My Neighbours Are Dropping Like Flies

I feel abandoned by my neighbours; it seems like we are the only ones remaining strong.

… What I’m referring to is the number of neighbours who are leaving our street … not in a permanent way, just for a vacation.

We live on a small street of only ten houses – it’s actually a cul-de-sac – but three of our neighbours are going to warmer climates just as the cold and snow have hit us.

Christmas Day saw the most snowfall I can remember in this area. Though we were not going anywhere, I knew it was going to mean me having to leave lounging with my family to go and shovel the driveway and the back deck.

We had company coming for dinner and there was no way they could plow through all the snow that got dumped on us during the night.

… I’m even surprised Santa came through with the gifts. It must have been a tough night even with Rudolph leading the team.

Just before I got to stirring myself from my one-day hibernation, I heard a noise outside our door.

It was my neighbour with his snowblower. He plowed the driveway and our walk.

What a Christmas gift!

I shot him a thank you email a little later and his response was, “You’re welcome and we are leaving for southern climates for a couple of months.”

I went out to shovel our deck and clear more drifts from the driveway, and saw another neighbour doing the same. He yelled over Christmas greetings and promptly told me he was going to leave us with the cold and snow for some tropical weather the next day.

We’d already said goodbye to one family who are visiting their native land, where they don’t know what a fall jacket looks like, let alone a full-blown winter coat.

And I’m pretty sure there is yet one more snowbird who is flexing her wings to leave our white winter wonderland.

It’s not usually that bad when people go south. But when they gang up on you and leave when the temperature drops and the snow piles are as tall as your wife, it can be a little discouraging.

It’s not that I interact with my neighbours a lot during the dark part of the year, but even seeing those tail lights going into their garage, or giving a wave while we wipe the snow from our cars, is comforting, like we’re in this together.

I don’t feel that way right now. I feel a little abandoned, like I’ve been left to hold down the fort while others get to enjoy all the perks that come with sun, warmth and beach.

I know they will be back, and I know the present conditions will ease up a little. Some of this snow will melt and we will have some warmish days (that’s Canadian speak right there).

But for right now, looking out my window at all that snow, and the bags being loaded into vehicles, I think it would be nice to trade in a couple of presents for a temporary relocation.

Here’s the thing: There are times in life that we can feel abandoned, alone, like everyone else has taken off and we are by ourselves. At times like that, we need to connect with the Lord because He never leaves us. He is with us, strengthens us and upholds us. There is no need to fear or be dismayed (Isaiah 41:10).

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: Where would you like to be right now and with whom? Leave your comments below.

I’m Wondering If Winter Is Coming Soon

I think we are reverting back to winter in this part of the country.

We came through a very mild winter this year, with not much snow, and temperatures that made it easy on the joints.

After a winter like that, the expectation is that summer will come early and be really hot and dry.

Well, all my expectations have been blown apart by what we’ve recently been experiencing. There have been some promising days, but not enough strung together in a row.

At the end of April, we were at our cottage for a week and had a real mix of weather.

One day the temperature got up to 26 Celsius with a good dose of humidity. It really felt like a mid-summer day.

That evening, however, it cooled off and by the next day we were wearing coats and shivering at the sudden 20 degree drop in temperature.

Since then it has been cool and rainy almost every day.

Last Saturday morning after hockey, it was still raining. As we left the arena and walked to our cars, no one could believe the rain was still coming down.

I turned to one of the guys and said, “Take it easy; see you on the ark.”

I haven’t seen the sun for so long that I’m beginning to forget what it looks like. I think it used to be this big orange ball in the sky, but I could be wrong.

Someone reported that it snowed really early one morning this week.

I realize that, at any given time, it is snowing somewhere in the world. But that somewhere is not supposed to be Kingston, Ontario – especially in May!

The weather has been so bad this spring that I haven’t been on the mountain biking trails yet.

I got an email from my biking club this morning that read, “All trails closed until further notice, due to rain and erosion.”

This is killing me!

About a month ago I saw an ad for a competitive baseball league for those over 60. I haven’t played ball in a long time but I thought maybe I would give it a shot this year.

Well, the last three weeks they have cancelled the games because the field is too wet. I still haven’t met the other guys I’ll be playing with.

It seems like somehow we might have skipped through spring and summer and are heading directly into late fall.

The only evidence against that notion is that the leaves on the trees are starting to come out … but they are all curled up – I think they are in protest, refusing to open up until they see a little sun!

All I’m saying is we need a change in the weather. If something doesn’t change soon people from Vancouver will be moving back to Ontario because they can get the same amount of rain and overcast skies right here.

Here’s the thing: When things aren’t going well, or as you expected, it’s easy to get down, discouraged and question what might be wrong. That is exactly what the devil wants and promotes. He wants you focused on the negative and distracted from the truth of who God is and what He has done for you through Christ. To weather the storm, stand firm on your faith in spite of your feelings.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: How have you been weathering the storm? Leave your comments below.

Our Annual Christmas Trip To Toronto

Christmas is fast approaching and it’s time for our annual trek down to Toronto to celebrate Christmas with my family.

It’s always a guess as to what the weather will be like for the trip.

The gathering is a one-day event. We leave early in the morning and come back after dinner in the evening.

Sometimes the weather is just fine both way. Sometimes we get good weather one way but miserable the other.

The worst trips are when the weather is bad both ways. That’s when the neck gets stiff and the hands get sore from tightly gripping the steering wheel.

The all-time worst trip was about ten years ago. We were driving a GMC Safari van at the time and my daughter had just got her license.

As we piled into the van, Karlie said, “Hey, can I drive?” Without a thought I said, “Sure”.

By my wife Lily’s face, I could tell she didn’t think this was a good idea. But I got in the passenger seat and Karlie got behind the wheel anyway.

Backing out of the driveway, I could tell the road conditions would not be ideal. At the end of our street, the van slid a little when Karlie put the brakes on, eliciting a few comments from the backseat … nothing that you could remotely consider as encouragement. I could tell that those in the backseat felt their lives were at risk.

I couldn’t say I felt comfortable either, but we kept going. The snow was deep and there was a layer of ice underneath.

It was ten kilometres to the highway and I really hoped that the 401 had been cleared and we would be fine.

That wasn’t the case. As we rounded the cloverleaf to merge onto the highway, Karlie spun the car.

Lily could not contain herself any longer. “That’s it! She’s not driving!” Lil exclaimed in no uncertain terms.

I could tell this woman was scared to death. At that point I got behind the wheel.

It was a good thing. We had a 1 pm family hockey game to get to and I wasn’t sure we would make it; we really needed to make some time.

As we started down the 401, my hopes of playing hockey were disappearing. Cars were traveling at 40 km/hr in single file in the right lane. The huge ruts between the lanes made it very risky to venture into the left.

I was fairly sure we were not going to make it when a bus went by us, traveling in the left lane, going about 100 km/hr.

I thought to myself, “The only chance we have of making the game is getting behind that bus.”

So I pointed the van into the knee-high snow ruts and we bounced through them.

I swerved and steered into the tracks the bus made and pushed the pedal down.

We motored by all the cars in the right lane, making great time. After about an hour of horrible conditions, we ran out of the snow.

As I caught up to the bus, I could see the driver looking at me in his side mirror. I waved thanks to him, and drove on by.

Without him blazing the trail, we never would have had a chance.

… Well, this year they’re calling for that same kind of weather. I sure hope the weatherman is wrong … or that there is a bus driver who needs to get to Toronto on time.

Here’s the thing: In life there will be trouble. The key is to recognize when something comes along to alleviate the trouble. Two thousand years ago a Saviour came on the scene to provide a way past sin and hell. Recognizing this Saviour, Jesus, will alleviate your guilt and suffering.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What helps you out of trouble? Leave your comment 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!

snowman-on-grass

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.

A Winter Vacation Would Be Nice

It’s just past the middle of January and you know what that means, don’t you? It’s time to take that vacation to some place warm, with water and beachfront right out your window.

winter vacation

No, that’s only for the few and fortunate! For the rest of us, mid January signals time for the winter blahs.

The best some of us can do, in the words of the song by Smash Mouth, is take a “Holiday in my Head”. We can only dream of taking off, leaving work and responsibilities behind, for some carefree recreation and rest.

Many of us get out of bed in the mornings in the middle of January and have an overwhelming sense of overload … and dread.

You’ve got too much work to do, and dread that your goals and plans for the year are not going to be reached. You even feel like throwing in the towel and giving up, like there’s a looming catastrophe just around the corner.

Is that how you feel right now? You didn’t get in this place all of a sudden, even though it seems like one day you just woke up and, BAM!, all life is crashing around you.

No, it happens slowly and over time. You miss a deadline; you schedule it but don’t get it done. So you push that work off to the next day or the next, and soon it becomes critical.

That same sequence of events happens over and over with other things in your life, your goals your plans, your commitments, demands and requests from others.

And every day the build-up goes unnoticed until one day you wake up and it all seems like it’s crashing down on you, like a waterfall cascading over the rocks, thundering to the pool of water below.

You’re standing in that pool of water with that waterfall beating down on you. It seems hopeless to get out of it and it’s pounding you down.

It’s only mid January! You have the whole year still ahead of you, but all you can think about is that the whole year is a bust. You’ve blown it, or circumstances have made it impossible for you to have a profitable year.

What do you do when you are in that place? How do you get out from under such an intense feeling of utter defeat?

Well, there are a couple of things you can do when you feel that way. First, you can just forget about some of those things; they may not be as important as you made them out to be.

Second, write everything down, so you can see them all together. When your work and demands are just swirling around in your head, it seems like more than it really is. Seeing all your tasks before you gives you perspective.

Then focus on one thing at a time. Complete it and move on to the next, not thinking of all you have to do, but just the one thing that’s next.

Here’s the thing: To even get to the place where you are able to write everything down and then work on one thing, first turn to God and ask Him for help. Seek His guidance and wisdom to get out from under the downpour. Request His protection to stand over you so that the water beats on Him and you just experience the spray. Then you will find the calm, the presence of mind to do what you have to do.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What has got you overwhelmed at this time?  Leave your comment below.

Have You Ever Got Tired Of Trying To Plan A Vacation?

I have taken a winter vacation about three times in my life. One time doesn’t count because I was in my early 20’s. At that age, you neither appreciate nor understand any benefits of a winter vacation. A great portion of your life is vacation!

beach

The other two winter vacations have both been in the last 14 years. One was a trip to Florida, and Disney World, near the end of a winter, and the other more recent one was a Caribbean Cruise at the beginning of a new year.

Both times I’ve told myself that this winter vacation thing is a great idea, and we should do it again. But with ten years between the first two, and four years since the last one, we really haven’t made it a habit.

There are always very good reasons why we don’t. Scheduling is a big deal. It’s not like I can just book any time and go. I have lots of arrangements to make, and then sometimes there are meetings and activities that I can’t get out of.

Money is always an issue. It would be nice to go on a winter vacation and it not affect your wallet but, no matter how cheap people say their trip was, when you start to look for a winter vacation, there are never those kinds of deals.

Lil and I decided to take a winter vacation this year to somewhere warm. At first we had big plans – some all-inclusive resort, where the beaches have white sand and the sun never stops shining.

But every place we checked looked like it would be a way more than we wanted to spend. We then had plans of using a relative’s time share, which would cut the cost down considerably. But when we looked at the dates we could go, there was nothing available.

Now things at work are changing and I may have to change my vacation dates to make it fit. I’m thinking that if we want a winter vacation it might have to involve setting up a tent in our living room for a week!

In some ways, that’s kind of Biblical. There was a festival in Israel, called the Feast of Tabernacles, where they all set up booths (tents) and lived in them for a week. Mind you, the purpose of that was to remember that God had the Israelites live in tents when they left Egypt.

I wonder if that’s where we got the idea for modern camping … where after a week of camping you begin rejoicing that you have a solid roof over your head, a bed that doesn’t stir up claustrophobic nightmares, and you can cook without lighting a match or rubbing a couple of sticks together.

Wow, I’m getting tired and fed up with trying to figure out a winter vacation. Maybe that’s the real reason we have done it so infrequently. You feel like you need another vacation from trying to plan for one.

Here’s the thing:  We often think that if God is in something, it will just fall into place. Well, sometimes things are difficult and take a lot of work, even when God is in them. Sometimes we might have doubts along the way, even when God is in it. Many times it’s not until it’s over that we can look back and say, “See, God was in it the whole time.” … Don’t give up.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What is something you had doubts about, but, in the end, saw God in it all? Leave your comment below.

Canadians and Hockey

There is something weird about us Canadians.  The other day I was out for dinner with my family – that would be 3/4 of my family because one quarter left us for Alberta five years ago and has not yet found her way back.

Anyway, we were in this restaurant having one of my favorite meals, hot wings. This particular restaurant had television screens all over and they were tuned to a sports channel.

I like sports so, even though the sound was off and pop music was playing through the speakers, I found myself watching what was on the screen.  About 5 minutes went by before I realized I’d been watching hockey highlights, goal after goal, great saves, and awesome hits.  But these weren’t highlights from last night’s games – they were from last year!  There’s a hockey strike on right now.

Now that’s Canadian.  It’s hockey season, so strike or no strike we’re going to watch hockey in some form or other.  It was funny because I was ogling the dekes these guys made on the goalies, and banging the table when the goalies made their out-of-nowhere glove saves.

I thought to myself, “Why am I interested in these highlights? I’ve seen them all last year.”  And after 5 or 10 minutes of watching in the restaurant, I’d seen them several more times.  But I kept watching, even though there weren’t many “Leaf” highlights.

I wasn’t the only one watching; my son was watching too.  We talked about what we were looking at as if it had some bearing on world peace or maybe war in the middle east.  There is just something about September that forces us to tune in; it flows through the veins of Canadians, like the urge to pack up the lawn mower and tune up the snowblower (man, I wish I had one of them!).

To be honest, I don’t think this NHL hockey strike is such a bad thing.  Right now my Toronto Maple Leafs have a perfect season going.  In fact, they’re in first place in the league.  I realize it’s a tie with every other team in the league, but hey, if the playoffs started right now, the Leafs would have a chance!

In one Toronto store, I saw on their TVs they were showing a hockey playoff game between Montreal and Philly.  I thought to myself, “This is Toronto and they’re showing a Montreal game?”  Then I remembered, if they showed a Leafs’ playoff game it would be in black and white!

Personally, I believe this strike comes at a good time.  The Leafs haven’t made the playoffs since the last strike so this strike should break the jinx … we’ll probably see them in the playoffs again regularly.

Here’s the thing:  We all have things that grab our interest, command our attention, draw our focus away from everything else.  But does that happen with God?  When you read the Bible, do you get lost in what it’s saying to you?  When you are alone with God, do you lose track of time and everything else around you?  I don’t think it will happen all the time, but at certain moments, seasons of our life, our God should grab our interest, grab our attention, draw our focus away from everything else.  If it doesn’t happen, we should look into why, and make some changes.

Until Next Time!

Pastor Paul

Question: When has God so grabbed your attention that everything else faded around you? Leave your comment below.