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.

Frustration Won Me Over

I was frustrated last night and I carried that frustration to bed with me.

It was the day that determined the two teams that would go on to the Super Bowl.

My frustration was not with the games or the teams; in fact, both the teams I wanted to win, won.

The first game I watched rather intently, but the second game … well, I was interested; I wanted to see it, but I had watched so much football already that I was a little football weary.

I didn’t want to entirely miss the game, so I turned to multitasking.

Now, I am not a great multitasker; I need to focus on one thing at a time. So when I do a couple of things at the same time, my productivity goes way down.

Yesterday that was okay; I didn’t mind. The game was going to be on all evening; I had time on my hands and just needed a slight distraction, while still being able to follow the action of the game.

There were a couple of multitasking possibilities for such a situation: I could play pool – the TV was right there; all I’d have to do was turn it – or I could fly my new drone around the family room.

… I tried both of these activities and still there were 3 1/2 quarters of football to go.

I then resorted to my go-to TV multitasking standby: my computer. I wanted to make some changes to our church website that I hadn’t gotten to in a long time.

Since I was doing two things at the same time – watching a game and working on the computer – I wasn’t frustrated at first when I ran into problems making the changes I wanted to make.

I knew that I had plenty of time while the game was on, so I just turned my attention to the plays for a few minutes.

As the game neared the end, I really wanted to be at the end of making those web changes … but I still couldn’t figure out how to do them.

Long after the game was over, some show was on TV that I was not one bit interested in, but it provided background noise that kept the frustration from really taking hold of me.

I looked at the time – it was way later than I wanted to be up and working on this! Then the frustration set its hooks into me and I laboured on it a little longer, with a little more angst building inside me.

I finally gave up for the night; frustration had won, but I planned to try another approach the next day.

It was time for bed, but how could I sleep? I was all keyed up, frustrated and not really ready to settle down.

So I put on a movie and let my mind chill out. It worked; it wasn’t long before I started to nod off.

… I had just needed to turn my attention to something else.

Here’s the thing: Frustration captures and controls our thoughts and emotions. If you turn your frustration over to God, and focus your attention on Him instead of your frustration, He will give you relief in mind and emotion. He will also give you a way out or through your frustration.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What kinds of things frustrate you most? Leave your comments below.

Customer Service Frustration

Gone are the days when the customer was always right. I think things started to change when retail began leaning towards “self serve” rather than “we serve”.

Frustration with Customer service

Now you have to fight for everything you get from a company.

This Christmas I bought a present for my wife, Lily, and a few days later I noticed that another company was selling it cheaper.

I researched the product and whether it was available in the other store. And only with all my ammunition properly documented did I go in and get a price break.

What really brought home this change though was our satellite provider. We had ordered HD sports, so that I don’t have to struggle watching hockey in standard definition any more.

The price was clear on the website so we had ordered it. The transaction went through and we were informed that it would take up to 48 business hours for them to punch a code into their computer to give us the new service.

That was okay … the World Juniors were not starting for a few days.

However, after we received the HD channels, we got an email stating that, because we had a limited satellite package, the price of the HD channels was $3 more per month.

I guess $3 is not that much … $3 is almost the new loonie.

But the thing is, nowhere on their website do they mention there is a price difference for HD channels depending on your package.

We called and spoke with three different levels of customer service people. The bottom line was that’s their price.

… You know, if I go into a store and purchase a product with a price sticker on it, if that sticker price is lower than what they have in their register price, they sell me the product for the advertised sticker price.

Then they go and correct the sticker price for everyone else who will buy the product.

You shouldn’t be able to mislead people with your pricing policy.

Well, we stuck to our story and in the end the best they would do is give us a year free and then we would pay the increased price for the HD channels based on our satellite package.

It’s a good deal for this year, but then we will be paying more than most other people for the same service.

It took a lot of persistence and a lot of time on the phone to get the company to concede and give us some kind of deal.

They layer their customer service so that the first person you talk to doesn’t really have the authority to give you anything. I think they hope you will give up. It’s not until you talk to the next level or the level after that where you get a shot at getting some satisfaction.

Their idea of customer service?: wear the customer down so they just leave frustrated and angry.

… They are doing a good job because, even in the end, we were still frustrated with them.

Here’s the thing: Sometimes we can feel like we are not getting the service we want from God. Our prayers are not answered the way we think they should be. Unlike stores and satellite companies, God knows what’s best for us; He gives us what we really need. Be persistent but also be accepting of what God brings you. He’s looking out for your best interests.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: How have you generally found customer service to be? Leave your comments below.

Choose Your Socks Wisely

This is a reblog of a post I wrote on May 21, 2013

They say you never know what a day will bring, but sometimes you can sense a day is going to have a certain theme to it. It would be nice if you could go to a drawer and, like picking out a pair of socks, pick your day’s mood (and, of course, check to make sure there’s no holes in it).

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Some people get up on the wrong side of the bed. Others roll out of bed the wrong way and voila, their day seems to be magically selected for them. Fortunately for me, I usually roll out of bed feeling good about what is ahead for me.

Unfortunately, that feeling doesn’t always last very long. The sock drawer effect happens and I pick out a day of frustration to wear like a ratty, old pair of sweat socks.

That happened to me recently. For the first hour or so (getting up, doing my devotions, showering and having breakfast) everything went well. Then I was informed that I needed to drive my wife somewhere on my way to work.

Sometimes it just takes a little rewriting of the daily script to initiate “a day of interruptions” theme. … Oh, and believe me, that did it! Driving Lily to her destination, I was a little agitated. It detained me from getting down to my planned work.

When I finally got to work, in walked an unplanned, unscheduled, perfect illustration for my “interruptions” day. The man was seeking help but each time he had come the previous week, he had been told to come back as I had been on vacation.

The last time he had been told to phone first before he came in. Instead, he just showed up. He was in need of some financial assistance and though I am not a money lender, as a pastor I am used to trying to help out people in his position.

He needed food and the solution was to get him a grocery store gift card. However, after being put off a few times already, he was not in a mood to be put off again.

As I listened to his story, my heart went out to him. Yes, it would be an interruption for me to stop what I was doing to go buy him a gift card, but I felt that’s what I should do.

Unfortunately, he had a few restrictions. He could not go to the grocery store that was the closest to the church. The next closest did not have a store near where he lived.

That meant this interruption would take even longer. Half way there I remembered I had taken my wallet out of my pocket and it was still on my desk at church, so I turned around and went back.

I got the wallet, drove back to the grocery store, and bought the gift card only to notice that the store was affiliated with a grocery store that was close to the church. I could have purchased the card there and saved half the time!

That’s how my day went, one thing after another … until I got home and changed my socks.

Here’s the thing: You can focus on the frustration of each day and get all agitated inside. OR you can view the events of the day as things God brings your way and deal with them as opportunities to serve Him. Your choice.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What is your biggest frustration?  Leave your comment below.

Delaying the inevitable may not be the best.

It’s getting near the end of the grass cutting season, but I’m hoping the problem I’m having with my lawns can wait until next year to be dealt with.

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When we bought our cottage, we needed doubles of many things because, with two different places, it was impractical to take some things back and forth … like for instance, a lawnmower.

So I own two of them. Unfortunately, neither one is working all that well. I just wish I could get one of them to work properly right now, but in reality, I need them both.

The one at the cottage was inherited when we bought the place. The previous owner said he had mistakenly put a gas and oil mixture in the gas tank so the engine had a surging sound to it.

It sounded like someone revving their car engine at a stop light in hopes the guy beside him would race him off the line. The only difference was this engine never stopped revving!

I took it apart, cleaned everything, and changed filters, gaskets, spark plugs – you name it. For a couple of years it worked well.

But now it’s doing it again, with less power. If I walk too fast it stalls out.

As for my mower at home, I bought it new years ago, but it’s seen better days. I think it’s wearing out. But the big thing with it is it doesn’t cut evenly. With every strip of grass I cut, it leaves a bit of grass behind – sort of like a mohawk haircut.

I think if I could combine them together I might have one lawnmower that worked properly. My worry is that I’m going to have to replace them both at the same time.

Having two of the same thing, in one way, is a great help – I don’t have to move something between two places. On the other hand, I have two things that can break down, need repair or have to be replaced.

I have a real problem to solve. One solution would be to pave both lawns and do away with lawnmowers all together. I like the sound of that, but my wife, Lily is into the green stuff in the yard so I don’t think that will fly.

I wish someone would invent a tele-porter like they used on Star Trek. Then I’d just need one lawnmower that I’d send back and forth. I’d send Lily on ahead to be there, waiting at the other end, when I sent it.

If I was lucky, by the time I got up to the cottage, she would have already cut the grass!

I think what I’m going to do is bear with it for a month or so. I’ll figure something out in the spring … unless I can find a cheap, used mower in the mean time.

Here’s the thing: In life, sometimes we delay getting right with God. We know we need to work things out with Him, but instead we limp along trying to make do with life and its issues as best we can. We secretly hope it will all somehow magically work itself out. The problem is you can delay getting your life on track with God but, at some point, you’re going to have to do business with Him … better sooner than later.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What have you delayed working on that you really need to get at now?  Leave your comments below.

How To Live Simultaneously In Awe & Frustration

Can something be good and bad at the same time? Can you be completely frustrated and awed in the same breath? Is it okay to clench your fists in rage while gazing at something beautiful?

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Not only do I think the answer to these questions is “yes”, I know it’s “yes” because I just experienced it on the weekend.

As crazy as it sounds, it’s true.

It’s almost like that trick you do with a toddler or a baby: you distract them with something else and they stop crying. You know the child is crying because he scraped his knee, but you say “Oh look, a balloon!” The child’s attention is drawn to the balloon, he stops crying, and life is good again.

It works like a charm every time.

It doesn’t work as well with adults. You can distract them with something else, but they are not going to forget the pain (whatever type) they are in.

I played golf on a beautiful course this weekend. Six holes have been fashioned after famous golf holes from around the world. The fairways were like hitting off carpet; the greens were like bowling allies.

They even had a set of bunkers called church pews – I was tempted to try them out but I stayed away.

The day was beautiful, sunny, hot, with no wind. The course was lush, green, with dramatic undulating terrain. You wanted to take a picture at every hole. In fact, some guys in my group did take pictures as we went around.

But to contrast the startling grandeur of the course was the brutal ineptitude of my play. On the practice tees I was straight and long. On the course, I missed all but one of the fairways with carpet-like feel to them.

I was looking at a picture of magnificence at every turn, but in what I was doing there was no beauty at all.

So I would line up my putt on grass that seemed like it had been cut with my razor that very morning, but when I hit the ball I had no control of when it would stop rolling. And on every hole it kept rolling and rolling and rolling.

I was amazed by the course but I wanted to hit it at the same time. In fact, there were two occasions when I swung my club really hard at the ground after another missed green, while staring at a scene that looked so inviting I could have lived there.

During my round, I couldn’t decide which emotion should win: awe at the stunning splendour of the course or my total frustration with my game.

It seemed that for the longest time the two emotions were entwined together, stuck like a vine to a trellis.

In the end, I would not have traded my experience. It was a great day, despite the play.

Here’s the thing: We can be utterly amazed at what God has done in someone’s life or ministry.  We can marvel at results that occur that clearly point to God’s hand of mercy or power. But at the same time, we can be completely frustrated by the lack of results or answers in our own life or ministry. We live here in this contrast, and to truly embrace Christ is to give glory to God while at the same time pleading out our burdens before Him.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What has amazed you while frustrated you at the same time? Leave your comment below.

What Everyone Ought To Know About Maintenance

The word “maintenance” has a tag-along emotion for me . . . it’s called frustration.

I get frustrated with maintenance because I want to enjoy the thing that needs to be maintained; I don’t want to work on it.

Bike Maintenance

Bike Maintenance

I want to use something and not have to care for it or fix it. In the 80’s I didn’t want a PC because you needed to know DOS and a series of commands and what pressing the “Ctrl+Alt+Del” keys did. I just wanted to use a computer, not figure out how it worked.

I like to ride my bike; I don’t like cleaning it. I want to just pull the cord on my lawnmower and start cutting the grass. I don’t like having to scrape the grass off the undercarriage or keep it tuned.

The problem is, in the last week, my avoidance with maintenance has accentuated my frustration. I broke the chain on my bike, probably because I didn’t clean the gritty oil off it.

My lawnmower is having a hard time starting these days and it’s not cutting evenly because it needs a tune up and a wheel adjustment.

And my computer needs some file maintenance soon or I will run out of space on my hard drive.

This was all fresh in my mind when I watched a little 3 minute video on how to clean your bike after a ride so it’s ready for your next ride. The guy on the video said you could do it in five minutes, but somehow (through the magic of video, I guess) he showed us in three.

I’m almost convinced that I need a new attitude toward maintenance, but for that to happen I really need a new emotion to go with the word. I’ve been thinking of some emotions that I could associate with maintenance – emotions like affection, confidence and satisfaction … but I can’t seem to trick myself and instead I feel annoyance, contempt and suffering.

Some people love maintenance, maybe even more that using the item. But not me. I know my things would last longer if I had a warm, fuzzy attachment to the word but it’s just not that easy. I can’t turn a switch on and like it.

I thought of a couple of solutions. I could give away my stuff when it needs some maintenance, and just bless people with things that sort of work. But that would require me needing a lot of money to replace my items.

Also, I could farm the maintenance out to people who like doing it. But that too would be costly and I would be without my beloved whatever, while it was being serviced.

There doesn’t seem to be an easy solution for me that works. I might have to do maintenance even though I don’t like it, even though it frustrates me. I might have to just discipline myself in spite of the piggy-backed emotion that comes with the word.

Here’s the thing: Relationships, like with things we own, require maintenance. We might like the idea of just enjoying our relationship with God but to maintain that relationship, we need to connect with Him, grow in Him and serve Him. That kind of maintenance might seem like work that we might not want to put our energy into, but maintaining our relationship with God will require us to discipline ourselves in order to connect, grow and serve.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: How disciplined are you at maintaining your relationship with God?  Leave your comment below.

Like a Square Peg in a Round Hole

Yesterday I helped a friend purchase an electronic tablet. I thought it would be straight forward, but part way through the process I realized I was going to be locked into the lengthy task of helping my friend learn how to use the device.

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If I helped someone in their twenties purchase a tablet, by the end of the transaction the need for my help would end. But my friend is not in his twenties and I can see that my services will be required for quite some time.

… And that gives me flashbacks to my dad with his computer! He would call me with a computer problem, hoping I would be able to solve it over the phone. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I was a pastor and not a computer geek, but I’m sure that wouldn’t have stopped him from seeking my help.

I would ask him to describe what he had on his computer screen so that I could replicate it on mine and then try to walk him through a solution. That might sound like a great plan, but most of the time, while he was supposedly following my steps, he would blurt out “It’s gone”. And then the following dialogue would ensue:

“What’s gone, Dad?”

“Oh, it’s back again!”

“What’s gone? What’s back? Dad, back away from the keyboard. Don’t touch anything!”

These calls were painful at times, trying to get a 73 year old to master new technology. It was like teaching a child which hole the round peg goes in and which hole the square one goes in. I remember how many times I had to show our kids, saying “No, see? The round one goes in here.”

They would still try to stick the square one in the round hole, but you had the hope that eventually, in time, they were going to figure it out. I remember I didn’t have that same hope with my dad.

One time when I was talking to my brother, I mentioned these computer help calls I’d been getting from Dad. As soon as I asked, “Has Dad ever called you about his computer?”, my brother’s eyes got all crazy-like and he just said, “Don’t get me started!”

It was then that I realized that my dad had a master plan for getting computer help. His plan was simple: phone one son until he was exasperated and then phone the other. My dad would go back and forth asking computer questions to whomever he thought had the most patience.

So yesterday in the store, I started to gear myself up for a barrage of calls and drop in appointments to my help desk. I guess my computer help desk is open for service again.

Here’s the thing: Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that God is like us and gets tired of our repeated requests. But God isn’t like us at all. So don’t ever stop bringing your requests and confessions to Him. He is always eager to hear from you.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: Have you ever felt like you couldn’t bother God with something again?  Leave your comment below.

I’ve Found the Secret

Sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference. The other day, my son and I went to our local golf store to try out his new golf clubs. Mike got new irons for Christmas, but we needed to make sure they had the right shafts for his swing.

The store we went to has a golf simulator that analyses your swing as you hit balls into a screen. As Mike started to warm up and hit some balls, I noticed that he wasn’t getting the distance I would get with the same club.

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The store employee mentioned that he was leaving all his weight on his right leg and what he needed to do was transfer his weight over to his left leg when he swung. I thought that was pretty common knowledge, but for Mike it was a revelation.

He started making that little change and his distance improved by about 25-30 yards, just like that. He was pretty psyched about the increased distance. I figured I would take a few shots to see if the new clubs would make any difference to my game. Sadly, they didn’t – even worse, Mike’s shots were now going a good 20 yards farther than mine!

Something as small as a shift in your weight can make so much difference to the distance you hit the ball and how you feel about your game. For a young guy, it’s all about the distance: the farther you hit, the better you feel about yourself.

Mike came home from the store and showed a friend his new clubs, he was so proud of them. He can’t wait until the spring to get a chance to use them. I think deep down he believes he will be able to beat me now. But I’m not that worried; he still can’t putt.

It’s really remarkable how little things, like shifting your weight, can make you feel good.  We often view the big things as mood changers. Things like winning a lottery, getting a big promotion, or making a significant move are what bring us big smiles.

But life is made up of little moments and not big events. Life is all about the little things, like savouring that steak that has been cooked to perfection, seeing the joy on your son’s face after he hits a golf ball, or anticipating the start of hockey on Saturday nights (finally).

We don’t live life from big event to big event. We live most of our life in the little moments that happen each day. It’s those little moments that make the real difference. It’s the little moments that sustain us every day until a big event comes along.

The last few weeks, I’ve been kind of frustrated. I think I’ve been trying to live from big event to big event and have gone through some deep valleys along the way. But if I would feed on those little moments I have each day, I would sail through even the longest gaps between big events.

Here’s the thing: The same is true with God. If we are waiting for God to do something big in our lives, we may get discouraged and frustrated in the mean time. Instead, if we are having little moments with God each day, they will take us through any valley we find ourselves in.

Until Next Time!

Pastor Paul

Question: What are the little moments in your life (day) that can bring a smile to your face? Leave a comment below.

Turn Your Toil Into Joy

Yesterday I had to work late on my sermon.  It was Friday; I like to be done my sermon by 5 pm but it was obvious that was not going to happen.

Every week that Sunday deadline stares me in the face; it’s always on my mind.  Some weeks things go well.  I do a little work on my message each day so that the task is broken down.  Monday mornings I make notes on the passage and from commentaries.  Tuesdays, I read supportive material and start to formulate the main idea of the passage.  Wednesdays, I try to create the outline with supportive scripture.  Thursdays, I write a draft of the message.

These days I’ve been dictating that draft. Its an amazing thing, I speak and my computer types the words.  My wife Lily always laughs when I dictate because the program gets some words wrong … like the other day, when I said, “Because the word…” and the program typed “Because Al Gore.”

I’m not sure what Al Gore had to do with my message – it had nothing to do with saving the planet’s environment!  On the other hand, my sermon did have to do with saving people ON the planet.

Fridays, I edit my message, prepare the media presentation and internet support.  This Friday by 4 pm, I had not even started to write the sermon.  It had been a very difficult week, with many interruptions and meetings.

At 4 pm I was tired, and frustrated because focus had been an issue all week for me.  I was not looking forward to spending all evening writing a sermon.  But as I was checking a reference for something, I ran into a quote that struck me.

The quote was from Samuel Chadwick a Methodist preacher. “The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying.  He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion.  He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.”

I had just finished praying when I read that, asking God to help me get my sermon done quickly.  But something struck me in that quote; it was the part about Satan laughing at our toil.  My sermon writing felt like toil to me right then.  I was not excited about writing it; I just wanted to be done.

After pondering the quote for a moment, I began to pray again.  This time I asked God to give me a passion for my writing.  I asked Him to fill me with excitement and enthusiasm for what I would put down.  I asked Him to give me joy in writing my message, no matter how long it took.  I asked Him to fill me up with the message He wanted me to bring to my congregation.  I prayed, “Lord, don’t let Satan laugh at the work I am doing.”

The Lord answered my prayer, keeping me focussed and moving ahead as I dictated. He filled my mind with thoughts and words and illustrations.  It was a pleasure to write that message, and I finished before 8 pm.

Here’s the thing:  When we are struggling with something, no matter what it is, it’s always a good thing to pray.  Keep in mind that Satan would love to keep you toiling and prayerless.  Do the opposite.  Pray and watch God make your work a joy.

Until Next Time!

Pastor Paul

Question: What do you do when you find your task is more toil than joy?  Leave your comments below.