How Mistakes Can Become Opportunities

From time to time I repost an article I’ve written some time ago. This post was written in December 2012. Enjoy

Sometimes mistakes can turn into opportunities.  A week ago, a man came into the church and asked if I could help him with some grocery money.  This is not an unusual occurrence – on a weekly basis, people make the same or similar requests.

I can think of one guy who has come in enough over the years that we’re on a first name basis.  One time he asked for grocery money or vouchers, and when I didn’t have any, he asked for a computer.  When I told him I didn’t have a computer to give him, he asked for a guitar.

I actually did have a guitar I could give him!  I had just bought a new one and my old guitar was taking up space at home.  When I gave him the guitar, he right away thanked me, and then, with hardly taking a breath, asked me if I had a case for it!

A couple of days later, I saw him walking downtown on the main street, with my old guitar in his hand (no case).  But about a week after that, he came to me again and asked if I had another guitar, because the one I gave him was stolen.  I had to break the news to him that I had run out of old guitars.

He accepted the news quite well.  I say that because some people don’t take a negative answer very well.  Sometimes they get upset, so I’m careful not to promise what I can’t deliver.

That’s how I made my mistake a week ago.  There was something about this man who had asked me for grocery money.  As I listened to him briefly tell me his situation, something about his story seemed to stick with me.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have anything to give him at the time.

I told him to come back the next day and I’d have a grocery store gift card for him.  That was all fine, except I forgot to purchase the gift card.  So, when the appointed time came, I still had nothing for him.

I quickly looked around to see, if by chance, there was a card we could give him . . .  nothing.  Then my associate, offered to go and purchase a gift card while the man waited at the church with me.  It seemed like our only solution, so of he went.

I decided to use the time to get to know this man a little bit.  We had a conversation about his life, what had gone wrong, and his plan to get back on track.

Then I just started sharing about how God loved him and wanted to help him in his life.  I explained to him who Jesus was, what He came to do, and what He has offered us.  By the time my associate came back with the gift card, we were talking about how he could have a relationship with Jesus.

In the end, I prayed with him, gave him a Bible and the grocery gift card.  He left satisfied on a couple of levels.

Here’s the thing:  If I had not forgotten to get that gift card, I would have had a brief conversation with that man and sent him on his way.  But my mistake led to an opportunity to share Christ’s love with a man who really needed it right then.  I need to remember to always look for opportunities … even in mistakes.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question:  What mistakes have you made that turned into opportunities for you?  Leave your comment below.

The Music Captured My Attention

Music has a way of capturing your attention and putting you in a mood. I guess that’s why the soundtrack of a movie is so important.

If you’ve ever watched a movie with no soundtrack and just the actors’ lines, you really feel like there is something missing.

The background music draws out the emotion in you that the scene is trying to create, whether it is tension or laughter or joy or sadness.

A scene with a car cruising down a beachside freeway will boost the emotions when the music is something like the first 20 seconds of Steppenwolf’s, “Born To Be Wild”.

You can instantly imagine yourself in the car, taking those curves, looking out at the waves crashing on the beach below you.

Well, the other day my wife, Lily, was watching the opening song for the country music awards.

I wasn’t watching but from the other side of the room I said, “That sounds like … like … like (it took me a while) Hootie.”

Then it came to me. It was a song by Hootie and the Blowfish and the lead singer – who is not Hootie but Darius Rucker – was featured in that all-star cast rendition of “Hold Your Hand”.

It was a fond memory and the song was so good it hooked me in.

I spend the next hour or so on YouTube listening to different renditions of that song and others by Darius Rucker’s band.

I can’t really explain it, but listening to that song highjacked my evening and got me in a mood to listen to more of the same.

That’s what songs do. They capture your emotions and reel you in so that you feel something you weren’t feeling just minutes before.

When you think about it, music has a great power.

When Lily and I went on our honeymoon, we drove to our destination at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, about a 16 hour drive away.

We had lots of time in the car and there were a few songs that really captured our attention. We can both still remember those songs today.

That was 32 years ago, yet when we hear those songs now we both look at each other, smile and remember that drive.

Music has such a profound impact on emotions that you can find it being used everywhere to put people in the right mood …  whether it is in an elevator, a department store, a commercial, your car, or even at the hockey arena.

A few years ago, I think the rink where I played hockey was experimenting on us. They pumped happy, easy-going music into the dressing rooms and the arena.

I think it was to see if it would calm us down and keep the altercations to a minimum.

I never did find out the results of that study … if it was one.

Music is around us most of our day; we are rarely without music in our lives. We wake to it, fall asleep with it and it is a soundtrack to our day.

Here’s the thing: God created music to move our emotions. And some of the time our emotions should be moved towards God. Don’t neglect ensuring that your emotions are stirred towards the God who loves you, cares for you and has given His precious Son, Jesus to die for you. Whether secular or spiritual, your music on a regular basis should draw you to give God glory and worship Him.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What song stirs up your emotions? Leave your comments below.

I’m Not Sure I Should Be All That Comfortable With Comfort

All of us like to be comfortable; we all have an idea of where our comfort zone is.

Maybe more than most people do, I like comfort … like with the clothes I wear. I don’t want to be wearing something that pinches and is so tight I have difficulty breathing.

… Except maybe with skates. I do wear very small skates – about 2 1/2 – 3 sizes smaller than my shoe size. I will put up with some discomfort there if it will make me feel more in control on the ice … but that’s another issue.

Before we go outside, we check the weather in order to put on the appropriate amount of clothing so that we are comfortable.

Lily used to make fun of me years ago when I lost some weight because I wore a fleece jacket in the house and at work; I hardly ever took it off. … Well, I took it off when I went to bed, but most of the day and evening I had it on.

I wore it because I was cold all the time. That fleece jacket kept me in my comfort zone.

We like to be comfortable with people as well. That’s why we tend to gather with people we know rather than introduce ourselves to people we’ve never met before.

When you are with your friends, that’s your comfort zone. Your blood pressure is down; you are relaxed and engage in conversation without worrying about what the other person is thinking about you.

When you meet someone new, your stress level goes up, your hands may get sweaty, and you have a harder time thinking on your feet because you just aren’t comfortable.

We also have things we like to eat that we label as comfort food. For some people that’s ice cream. When they are down, or lonely or sad, they grab a big ‘ole bowl of double fudge ice cream and go at it.

For me it’s hot wings, particularly with Frank’s Red Hot sauce.

Now that’s comfort food!

We like to be comfortable in our surroundings, in our office or our home. So we buy a house that fits our idea of comfort and fill it with furniture and accents that make us feel comfortable there.

A year ago, when my wife, Lily, and I were looking for a car, one of the biggest things we were looking for was comfort. We wanted a car that would be quiet on the highway, with seats that were comfortable for long drives.

We were looking for comfort more than performance or what the car looked like or what make it was.

Comfort is a big deal. We want it, and we like to stay in that comfort zone when we’ve got it.

Here’s the thing: I was listening to a message this week and I was challenged about my comfort zone with God. We can become so comfortable with our relationship with Christ that we stop following Jesus where He wants to lead us. Our comfort keeps us relying on our own strength and keeps us from relying on God. It’s comfortable, but it makes for a boring life. Do you want more than comfort in life? Do you want to experience more than you can do on your own? Break out from your boring existence. Step out of your comfort zone and follow where God is leading you. Trust Him.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: In what way do you need to break out of your comfort zone? Leave your comments below.

This Time Change Is Really Affecting My Rhythm

I never really noticed how the time change affected me before, but my sleeping sure has been altered in the last two nights.

I like the fall change because you get an extra hour of sleep … or at least that’s the theory.

In reality, it’s a license to stay up an hour longer … but even that turns into more like two hours.

So I actually get less sleep but only half as much less sleep than if I had stayed up two hours later the night before the time change.

I usually like to get to bed early on Saturday night because I have to preach the next morning. I don’t know why, but this Saturday night I was wide awake, so I stayed up a little longer than I should have.

For some crazy reason, however, I woke up way earlier than normal – at 4:30 a.m.! And I’m not that guy who gets up by my internal clock. I need an alarm or I would keep sleeping.

I just lay there going over my sermon in my head. By the time 6 a.m. rolled around and it was time to get up, I had basically rehearsed my whole sermon in my mind.

If you’re doing the math, no, I don’t preach for an hour and a half; there were gaps and times I struggled to remember what came next.

Surprisingly, when I got up, I didn’t feel tired or like I hadn’t gotten much sleep that night. I did, however, take a rather long nap Sunday afternoon.

I thought it was a fluky thing until this morning. Again I woke up very early, and again I rolled around in bed, this time without a sermon to keep my mind occupied.

I thought of random things for about an hour until my alarm went off and it was time for me to get up.

Now I’m thinking that the time change has affected my sleeping patterns and I hoping it won’t last too long.

I also found out that this time change is a lot more dangerous than I ever imagined it would be.

It turns out there are more accidents on the roads the Monday after a time change.

And then there are the physical problems! Apparently studies show there are more heart attacks, strokes are more frequent, and cases of depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) also rise.

… Not to mention headaches for those who suffer from them.

They say it all has to do with our circadian rhythm being disrupted. Your circadian rhythm regulates your 24-hour internal clock and it does it based on light.

I don’t know much about all that stuff but I want my rhythm back before something disastrous happens!

Here’s the thing: There are many things that can disrupt your walk with God. It might be sleep, it could be sin, or it could be some distraction that you are focussing on. My advice is to stick with a routine of meeting with God, continue to confess your sin, keep praising Him, keep looking into the scriptures for what He’s saying to you. You will get your rhythm back. Check out what Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message by Eugene Peterson); its all right there:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What gets you out of your rhythm with God? Leave your comments below.

Don’t Get Tired Of The Routines Of Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s Life!

Paul

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

My Internet Issue Is Beyond Explanation

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

It’s been incredibly frustrating.

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

We couldn’t seem to keep our modem connected.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I thought maybe that was it; problem solved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s Life!

Paul

I’m Surprised Every Time I Remember It

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

In my last

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s how it all works:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s Life!

Paul

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

I Wanted To Have A Better Memory

Most people would probably say they’d like to have a better memory.

And in speaking with people in the second half of their lives, most feel having the ability to increase their recall of information would liberate them.

In the spring I read a book on improving your memory. When I sat down to write this piece, I thought I might have written a blog post on my first gleanings of the book, but I can’t remember for sure … ha ha.

How’s that for a memory?

But I have applied some of the principles in the book to my preaching and I’m surprised at how well it works … though I can’t say I know how it works.

Everybody has their way of preparing a talk. I happen to manuscript what I’m going to say, and then go over it several times so it doesn’t come across like I’m reading it.

I usually speak for just over thirty minutes, so that’s a lot of words on a page … it would be difficult to memorize them all. But for a few months now I’ve been using a technique to put a lot more info from my sermons into my brain.

In the book it was explained that we have long-term memory, short-term memory and mid-term memory. They are all used for different purposes.

Long-term memory involves things that are locked in your head, which you don’t even have to think about; you just know them. They’re things like your phone number, your address, your way to work, where things are in your house, etc.

In your short-term memory are thing that are current. For instance, when you read something, you can spit out some facts from what you read for the next few hours or even days. But good luck trying to recall that data a week or two from now. It was just short-term.

Often the names of people we just met go into short-term memory.

For example, you remember a guy’s name for a little while, but later that day when you’re telling someone about the person you met, you can’t remember his name any more.

It’s no big deal. You can just ask him his name the next time you see him … if you’re not too embarrassed that your short-term memory is so bad!

Then there is the mid-term memory – being able to remember something in that gap between long-term and short-term memory.

Sometimes we need to remember something for a few days or for a certain event, or until we write our exam. Then we can forget it.

That’s what the mid-term memory is for.

… This is going to be a two part post so I will keep you in suspense until the next one (read part 2 here).

But the key to remembering something for a specific time and place is combining your long-term and short-term memories together.

It’s like combining the colours blue and yellow; they produce green.

You combine long-term memory and short-term memory and what you get is mid-term memory that you can use for a particular purpose.

Here’s the thing: God’s memory is pretty complicated as well. On the one hand, He loves you with an everlasting love – that’s long-term; he’s not going to forget that He loves you. On the other hand, when you repent of your sins, He forgets about them like they never happened –  that’s great news for us.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What could you use a better memory for? Leave your comments below.

A Plan That’s Coming Together

My wife’s plan is slowly coming together, and so far it hasn’t cost me any blood, sweat or tears.

For the last couple of years Lily has wanted to redo our kitchen. All our appliances are over 20 years old and the counter top has a few nicks in it.

Those nicks, by the way, are all from Lily’s hand … although she only claims one of them to be hers for sure.

So the counter top seems to be the main item in this refurb, but along with it are some pretty expensive items that may be added a little later than sooner.

There was one item that she slipped in early and that was a new range. She said it made sense to have it in place when they came to measure for the new counter.

Now when I hear “range” I think of a farm, and cattle and grass and stubble. The range Lily had in mind was an induction top convection oven. I’m not sure what all that means other than you have to have the right kind of pots for the elements to work, and you can cook more than one sheet of cookies at the same time … which I’m all in favour of.

This reno may not have cost me blood, sweat and tears, but it is costing a few dollars.

I guess it’s time. This project has been on her list for ages and it seems that more than once we put it on hold because something else needed our attention and money.

At this point we are committed. A down payment has been made on the counter and they are coming to measure in a week or so. According to Lily they will install the counter about two weeks after that.

In the mean time, Lily has already painted the kitchen ceiling, and the range is in place. She still has to paint the walls, and arrange to have some tiling done above the counter.

But there is one other thing that needs to happen and it’s something I’m not too sure about … nor is Lily for that matter.

Rather than breaking the bank on new cupboards, Lily is going to paint our cupboards with some special cupboard paint.

That’s right, she found a paint that is specially designed for painting kitchen cabinets.

Personally, I’m afraid I will have to put on white gloves before I open any cupboard for fear of scratching the paint.

I can just see me putting on those white gloves just like the guy who carries the Stanley Cup.

We’ll probably have a little basket of them as you enter the kitchen. That way no one will be able to gouge Lily’s paint job.

It’s possible that this will work. My only fear is that in a year’s time, we will be looking to purchase new kitchen cabinetry … Cha Ching $$!

Here’s the thing: It’s easy to get in a rut, living with the same things, never changing or upgrading them. We can also live with things in our life, never dealing with or addressing them. We can do that for years, becoming very accustomed to those things – things that need to be replaced, things that need to go. There is no guarantee that making the changes will work out in the end, but give it a try. As uncomfortable as it might be, as inconvenient as it might seem while you are going through the change, in the end you will like the results.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What do you need to change in your life? Leave your comments below.

I Have An Idea For The Next Ten Minutes

I have an idea that I’m going to test out over the next little while. It’s partly out of necessity.

This time of year is a busy one for me, just like it is for many others. With all the things I’ve got to do, it’s easy to forget some things, put some things off until they are urgent, and work away at the thing or things that have to be accomplished next.

The problem is the “forget” and “put off” columns keep getting longer!

My idea is to take all the things that are on the to-do list and spend ten minutes on them each day.

That’s right, just ten minutes.

For me, I spend the greatest amount of time in the day on what is next. But at some point everything on my to-do list will become a “next” activity.

That’s when I’ll be in real trouble.

So in the mean time, I’ll spend just ten minutes a day on those other-than-next-thing items, just to make a little progress on them.

They say the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time, so that’s my idea … I’m just considering a very small bite.

We don’t have much use for ten minutes in our day. Ten minutes has become much like “give me a minute”; it’s just a pushback to give us more time.

We look for bigger blocks of time to get things done. The problem is I don’t have the big blocks of time to give to anything other than the “next” thing.

We have done away with the penny and there is talk about doing away with the nickel as well. These are small denominations of currency that we don’t really use much any more.

Well, we also don’t use ten minutes for much any more. … When was the last time you were in a ten minute meeting?

When was the last time you just waited ten minutes to get into your appointment?

The only thing that is ten minutes these days is how long it takes for my chicken wing order. When I call up for wings on Saturday night, they always say, “They’ll be ready in ten minutes.”

Why I want to focus on ten minutes is because if I spend even ten minutes on something, at the end of my day I’m going to feel like I made progress, like I got something done on my list.

The long and short of it is, I’m going to feel better; I’m not going to feel the same pressure on my shoulders.

So how it will work is this: I will give ten minutes to as many things on my list as I can each day.

I may use my ten minutes on a to-do item as a break between my work on the “next” thing. I might even stack those ten minutes up and work consecutively on them at the end of my day.

… We’ll see how this plan works out.

Here’s the thing: All the things you have going on in your life will crowd out other things. You get to the point where you say, “I don’t have the time for that.” You might say you don’t have time for God. But you do have ten minutes somewhere … and that’s a great place to start. Give Him ten minutes if that’s all you have, but be consistent. See if your time with God will become a “next” kind of thing for you.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What are you doing to make progress on your to-do list? Leave your comments below.