How To Pay Attention To The Alarms Of Life

From time to time I will publish old blog posts. This is a repost of an article I posted back in November 2013

Alarms go off around us all the time. Some are not that noticeable, others are unmistakable.

The other day, Lily bought a new alarm clock. She wanted something a little more modern, a little smaller, a little more stylish. My question is, do you want the alarm clock to wake you up? If so, what the alarm sounds like is the first concern.

Lil’s new alarm does a couple of things to wake you up. It glows in changing colours when the alarm goes off. And believe me, the glow is pretty bright. It cycles through several colours.

You may wonder how I know this. Well, the other day, rather than getting up out of bed to read the Bible and do my devotions, I decided to do them in bed.

There I was sitting up in bed with my iPad, hoping the glow from it would not wake Lily. I shouldn’t have worried. When her alarm went off, I waited for her to click it off but nothing happened. She didn’t move, and for two minutes I watched the light change colour to green then amber then blue … etc.

There was an audible alarm that went off as well, but it wasn’t a loud noise. This alarm has sounds, and the sound Lil picked was a babbling brook. Other than the fact that I felt like I needed to go to the washroom, it was a very nice sound.

… It didn’t wake Lily, but it was soothing. This two minute routine happened three times over the next 20 minutes until I gently woke her up by saying, “You need a new alarm clock.”

She immediately thought it had not gone off. But I assured her it had gone off three times with her face basking in the glow of the alarm’s changing light each time.

It doesn’t matter how nice an alarm clock looks, or what kind of features it has, an alarm clock – to be worth anything – has to wake you up!  If it doesn’t, it’s no good.

Personally, my alarm has to be loud enough and annoying enough to wake me up. Over the years that’s not always been enough for me. I’ve had to put the alarm far from my reach so I had to almost get out of bed to shut it off.

I could never use the snooze button either or I’d keep hitting it for hours. I have to get right up. No music for me; I would enjoy it too much in my half woken daze and just stay in bed.

No, for me an alarm has to startle me, rattle me, make me jump … like the security alarm we have at work. When I’ve mistakenly set it off, it blasts so loud your heart jumps out of your body, your heart dings a bell in your head, and your pacemaker restarts itself. It’s frightening.

Lily either needs to turn up the sound on the babbling brook alarm clock so that it’s a crashing wave sound, or look for an alarm that will do what it’s supposed to do … wake her up.

Here’s the thing: God often uses alarms to get our attention. Sometimes the alarm doesn’t start out to be very loud and we don’t hear it. Then, when it becomes a little annoying, we are tempted to hit the snooze button. But don’t hit snooze; rather, listen intently to God’s alarms.  React to the alarm by getting up and following what the Lord wants you to do.

That’s Life!


Question: What kind of an alarm do you need to wake up to? Leave your comment below.

Resisting Temptation Is Proving Difficult Right Now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s Life!


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

Man, Was I Ever Set Up 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s Life!


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

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!


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

My Internet Issue Is Beyond Explanation

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

It’s been incredibly frustrating.

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

We couldn’t seem to keep our modem connected.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I thought maybe that was it; problem solved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s Life!


No Way Your Streets Are As Bumpy As Mine

The Beatles sang about the long and winding road; I’m singing about the long and bumpy roads … but my song is not a happy one, filled with cheer and merriment.

The song I sing is more of a dirge, like you might find being sung in a funeral procession down the streets of New Orleans.

At this time of year, I notice the conditions of the streets more. Now that fall has come, on a weekly basis I make my way down to the K-Rock Centre hockey arena. Getting there takes me down Queen Street, which arguably is the bumpiest road in Kingston.

But it’s not the only one.

I’m concerned as they put in new sewers and things to update the city’s infrastructure. They are digging up roads or portions of roads and then just patching them back up.

I don’t like the time and trouble it takes to pave these roads, especially when over the long-term, the only ones who seem to benefit are the mechanic shops in town.

When I drive down Queen Street I feel like I’m in downtown Toronto many years ago, with its cobblestone streets and trolley car rails.

You come away feeling much like a James Bond drink – shaken, not stirred.

I understand that you can’t repave all the roads at once, but this street has been a mess for as long as I can remember.

When we got our new vehicle last fall, I thought the ride down to the arena would be a lot smoother.

Our new car is bigger, the shocks are firmer, but it hasn’t seemed to matter at all. The road has us bouncing around like a carnival ride.

I now know what it’s like to live in a Hutterite community and take your vegetables to market. I don’t have to ride in one of their horse-drawn buggies; I just have to drive down Queen Street in Kingston and I get the full experience.

Maybe that’s what they should do … There are some turn-of-the-century historical homes and buildings along the route. The city could turn the street into a pioneer village tourist stop.

They could add big windows to the fronts of buildings and we could watch a woman in period costume stoke the fire in her kitchen, or watch as the children milk a cow by hand in the yard.

They could put a toll booth at the top of the street, and we could just throw change into big receptacles as we turn onto the street, as a charge to ride the bumpy road and see the village people do all their chores by hand.

It would give us all a fresh appreciation for the conveniences we have in 2017. It could be a real teaching moment for parents with their kids.

You wouldn’t even have to get out of your car. It would all be drive-by learning.

Oh, and what they could do with all the money they collect from this fabulous pioneer village ride is PAVE QUEEN STREET!

Here’s the thing: When we experience inconveniences in life, interruptions to the good life we live, we should remember the inconvenience God willingly took to come to earth as a man to rescue us from the path we are on – a path that would take us to a place we would never want to go if we knew what it was really like. Be thankful for what Christ has done, with a new appreciation for the inconvenience you are experiencing.

That’s Life!


Question: What inconvenience really has you exercised? Leave your comments below.

I’m Surprised Every Time I Remember It

If you’ve ever wished you could remember a person’s name or the list of things your spouse asked you to pick up, I’ve found a way to make that happen!

In my last

post (you can read it here), I discussed what I learned about memory from a book I read.

It involves using your long-term memory and your short-term memory to produce a mid-term memory you can use for something specific.

I have been using this method to remember my sermons over the past few months, and no longer feel as tied to my notes when I preach.

It’s like the difference between walking a dog with a fixed leash and walking a dog with an expandable leash.

With the fixed leash, the dog gets pulled back hard when he reaches the end. But on the other leash he can keep going a little farther away and the tug back isn’t as harsh.

Here’s how it all works:

You start with your long-term memory of something familiar. For example, I will use my knowledge of the rooms in my house. I know where all the pieces of furniture are; I don’t have to think about them. I can picture the rooms and know what’s in them.

Then I associate the parts of my sermon with the various pieces of furniture in a room. I use multiple rooms for the different points in my message.

For instance, a verse I want to use will be associated with perhaps a chair in my living room. If I’m telling an illustration or story next, I associate it with the next piece of furniture in that room.

I walk my way around the room in my mind, stopping at each piece of furniture for the next bit of my sermon.

The downside is that it takes a while to assign the different parts of my message to the furniture.

I do that by drawing a square on a piece of paper and then boxes for the various pieces of furniture. I then jot a few things down beside each little box and I review that sheet a few times.

The result for me is I am able to walk away from my notes for large portions of time. I know what’s coming next because I have this hook from my long-term memory.

It’s really worked for me. I’m amazed every week that by doing this, I can remember so much of my sermon.

I can’t explain how it works, it just does.

If you have a grocery list and use this method, you could leave the house without the list and remember what you needed to pick up.

In the book, they suggest you make some crazy, outlandish association with the list items and the object you are connecting it to.

But I have found that, for my purposes, it’s not necessary.

Now I just wish I could remember if I wrote about this memory method before.

Here’s the thing: Sometimes when we have sinned, we question whether God will forgive us. Remember that God’s love for you is locked into His long-term memory; you don’t have to think about that or even question it. He also promised that if we confess our sin, He will forgive us. Apply His long-term memory of love of you, with your short-term confession of sin, and it will produce confidence in your forgiveness.

That’s Life!


Question: How would an improved memory help you? Leave your comments below.

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 Just Finished Three Weeks Of Ribs

I thought it would take a week, but it’s taken three weeks for my ribs to feel better.

Usually when I get hurt, a week will do it and I’m back to normal – but not this time.

Three weeks ago I had a nasty fall off my bike and bruised some ribs (read here). I naturally thought I would be back on my bike in a week.

It’s taken a lot longer!

In that time I’ve slept mostly in another bed; in that time, I also had a short bout with a cold. But all the while I still managed to get a half hour of exercise in each day.

A couple of years ago we got a new mattress. Lily preferred an extra firm one, whereas I liked one that had some cushion to it. … It turns out that a firm bed isn’t so great when your ribs are sore.

I ended up spending a few nights on the couch because it was so much softer. Then I moved to our spare bedroom. That bed has a memory foam topper, which used to reside on our old mattress.

Wow, I’d forgotten how nice it was to sleep on that thing! Even with wrecked ribs, it was so nice to sink into it again.

… I think I stayed there an extra night before I moved back to our bed.

The cold I got was unappreciated, and it came courteous of Lily. She had picked up a cold about a week into my rib ordeal and hacked all the way home from our cottage – that’s five hours of recirculating germs flying around the car while I was trapped inside.

How could I not catch something?

But man, did I ever pay for it! With every cough I needed to hold onto my ribs for stability.

And sneezing – that was the worst. It felt like my heart was on fire, and the burning in my chest resonated for about ten seconds after each sneeze.

It was a good thing that cold was short-lived.

The only setback I had – other than sleeping in my own bed the first couple of nights – was one exercise session.

I found that riding my stationary bike didn’t really hurt my sore ribs. It’s mostly a leg workout and I could always bike hands-free when I felt some pain from stretching out to hold on to the handlebars.

It was the treadmill that was the killer. I got back on it way too soon. I started slowly and at first it wasn’t too bad. But by the end, I was holding my ribs because they felt like they were bouncing around inside me – not good.

… That’s all in the past now. It’s been three weeks to the day and I’m not only pain free walking on the treadmill (even jogging), but I just pulled off ten minutes on the rowing machine.

Today, I’m going back to the trails and hopefully I’ll stay on my bike this time.

Here’s the thing:  For many of us, staying consistent at something is not easy. There are all kinds of things that can disrupt even the best routine. When our routine of spending time with God is interrupted, we can get discouraged, frustrated to the point of giving up. Don’t give in to defeat; don’t dwell on the interruption, whatever the cause. Get back to your time with God; with Him you can pick up again like it was yesterday.

That’s Life!


Question: What unexpected thing has interrupted a routine you need to get back to? Leave your comments below.

I Need Those Batteries Now

These days you can’t go very long without needing a bunch of batteries to replace ones that have worn out.

There is a clock in the sanctuary of my church that reads 5:05. That’s not the current time; it’s been showing that time for a week now.

It needs a new battery.

I wear a mic when I preach and every week I take out the batteries and charge them so they are ready to go for the next week.

I’ve been noticing that even rechargeable batteries can’t be recharged forever.

What would we do without being able to quickly pop in a new set of batteries to run our clocks, lights, mics, vacuums, you name it – even our drones?

Especially drones!

I have two drones and the batteries in them don’t last very long.

The battery in my little drone only lasts about seven minutes and the one in the bigger drone only lasts about ten.

I don’t get much flying time before I need to replace them.

The problem is they don’t take standard AA batteries. They have their own shape and connections so you can’t just go to the store and buy new ones.

You usually have to order them online and they generally come from China which takes a long time. … Replacement batteries for my little drone arrived the other day and I’d been waiting for them for two months!

I think it’s China’s secret way of crippling the west. If they just hold out on the batteries,  we in North America will be at their mercy.

Forget weapons and armies, they’ve got our batteries!

And the batteries for these drones are a step backward in technology. You don’t want to overcharge them; that will damage them.

You don’t want to recharge them if they still have some charge left in them either. They have a memory, so they will only remember to charge for the shorter amount of time.

And you don’t want to let the battery run down too low because, if it does, it won’t take a charge at all.

My brother found that out the hard way; that’s why he has two batteries on order right now.

We need batteries to be more reliable and to last longer. They can figure out how to get a car to run on batteries for an hour; we need someone with that kind of know-how to make our drone batteries last that long.

The keyboard I write this blog on needs a battery to power it. I’ve had it for over a year now and I still haven’t had to change the battery … That’s the kind of battery life I’m talking about.

And while they’re at it creating a better battery, they should make sure we can just leave it sitting around for a month or two without fear of it draining all on its own.

After all, it’s not like the energy produced by Niagara Falls, where we have to use it right after it’s produced.

Here’s the thing: This week I was reminded that a Christian has everything we need in us for life and godliness – that everything is the Holy Spirit. He never runs out, never has to be recharged. We just have to use Him and work with Him to produce in us the character qualities that God wants to see in us.

That’s Life!


Question: What do you need recharged right now? Leave your comments below.