A Trip South Would Be Appreciated

I’m pretty much ready to take a trip down south. I don’t really care where down south as long as the only white stuff around is sand.I don’t have a trip planned or anything, but I’m sure thinking about some way I could make that happen.

I know in February we have a weekend at a cottage with my wife Lily’s whole side of the family. The only problem is that cottage is not south; in fact, it is a little north of where we live.

This weekend sort of finished me off. The cold temperatures came back like they never left. Earlier in the week we had temperatures of + 7 C and + 10 C.

But then the mercury started to drop.

And it dropped fast. In matter of 5 or 6 hours, the temperature had dropped to -12 … a 22 degree fall in one afternoon! What could survive a fall like that? Not much.

The next day I had my early morning hockey game. I knew it would be cold but I didn’t think there would be anything else with that cold.

As soon as I hit the garage door button I saw snow, and as the door continued to slowly rise, I kept seeing a wall of snow that had pressed up against the outside of our garage door.

This wall of snow was over the bumper of my SUV.

Did you get that? I’m not talking about a Mini Copper. I mean, I have 17 inch wheels on my SUV and the snow was over the bumper. I really hadn’t accounted for the snow, so I madly tried to shovel it out of the way so I could get my vehicle out of the garage.

It took a while because there wasn’t a lot of places to put the snow. But that wasn’t my only problem getting to hockey.

Once I shovelled out one side of my driveway, I backed the car out and started forward … only to be hung up on snow in the middle of my street.

The plow had come through in the middle of the night but had only made one pass and left a berm in the middle of the road which I tried to go through.

At 6:30 am, there I was by myself, trying to rock my vehicle back and forth to get through the snow mountain. It wasn’t working so I went and got my shovel and started to dig the snow out from under the front of the car.

I was able to dig enough out that I could get free. I threw the shovel in the back seat and took off for hockey. I was late – I knew that – but I thought I would get in a little skate to make the effort worthwhile. No one was there. Apparently only three guys had made it to the rink and they called it off.

What do you do at 7 am on a Saturday morning when hockey gets cancelled? I shovelled the rest of the driveway. That’s why I’m ready to go south. I’ve had enough.

Here’s the thing: Sometimes you need a break or change of pace, but you know it’s not going to happen. You’re stuck where you’re at. That’s the perfect time to thank God for the good things He’s brought into your life. It’s so easy to just focus on the bad, but you can change your mood when you focus on thanksgiving.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What are you thankful for right now? Leave your comments below.

We All Need Great Neighbours 

It’s really nice to live on a street with great neighbours; it’s not something you should take for granted.

We’ve lived on the same street for 21 years. It’s a small cul de sac with only 10 houses on it, so basically all the homes face each other.

Most of our neighbours have lived on the street for many years – three of the families longer than we have, so we have gotten to know each other a little bit.

We talk more in the summer time, and we keep tabs on each other’s homes when someone’s away.

We even have a street BBQ once a year, and I don’t think we’ve missed a year in all the time we’ve lived here.

Sunday was a particularly busy day for Lily and I. We had church and then a seminar afterwards that kept us hopping right up until we left for the Junior hockey game.

By the time we were driving home from all the activities, we had been going for 11 hours and we were both kind of tired.

Oh, and by the way, it had been snowing all that time. … We haven’t had much snow this winter – I can count on one hand how many times I’ve had to shovel – but we got a pretty good dump yesterday.

It was probably the biggest snowfall of the year.

So when we pulled into our driveway after being away all day, I said to Lily, “Let’s tackle this snow in the morning.”

We pulled into the garage, shut the door and didn’t look back outside.

Instead we changed into sweats, ate some comfort food and watched a movie.

Well, Lil watched a movie … it was a romantic flick and I slept through most of it.

And that was all we did.

You could picture it like a movie scene where the snow outside is flying and the wind is howling, but you, the characters, are all warm under blankets, sitting next to a blazing fire in the fireplace. And there is a soft, warm glow of light that breaks through the curtains and casts a pattern on the snowbanks outside.

… Just take away the fireplace, the warm glow hitting the snow, and the howling wind and you pretty much have a good idea of our evening.

That was Sunday. The next morning when I got up and looked outside, the snow had stopped, and the plow had come by our street and cleared the road.

As I looked closely, I could see that someone had used a snowblower on our driveway – probably the previous night because there was a thin layer of snow covering the pavement.

Wow, that made my day!

My biggest problem with it is, I’m not sure which neighbour did it. It could have been any of three neighbours, or the son of a neighbour who is out of town.

Having great neighbours is never something to take for granted. … Thanks guys, whoever it was.

Here’s the thing: In life and on your street, it’s great to have neighbours you can count on. In your Christian walk, it’s also important to have people you can count on. They can help you through difficult times, and celebrate with you when you’re full of joy. They’ll be there when you need another set of hand, ideas, or support. Don’t take for granted Christian friends; they are there when you need them.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: When has a friend come to your rescue? Leave your comments below.

First Sign Of Snow And I’m Off Shovelling

Well, that was a different first snowfall of the year. Usually I don’t even shovel the first snow offerings.

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But looking out my living room window this morning, I noticed the corner of the roof – there was a build-up of about 5 inches of drifting snow hanging over the eavestrough!

I thought to myself, “This looks like a Monday morning in mid February.”

Any early snow we get is wet and doesn’t really stick to the roads. It’s usually less than an inch thick and the green grass underneath still sticks out like porcupine quills.

Often it’s gone the same day or at least by the next day – kind of like an early warning sign, “Don’t forget winter is coming”.

That was not the case with this dump.

The wind was up, the snow was drifting and I had to do some shovelling.

It started early Sunday morning and, by midday Monday, it was still blowing.

There are a few things that don’t change year to year: we get winter, I get older … and I still don’t have a snowblower to make my job any easier!

While I was shovelling away this morning, I was picturing myself standing behind a bright red Briggs and Stratton with the snow churning up in the scoop and then flowing out the shoot onto the lawn.

It was a beautiful image, but then I had to lift a shovelful of snow over the growing pile and the image disappeared quicker than it came.

It’s not that I loathe shovelling snow, it’s just that I really don’t like it.

It’s like cutting grass in the summer; you cut it only for it to grow back again. You know your first session with a snow shovel is only going to lead to more.

I once knew some people who had a heated driveway – now that’s the way to do it!

It’s the reverse of artificial ice where they put pipes in the cement, and fill them with a freezing solution so the water on top of the cement will then freeze.

The process is the same for a heated driveway, only you push hot water through the pipes causing the snow on the surface of the cement to melt.

… I wonder what the cost would be on a double car driveway? It would be worth checking into.

Today the shovelling wasn’t as bad as the realization that this is just the start and there will be many more snowfalls and snow storms that will grace this land we live in.

For now all I can look forward to is tomorrow, when the temperature should be above zero and we should get some rain.

Ha, when are we ever happy to have rain? … only when we know it will melt some snow so we don’t have to turn on that heated driveway system … it probably costs a bundle to operate.

Here’s the thing: Like the first snowfall warns us to get ready for winter, motivating people to shop for snow brushes, shovels and snowblowers (Lily?), so the signs of the times warn us to get ready for Christ’s return. I don’t know when He is coming but we need to make sure we’re ready. Like it’s a guarantee we will have another snowfall, it’s a guarantee that Christ is coming again.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What are you doing to prepare for Christ’s return? Leave your comments below.

I Like This Winter That Wasn’t

This is my kind of winter. Sure, we have some snow now … well, maybe not by tomorrow. And I know some folks south of the border have it tough with some wild storms. But right here in the “We the North” country, we’re loving this year’s edition of winter!

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I did put my winter tires on the car, but I haven’t needed them. I still own a winter coat but I don’t always need to wear it.

What I’m not having to deal with right now is trying to park my car in a snow bank on the side of the road.

At this time last year, when we would go downtown to catch a hockey game, the parking spots on the streets had turned into snow banks. So basically you aimed your vehicle on a thirty-five degree angle and plowed into the bank to make a spot for your car.

I do kind of miss being able to fish-tale my way out of the church parking lot on Friday nights when I leave for home, and not being able to do the “fast and furious” drifting around corners. This year takes a little of the fun out of driving.

But you know, not having to scrape my car, or warm it up before getting into it for fear of cracking the seat material – that I’m not having a problem with one bit!

I am loving that I’ve only had to shovel my driveway once this winter – ya, that’s how many times it’s snowed. For a few years now I’ve been bugging my wife that we need a snowblower. She’s not hearing much of a peep out of me this season.

Today I had some errands to run and it was raining outside. I didn’t mind that at all. I’m disappointed when it rains in the summer because that means no mountain biking or golf. But in the winter, that doesn’t stop anything I do because everything I do is indoors.

When I was young I would skate on a pond and at an outdoor rink, but that was way back in the day. Now all my hockey is tucked in a nice, dry, cool arena.

I do realize I live in Canada and that spring isn’t right around the corner. We are bound to get some weather that chills my innards. We will get more snow before it’s gone for another year.

That’s okay, because we are not going to get as much of it now that winter is almost half over. My only fear is that this global warming has changed up the seasons, so that now our weather is like Australia – cold in the summer and warm in the winter.

If that happens here, I’m taking everything back that I’ve written so far. I’m still looking forward to a nice, hot, dry summer in 2016.

Here’s the thing: Life is very unpredictable just like the weather. No one can figure it out, not even the weatherman. You just have to take what you get and make the best of it. God doesn’t give us a long forecast for our lives either; so be thankful for what you have, and live your life for the Lord in the midst of whatever you are experiencing.

That’s life!

Paul

Question: How would you rate the weather in your life right now? Leave your comment below.

We Need A New Best Before Date

When you buy a bag of potato chips – not that I would buy one – but if you did buy a bag, you would find a “best before date” stamped on it.

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That’s a good thing because many things have a shelf life, and after that much of their goodness is gone.

In the case of fruits and vegetables, they have a “best before date” built right into them. When a banana’s skin gets brown, we say it’s overripe. It’s a nice way of saying it’s rotting (it doesn’t hurt the fruit’s feelings).

We toss things out if they’ve gone past their “best before date”, whether it’s stamped on their package or written all over their face … I mean, skin.

I wish we could have a “best before date” for snow. If snow had a “best before date” I think that February 28th would be a really good date to stamp on it.

But better than a stamp, it would be great if snow just started to rot around that date. In Canada we call that melting – and that would be perfect right about now!

What’s bugging me today is that it’s near the end of March, the temperature outside is -14 C and the snow on my front yard is still very … let’s say “ripe”. It’s showing no signs of going bad.

To be fair, it’s getting thin in some spots, but there is still lots of it in most places. … It’s like a guy who is going bald. At first you can see through a patch of hair and tell that he’s thinning, but you don’t think bald because he still has so much hair.

That’s all I can say about the snow on my front lawn: it’s thinning. But what if it had a “best before date” of February 28? By now it would be all gone; it would be bald.

At one time going bald was not considered something to cheer about. But today being bald is a fashion statement for men. Some guys shave their heads just so they can have that look.

So, I think that when it comes to snow, we really need to consider that trend. If the end of February really is a good “best before date” for snow, one of two things needs to happen:

Either the sun cooperates and melts that snow away, or the city has to take measures to shave it bald, and in the case of snow that would mean haul it away.

Maybe the city could hire their summer staff a little early on years when the snow was only thinning in March and have crews come along with shovels and dumpsters for the snow.

Better yet, have them come with industrial-sized hair dryers and dry out the snow. I understand that for guys going bald using a hair dryer speeds up the process … at least that’s what a friend told me years ago before he went bald.

Here’s the thing: When life bring hardships, hassles and hurts, we just want them to go away; we want to get past them. The best way to see that happen is to apply some heat and effort.  Turn your attention to the heat of prayer and the effort of searching God’s word. As you pray and study during difficult times, you will find that God brings you into a new season.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What do you need to spend more time praying and studying for right now? Leave your comment below.

It Sure Is Cold!

“Man, it’s cold out there!”, I said to a friend this week. I’ve made that same statement several times since and I believe it’s going to be one of my go-to statements for the next foreseeable future.

Brrr-It-Is-Cold-Outside

I’m having visions of when I lived in Alberta. I remember driving across Edmonton one February day, on my way to a conference at another church. There were about five pastors from our church in an iced up car, traveling in what seemed to be fog, at minus 28 degrees Celsius.

I thought it was fog – for all intensive purposes it acted like fog – you couldn’t see the cars ahead of you on the road. But it wasn’t really fog; it was so cold that there were ice crystals in the air!

That’s what created the fog-like condition, and it created another phenomenon that fascinated some of the passengers in the car: sun dogs.

These sun dogs are not what you are thinking … dogs that love to lie out at the beach and tan their underbellies. No, these sun dogs are like phantom suns. The light refracts off the ice crystals creating a bright spot on either side of the sun when it’s still low on the horizon.

These mock suns took people’s minds away from the fact that the inside of the car was still ice cold despite the five bodies that were huddled together.

I didn’t look at the sun dogs that much. I was concerned that my eyes were starting to water, and I didn’t want my boss to have to use the car scraper on them so I could see again.

It was cold that day. I still remember it even though it took place over twenty years ago. I still get shivers thinking about it right now!

The next sun dog I want to see is my brother’s bulldog, Chopper, wearing sunglasses at the beach.

I was remembering all this because it’s cold here in Ontario right now. And I was talking with my daughter the other day, bemoaning the fact of how cold it is.

She wanted to comfort me, ease my pain, get me thinking nicer thoughts, so she said, “at least it’s sunny.”  My response to that was, “Karlie, that’s what they say in Alberta!” and immediately my mind went straight back to those sun dogs and ice crystals.

By this time of year, the snow on people’s front yards should be all stomped down by kids playing in the snow, building snowmen.

But it’s been so cold for so long that kids in Kingston have forgotten what snowmen are. They don’t know how to build a snow fort or form snow balls anymore.

This is a childhood right of passage, but with temperatures of -24 C the snow won’t stick together.

I’m afraid if this keeps up we’ll have to retrain a whole generation of kids. They will have to teach a class called “Snow 101” to our grade 3 kids … which would be better than some of topics they’re proposing to teach next year!

Here’s the thing: Have you gone a long time feeling cold and distant from God? Maybe it’s time to try a new spiritual discipline to help you enter into a warmer, deeper, richer relationship with God. In Richard Foster’s book, “Celebration of Discipline”, he gives 12 spiritual disciplines:  inward disciplines of meditation, prayer, fasting, study; outward disciplines of simplicity, solitude, submission, service; corporate disciplines of confession, worship, guidance, and celebration. Why not give one of these a try to warm up your relationship?

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: On a scale of 1 – 10, how warm would you say your relationship with God is? Leave your comment below.

Winter Time and Snow Tires

Today I’m appreciating a decision I made this winter. For the first time, I put snow tires on my car. Up to now I had no intention, no desire to do it, but circumstances helped me make the decision.

snow-tires

A few years ago, I was given a set of old tires on rims but after time they were worn out.

So I had a set of good-for-nothing tires on rims just waiting to be used for something … I contemplated turning them into planters but I’m not the gardening type so I didn’t pursue that Idea.

The tires were no good but the rims were in decent shape. They were too good to use as a fire pit, so I just kept them in my garage … until this January.

Apparently, the farmers’ almanac said we were going to get lots of snow this year and I remembered that snow was in plenty supply last year as well. So I decided it was time to do what I had always been against … and that is to get snow tires.

I hadn’t driven a car with snow tires since they outlawed studs on tires back in the 70’s. I liked the clickity-clack of those studded tires as they danced along the 401, chewing up the asphalt in their wake.

Back then the answer to the removal of the studded tires was all-season radial tires. That’s what everyone bought for the longest time. I never heard of anyone putting winter tires on their car.

The only one who even advertised them was Canadian Tire and, with a name like that, you can understand why they would. But in the last ten years there has been a push to sell snow tires again.

It’s a pain because you have to store them somewhere. If you don’t have an extra set of rims you have to take them to a tire shop to have them put on and taken off.

My biggest complaint is, “What’s wrong all of a sudden with the all-season radials that we’ve used for so long?!”

I had noticed that the traction with my radials wasn’t what it used to be, but I drive a standard and the “slip-slidiness” only made driving a little more fun.

Still those rims were staring me in the face every time I entered my garage. So now I’ve been driving with snow tires on my car for the last month.

I’m not ruling out that the reason we have so much snow right now is because I got winter tires but I’m blaming the weather man – they’re used to taking the blame for every kind of inclement weather.

I have to say, I’ve been pleasantly surprised how well my car performs in the snow. I don’t spin my tires as much when the light turns green, and my car feels way more secure on the road.

And the bonus is I still have a little slip-slidiness to keep my driving interesting.

Here’s the thing: I resisted getting winter tires for years. I’ve had good excuses, like the cost, the storage, the hassle. But having snow tires is worth it. You may have some good excuses for keeping your devotional life the same, but things like making some changes, adding more time, changing up the questions you ask as you interact with scripture, will present you with a refreshed approach to meeting with God.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What changes could you make to your devotions? Leave your comment below.

I Got Left Behind

No one likes to be left behind, to stay put while others go somewhere. It doesn’t even matter where someone is going or why; it’s the fact that they get to go while you remain that’s the issue.

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That’s what happened to me this weekend. Lily left town and I’m left to stay home.

In our relationship, I’ve mostly been the one who’s gone somewhere while Lily has been left behind.

Going anywhere has some adventure, some intrigue to it; staying home is nothing but familiar.

Sometimes we try to trick our mind so it sounds like it’s better to stay behind. We might say something like, “Oh I hear it’s really cold in Florida right now.”

That might give momentary relief, hopefully long enough until the person leaves so they don’t witness you begging to go along as their luggage.

The fact is, it doesn’t matter how rotten the temperature is in Florida, going there has two very big selling points. First, it’s adventure – you are the going person and not the left behind chump.

And secondly, it’s Florida, and we live in Canada. We have three feet of snow on our lawn … the best Florida could produce on its worst day would be something that looked like manna from Biblical times.

And that’s where Lily has gone. No, not to some Biblical times place; she’s gone to Florida.

Yes, she’s driven to Florida with her mother and sister. I saw inside the trunk and I would not want to be part of their luggage. Nor do I think I would fit in very well as a tag-a-long.

They’re better without me and I’m better to stay home. See how my mind is working hard to adjust to being left behind?

It won’t be too bad here for me. I’ll probably shovel snow a few times this week. They may only get a couple of beach days.

I get to go to work everyday this week and have some evening commitments, too. They won’t even have a schedule to keep. They may have a hard time remembering what time of day it is.

I will be eating some of the finest foods, made and cooked by Lily’s own hands, then frozen solid in the freezer, so I can easily slip them in the microwave and nuke them.

They’ll have to spend money and eat out at restaurants like Applebee’s, Bob Evans, and the Olive Garden. Well, maybe not them, but they will have to eat out.

Here in Kingston we’ve been having quite a bit of sunshine of late; you can almost feel its tanning effects on your face … or maybe that’s frostbite from the windchill effect.

It doesn’t matter. If I stay outside long enough while she is away, my skin will be just as red as hers … though I will have to be careful I’m not out too long so the tip of my nose doesn’t chip off!

Here’s the thing: God wants you to journey with Him. It is a daily invitation to walk with Him, not just on your own, and to experience your day with Him. Go with Him. The crazy thing is, you are going that way anyway. If you travel with Him, however, you’ll experience the adventure and not be left behind.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What trip do you long to take right about now? Leave your comment below.

How Shovelling Snow Is Good For You

The opening line from a 1970 song by Led Zeppelin goes, “We come from the land of the ice and snow”. They wrote that song after a concert in Reykjavik, Iceland, but they could have written it if they had played in Kingston a week ago!

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It’s not that ice and snow are unfamiliar to us here in Eastern Ontario, it’s the amount of time I’ve spent in the last three days breaking up ice and snow from my driveway and sidewalk.

I’ve done the excavation work and we have several layers that have been discovered below the surface that we are driving on. I haven’t uncovered any fossils or dinosaur bones yet, but I still have more to unearth as I seek to reach the pavement.

Most people just have one property they need to consider when removing the snow and ice, but I have two. Sunday morning I spent over an hour and a half before our service breaking up the ice and snow on the walkway at church.

That’s the glamorous part of being a pastor! Thankfully, I was saved from total exhaustion by my associate, and a few other congregants who came to my assistance.

Then, after church, during what is normally my “NFL nap time”, I continued to work like an archeologist on my driveway for an hour or so.

Things were melting, which made my work a little easier, but also urgent because the cold weather was coming back and I really needed to make headway before everything froze up again.

At one point, my neighbour drove home and stopped in front of our house for a moment and just pointed to his place. I said to him, “I’ll get on it right away.” Then he parked his vehicle and yelled over to me, “That’ll give you a heart attack!”

I didn’t really need the reminder that I’ve already had one of those, but it did get me thinking that I better not overdue it. Hospitals see a higher volume of heart attacks after a snowfall. It’s all that heavy pushing and lifting, and then immediately afterwards lying on a couch for a rest, that’s hard on your heart.

Normally, I get to the end of January before I’m sick of the snow, but I think I’m pretty much sick of it now. When is spring, anyway? We’ve passed the shortest day of the year, the sunlight will be with us longer and longer now. If only the clouds would leave us.

In Led Zeppelin’s song, they sing, “Our only goal will be the western shore”, but for me, at this moment in time, a southern destination is the only thing on my mind.

Enough of this digging up ice and snow, enough looking for buried treasure (asphalt and cement). What I really need is a beach somewhere, where the only thing I’m digging is my feet into the sand at the water’s edge!

Here’s the thing: Often when we find ourselves in the midst of something that is difficult, and maybe unpleasant, we seek some kind of relief from it. We want to escape from the difficulty into something pleasant, something enjoyable. Instead of seeking escape, seek God to help you through the difficulty you find yourself in. You will learn more from God by going through something than escaping from it.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What do you find difficult and unpleasant that you would like to escape from?  Leave your comment below.

How Snow Can Keep You From Facing The Inevitable

When I woke up this morning there was a cottony layer of snow on the ground and my heart sank a little.

snowy day

It sank partly because we just got rid of a barrel full of the white stuff from about two weeks ago. Even though I only saw the snow through the blinds – it looked like the fuzz that grows on a man’s face after about three days of no shaving (like I would know) – something told me this stuff is here to stay for the season.

I should have been prepared. Yesterday, I watched two NFL games that were played in blizzard-like conditions … it was inevitable that the storm would move up to Canada and get us.

I like the usual debate we have around here at Christmas time. As it approaches, we start asking, “Do you think we will have snow for Christmas?”, or, “I wonder if we’ll have a green Christmas this year”.

Everyone wants those thin flakes that look like coriander seed and taste like wafers made from honey … oh, no wait, that’s manna that God sent the Israelites in the desert.  Our while flakey stuff is tasteless and has to be shovelled!

We all want it, but we’re fine if it only falls on Christmas Eve, or even really early Christmas day. That way it looks like Christmas but we haven’t had to dig ourselves out of it yet.

This snowfall, however, is coming a little earlier than I had hoped. There’s a chance it might not stay with us. We miraculously got rid of the last batch with some mild weather, some rain and a day of +10 celsius (that’s 50 degrees fahrenheit).

But they’re calling for snow for the next five days. I think I have to face it that winter is here to stay. There will be no guessing about a white Christmas this year; it’s a lock that we’ll have snow.

Then again, you never know. The weather could turn. And look! … Well you can’ t look, but I can – it’s now raining here on the other side of my window and the snow is rapidly disappearing. That might make for some slippery roads tonight if the temperature drops.

That also means we can still play the game of “Will we have snow for Christmas?” The odds are not in my favour though. They (who are they, anyway?) are calling for about 10 centimetres of snow this week.

There’s just no way to escape it, that is, if I’m going to stay here in Kingston. Snow is what we face every year, and even with the crazy weather patterns and global warming (it’s not happening fast enough), a snowy forecast is in my future.

Here’s the thing: There are so many things, like the weather, that are completely out of our control, yet we spend time thinking about them and hoping for something else. We don’t really want to face what is inevitable. It’s best, however, if we just prepare for it.

We can do that with God, too. We can hope that the Bible is wrong, or that He will be accepting of everyone in the end, but that’s not facing the inevitable. It’s just best to prepare for meeting God, by beginning a relationship with the one that Christmas is all about – Jesus Christ.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What do you dislike most about winter? Leave your comment below.