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.

I Had To Do A Double Take Of The Hardware Store Ad

It’s becoming apparent that hardware stores need another season.

In athletics there are seasons for different sports, and sporting goods stores sell products related to the time of year a particular sport is in season.

Grocery stores sell food in season. With refrigeration it’s not as evident, but foods that are out of season in a region are more expensive, causing us to not buy them as often.

I eat grapefruit every morning but there is a time of year that one of my regular stores doesn’t sell them. And in other stores, the quality is often so poor that I tend not to purchase them.

You would think then it would be easy for hardware stores to find things to sell in season without running into other seasons. But this week I opened up some flyers and couldn’t believe what my local Lowes, Rona, and Home Depot were selling.

They were selling BBQs ahead of snowblowers!

They had big spreads of patio and deck furniture. They were featuring planters, shade umbrellas and artificial grass.

I can understand the grass because you could lay it down on top of the snow, and then place your new deck furniture on it.

It would be chilling out there but, if you had a gas fireplace on the deck, who knows? The wind might blow the flame and heat your way, keeping your core body temperature warm while your toes, hands and ears all broke off with frostbite!

You realize it’s February, and it’s Canada I’m living in – what in the world are these stores thinking of when they put out ads like this?

It’s clear they need another season of goods to sell.

There’s a Scotia Bank commercial here that talks about Canada having a 5th season, that season being hockey that runs all year long.

But really the hardware stores need a 5th season too. Even if the advertising got me ramped up to purchase some lawn furniture in February, do I really want to buy it only to have to find some place to store it for another two to three months?

I don’t think so.

What families are going to start parking their cars on the driveway instead of in the garage, scraping off the ice and snow, getting into freezing cold vehicles every day, just so they have somewhere to put their new deck loungers that they won’t be able to use until mid-May?

I’m all for having the stores change their focus leading into the next season, but this is ridiculous.

Maybe they should be selling little ice huts for BBQs. These huts could be like ice fishing huts, but instead of bringing out the auger, you place the BBQ in the center of it and sit around it, keeping warm while the steaks sear, telling stories of the big steer that got away.

I might get interested … but only when I can see some grass poking through the snow.

Here’s the thing: There are many things that want to take your attention away from the present, to sort of paint a preferred mini future for you. But there already is a preferred future that has been painted for us by God. It is life with Him through Christ, His Son. Don’t get sidetracked by the little things that glimmer for a while. Keep focussed on the future God promises.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What things distract you from your preferred future? Leave your comments below.

It Was Beauty And Treachery All At The Same Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But there was treachery that went along with it.

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

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

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

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

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

That’s Life!

Paul

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

By The First Appearance I Was Disappointed

Appearances can be deceiving – we’ve all heard this before.

But don’t you find it just as surprising every time you come across it? … like when you’re in a dark room and you see a shadow of something. You can’t quite make it out for sure, but you start to convince yourself of what it might be.

But when you turn on the lights, you discover, for instance, that what you thought was a large, ceramic frog, was really just a small, crumpled up Kleenex.

There are times – this was especially true in the late sixties and seventies – we are deceived by long, flowing hair, finding that what we thought was a woman was really a man.

A major news item this week surrounded a serial killer that was arrested in Toronto. Interviews with neighbours revealed that they had no idea that he would do such things.

Appearances can be deceiving.

This weekend my extended family on Lily’s side rented a cottage for the 16 of us. We needed more than your average cottage for a group our size, but we found one.

Now, when I say “cottage” you might be thinking of a rustic cabin in the woods, somewhere in the middle of nowhere.

Well, the middle of nowhere is a correct picture of where we were, but not the rustic cabin part.

This place was fully equipped to keep us all warm in the middle of winter, with its below freezing temperatures and added wind chill factors.

… You know it’s cold when the weather man brings up the wind chill … and they are always so pleasant in presenting it too.

They give you the good news first: “The high today will be minus 9 degrees celsius.”

But then they hit you hard with the bad news: “But with the wind chill it will feel like it’s minus 27.”

And then they add something like, “Good luck staying warm.”

All that to say, this place we rented was climate-controlled throughout the place.

But the deceiving part – right, that’s what I’m writing about – was the cottage at first sight.

When we drove up to the place, all I could see was a two car garage that didn’t look all that special.

In fact, I think my two car garage at home looked a little bigger than this one.

But then again, it was a cottage.

We got out and walked around the side of the garage and down some steps to find the main entrance at the side.

When we stepped into the cottage my jaw dropped. There was a long foyer which opened up into a massive great room.

The ceiling was 20 feet high; there were rooms off of rooms. The kitchen had an island so long you had to yell to the person at the other end.

The place had beds for 14, and so much room my mother-in-law kept asking where everyone was.

Okay, so the reason for the deception? The cottage was build on the side of a hill. You could only see the garage from the driveway because the rest of the cottage/mansion extended down the hill.

Here’s the thing: We can maintain an appearance for others to see that will give the impression that we are godly. But God is not fooled by appearances; He knows exactly the state of relationship you have with Him. Be sure what you are giving God is not just an impression, and that you are beyond making a good appearance.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: When have you made an appearance that was deceiving? Leave your comments below.

This Was A New First For My Family

I just experienced a family first this past weekend, the first time my family has done this particular thing.

When a family is young, there are a lot of firsts that happen … and they happen all the time. Everything is like a first time.

I remember the first time we went to the store as a family.

… About a week earlier, Lily and I had decided to go shopping. It was May, so I grabbed the keys, we hopped in the car and, in no time, were walking around West Edmonton Mall.

Well, to be fair, I walked and Lily waddled.

A week later, with our first-born Karlie with us, our quick decision to go shopping was not so quick.

I was ready to grab the keys and go, but Karlie needed to be fed. That took a little time.

Then she needed to be changed … and then she really needed a nap.

By the time we were ready to go shopping, I didn’t want to go any more. I was tired and needed a nap, and all I did was watch all this happen around me!

It seems like first times are a regular occurrence when you are starting out.

But when you’ve been married 32 years, your kids are in their mid to late 20’s, there’s not many firsts to experience any more.

We’ve done them all.

But every once in a while something new happens – like this past weekend.

Mike had won two tickets to a Toronto Raptors’ game (you can read about that here), and was taking me to the game.

Lily got the idea that she would come to Toronto with me so she could meet up with our daughter, Karlie, for some dinner and shopping downtown.

It was a great plan, but then it got even better. Mike suggested that Lily and I stay overnight at his apartment in Burlington.

But with the four of us together in the general vicinity, it seemed like a great plan for all of us to spend the night at Mike’s.

So that’s what we did.

Lily and I picked up Karlie on our way downtown, and then Lily and Karlie dropped me off to meet Mike.

After the game we all met up and drove out to Burlington. And for the first time ever we stayed as a family at one of the kids’ homes.

Now though this was a first, I’m not calling it an official first for one major reason: the youngest got to sleep in his bedroom on his bed, but the rest of us had to rough it in the living room. Lily and I were on a blow-up mattress, and Karlie got the couch.

I’m reserving the official first time we all sleep at one of the kids’ homes for when we all get beds and a bedroom!

But this was a very good warm-up to that.

We had a great time doing breakfast together the next morning and hanging out. The only downside: someone has to figure out how to get warm air into the blow-up mattress.

… The mattress experience left Lily and I a little chilled.

Here’s the thing: If you ever get to the place where your relationship with God seems like it’s in a rut, like there is nothing new, like it’s the same old routine, same old prayers, then go for a first. Change things up in the way you meet with Him, or where, or how. Change how you converse with Him; add something new to your relationship. You may just need another first.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What is a new first you could explore? Leave your comments below.

I Went To A Show – I Mean A Basketball Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s quite a show.

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

That’s Life!

Paul

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

How 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 Just Had A Date With Frustration

I’m a little frustrated right now – actually, I’ve been frustrated most of the day.

In the morning I was cutting it fine getting to work for an early meeting, only to find myself driving behind the slow guy who drove just fast enough to keep me from getting around him.

At noon I had a short turn-around to get my lunch and rush back to work for another meeting. I got stuck behind the lady who didn’t like moving into the intersection for a left-hand turn until there were no cars in sight.

We had to wait for a whole new light cycle until we got an advance green light. Only then did she finally feel she could get through the intersection, allowing me to go through as well.

Later in the afternoon I had a couple of drop-ins at the office that put me behind in a project I was working on.

… I was beginning to feel like I had a companion with me and its name was frustration.

On the way home from work, traffic was heavy and every time I changed lanes to get into the lane that was moving faster, it became the slow lane almost immediately.

More frustration.

It was almost like frustration was following me around, and sitting next to me with everything I did.

After I got home from an evening meeting, I watched the third period of the Leafs’ hockey game on TV.

It was the one part of the day where I felt that frustration had left my side; it had gone to interfere with someone else’s life – the Leafs were up 2-0.

However, shortly after the third period got underway, the Flyers scored. I quickly realized that, at best, frustration had only momentarily left me … like it went out to the kitchen to get a drink or snack of some kind.

I could feel my frustration build with each play or broken play the Leafs left on the ice.

Frustration – my new found best friend – was sitting so close I could feel it on my neck.  There was a cloud over us and, if it could have rained in the room, it would have.

I’m not sure if I was talking to frustration or to the TV, but I was getting more and more vocal about how my team was playing as the game progressed.

When Philly tied the game up, I kind of noticed a smile on frustration’s face and I didn’t like it very much.

I didn’t have a good feeling about the end of the game.

The game went into overtime, but not much – just 18 seconds in, the Philadelphia Flyers scored the winning goal.

I didn’t like frustration at that point, but it just wouldn’t leave me alone. I even found it putting words in my wife’s mouth, causing me to react negatively to her.

I saw it standing just over her shoulder with a big grin on its face. This was no friend; how could I let it hang around me all day?

I went to bed and hoped I wouldn’t see it in the morning.

Here’s the thing: Frustration can attach itself to us through the simplest, unsuspecting things. And it can stay with us and interrupt our day. That’s when you need to stop, take a breath, and focus on Jesus, being thankful for Him and what He’s provided for you. You will get a new perspective … and you won’t have to entertain an unwanted friend like frustration.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: During what recent frustration should you have stopped, breathed and refocused on Jesus? 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.

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.