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!

Paul

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

Don’t Get Tired Of The Routines Of Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s Life!

Paul

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

My Life Is In Flux Right Now

I’m in a state of flux right now. Though it’s early in September, and I’ve had a long planning session for the upcoming year, I still feel a little out of sorts.

My planning went well and I came away from that week with some solid tracks to run on. But when I sit in my office, I don’t feel settled.

The reason for that? – my office is a mess!

During the summer we had a huge rain storm. The church basement flooded and we had to have a company come in to help clean up the mess.

I was away on vacation at the time; my office was locked and there was no need for anyone to go in it.

So when I returned after being away for several weeks, the first thing I noticed was the damp smell and then the ceiling tile that had fallen down.

There had been a leak in the roof and it had soaked through a ceiling tile, which had fallen down beside a bookshelf.

The amazing thing about it all was, though the ceiling tile was still soggy wet, the leak never touched any of my books.

I was sure happy about that, but it left me with a bit of a mess and forced me to make an even greater mess.

I took all the books off the shelf and put them in piles around my office. I then moved the bookcase out from the wall so that someone could examine the situation and put the ceiling back together again.

Well, things are moving rather slowly and my office has been in the same state for a couple of weeks now.

… And that’s why I feel so unsettled in my office.

It’s that same feeling you have when you’ve moved into a new home and you have boxes everywhere. You’re excited to be in the new place but you don’t feel right until all your stuff is where it is supposed to be.

I’ve been meeting with people in another room because my office chairs are being used to support three foot high piles of books.

I also have a bookcase that is standing in the middle of my office.

My office feels more like a storage space than an office. It’s not conducive to focussing on work.

When I look up from my computer, I often wonder if one of the piles of books looks like it’s leaning a little too much. I start to imagine it as the leaning tower of Pisa.

I really hope that I don’t need any of those books. If I do, I’ll be forced to play that block game Jenga with them … and I’ve never been particularly successful at not toppling over the stack of blocks.

I think the sooner my office can get put back to normal, the sooner I will start to settle down for the fall.

Here’s the thing: Many things can come up in life that cause you to feel unsettled – a health issue, job pressure, a move or even a flood. There may be nothing you can do to get life back in order, leaving you tempted to completely lose focus. However, you can keep order in your spiritual life by spending regular, quality time with God. If you do that in the morning, it will start your day off right, even if other aspects in your day are still in flux.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What has got you feeling a little unsettled? Leave your comments below.

I’m In Need Of A Desktop Cleaning

It’s my day off but I’m going to do a form of cleaning that I don’t really consider day off kind of work.

In the cartoon “Popeye”, when he would get to the end of his patience or the end of himself, Popeye would say “that’s all I can stands; I can’t stands no more”. Then he would eat a can of spinach.

You really should read that out loud with one eye shut, speak out of one side of your mouth and have a pipe stuck between your teeth.

Okay now that you’ve said it, that’s how I feel about my computer desktop. I’ve written about this before but it’s time again to address the mess that I have to stare at each and every day.

I have a few home screens that I switch between and, on two of them, I have family pictures. Those faces are skewed because of the number of files that are littering my home screen.

You would think that having those files right there to see would make it easy to find them, but it doesn’t work that way. When you have a screen that looks like mine, it takes longer that if they were filed in some kind of logical order.

Well today’s the day that I’m going to make my computer a little more functional again.

I’m not sure what got me to the point of not being able to “stands it” any longer, but it may have been a comment made by someone the other day.

I was showing a group of people a seminar video from my computer which was hooked up to a projector. For a brief time, the whole group could see what my computer screen looked like.

To make it worse, the projector showed my screen at a lower resolution so the aspect of my screen changed and all the files were condensed and jammed together.

One person said, “Your desktop is a mess.”

Now I didn’t want to call him “Captain Obvious”, but I’ve been living with this messy screen for about a year now.

I just have not wanted to tackle it. There was always something else to do.

I didn’t want to have to think up places for these files to go. It was easier to just leave them there and not deal with them.

Well, today I’m going to deal with it. I will probably trash some files, organize others into folders, and probably move some to a hard drive off my computer.

One of the reasons I’ve taken so long to do this is that I don’t have a space problem on my computer. I have tons of room on my hard drive.

If my HD was nearly full, I would have been forced to do something with these files by now. But there’s no necessity for that.

The only reason I am doing this at this time is that I’m feeling like Popeye the sailor man today – “I can’t stands it”.

Here’s the thing: How is your life right now? Is it a little cluttered with sin, some poor habits, maybe even an attachment to something that’s not healthy? Maybe it doesn’t seem that bad to you right now. But why wait till you “can’t stands it” any longer? It’s impeding your progress now. Don’t wait until you’re buried under it. Do some house (life) cleaning with God today. Confess those sins, turn from them, and ask God by the Holy Spirit to help you clean up your life.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What’s been cluttering your life these days? Leave your comments below.

I Need More Automation In My Life

I need a little more automation at a reasonable price.

This week I was putting together some booklets for a seminar I am running. It was a multi-step process that began with printing the material in a half-page format. The paper then needed to be cut in half, with care, so that the pages would be in the right order.

Then there was the binding – a two-step process in itself. There were holes that had to be punched and then the paper had to have the curly rings inserted into the holes.

The first part went smoothly; I have a program that arranges the pages in the order they need to be in.

From there I needed a little more automation. I didn’t have a cutting machine that would cut more than about 7 or 8 pages at a time.

The book was about 100 pages double-sided, so to cut the paper for one book took about 5 cuts. I don’t have an electric cutter either, so it required some arm effort on my part.

For this project, to get a cutter that would cut my time down (pun intended), I might have to mortgage my house.

I remember when I was a kid, my dad was in the printing business and he would take me to work sometimes.

I got to see some pretty wild printing presses and cutting units. There was one machine that just put numbers on invoices.

Back in the day, invoices came in triplicate – that’s three together with a carbon between each page. That meant that each invoice needed the same number stamped on each sheet, and then they had to be glued together.

This machine was like the old mouse trap game. There were little vacuum-like tubes that would suck one sheet and move it over to be printed. Then another set of tubes would move it to the assembly section, waiting for the other paper to be numbered and added, then the invoice would be glued along the top.

That was just one page! It was amazing to watch this machine, and listen to it make all kinds of noise while paper was flying from one part to the next.

If back in the sixties they could have a machine that did all that, how come now it costs so much money to punch holes in paper so it can be bound?

With my cut and assemble job, I had to be extremely careful because the machine was finicky and would only punch holes through a maximum of 10 pages at a time.

Oh, and if I made a mistake, and the puncher was misaligned on one section, I basically had to scrap that whole book!

There should be a cheap machine out there that can punch holes in paper with a press of a button, and can handle 20 to 30 pages at a time.

We’ve made so much progress in so many areas, with new discoveries and great advancements in technology … how about someone spending a little genius power on book binding?

Here’s the thing: The more automated our world gets, and the faster technology changes the things we do, the more we want all of life to be faster, easier, effortless. But there is no short cut to growing your relationship with God. It’s going to take time and you have to put in the effort. Keep at your routine of meeting with God daily.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What in your life would you like automated? Leave your comments below.

You Need An Outlet In Your Life (part 3)

How do you know what kind of an outlet you need for a particular time? Should it be something with other people, or is an outlet by yourself good enough?

boy-sitting-alone

These are important questions to answer to be able to have an outlet in your life that does what it’s supposed to do … and that is to provide a release for the stress, pressure, burden, or load of work, and all the emotions that come with these things.

In my last two posts I’ve written about what an outlet is (read here) and how to determine an outlet that works for you (read here).

In this post I want to help you discern the best kind of outlet for you at a particular time.

There are many factors that come into play in determining whether the right outlet should be with other people or on your own.

Personality has a say in this, so you need to know where you get your energy from. Are you recharged from being with others or from being alone? There are personality tests you can take to determine that.

On a basic level, if the weight you find yourself under is generated from within you – that is, you are putting the pressure on yourself – it would probably be best to have an outlet available to you that is more social.

When you feel alone in what you are going through, employing an outlet that is solo in nature is not going to give you that break from yourself that you need.

I’ve been there recently. Most of my burden comes from within, is self-packed and carried. In the midst of it, I had a window in my schedule where I could go biking.

The thought of getting my gear together, mounting my bike on my car and driving to the trails on my own was too much and I couldn’t get myself to do it.

I know I would have been glad once I got there, but being alone in this feeling that I had made it too difficult to get going on that particular day.

It might have been a better choice that day to get a few people together and go for dinner where we could watch the game on a big screen.

On the other hand, there are times that the burden you feel is because of people. In those cases choosing an outlet that isn’t social at all might be the best thing.

Going to a movie might be a bit of a bridge outlet because you can go with someone else but you don’t usually interact throughout the movie … unless you’re a teen and you’re watching a suspense movie with your girlfriend. It might become interactive as she digs her fingernails into your arm when the suspense builds!

Bottom line, it’s complicated and you need options … not just one outlet but several, some that are social and some that aren’t.

Build your list and schedule them if you can. You’ll feel better for it and be able to stand up under your burden.

Here’s the thing: God has made us social beings. It’s important that you don’t just have a consistent devotional life; you need the social interaction with scripture too. We should keep spending time alone with God, but also attend a life group to interact with God’s Word in a more social setting. By the way, there are two outlets for you: personal quiet time with God and life group meetings with others.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What kind of outlets do you gravitate to: solo or social? Leave your comment below.

You Need An Outlet In Your Life (part 2)

In my last post (you can read it here) I talked about how we need outlets in our lives for when we find ourselves in times of sustained pressure or burdens of some kind.

wall-outlet

But having one outlet isn’t enough; it will never fit all times and situations. You need several outlets.

In a home, we have many outlets in each room because we need the options. We need several outlets because usually at least one is obstructed, behind a couch or a dresser, not accessible.

With regard to outlets in your life, you need several for the variety of situations that come up.

I have a few outlets that I use at different times. One of my main outlets is sports.

But I can’t use the same one all the time. I can’t mountain bike in the winter or when it’s raining out; I can’t play hockey very much in the summer.

So I need other outlets that I can turn to when one outlet won’t work.

What you need to do is sit down and figure out what an outlet would be for you. It needs to be something you really enjoy, something that is readily available.

For me I can play hockey at noon most days of the week throughout the winter. That gives me options that I can co-ordinate with my schedule.

Find something that you enjoy that has some options or flexibility to it. Alternatively, find something you enjoy and put it into your regular schedule.

Many of us think that enjoyment is something that comes after the work gets done, something that’s an option.

But in many of our lives, the work is never done so outlets are not an option if we want to stay healthy mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Make a list of things you enjoy that you can do on your own, and things you enjoy that you can do with others.

If you’re someone who’s mainly focused on work, this will not be an easy step. Take some time; maybe you will have to discover or develop some things you enjoy doing.

Then you need to schedule them. Commit to using an outlet a few times a week, and slot it in to your schedule from week to week where it works best.

Or you join a class or team and just commit to that regular schedule.

Be cautious of only having outlets that only involve you. When the pressure is particularly great, it will be easy to bail out of it, since you’re not letting anyone else down if you do.

Sometimes the motivation isn’t there when it’s just something you are going to do by yourself. I’ve found it difficult in the last couple of weeks to hit the trails on my mountain bike. It seems to take a lot of extra effort to get going when it’s just me. I’ve backed out a few times lately.

Having that list and scheduling your outlets will really help keep you from being crushed under the pressure or burden of life and work.

Here’s the thing: Ask God for His help in finding an outlet and for the motivation to use an outlet when the pressure or burden seems too much. God is faithful and will help us at those times if we seek Him.

That’s Life!

Paul

You Need An Outlet In Your Life (part 1)

From time to time in life we need an outlet. I’m not talking about the electrical kind you find on the wall of your home about two feet above the baseboard.

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But let me use that analogy to talk about the type of outlet I am referring to …

What I mean is an outlet for the pressure, busyness, burden of life or work.

The church building I work at was built in three stages: in the 60’s, the 70’s, and the 90’s.

The contrast between the electrical service that was installed in the 60’s to what was installed in the 90’s is very evident.

In the old part of the building there are very few electrical wall outlets in the rooms and halls. … It’s a pain to find an outlet in a place you actually need to plug something into.

The thinking back then was you didn’t really need many electrical outlets. There just weren’t that many things you needed to plug into them.

In the new part of the building outlets must be placed about every four feet, and even then there are times that outlets are hidden behind something, making it hard to access them when you need to.

I think in our day and age, just like we have more outlets in our homes than older homes did, it is more of a necessity that we have outlets in our lives.

We need outlets that are readily available.

An outlet is something we can turn to to take the pressure off, or to eliminate the burden. It can be a distraction or a way of escape from the constant demands on us.

In hockey they call it the outlet pass when a defensemen has the puck behind his team’s net and has opposing players bearing down on him.

The outlet pass to an open winger alleviates the pressure and allows the team to escape out of their end zone and move the puck up the ice.

In the days we live in, where we are available virtually 24/7 because of cell phones, texts, and email, we need outlets.

It’s imperative that we are able to get out from under whatever seems to be constantly over us –  even if what’s over us is a collection of many things that mount up in our lives.

If we don’t have outlets we will eventually be crushed under the pressure, which can cause us to make significant mistakes, creating even more harm than the burden we are carrying.

There really is no one who is immune to this. There have been high profile, high capacity people as well as your average joes who have gone down because they didn’t have an outlet.

No one should think they are stronger than the pressure or burden. We all should know the signs that we are at a tipping point and should have an outlet to turn to when that time come.

In my next post (read here) I will talk about finding an outlet and how to use it.

Here’s the thing: There are many people who don’t have an outlet. They don’t even know what an outlet might look like for them. Ask God for an outlet that would be right for you. Seek His wisdom; He knows you best.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: How is the burden or pressure in your life? Do you need an outlet? Leave your comments below.

Live Life By The Codes

There used to be unwritten rules that you lived by. I’m not sure, but maybe some of those codes are changing – certainly some are disappearing.

iihs-study

We all know some unwritten rules, things you just do or don’t do. No one has to say anything; it’s just the way things work.

When I was a kid one of those codes was that you didn’t tell on your brother. Nobody told me to do that; it was just what you did.

There are all kinds of these unwritten rules that we follow to help one another out, to be on the same side.

But some of these rules or codes that we live by aren’t being followed anymore.

In hockey there used to be an unwritten rule that you didn’t go after the superstar of the team. You didn’t try to hit him too hard; you didn’t cheap shot him.

But that code started to disappear so they had to put a tough guy on the same line as the superstar as a deterrent. It was like a warning: you lay a finger on Wayne Gretzky and you will pay the price of having Dave “Cement Head” Semenko come after you.

Now it’s a free-for-all on the superstars of the team. The game has changed and the enforcers are not there anymore.

And maybe that’s what it’s like everywhere … times have changed and it’s just different.

There used to be a code among drivers that a car coming the opposite way would flash their lights to warn you if there was a police radar up ahead. It was common practice.

It’s illegal now – maybe it always was – and people don’t do it anymore.

There is no code of the road for drivers to look out for each other. It’s no longer us against the speed trap.

But I got a break the other day.

I was going up a hill on a highway, maybe going a little fast … maybe. There was a line of cars coming down the hill the other way. In the middle of the pack I thought I noticed a car flash his lights. I almost missed it because it was so unusual.

I took my foot off the accelerator. As I got to the crest of the hill and started down the other side,  there he was – a black and white OPP waiting for me.

Well, thankfully he wasn’t waiting for me because someone on the other side of the hill remembered the code and warned me.

We were on the same team; it was us against them. I kind of doubt that many others caught the same warning I did. We just don’t live by that code anymore.

The unwritten code of the road is you look out for your fellow drivers. It’s a great code. Unfortunately, most of us drive in such a way that our fellow drivers are our competition or enemies on the road.

… Driving might be a whole lot more enjoyable if we followed the codes.

Here’s the thing: There are faith codes as well. When someone confides in us, the unwritten code is to pray for that person or issue – not just once, but to keep that person in your prayers. However, with our busy, more self-centred lives, we often fail to live by the code. Get back to praying for the needs of others who bring their concerns to you … and keep at it.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What unwritten code would you like to bring back? Leave your comments below.

Facebook Just Sucked Thirty Minutes Of Life Out Of Me!

 

I just spent a half hour doing nothing on Facebook.

Facebook-login

Most people know that Facebook sucks you in and keeps dangling the carrot in front of you to stay connected, but I’m kind of new to the Facebook scene. I think I’ve only had friends for about a year now. I used to be a loner.

At that time all my friends were through my wife. She was my entire source of friends until I decided to branch out on my own.

Last year I finally broke down and got myself some friends. The thing is, I’m not that good of a friend. I don’t go on Facebook enough to know what my friends are doing or up to.

I keep getting emails that let me know what I’ve missed since I’ve been away. It’s usually a few notifications, maybe a friend request and a poke.

I don’t even know what a poke is.

The thing is, I don’t have time to go through all the stuff that’s posted on my home page … and truthfully, with some of the stuff, I don’ t want to either.

They say – whoever “they” are –  that you have time for what’s important to you. That may be true for me.

Now I’m not saying that my friends are not important. No, they are important; it’s just some of the stuff that gets posted doesn’t really interest me.

It’s possible that my friends are not that interesting and that’s why I’m not getting stuff on my home page that draws me in.

But that’s not really it either. I just don’t go on Facebook that much.

There is always something else I could be doing or should be doing that keeps me from sticking my head in the Facebook world.

But this morning I was scrolling the apps on my phone and saw a number 5 beside my Facebook app.

My first thought was, “I have a little time. I’ll get rid of that little red number”, but when I went inside there were a number of videos and pictures that were staring right at me.

I wasn’t in a hurry and I didn’t have anything that was pressing, so I started to scroll.

I did learn a few things, like that David Bowie died of cancer. I saw some motocrosser do some amazing tricks with his bike, and I watched 19 construction works try to corral a power trowel that got away on a freshly poured slab of cement.

I’m not sure any of that is going to help me today. I doubt I’ll be able to use any of this info in a sermon … well, maybe the cement workers and the trowel – there’s got to be an illustration there!

The one good thing about the half hour I spent on Facebook this morning is that it’s a lot like Kentucky Fried Chicken: once you have the experience, you don’t need to go back for a while.

I’m sure my friends don’t mind; there are plenty of other people who stay glued to their walls.

… It was nice to see a pic of a buddy with Bobby Orr though.

Here’s the thing: When you think of how much time you spend on things like Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media, do you find it hard to squeeze some time in your day to read the Bible? Here’s a challenge for you: Make 2016 a year you read through the whole Bible, and get God’s perspective on the world.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: How much time a day do you spend on social media? Leave your comment below.