moving to a new watch if I couldn’t do something to change the look at least a little bit.

But when it comes to other things, like changing my email address, well, that’s a whole other matter.

I’ve had the same email address for 22 years, and been with the same internet company all that time.

But things are going to change here this week. We got a new internet service and TV package.

I really struggled to make the change because I didn’t want the hassle of informing everyone that they have to stop using my old email address and change to a new one.

The crazy thing is I don’t mind doing it for other people. I get those email messages that inform me that so-and-so’s email has now changed so please update my contact list.

I do it; I don’t have a problem with it, and it works fine.

But just thinking about changing mine, well, it creates a stress that is not rational but real.

It doesn’t make any sense, but I really don’t like the thought of changing it. I’m sure no one will be devastated that they can’t contact me if they forget to make the change in their address book … and possibly I could lose some contacts that are more like spam anyway.

That wouldn’t be so bad.

I just don’t like the thought of all that I have to do to make this change … even though I actually don’t have to do all that much.

But the thought of doing it seems a bit too much. It’s disruptive; it’s changing something that has been the same for a very long time.

It’s like changing out old hockey equipment. I hang on to the same equipment until I am forced to make the change.

Years ago I had a pair of long johns I would wear under my equipment. I had the same pair for so long that they had holes all over them.

I actually sewed them together, so that I could keep wearing them – that’s how crazy my aversion to change is!

With my email address change, the price tag was what eventually forced my hand.

We could save close to $50 per month by making this bundle change.

I just couldn’t justify my old email address being worth that much money.

And you know, just talking this all out right now has made the change seem a little more doable.

Here’s the thing: Sometimes we can get stuck in a sin because we have a hard time with change. Sometimes we have a hard time moving forward in our relationship with God because it will mean change. Be careful that an irrational aversion to change doesn’t keep you from dealing with sin and moving closer to God.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What is something that God might be asking you to change? Leave your comments below.

How to Win An Argument With Yourself

If you’ve ever tried to win an argument, you know how hard it is to change your mind.

In my last post (read here) I wrote how real change only comes when you change your mind, and not when you just do something different.

Doing something different can bring temporary change, but not long-lasting change. For the long haul you need to change your mind.

I remember I once changed a teacher’s mind. In my high school geography class we were studying Israel and who had a right to the land – the Jews or the Arabs. It was a hot issue because, at the time, it looked like Egypt and Israel would go to war.

Our teacher set up a debate for our class to decide who had the rights to the land, with one side defending the Jews and the other the Arabs.

I got thrown on Israel’s side and, since I was probably the only kid who went to church, I had some background to Jewish history.

By the end, my side had won and my teacher was really impressed that we had changed her mind with our arguments.

Changing your mind takes work; it doesn’t come easy.

If changing our minds was easy, we wouldn’t do the same things over and over again, expecting a different result.

Changing your mind is like a skill, and to develop any skill you need to work at it; you need to practice.

Years ago I learned the skill of playing the guitar. The only problem was I didn’t practice it enough. Though I play the guitar, I don’t play it very well – that would require me to practice way more than I do and, over the years, I’ve proved that I don’t have the desire to practice enough to become good at it.

Changing your mind requires that you put new or different information in your head, and then use it or practice it over and over.

It’s similar to having a favourite picture frame filled with an ugly picture. You won’t be happy with the frame until you change the picture in it.

In my office I have a picture I had taken of me with a famous hockey player. I also got his autograph to “Pastor Paul” on a separate card.

They sat on my desk for a while before I did anything with them. They were of no benefit to me until I got a nice picture frame, removed the sample picture that came with it, and replaced it with the picture of Darrell Sittler and his autograph.

It looked great; it was just what I wanted. But it took another week until Lily found the right place to hang it on my office wall so I could enjoy it.

To change your mind, you have to want to change, and then you need to put new information in your mind and use it.

Here’s the thing: If you are struggling with a sin, a habit, or a character issue and you want to overcome it, change it. Then find a verse that speaks to that issue and memorize it. Work that verse into your mind by saying it every day, and every time you fail at the change you want to make. Over time you will change your mind with that verse. It will help you to change your character so that you will not be plagued by that sin, habit or issue any more.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: When you think of something you would like changed, what verse comes to mind?  Leave your comments below.

I Never Wanted To Change My Mind

I always thought that changing your mind was a flaky thing to do, that someone who changes his or her mind can’t really be counted on.

But I’ve changed my mind on that one. … Please don’t consider me flaky now; let me explain.

The Bible tells us that God never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and forever; He’s not going to change His mind. He is all-knowing and all-powerful so He can remain unchanged.

For the rest of us, we have to change our minds. If we don’t, we never will progress; we will never get out of our ruts. We will never make any breakthroughs.

In order for you to do something different, it will mean you have to change your mind.

We can try to change things by focusing on developing new skills or processes. We can try to make ourselves follow a certain set of rules or regiments.

But unless we change our minds, we will not be successful in the long run.

People go on diets or they hit the gym, bound and determined that they will lose weight or get into shape by doing certain things and eating certain things (or not eating certain things).

But most of those people, who start out with these great intentions, go back to their old ways of eating and their old ways of living on their couches.

The reason? – they never changed their minds.

They changed their habits for a while, or their activities or their intake for a time. But only a change of mind will activate their actions into something that will stick with them for the long haul.

Everything starts in the mind, not with your actions. When you change your mind, you can then change your actions.

Forget the diet until you change your mind about how healthy you want to be and feel.

Don’t go to the gym until you change your mind about being fit.

And by the way, changing your mind is not that easy.

It’s not just a matter of telling yourself something new. You have to believe that the change of mind is a worthy change, that it is a wanted change, that you are fully convinced that you have to make this change.

Often a change of mind comes when you reach the point when you are so unsatisfied that you have to do something.

It’s that Popeye principle. You know, when Popeye would be beaten to a pulp by Brutus, when he had no hope, no escape and no strength.

Just before he popped a can of spinach out of his shirt pocket and squeezed it into his mouth (where he got the strength to do that is another story), Popeye would say, “I can’t stands it; I can’t stands it no more!”

That’s it, right there – that’s when we get to the place where we are ready to change our minds.

Before that point, we probably will just be trying a new activity, fad or process.

to be continued.

Here’s the thing: We like our minds just the way they are. Only when we are not satisfied, not wanting the same, are we ready to change our minds. That’s why, when it comes to our faith, there is usually something making us uncomfortable. Don’t ignore it until it goes away; grapple with it, wrestle with it. It may be God trying to get you to change your mind.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What has got you unsettled, unsatisfied that you may be inclined to change your mind? Leave your comments below.

Another Failed Movie Night

We failed last night in our attempts to choose a movie to watch. You would think this is a simple thing, but it is never easy for my wife and me.

There are literally thousands of movies at our fingertips every time we attempt to choose a movie to watch, but still we can’t decide.

There is Netflix, iTunes, movies on TV and even the theatre if we want something brand new.

That doesn’t make it easier.

I don’t think there has ever been a time in our marriage where we both said, “Let’s see THIS movie.”

I don’t mean saying it at the exact same time, like a “punch buggy” thing; I mean both having the idea to watch the same movie.

We are diametrically opposed to each other when it comes to movies.

I like action adventure; Lily likes romance, and romantic comedy.

Do you know how few romantic action adventure movies there are? Someone could make a killing if they could produce more of these kinds of movies!

But having said all that, for Lily the action part really detracts from the thing she likes most in romantic movies.

I think the issue is how we approach movies in the first place.

I view movies more as an outside observer. My approach is more like I’m doing a ride along with the main character. I’m there with him, and I observe all the narrow escapes and harrowing feats, the bullets, explosions, yada, yada yada … but it’s not happening to me.

Lily, on the other hand, watches movies more like she’s in them.

There’s a new movie in the theatres right now called, “Jumanji”. I haven’t seen it yet because it’s an action adventure. From what I’ve seen in the trailers, the main characters get sucked into a video game and actually become the characters in the video game.

That’s how Lily watches movies. So when she’s watching some romantic movie with a particularly sensitive scene where the guy is saying something very touching to the girl of his dreams, when I chime in with some funny comment or mimic the line in a whiny voice, I’m not just mocking the movie, I’m actually mocking Lily.

She acts as if I’m saying that stuff to her and not the character in the movie … I think.

That’s why when she watches an action adventure movie, every explosion, every punch, she’s taking it on the chin.

When those movies are over, she’s tired because it’s like she just climbed up the side of a mountain, or parachuted behind enemy lines, or had to fight off some 7 foot, 350 pound guy.

That kind of thing can really drain you.

The other day I snuck up on her in the kitchen, and it scared her half to death. She said she lost three years off her life.

I hope those were just movie years and not real life years … although to her it’s all the same.

Here’s the thing: I don’t always understand how my wife thinks, or why she reacts in certain ways, but I do know that she loves me very much. The same is true with God. You may not understand why He answered your prayer that way, or didn’t seem to answer it at all. You may not understand why He allows some things to happen or unfold as they do. But one thing you can be certain of is that He loves you more than anything else. That is why He sent Jesus, His Son, to die in your place for the things you’ve done wrong. Be sure you’ve received His love by accepting His Son.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: How do you handle not understanding someone? Leave your comments below.

Don’t Be Deceived By The Sun

Hey people, let’s not deceive ourselves – it’s brutally cold out there!

My wife, Lily, opened the blinds this morning and was very cheery. “Ah, the sun is shining”, she said, as if that made everything alright.

She made her comment like she was ready to take a magazine out to the deck and catch some rays as she relaxed in a lawn chair.

“It’s minus 22 Celsius out there”, I said.

Lily’s rebuttal was that it reminded her of Edmonton winters where the sun was the consolation for surviving weeks on end of needing a balaclava when you stepped outside the front door of your home.

She went as far as saying she would rather have -20 C and sunny than -4 C and dreary.

Give me the dreary! If we have to go another week with these temperatures, I’ll be done with winter big time!

I’m not sure why Lily has been so hypnotized by the sun’s power, or it could have nothing to do with the sun at all.

It may have more to do with the old coat she rediscovered last night.

We went out for dinner and Lily decided to wear a fur coat – that’s right, it’s fur, and it’s probably seal too.

But don’t get too upset at her owning a fur coat. It’s a hand-me-down from my grandmother. I figure that coat is probably between 70 and 90 years old.

When I was just a kid, I remember my grandmother wearing it to church when she came to visit us on weekends. My brother, John, and I made sure we sat on either side of her during church.

Besides the little purple candies she would give us, it was really sitting beside that coat of hers that was the treat. It was, and still is, the softest coat you will ever touch. It’s unbelievable. We would snuggle right up to her just to feel that fur.

You can’t stop touching it.

But I digress. Maybe the reason Lily doesn’t mind the cold is that this coat is the warmest coat she’s ever put on. She didn’t care how long it took us to walk from the car to the restaurant; she was toasty.

… I, on the other hand, was freezing and couldn’t wait to get inside.

Maybe she thinks she is impervious to the cold with this coat, I don’t know.

All I’m saying is let’s not be deceived or brainwashed by the sunny days, thinking that it’s okay that we are living in temperatures that would make a polar bear want to travel south for a vacation.

We weren’t planning on taking a winter vacation but now I’m entertaining the idea … and the longer this cold snap – sun and all – stays with us, the more the price of the trip doesn’t matter to me.

Let’s just all agree on one thing: it is crazy cold out there, and there is nothing good about it.

Here’s the thing: Sometimes we can get fixated on one thing so that something else doesn’t seem to be that bad. Maybe you struggle with a certain sin but, instead of dealing with it, you look to something good you are doing as if that cancels out the sin. To God, sin is missing the mark and, no matter how close to the mark you are in another area, you’re still missing the mark. Deal with the sin in front of you. Don’t mask it, justify it, or ignore it; just confess it and turn from it.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What do you need to deal with? Leave your comments below.

I Propose We Make An Adjustment To Christmas

I’ve been doing a bit of a review of Christmas and I think we need to make an adjustment going forward.

This, of course, is coming from a guy who only works one day a week and on the same day every week … they call us pastors.

No.

I don’t really only work one day a week, but I’ve had many conversations with people over the years who think I only punch the clock on Sundays.

But like that same, one day I work each week, I think that we should celebrate Christmas on the same day of the week every year.

You know, they do that with the Super Bowl and with Thanksgiving and, well, there are many holidays we celebrate on a certain day of the week.

It’s birthdays we don’t celebrate on any particular day of the week, but on whichever day they land on.

… I guess I see the point of Christmas falling on different days of the week. After all, we are celebrating the birthday of Christ.

But the thing is we don’t really know what day he was born on so the actual day is not as significant as, say, what day June 16th falls on. That’s my birthday, by the way.

And here is my big appeal, my proposal for when we celebrate Christmas: let’s set Christmas Day as being the Monday on or following December 25th.

So what if some years Christmas would fall on New Year’s Eve – like next year? That’s even better – we’d get two holidays in a row!

Sure, some people who normally get the week off between Christmas and New Year’s would get ripped off a little. … Maybe they could just give everyone the week off following Christmas/New Year’s.

I’m just proposing this because a Monday Christmas would work so much better into a pastor’s schedule.

And who’s the busy guy around Christmas anyway?

No, not Santa – a pastor!

This Christmas has been the easiest on my life in years. And I have to wait for 2023 until this same scenario comes around again.

This year there was thankfully no Christmas Eve Service on a Wednesday, leaving me just two days to get a sermon ready while trying to enjoy my family being around.

Yes, there are things we pastors do to prepare for those kinds of years, but it definitely puts more pressure on us.

We don’t get to relax and fully immerse ourselves in family, fun and food … well, maybe we do get to fully engage in the food part.

The bottom line is that having Christmas on a Monday gives me the most time to be prepare for the next Sunday. It gives me more wiggle room to be all in for both Christmas celebrating and Christmas work.

Something tells me that this is only a pipe-dream of mine and that we are not going to set a specific day of the week to celebrate Christmas on.

I guess I’ll just have to keep preparing for Christmas like always and look forward to six years from now when I’ll get to enjoy Christmas like I did this year.

Here’s the thing: We can enjoy the Christmas holiday; we can also busy ourselves so that it’s not so enjoyable. The most important thing is that we celebrate and worship Christ all year long, every day. There should be no set day for that. Make every day the day you spend time with God, and thank Him for sending Jesus.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What did you like best about this Christmas? Leave your comments below.

My Neighbours Are Dropping Like Flies

I feel abandoned by my neighbours; it seems like we are the only ones remaining strong.

… What I’m referring to is the number of neighbours who are leaving our street … not in a permanent way, just for a vacation.

We live on a small street of only ten houses – it’s actually a cul-de-sac – but three of our neighbours are going to warmer climates just as the cold and snow have hit us.

Christmas Day saw the most snowfall I can remember in this area. Though we were not going anywhere, I knew it was going to mean me having to leave lounging with my family to go and shovel the driveway and the back deck.

We had company coming for dinner and there was no way they could plow through all the snow that got dumped on us during the night.

… I’m even surprised Santa came through with the gifts. It must have been a tough night even with Rudolph leading the team.

Just before I got to stirring myself from my one-day hibernation, I heard a noise outside our door.

It was my neighbour with his snowblower. He plowed the driveway and our walk.

What a Christmas gift!

I shot him a thank you email a little later and his response was, “You’re welcome and we are leaving for southern climates for a couple of months.”

I went out to shovel our deck and clear more drifts from the driveway, and saw another neighbour doing the same. He yelled over Christmas greetings and promptly told me he was going to leave us with the cold and snow for some tropical weather the next day.

We’d already said goodbye to one family who are visiting their native land, where they don’t know what a fall jacket looks like, let alone a full-blown winter coat.

And I’m pretty sure there is yet one more snowbird who is flexing her wings to leave our white winter wonderland.

It’s not usually that bad when people go south. But when they gang up on you and leave when the temperature drops and the snow piles are as tall as your wife, it can be a little discouraging.

It’s not that I interact with my neighbours a lot during the dark part of the year, but even seeing those tail lights going into their garage, or giving a wave while we wipe the snow from our cars, is comforting, like we’re in this together.

I don’t feel that way right now. I feel a little abandoned, like I’ve been left to hold down the fort while others get to enjoy all the perks that come with sun, warmth and beach.

I know they will be back, and I know the present conditions will ease up a little. Some of this snow will melt and we will have some warmish days (that’s Canadian speak right there).

But for right now, looking out my window at all that snow, and the bags being loaded into vehicles, I think it would be nice to trade in a couple of presents for a temporary relocation.

Here’s the thing: There are times in life that we can feel abandoned, alone, like everyone else has taken off and we are by ourselves. At times like that, we need to connect with the Lord because He never leaves us. He is with us, strengthens us and upholds us. There is no need to fear or be dismayed (Isaiah 41:10).

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: Where would you like to be right now and with whom? Leave your comments below.

I’m All Prepared For Christmas

This time of year is all about being prepared. Christmas has a deadline that seems to sneak up on most of us every year.

There have been years, like this one, where I have been prepared for Christmas. Coming down to the last few days, I’m not panicked about still finding that one main gift for Lily.

But this year may be more of an exception for me. I don’t remember feeling this ready for Christmas very often.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those people who has my shopping done by mid-September. But this year, I bought Lily’s main gift in early November.

That might not be early for some people, but for me that’s like buying Christmas presents in July – it was a very early purchase.

And I wrapped things up a full five days before the big day. For me that’s so liberating because other things are also pressing on me.

One thing I was not prepared for this week was my board meeting. I had all the reports and data ready for the meeting but it was the presentation, the flow of the meeting that I was not prepared for.

I thought I had scheduled enough time to put some thought into how long to spend on each section and item, and how to present one new thing I wanted to start with the board.

But I ran into a few unexpected and unplanned encounters and I was late. I was only prepared on paper and not completely prepared to lead that meeting.

As for how the meeting went, let’s just say I didn’t sleep very well that night and I was still kicking myself the next day.

The funny thing about being prepared for Christmas is that we know when it is every year. It comes as no surprise.

The stores advertise well and offer bargains before Christmas to get you to come in and buy your presents.

We’re also becoming programmed by the US to start thinking about Christmas shopping at the end of November. Canadian stores even offer Black Friday sales the same weekend they do in the States … and we don’t even have a holiday then!

There really is no reason not to be prepared for Christmas every year. Yet if we procrastinate, and finish just at the deadline, we probably won’t change. It will become our pattern and we’ll run the risk of not being prepared for Christmas year after year.

Here’s the thing:  Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of Christ, His coming into the world. It may feel like a deadline, but it’s really a beginning – a beginning that leads to a deadline. Christ came into the world so that we could be prepared for the end of our time here. He did all the work for us by dying on the cross for our sin and rising to bring us a relationship with His Father. Our deadline is what we need to be prepared for and to not put off; we never know what tomorrow will bring. It’s the most important deadline there is for each of us. Be prepared; be prepared well in advance.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What’s the deadline that has you stressed right now? Leave your comments below.

I’m Not Becoming Perfect From My Practice

I realized something about myself the other day: practice doesn’t alway make perfect.

You know the saying. It’s often used to get people to work at something until they improve. I think there are a lot of things this applies to in life, but writing is not one of them – at least not for me.

When I work on my sermon, sometimes I will stand up and work on a white board in my office. I will walk around, pacing back and forth while I think, and then jot things down with my erasable marker.

I’ve been doing this for a while now, but it dawned on me that I’m not getting any better at it. I mean my writing is not any neater or easier to read than it was when I started this method.

If practice makes perfect, why am I not writing perfect “A’s” or “S’s”? My letters still slide into and up against each other. Sometimes I don’t close them off; sometimes I don’t even make a good attempt at forming the letters at all.

It sometimes makes for difficulty reading, though my wife, Lily, and I are pretty used to it and can figure my writing out with only a little frustration at times.

I know there is another saying that someone came up with … probably someone like me who ran into the contradiction with their own handwriting. That person said, “Perfect practice makes perfect.”

I don’t like that phrase very much because the whole idea of practicing is that we aren’t perfect yet. Maybe “proper practice makes perfect” is a better saying.

I can live with that one because clearly I don’t practice my writing properly.

But you know, I’ve found many things in life that also don’t stand up to this nice little slogan. For instance, I’ve been playing the guitar for years, but I’m not significantly better than I was ten years ago.

I also don’t practice very much, but that’s because I don’t see much progress or perfection taking shape when I do practice.

There are some people who practice driving and they don’t get better either. I know because I find myself driving behind them and beside them on the roads all the time!

If the saying, “practice makes perfect” doesn’t really work, my question is, “Should we keep doing things that we aren’t getting perfect at?”

Should I stop trying to play the guitar? … For sure some people should stop driving and leave that task to someone else! But there are some things that if we don’t become perfect at, well, it’s okay. We can get by; we don’t need to be perfect at them.

Writing for me is one of those things. When I see someone with neat handwriting I get a little jealous. But at the end of the day, I will live with the mess I create on my white board.

I will continue to decipher it when I review what I’ve written, and I will just be satisfied that I’m not perfect.

Here’s the thing: God isn’t waiting for us to be perfect; He takes us as we are and then He works on us. He doesn’t quit on us when we fail to make significant progress towards perfection, but He keeps encouraging us on, in spite of our imperfection and failed attempts. Your relationship with God is not one you should quit working on. Accept your deficiencies and keep working at them. One day in heaven you will be perfect.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What have you been working on that’s frustrating you? Leave your comments below.

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.