Mid-Week Messages from Rev. Dean

October 14th - Regardless of What Extreme We Are In

 

On Tuesday night I experienced two extremes when it comes to ministry. At 6:30 p.m., I was sitting in a meeting to decide whether the pastoral tie between the minister and the congregation should be discontinued due to financial constraints. It is never a pleasant experience to sit in such meetings to see a relationship between the minister and the congregation come to an end. While this meeting was going on I was aware that another meeting was taking place online to determine if a new minister from the Hamilton area would be approved to be the next pastor at a congregation within our Presbytery. Those kinds of meetings tend to be pleasant experiences for me because I like to hear about the excitement that the congregation and the new minister feel about this journey they are about to take together.

 

On the very same night, around the very same time one minister would be disappointed that his time had come to an end with his congregation, and another would be excited that he was about to start on a new chapter of ministry in his life. I was conscious of the two extremes that these ministers were going through because I have faced these kinds of extremes in my life too. Twice I have had the joy as a minister of being called to come and be the pastor of a congregation. It truly is a happy moment for any minister. But like the other minister on Tuesday night, I too have had to have my ministry with a congregation come to an end. In my case it was not due to financial constraints but rather health issues. A pastor truly does grieve and experience loss when their time as a spiritual leader comes to an end.

 

Sometimes we are that person who is experiencing one extreme or the other in life. There are so many extremes we might experience. Read more

 

October 6th - Showing Love On and Off the Court

 

I shared with you a few weeks ago in my mid-week message how hard it was for me to cut players from the team after basketball tryouts. When I called the tenth and final player I selected for the team, it became clear why God had me choose her over the other player. Her father had died from cancer a year earlier and it was close to the one-year anniversary when I told her the good news that she had made the team.

 

Last Saturday we had our first practice since tryouts a month earlier. This player was not able to be at our tryouts. I went to a basketball clinic she was part of in order to evaluate her skills. This practice was the first time she would meet her teammates. I knew she would be nervous, so I asked my co-captains to introduce her to the other girls. When they took her over to introduce her to the others, one of my returning players made a special effort to make her feel welcomed and included. She not only made this effort with this new player, but also with another player who was new to our team as well. I was so impressed by how natural this player was in reaching out and making these two new teammates feel so welcome.

 

After the practice, the girls gathered outside for ten minutes to work on their cheer for the new season. As they did this, I took the opportunity to introduce the mother of the new girl to the other parents. I knew the mother was just as nervous as the daughter because it was the first time this family had been part of rep basketball. One of the mothers made a big effort to welcome this new mom into the group and did so with a huge smile on her face.

 

The next day I sent an e-mail to the girl who showed such care and love making the two new players feel so welcome. I wanted her to know how impressed and touched I was to see her do what she did for her new teammates. Read more

 

September 29th - Getting the Best Advice

 

Last week my message was about two funerals that I had conducted the previous week. Thankfully, I had no funerals last week, but I did have a wedding. Just as I try to make each funeral service personal and meaningful, I like to take this same approach for weddings. For this wedding I had the sister of the groom sister contact family members on both sides to see what advice they wanted to offer the bride and groom as they entered into this new season in their relationship.

 

From the side of the bride, I was able to share advice with them from her grandparents and also her parents. On the side of the groom, the advice shared came from his parents and his sister and brother-in-law. One would expect advice to come from these generations to a couple who is about to enter into marriage. What was interesting was the niece of the bride, and the nephew of the groom also had advice for the couple. This nephew and niece are between the ages of 4 and 6. The advice the niece gave was, marriage needs love and hugs. The nephew offered this advice: have lots of family tickle fights and kisses! Even this young niece and nephew offered some pretty wise advice to this couple.

 

We often seek or receive advice from people as we enter new situations or realities in our lives. In this case, family and friends would not have offered much advice to the couple when they started dating, but certainly would have done so once they became engaged and the wedding approached. When we are seeking advice, it is so important for us to be able to discern good advice from bad. People are well intentioned when it comes to offering their advice to us, but not all of the advice offered will be wise or best for us. A mistake some people make in these situations is failing to seek the advice of God about what they should do. The people of Judah made this mistake at times in their relationship with God. One instance happened in Isaiah 30. Read more

 

September 22nd - Touching the Lives of Other People

 

I had a busier schedule than usual last week as a pastor. A week always becomes busier when a pastor is asked to do a funeral. Last week I had a funeral on Thursday as well as on Friday. The Thursday funeral was for a person who had a connection to the church many years ago. The Friday one however, was for somebody I had met at McDonalds several years ago.

 

When I first started ministering here, I used to go to McDonalds on Stanley Street four days a week and work while I enjoyed a few cups of coffee. I became a regular there and people would see me at a booth with my Bible open usually writing a sermon. I called it my coffee shop ministry and got to know many other regulars who would come in each day. As I would go to the counter for my refill(s), I would often enter into conversations with people, or stop at their booths and talk. I got to know one man and his daughter who would always come in around 10:30 each morning to have a coffee and muffin and read the paper. I never got to know them by name, but I would talk to them a couple of times a week discussing topics that they would be reading in the paper that day.

 

About six years ago I started going to a different place for my morning coffee and to work. Even though I no longer saw them at McDonalds, I would run into them a couple of times a year at different places. When the funeral home called me last week and asked me to do a funeral on Friday, they said it was for somebody I met at McDonalds when I would go in and write my sermons. At first, I did not recognize who it was because I never got to know their names. When the clergy record was sent to me, I soon figured out it was the father of this woman who would bring him in each day. When I called her later that day, the daughter told me that her father requested that I perform the funeral service for him. Obviously, I touched this man in some special way many years back when we used to chat at McDonalds. Situations like this are always a reminder to me that we never know who we touch in positive ways as we go about our daily travels.

 

A couple of weeks ago I included the parable of the Good Samaritan in my sermon. The parable can be found in Luke 10: 27-37. If you are not familiar with the parable, Jesus talked about a Jewish man who was traveling on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. He was attacked by bandits along the way, who beat him up and left him for dead at the side of the road. By chance, a priest came along but when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant also walked by and did not help the man. When the Samaritan came along, he felt compassion for the man. He went over to him, soothed his wounds and bandaged them, and then took the man to a nearby inn and looked after him. All three of these people were on their daily travels that day as the man lay at the side of the road badly beaten. Only the Samaritan made the effort to truly touch this badly injured life by showing care and compassion. This example of the Samaritan reveals to us some of the things required to touch the lives of other people in positive ways. Read more

 

September 14th - A Lesson For Today From 9/11

 

I watched quite a few telecasts this past weekend documenting the 20-year anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001. Even though it has been twenty years, and I have seen footage from that day so many times, it still shocked and saddened me at times watching it again. I am always amazed by the stories shared by people who experienced that tragic day in history. On previous anniversaries I would hear stories told by some of the firefighters at the World Trade Center, or from people who were in the building when the planes hit and were able to get out. Sometimes the stories that were told were from the widows of people who perished that day recalling their final conversations with their loved ones, and the impact that day had on them.

 

This year, for the first time, I began to hear the stories about some of the children whose parents died that day. Being twenty years later many of these children are now in their early to late twenties. Pictures were shown of these children twenty years earlier with their parents before they died on September 11th. They showed pictures of these children celebrating birthdays or Christmas with their parents. Other pictures were of them being thrown up in the air as youngsters by their parent and being caught in midair. Then they would show that child grown up today beside a picture of their parent who died. You almost always saw the resemblance. What stood out to me the most about each of these children was the lessons they were carrying forward with them from 9/11.

 

Every one of these adult children talked so proudly about their parents from that day. Two of the children became firefighters in order to follow in their footsteps. Their father actually made it out of the first building before it collapsed but went into the second tower to try and rescue others before it too collapsed. He knew the risk of going in, but his sons realized their father was willing to sacrifice his life for others who were in need of help. Some of the other children have established charities to honour their memory and legacy. Still others said, they have learned to be resilient, strong, and more willing to show love and make sacrifices for others as a result of the efforts their parents made that tragic day. I was so impressed by these young men and women who lost parents on 9/11. They were determined to take the lessons they learned from their parent's actions that day and turn it into a positive in their lives.

 

Whether these children who lost parents on 9/11 realized it or not, they were following advice offered by God in the Bible by learning from these events. Read more

 

September 8th - Never Make This Cut in Your Life

 

I shared with you last week how I have taken on a new job coaching a basketball team this year. We had our tryouts on Tuesday and Thursday nights last week. Many coaches have told me tryouts are one of the hardest parts of the experience because you want to leave a good impression not just on the potential players, but their parents as well. Surprisingly, I was not too nervous heading into tryouts. I was well

prepared and planned out a very thorough practice in order to get a good evaluation of each player. I also met with the parents outside afterward and explained to them my coaching philosophy and what to expect over the course of this season. I did not find tryouts as hard as many told me it would be. What I found hard though is what coaches have to do once tryouts are over.

 

Sadly, you can only have so many players on a team, and I had to cut one player from our team. I had to decide between two players who would be given the tenth and final position on the team. Both girls had never played rep basketball before, so I could not go on experience. The decision came down to skills and where they were at in their development as basketball players. On Monday I had the joy of being able to share

with the one player she made the team but had the tough task of telling the other she did not. I wanted to word my e-mail to this girl and her parents in a way that showed sensitivity and care despite knowing full well the disappointment they would feel. So, I shared with them in the e-mail all of the qualities I recognized in her. I then let them know about other teams who were still having tryouts in the area in case she wanted to attend them. I also told them if that did not work out to playhouse league this year and go to various skill camps. It was a hard e-mail for me to write. It is not pleasant having to cut somebody from the team. If somebody were to ask me, making cuts is the hardest thing about coaching, not conducting tryouts. Read more

 

September 1st - One Way Prayers Get Answered

 

I have just started a new job this week. Now do not get worried, because I am still keeping my job as your pastor. Perhaps, you may be more worried that I am still keeping my job as your pastor. The new job that I have started this week is coaching the basketball team Coral plays on which is made up of 15-year-olds starting Grade 10 this year. I served as an assistant coach two years ago and I have coached Coral individually for probably four years now.

 

At times I taught Coral a few things, and other times she pointed out to me I was teaching some things wrong. This will be new territory for me stepping into a head coaching position. There were a lot of people surprised by my decision to do this. First of all, my mother was shocked and surprised when I told her about it. I think some of her shock was thinking when I would have the time for this, but also whether I had the knowledge to do so. Thankfully, I heard Coral say to her, Dad will do a good job as he has been doing a lot of studying and preparation. I did not even have to pay her to say that.

 

The surprise of others when they learned about my decision had more to do with the responsibilities, commitments, and headaches that come from coaching. I really see my decision as an answer to prayer. Read more

 

August 26th - God Our Constant Help

 

We have a basketball net in front of our house for my daughter Coral to shoot and practice at. Recently, the rim came off the basket. I wish I could say it was a result of all of my slam dunks, but this pastor does not jump very high. Rust got the better of the rim, not me. Fortunately, we did have a replacement rim. One night, Nadine and I decided to get up on a ladder and try to put the new rim on. The rim is about ten feet up and we could tell right away that it was going to be a struggle to try to take off the old one and install the replacement while standing on a ladder.

 

Just as we came to this realization one of our neighbours rode down the street on his bicycle and suggested that it might be easier for us to lay the basketball net on the grass instead of trying to do it high up on the ladder. His advice could not have come at a better time. He rode off after offering this advice and we were able to lay the basketball net system on our front lawn. We had to remove four bolts in order to take off the broken hoop. It did not take long for us to realize it was going to be a long struggle. I put a wrench on one side of the bolt while Nadine tried to loosen it from the other side, but we were making little to no progress.

 

Right at this point another neighbour and his wife were walking by our house. I had never seen this couple walk down our street before. They live a couple of blocks over from us. He initially asked if we were taking apart the entire basketball net. When we shared with him that we were just trying to replace the rim but were struggling with the bolts, he came over and looked at our dilemma. He realized quickly that part of our struggle was due to not having the right wrenches for the job. Read more

August 19th - The Problem with Busyness

 

The wood siding on our house is in need of some work. The previous owner stained it about 15 years ago and it is now showing signs of peeling and wear. As well, some of the wood boards are starting to split. We have had several painting contractors and also siding companies come recently to give us quotes. It has been an interesting and eye-opening experience to say the least.

Contractors are very busy right now as many people have used the pandemic to spend money on fixing up their homes as opposed to going on trips. We have had four painting companies come to give us quotes. They were all nice to talk with when they came, and very experienced and knowledgeable. They all said they would get back to us with a quote. The first two painters never got back to us with a firm quote. This was the same case with a third painter who came two weeks ago. We did get a quote eventually from the fourth painter, but it was only because we called him two weeks after he came, and he felt guilty that he had not done anything since his visit. They all admitted how busy they were when they came to see our house and we know they are just overwhelmed at this point with all the work they have.

At least they came to the house to look at the job. We asked a contractor recently to come and give us a price on replacing any damaged wood siding before we get it painted. He promised to come some night last week. We never heard from him. The interesting thing is the two siding companies that came to give us quotes admitted they were just as busy, but still got back to us with their quotes. It has been interesting to see the responses on the part of some of these contractors during this time frame when they are extremely busy. Some have kept their promises to us, and others have not. Despite understanding it is because they are busy, the failure to keep their promises puts doubts in our mind about their reliability and dependability. It makes us wonder even if we went with them could we rely on the promises they make to us. Read more

August 12th - What a Little Kindness Can Do

 

I have shared with you previously that I have a neighbour who is a Montreal Canadiens fan. I also shared how he did a few unkind things towards me during the hockey season. You may remember when the Montreal Canadiens eliminated the Leafs from the playoffs he sent me a text asking if I had the "Canadian" flu. Then when the Canadiens eliminated Las Vegas to move into the Stanley Cup finals he paraded in front of my house wearing a Habs jersey and hat. These were very unkind things to do on his part. Then again, I was not any better when the Leafs were up 3-1 in the series by making a few comments his way. Leaf fans and Canadiens fans do not always make kind remarks to one another.

Sadly, we are seeing examples of unkind remarks being made by many of late. We saw several examples of this happening during the recent Olympics. When the Canadian womens rugby team was eliminated from competition, a former coach made some unkind remarks about their work ethic. Former US Olympic champion Carl Lewis did the same when the mens 4X100 relay team failed to qualify for the final. He spoke about what an embarrassment it was to the US national program and that he had seen university teams do far better. Former U.S. President Donald Trump made some unkind comments towards the U.S. womens soccer team when they lost to Canada in the semi finals saying their loss was a result of being more focused on political and societal issues than playing.

These were just some of the unkind things spoken during the Olympics. I am sure there were far more unkind things said. I have been hearing from others lately that they have been on the receiving end of unkind remarks. Several people told me that they had rude and unkind things said to them by complete strangers at the grocery store when they informed the person they were not following the arrows in the aisles. I had somebody else tell me when they did something similar at another store, the person came up a few minutes later and hit them on their back side. My wife talked with a teacher recently who shared that when she had to take time off during the year for stress leave, she received all kinds of nasty messages from the parents of her students.

Social media is filled with examples of people saying unkind things toward others. It is sad to see so much unkindness happening in our world today. This is not the kind of world that God has envisioned for us. Read more

August 5th - May Grief Not Define Us

 

A television show I always look forward to watching every summer is Americas Got Talent! This year I have been falling behind on watching the weekly telecasts. Recently I watched Episode Six of the auditions that aired at least three weeks ago. The one segment showed a father named Matt with his son and two daughters.

When he came on stage, he shared with the judges that he was going to sing for them. Simon Cowell then asked Matt why he had decided now was the time to audition for the show. Matt explained how his whole life changed on January 26, 2020. Matt and his wife had been married for 15 years. During that time, they had been blessed with their three children. He and his wife had recently retired from teaching so Matt could pursue his dream of singing and she could coach basketball.

On the morning of January 26, 2020, hia wife kissed him goodbye to head off to basketball practice with Kobe Bryant and his daughter. Tragically his wife died in the helicopter crash that also took the lives of Kobe Bryant and his daughter. After that tragic day his focus naturally had to be on his three children. Matt admitted that if he could have it his way his wife would still be with him and their children.

After sharing his story with the judges and the audience, it was now time for Matt to sing. The song he chose was by Phil Collins called Against All Odds. If you are familiar with the lyrics to this song, then you can imagine how emotional it was to hear Matt sing these words: Read more

July 29th - Keeping a Healthy Perspective

 

We finally had a family outing last week. On Tuesday afternoon, all three of us drove together to Paris for our family outing. The funny thing was our family outing was to get our second vaccination shots. We laughed about it in the car when I brought it up. It really was a reminder of the times we have been going through when getting our vaccine shots together constituted a family outing. Being able to laugh and keep a healthy perspective like this has helped us deal with the disappointments of not being able to do as many family outings due to COVID.

 

We have had to change our views or perspective of things as a result of this pandemic. It has been a reminder to us of:

* how fragile life is and how quick things can change,

* how it is a fallen and scary world in which we live,

* how we should never take for granted the everyday things in life,

* how we need to think about what things are truly important to us,

*  how our lives were perhaps too busy and out of control prior to this.

Our lives have been turned so upside down by this pandemic it has forced us to change our perspective about these and many other things.

It is so important to be able to maintain a proper and healthy perspective when we go through stressful times like this. Sometimes however, the stress of the situation may take away from our ability to maintain that healthy perspective. David found himself struggling with this very problem in Psalm 13. Read more

July 21st - Keeping Our Promises

 

I had the honour of officiating a wedding this past Saturday. It was an outdoor wedding and thankfully the rain stopped just before the ceremony. When my wife and I got married thirty-two years ago we chose to write our own vows. Since becoming a minister, I have never had a couple decide to write their own vows until this last wedding. Most couples choose the traditional vows to make at their wedding.

 

When it came time for the vows on Saturday, both the bride and groom read their vows to one another from the cue cards they had prepared. Each of them put so much thought into their vows. Naturally, they got very emotional as they read. The words they expressed to one another were personal, heartfelt, meaningful, and touching. I think everybody there was truly touched by the meaningful vows the bride and groom made to each other that day. Marriage vows are very special ones that are made before God and those present at the ceremony and are meant to be kept and honoured by both the husband and wife.

 

During the past sixteen months of living through this pandemic, perhaps we have made various promises or vows to others. My mother experienced both her 90th and 91st birthdays during this time frame. Many people called her on these birthdays to say as soon as it was safe to do so they would take my mom out for lunch to celebrate her milestone. As we have moved as a province into Step 2 and now Step 3, some of the people who made this promise to my mom have followed through. A certain restaurant in St. George seems to be profiting from these people keeping their promise to my mother.

 

Have we made promises or vows to others during this time like these people made to my mother? Have we promised a family member or friend:

* to get back together for weekly coffee chats,

* to celebrate an event we were not able to during the pandemic,

* to take them out for lunch or dinner,

* to have them over for a visit? Read more

 

July 14th - My Recent Experience in Hell

 

Last week I had to endure what I consider to be hell for a nine-hour span. On the Tuesday I had to drive my mother-in-law to a hospital in the heart of downtown Toronto for a medical procedure. I always consider driving in Toronto hell, but to have to go right into the heart of the downtown makes it even worse. I know some people do not mind driving in Toronto, but I am not such a person. To make this experience of driving to Toronto even worse, I had to do it both ways in rush hour traffic. Google maps said it should take me 90 minutes to get to the hospital from my house. On the way there in the morning we experienced four major traffic delays that stretched the time of the drive to just over two hours. Coming home we experienced the same number of slow downs with traffic. Driving to and from Toronto is bad enough, but to have to do so in rush hour traffic makes it even worse.

 

Driving in Toronto was not my only experience with hell that day. It was also very hot and humid. I was not allowed in the hospital, and because the Province of Ontario was still in Step 2 of reopening, I could not go inside a McDonalds or a Tim Hortons to get a coffee, sit at a table, and do work. Instead, I had to find a bench outside the hospital and endure the heat and humidity from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. It felt like hell waiting in the humidity that day, especially when my mother-in-law texted me to say they were running behind with day surgeries and her procedure would be about an hour or more later than scheduled.

 

I was not the only one experiencing my version of hell that day. Late in the morning I was approached by a man who was pushing a shopping cart. He started talking with me, and when he learned I was a minister he began to tell me his life story. Read more

 

July 8th - Two Virtues the Pandemic Has Taught Us

 

My next-door neighbour, besides being a Montreal Canadiens fan, is also an avid fisherman. He has a boat that he takes out fishing quite often. I ran into him last Thursday and asked if he would be fishing on the weekend. He told me that he had put an offer on a new boat and was hoping to hear back on the weekend if the seller would accept. As a result, he was planning to wait around in anticipation of getting the call.

 

I was in the backyard cleaning our pool on Saturday afternoon and noticed his vehicle was gone. I wondered if he had gotten the call to pick up the new boat. He pulled into his driveway while I was still in the pool, so I yelled over to him and asked if he had been out to pick up his new boat. He looked over at me and said, No, they are being so slow in getting back to me. If this pandemic hasn't taught me patience, I don't think anything will!

 

Perhaps you had the gift of patience prior to this pandemic, but if not, I think there is truth in his comment that this ordeal has hopefully taught us this trait. We have had to display patience in so many ways during this time. Read more

 

June 30th - A Timely Examination of My Eyes

 

This past Thursday was the 20th anniversary of my ordination as a minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The ceremony began around 3:30 p.m. that day and it was around 4:15 p.m. when I kneeled and had hands laid upon me for my ordination. Around the same time in the afternoon last Thursday, I was having my eyes examined at the optometrist office. I thought it was rather fitting to have my eyes examined around the exact moment of the 20th anniversary of my ordination. The reason why I say this is because I have seen many things during the first 20 years of ordained ministry. For instance:

* I have seen several times when God placed me in the midst of difficult situations in order to restore peace and order.

* I have seen a lot of death, grief, and loss as I have officiated almost 400 funerals during this time.

* I have seen God develop so many gifts in me during this time that I did not have for ministry when He first called me.

* I have seen God perform a miracle before my eyes when a person who was determined as being brain dead was about to be taken off life support but as I prayed with the family at his bed side all of a sudden, he opened his eyes and was able to move his limbs on his own. Even the doctor and nurse who were nearby as I prayed admitted it was a miracle. Read more

June 22nd - He Actually Listened to Me

 

There is a colleague of mine in ministry who dresses far more casually than I do when it comes to leading worship. While I still wear a dress shirt and tie each Sunday, this particular minister might be seen wearing a t-shirt and jeans, or a toque, or some other casual dress attire. Every Mothers Day however, this minister does put on a suit and tie to lead worship in order to please and honour his mother.

 

After this recent Mothers Day when I saw that he actually wore a bow tie for the service, I decided to send an e-mail to give him some advice for Fathers Day. I know that his father is a Toronto Maple Leafs fan. This minister is a New York Islanders fan. So, in the e-mail, that I copied his father on, I encouraged this minister to honour his father on Fathers Day by preaching while wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey. I reminded the minister how the commandment is not just to honour your mother but your father as well.

 

The father e-mailed me back and thought it was a great idea. His son however thought it was the craziest idea ever. Read more

June 16th - My Father and My Faith Journey

 

When Mothers Day approached, I shared in my mid-week message how my mother played a significant role in my faith journey. My father did not attend church, but he also did not discourage my mother from taking me to church. Even though my father did not have a direct impact on my faith, he did have an indirect effect. I will always remember his response when I shared with him for the first time that God had called me to become a minister. He swore, breaking a commandment as he did so, but said, It is your life!

 

Even though he was not gushing with excitement about my call, my dad was very supportive once I started taking divinity classes at Knox College. Every week my dad would give me $50 to help cover my costs. I never asked him for this, he would just hand me $50 every Friday night when we visited the house. That money covered the cost of the three return trips I would take each week to Toronto by train. Contributing this money was one way that my father had an indirect impact on my faith journey and studies.

 

My father died from cancer after my first year at Knox College. His death also impacted my faith journey in an indirect way. My father died the day before I started my second year. Read more

June 8th - Let Us Get Back to Showing Compassion

 

On Saturday night Nadine saw a story appear on social media about an eight-year-old boy who was missing after swimming at Turkey Point earlier that day. This boy was last seen around 5:30 p.m. when he abandoned his floating raft and began swimming back to shore. Sadly, he did not make it. Once the parents realized their boy was missing a frantic search began. The Norfolk O.P.P. was called to look for the boy. Some people who spotted this story on social media offered their assistance and help as well. Unfortunately, late Sunday, Nadine saw on social media that the boy had indeed drowned trying to swim back to shore.

 

Saturday night saw some of the good things that can happen from social media when so many people responded by offering help when they saw the story. Sunday night however, reflected some of the bad things we see happening on social media. Several people on social media voiced their opinions judging and criticizing the parents for not watching their son more carefully. Some of these critics showed no care and compassion for what the parents were going through having lost their son.

 

My immediate response was empathy and compassion for the parents. I have not lost a child personally, but I was immediately brought back to a moment when my father did. Read more

 

June 1st - So Many Questions

 

Now that the Toronto Maple Leafs have been eliminated by the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night, Leafs fans, media, and sports talk radio will be asking many questions through the course of this week. Some of the questions already being asked are:

 

- Why did the Leafs blow a 3-1 series lead?

- Should the team stay the same for next year or should they rebuild?

- Do the Leafs need to trade some of their star players?

- Should the general manager and president be fired?

- Do they need more scoring up front or better defence?

- Why can't they seem to win a playoff series?

- Do they have the mental fortitude to succeed in playoff hockey?

- Why do teams less talented than the Leafs have playoff success?

 

The questions asked over the next few weeks will be endless. Some of the questions may be easily answered and others might be harder to answer. Fans and sports media always ask these types of questions whenever a team like the Leafs experiences loss and disappointment.

 

It is not only when we see sport teams lose that we see hard questions being asked. Read more

 

May 26th - When Time Stopped

 

Just like every other Toronto Maple Leafs fan, I was excited to stop what I was doing on Thursday night and turn on the Leafs-Canadiens game. I was watching during the first period when captain John Tavares fell to the ice after a knee-on-knee hit and then was struck in the head by the knee of opposing player. Play stopped at that moment but it seemed so too did time.

 

Watching the replays and then seeing the medical staff being brought out by both teams quickly made us all realize how serious this situation was. Many minutes passed before we eventually saw John Tavares taken off the ice on a stretcher giving everybody the thumbs-up sign. Because time had stopped for a considerable period after this serious incident, players were allowed to go back on the ice and skate around before play resumed.

 

Time and play stopped at that moment in the game. Later that same night, time stopped for me again when my Toronto Maple Leafs watch stopped working. Read more

 

May 19th - Somebody Called Me Smart

 

After filling my car with gas recently, I went inside the station to pay my bill and get a receipt. When I walked in a customer was standing in line and said, Now, here is another smart person. Being the smart person I supposedly am, I looked behind me to see if he was referring to somebody else. Seeing nobody behind me, and now realizing he was referring to me, I asked him why he thought this? He replied, Because you used your coat sleeve to open the door so not to get germs!

 

Then he showed me his keychain that had a gadget on it similar to an Allen key. He informed me that he uses this gadget to open doors and to key in his pin code on machines when paying by debit in order to avoid getting germs.

 

In this case, I did not need to let this person know that I have a Masters in Divinity, or an Honours Degree in Business Administration and was a Certified Professional Accountant to be considered smart. Using my coat sleeve to open the door in order to avoid touching unclean surfaces was all I needed to do in order to be considered smart. Read more

 

May 12th - Best Signs

 

I saw a sign this weekend that put a smile on my face. This sign was not put up by a business but rather by a 6-year-old girl who lives two doors down from us. The sign was not done in letters on a billboard, but in chalk at the end of her driveway. The words were not elaborate but quite simple HAPPY MOTHERS DAY.

 

Four times a day I would walk by the sign done in chalk at the end of the driveway and smile each time. I envisioned the pride and joy the 6-year-old girl had doing this sign. I thought as well of the smile on the face of her mother each time she saw the sign at the end of her driveway. I thought about moms in our neighbourhood out for a walk seeing this sign and being uplifted. It was a simple sign done in chalk, but with such love. I hope this little girl does the same sign for Fathers Day as she did for her mom this weekend.

 

There are many signs to be seen around town right now due to the Sign War that is happening. Read more

 

May 5th - All Because of a Mother

A teacher I know posted this message last week: FYI DADS, your children will NOT be bringing home handmade Mothers Day gifts from school. You have 9 days to get something prepared.

 

This message is a reminder of the times we find ourselves in right now due to COVID-19. Prior to the pandemic, dads could count on their children bringing home gifts from their school to bless their moms with. This year dads, as opposed to teachers, will have to be the creative thinkers when it comes to gifts from the kids to moms. My dad was fortunate that there was no pandemic during his lifetime as I think he would have struggled coming up with an idea for me to make something for my mother.

 

This message did get me thinking about the only gift I can remember making my mother at school and bringing home for Mothers Day. The gift was a card I made when I was in kindergarten. Naturally my mom kept the card, and she gave it back to me as a reminder twenty years ago this week. It was an appropriate time for her to give it back to me as I used it on that Mothers Day Sunday in 2001 in my childrens story.

 

The reason why I remember that story is I was preaching for a call at Petrolia and Knox Dawn on Mothers Day Sunday in 2001. Read more

 

April 28th - My Time When Time Failed Me

 

Time is failing me right now. More specifically, my Toronto Maple Leafs watch is failing to keep proper time right now. During the course of each day, it seems to fall 5-10 minutes behind proper time. Frequently I have to check the proper time and reset my watch. My watch obviously needs a new battery. I imagine some of you are thinking it is not the battery but the fact that it is a Toronto Maple Leafs watch which is why it is falling behind. Some of you probably have a few good comments to send to me right now like:

- Dean, your watch is just reminding you that the Leafs will fall out in the first round of the play-offs again!

- Or Dean, your watch is telling you that you have to fall back to 1967 to the last time they won a Stanley Cup.

- Or Dean your watch is telling you that your team never keeps up with expectations.

 

And if any of you are thinking about getting me a Montreal Canadiens watch right now, do not bother because I am not that desperate to know the proper time! It is the battery, not the fact that it is a Toronto Maple Leafs watch, that is failing to keep proper time. I would go to my favourite jewelry store to get the battery replaced but I cannot due to the current lockdown. I cannot believe that Doug Ford does not deem it essential that a Leafs fan like should be able to get a battery replaced in his favourite team watch!

 

I am not blaming Doug Ford for these lockdowns, but sadly, many are blaming him and our federal leaders. There is a lot of blaming going on in the newspapers and on TV right now about how our political leaders and medical officers have been handling this pandemic. You have probably read or heard some of the blame and complaints. Read more

 

April 21st - How One Family Coped

 

Neighbours of ours recently had to put down their dog after 14 years. Daisy would sometimes meet up with their dog for walks and enjoy sniffing around the neighbourhood. I would sometimes refer to this dog as her boyfriend because she was always excited to walk beside him.

 

There has been an emptiness and void in their family life since the passing of their dog. One thing that impressed me though is the efforts they have gone to in order to cope through their loss. Early into the loss they started going for walks with one of their neighbours whenever she walked her dog. The family found comfort to still being able to go out for walks even though it was not with their own dog.

 

After doing this a few times the mother and daughter began taking the dog for walks on their own. One day the two of them stopped in front of our house with the dog and you could see the smiles on their faces from being able to do this despite their own loss.

 

They decided a few weeks ago it was time they got their own dog. The daughter began looking online and found a litter of five puppies. She called the breeder and was first told they were all spoken for, but shortly after, one family backed out. There was one of the puppies that really caught their eye and they hoped this would be the puppy they would get to choose. Their wish came true. After the first three people chose the puppy they wanted, our neighbours got to pick the one they had hoped for which was the runt of the litter. Read more

 

April 14th - Finding Food Around the House

 

By now many of you have been introduced to our dog Daisy. Last week I shared how she loves to jump on the ottoman strategically placed at our front window to chase squirrels and chipmunks away from our bird feeders. You have also learned that often it is when I am walking Daisy that God gives me inspiration for my mid-week messages. Daisy is my inspiration for this message too.

 

Our dog has a tendency to take the food from her bowl and eat it at various locations throughout the house. Sometimes she will come into the living room and chomp away at her food on the rug. Other times she will carry it upstairs jumping up on one of our beds to chew away. Other times she will take it out to the pool area and eat away at it while we are in the backyard. It would be great if she would eat the food over her bowl in the kitchen but that is not our Daisy.

 

Sometimes, however, Daisy will carry her food to different locations in our house and leave it somewhere uneaten. I do not know if she gets distracted or excited by something else, but it results in us finding some of her dog food pellets in the strangest locations. Read more

April 7th - A Reminder at My Bird Feeder

 

The weather was so beautiful on Easter Sunday that after the service and my afternoon nap, I took time to refill our bird feeders. I know every time I do this, I am not only feeding the birds but also the many squirrels and chipmunks around our property. It seems that the squirrels and chipmunks at times take more food from the feeders than the birds. Sometimes our dog Daisy puts an end to it by jumping on the ottoman strategically placed in front of our window and barking at the squirrels and chipmunks and scaring them away. She is fine with the birds at the feeder but not with those other two visitors.

 

On Monday morning I happened to look out my kitchen window to our back yard feeder and noticed a squirrel and chipmunk were there at the same time. What was interesting about this was the much larger squirrel was sitting on top of the pole waiting patiently as the smaller chipmunk was eating from the feeder attached below. Read more

April 1st - Hymns of Christmas and Easter

 

Early Monday morning as I was preparing a lunch bag for Coral, I found myself starting to sing a few Christmas hymns. Naturally, one would think with this being Holy Week that I would be singing Good Friday or Easter hymns. As I began thinking about the strangeness of singing Christmas hymns at this time, I realized that this was not a conscious decision on my part but a God choice instead.

 

I am not musical like some ministers are. Usually when I find myself starting to sing around the house it is a result of God placing some song on my heart rather than me choosing something familiar. Based on this experience, it made me begin to ponder why God would place Christmas Hymns on my heart during Holy Week. Once again, it took me walking our dog Daisy around the block to discover the answer:

 

BOTH CHRISTMAS AND EASTER DEAL WITH LIFE!

 

Appearances by angels at both of these times remind us of this connection. It was just over three months ago that we were reading a lot about the angels appearing to the shepherds in the fields that night. Read more

 

March 25th - He Delivers

 

I am writing this message on March 23, 2021. I am finding myself today focused on this same day fifteen years ago. March 23, 2006 happened to be on a Thursday that year. I remember feeling relieved that morning because on the night before God delivered me through a very difficult trial and challenge at my first ministry in Petrolia. God kept telling me as I went through this challenge the same thing He had Moses say to the Israelites trapped at the Red Sea as the Egyptian army advanced.

 

Do not be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today.

 

This promise helped me to trust as God delivered me through a very difficult moment in my ministry.

 

With that challenge now behind me, I was focused on a delivery that was ahead of me. Nadine was pregnant at the time and we still had 6 1/2 weeks before the due date. Nadine spent the morning of March 23, 2006 visiting with a friend while I was at the church working. She slept most of the afternoon as fatigue was beginning to set in again in her third trimester.

After supper we went for a walk and talked about finishing the nursery that weekend and getting the overnight bag packed for when we did head to the hospital.

Little did we know as we had this discussion that around 11:30 p.m. that night her water would unexpectedly break. Six and a half weeks early is not what we expected. Read more

March 17th - My Dog

 

Daisy is no different from any other dog in that when you take her for a walk, she is always guaranteed to do either a number 1 or number 2 or both. I always go prepared on every walk with a bag in my pocket to pick up after her if it should happen.

 

On two separate occasions recently, my neighbours from across the street have complained that I did not do this. I have had these neighbours for eleven years and each of them have dogs just like me. Three weeks ago, Daisy was squatting when the neighbour yelled at me and said, You better have a bag with you if she does her business. On Monday morning this happened again with another neighbour who lives beside the first one who complained. She too yelled at me that I better have a bag with me if Daisy stepped on her lawn.

 

In the eight years we have had Daisy these neighbours have never made these complaints to me. They would often see me carrying a bag in hand after cleaning up her business. I am sure I have even waved to them as they passed us in their car, probably lifting the hand with the bag to do so. I have been caught a bit off guard by these recent comments. I cannot blame their behaviour on the drinking water on the other side of the road as we are on the same system. The more I think about it, I do not believe it is Daisy doing her business that is bringing out the worst in their emotions. I cannot help but wonder if the worst year in many of our lives is resulting in the worst coming out in their emotions.

 

This past year of pandemic has been the worst year in many of our lives. Read more

March 10th - Age Matters

 

When Joshua was an old man, the Lord said to him, You are growing old and much land remains to be conquered. (Joshua 13: 1)

 

We are living in a period of time when age matters. I was reminded of this last night standing in line at the grocery store when I recognized a person behind me despite his mask. As we waited, I asked him if he has had his vaccine shot yet. Currently, people 80-years-of-age and up are eligible for the vaccine. He replied, No but I am in the next age category and cannot wait until it is my turn.

 

Right now age matters when it comes to getting a vaccine. What I have found amusing though is age did not disqualify one 90-year-old-woman from being asked this question before being administered the vaccine: Are you pregnant? This 90-year-old woman was not named Sarah (or the Rev. Mother), but if vaccines were rolled out at the time Abraham and Sarah were alive I could see the need to ask her that question. Presently, our age does matter as we await our turn to be vaccinated.

 

Society has not always embraced the view that age matters. Because of my age, I remember the attitude when I was growing up toward young children that they were to be seen and not heard. Age did not help me either when I came out of university and was looking for my first job as an accountant. I remember being rejected several times at job interviews for being too young or unqualified. I remember this same view when I started ministry and somebody in Petrolia said to me, you are too young to be a minister. Funny, I have not heard somebody say that recently. Society not only disqualifies some people as being too young but also as being too old. So many people today 55 and above are saying it is so hard to find work because they are viewed as being too old or too close to retirement.

 

While society and culture may discriminate based on age, the Kingdom of God does no such thing. Read more

March 3rd - Finding Time

 

But the Lord said to her, My Dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:41-42)

 

I had to spend a few moments this morning looking for time, literally. As Nadine was getting ready to leave for work this morning, she came to me and said she could not find her watch. She thought she had left it in the bedroom but could not find it. One thing Nadine has come to realize about me after a lot of time of marriage, almost 33 years, is that I am good at finding things. I inherited this gift from my father.

 

So, there I was searching for time, so to speak, in the bedroom. I got on my hands and knees looking under the bed and sure enough I spotted the watch. When I pulled it out, I realized it was her old watch that had been missing since last summer. Still missing was her current watch which she received as a gift at Christmas. I searched some more under the bed and then began to pull back the sheets and there was the missing watch. My search proved fruitful as it helped me to find both old time (her old watch) and current time (her current watch.) The only thing missing was new time. Thankfully by finding old time and current time, I did not have to spend money on a new watch.

 

My morning search for time got me thinking about old times, current times, and new times. Read more

 

February 24th - Empathy Training

 

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. (2 Corinthians 1:4)

 

One of the things that a season of suffering can do for us is make us more empathetic towards others going through trial. I was reminded of this watching a podcast last night of two ministers describing periods of burnout in their lives. The one minister said prior to his burnout, he was very critical and judgemental of ministers who battled with burnout but now he is very empathetic toward people experiencing burnout.

 

I had a similar discovery after going through my four-year ordeal recovering from a chronic illness. I had never been in hospital prior to this. I had sympathy for people going through health issues, but it was not at the level of empathy. It takes going through suffering oneself in order to move beyond sympathy and have true empathy for what others are going through. Since my illness, having empathy has allowed me to pastor much more differently and authentically with people going through chronic health issues.

 

As believers, God has been a source of comfort for us in this time of suffering. Paul reminds believers of this truth in 2 Corinthians 1:3: All praise to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. Think of the many ways that God in His mercy has comforted you during this pandemic. Read more

 

February 17th - Who Will Show Us Better Times

 

Many people say, Who will show us better times? Let your face smile on us Lord. (Psalm 4:6)

 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021 had all the signs that better times were ahead. The reason for this optimism had to do with many areas in the Province of Ontario having the STAY-AT-HOME restrictions lifted and returning to various colour zones. Many nonessential businesses, restaurants, hair salons, gyms and sports groups were looking forward to this day.

 

Two of my family members were looking forward to this day as well. The Rev. Mother had a hair appointment booked for 11:00 a.m. Tuesday morning. She could not wait to get her hair done. My daughter Coral was also excited about getting to school. She was looking forward to getting to see the faces of her classmates in her Family Studies class for the first time. Two weeks ago when she first had this class, it was online for the entire week. She got to learn the names of her classmates and hear their voices when they answered questions but with the cameras off, she could not see their faces. She was excited to match the faces to the names. It seemed like better times were ahead starting on Tuesday, February 16th.

 

Then the unpredictable happened and delayed the start of better times. Read more

February 10th - Our Cup of Suffering

 

Abba, Father, He cried out. Everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine (Mark 14:36).

 

The Premier of Ontario announced on Monday the plan for slowly reopening. For our area we were told that we would have to wait until February 16, 2021 for the STAY-AT-HOME order to be lifted. We were also informed that we would have to wait until then to see what colour phase we would be assigned when it came to reopening. The Premier also cautioned us to be prepared that if numbers spike again, he would not hesitate to put the emergency brake on and halt the reopening.

 

For almost 11 months now this has been our reality. Periods in lockdown, followed by gradual reopening and experiencing a possible lock down again. While this type of journey has not been physically challenging or tiring for us, it has been emotionally tiring. Prior to Covid-19 we each had our busy lives, but at least they were predictable for the most part. We had our daily, weekly, and monthly routines. At times, our busyness could make us physically tired, but the predictability kept our emotional well being in balance for the most part. Yes, death, illness, difficult people could play with our emotions at times but COVID has drained our emotions in a different way.

 

Emotionally, our journey through Covid-19 has been fatiguing at times. This is something Nadine and I talked about as we walked our dog on Monday night. Read more

February 3rd - My Locked-out Reminder

 

Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you (Matthew 7:7).

 

Nadine and I took our dog Daisy for a walk on Monday night while Coral was upstairs video chatting with her friend. We always lock the door when we leave the house with Coral still there so that she will feel safe. After bundling up I locked the door, pulled it shut and realized immediately that I forgot to put the house key in my pocket. I am always really good at remembering my key but not on this day.

 

Thankfully, I did think to put a phone in my pocket. We walked Daisy around the block the whole time wondering if Coral would answer her phone or text when we got back home to let us in. It was a really cold night so if she did not answer our calls to unlock the door we were in for an unpleasant experience.

 

After walking around the block Nadine took the phone with her cold hands and texted Coral. After she sent the text there was a moment of tension and anticipation as we awaited what would happen next:

- Would she receive it and come down immediately to open the door?

- Would she be distracted talking with her friend and not see the text?

- Would she peer out her bedroom window and laugh at us and make us wait a few extra minutes? Read more

January 27th - Keep Persevering

 

Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. (1 Timothy 6:11b)

 

Like every other student in Ontario, Coral has been learning online since January 4, 2021. This quadmester she has been taking math and science. Working from home myself while Coral has been doing school online, I have overheard at times her teachers doing their lessons and having conversations with the students. I have been so impressed with her math teacher in particular over these past several weeks. Despite the challenges of teaching math online, he has been so supportive and encouraging of the students learning under this difficult reality. This morning before giving his students their final exam he commended them for persevering through these past several weeks learning under these difficult circumstances. He encouraged them to give themselves a pat on the back for all that they have endured and to keep persevering in the quadmester ahead. When I heard him say this to the students, I was so impressed and moved by his pastoral approach and words to his students.

 

It is not just students learning online that need to hear this message to keep persevering. As I read the newspaper this morning story after story reminded me how people need this message during this second lockdown. The paper reflected on how so many people are finding this second lockdown harder than the first one we had back last March. So many stories were about people no longer being able to persevere. Read more

 

January 21st - On the Edge

 

Jumping up, they mobbed him, and forced Him on the edge of the hill on which the town was built. They intended to push Him over the cliff, but He passed right through the crowd and went on His way. (Luke 4: 29:30)

 

On Wednesday, January 20, 2021 at approximately 12 noon, Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States. Usually, inaugurations are times for excitement and celebration in the US capital. This year, Washington D.C. was on edge worried about violent protests and uprisings. Much of this feeling of On EDGE is a result of the incident earlier this month at the U.S. Capital when Trump supporters stormed the building taking it over for a short time. Capital buildings in Washington D.C., as well in other state capitals, were on edge preparing in case unrest occurred on the inauguration day.

 

It is sad to see our neighbours to the south having to live on the edge at this time. A political environment has caused this for the U.S., and a pandemic has caused this for us. We have been living on the edge so to speak, for nearly ten months. Every step along the way has seen us on the edge:

- School age children like my daughter were on the edge wondering if they would be allowed to return to school on Monday, January 25th or if they would have to continue online learning,

- Parents of these children were on the edge too wondering if it would happen or not,

- Our Provincial leaders are on the edge with the news that Pfizer will be reducing their shipment of vaccines over the next few weeks,

- Restaurants and small businesses are on the edge wondering if takeout and curbside pickups will be enough to pay the bills and keep them afloat,

- Our chief medical officers are on the edge worrying if the rising case numbers in this second wave will cause the hospitals to be at capacity,

- Family members who have parents in long term care facilities are on the edge worrying about outbreaks in retirement and nursing homes. Read more

 

January 13th - Stay Safe

 

Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise like a person who builds a house on solid rock.

(Matthew 7:24)

 

As I was coming out of the grocery store on Monday night the teenage employee who was at the door monitoring people entering and exiting said to me STAY SAFE. It is not the first time I have had somebody say this to me during the pandemic. Prior to Covid-19 we would maybe expect to hear the words STAY SAFE in situations like:

- A parent saying these words to their children before they go off to the park to play or ride their bike around the neighbourhood,

- A coach telling his/her players to keep safe as they practice or play,

- A parent telling their teenager to stay safe when they go out with friends at night,

- Or saying these words to an employee before doing a task that involves some risk or danger.

 

We consistently hear this message to stay safe through this pandemic:

- STAY SAFE by practicing proper hand washing,

- STAY SAFE by wearing a mask,

- STAY SAFE by social distancing from others,

- STAY SAFE by staying within your social bubble,

- STAY SAFE by limiting your outings to essential trips.

 

I myself conclude each of my mid-week messages to you with the words, GOD BLESS AND KEEP SAFE. Yes, the message of STAY SAFE is a frequent one these past 9-10 months.

 

It is not a new message. We see this message come up often in The Bible. Read more

 

January 6th - Was It the Worst Year Ever?

 

They cried out for help and their cry rose up to God. God heard their grieving, and He remembered His covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He looked down on the people of Israel and knew it was time to act.

(Exodus 2: 23-24)

 

Some people are calling 2020 the worst year ever. It certainly had its share of events that one could use to make this argument:

- The coronavirus pandemic swept the globe killing more than 1.7 million people worldwide to date,

- Protests stemmed from several police killings of unarmed black Americans,

- Wildfires devastated the US West Coast and Australia,

- Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter died in a helicopter crash,

- Jeopardy host Alex Trebek passed away,

- Prince Harry and Meghan broke up with the Royal family,

- Murder hornets arrived.

 

As the year came to a close, these and so many other events had people declaring 2020 as the worst year ever. Even Time magazine ran a cover page in December with a big red X drawn over the number 2020 with the line underneath saying, THE WORST YEAR EVER.

 

We might agree with this after what we have been through since March 2020. Historians, however, have a different answer as to which year was the worst ever. Twenty-eight historians from major universities were recently asked to choose the worst year in history. Their ranking of worst years was as follows:

- 1348: The height of the Black Death during which 200-million people died,

- 1944: The Holocaust during WWII,

- 1816: The year when a volcanic eruption in Indonesia blocked out the sun causing millions to starve. Read more

 

December 30th - Incentive as We Approach the New Year

 

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth has disappeared. (Rev. 21:1)

 

My family started off the new year of 2020 at a Toronto Raptors 905 game in Mississauga. Coral and her basketball team were invited to play for 5 minutes on the court during half time. Prior to going on the court, the girls were given a chance to have their picture taken with one of the Raptors championship rings. As they were about to go on the court, they got to high-five some of the players as they were coming off it. Then it was their time to take center court and not only be cheered on by family members but close to 5,000 fans in attendance. It was an incredible experience for these girls and once it was over, they had their picture taken with the Raptors mascot at half court. What a way to start off 2020.

 

These girls were also looking forward to so many other exciting things in 2020 such as:

- Four more months of games as a team ending with the Ontario Basketball Championship weekend in April,

- Year-end class trips that are full of lasting memories,

- Purchasing dresses for their Grade 8 graduation ceremonies,

- Celebrating their achievements at graduations,

- Conversations about becoming high school students in the fall and playing on their school basketball teams.

 

The team got to play some games in January and February during the time when our world was just beginning to hear about a virus. I remember being at a basketball practice the night when we heard the first case of COVID-19 was now in Canada. Read more

 

December 23rd - Look Up

 

On Monday, Premier Doug Ford announced that we would be heading into lockdown for 28 days beginning on Boxing Day. We were warned about this possibility last weekend, but it was still hard to hear. The first lockdown was difficult in so many ways, but we endured and enjoyed the loosening of restrictions over the summer and fall. We hoped we would never have to endure another lockdown but here we are again. At least we have experience on our side this time and know what to expect. It does not make the current reality any easier though:

- Wondering if certain stores or businesses will survive this second lockdown?

- Wondering if the lockdown will be more like two or three months as opposed to 28 days?

- Wondering whether this new strain that has been occurring in parts of Britain is already here?

- Wondering if our hospitals will be overwhelmed or not?

- Wondering how we and others will cope through this financially, emotionally, and spiritually?

This pandemic has been a reminder to us that life here on Earth is not always Heaven but Hell at times. I was reminded of this earlier today eating breakfast as I was watching a portion of the Dolly Parton Christmas movie The Coat of Many Colours. Read more

December 16th - Career vs. Calling

 

Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed.

(Luke 1: 46-48)

 

On Sunday night I overheard two parents talking as I was watching Coral at basketball practice. The one parent asked the other when he would get off work for the Christmas break. The parent responded he had to work until December 23rd and then did not have to return until January 4, 2021. It sounded like a pretty good time off to me, but the other parent said, that is awful that you have to work up until December 23rd.

 

When she said this, I began wondering what she would think if she heard my answer to her question:

I will be working on December 24th

I am on call for emergencies on December 25th

I will be working on December 26th filming our online service

I will be working on December 27th

I will be working the week between Christmas and New Years

I will be working January 2, 3, & 4th

 

After hearing this, if she asked what I did for a living, she would discover that there is a difference between having a career and having a calling. The other parent has a career, while I have a calling. I do not begrudge at all the time commitment or sacrifices that come with a calling and neither did Mary. Read more

December 9th - Two Shadows

 

How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings. (Psalm 36:7)

 

I saw a unique experience one night recently as I was walking our dog Daisy. The moon was exceptionally bright that night as I walked with my back to it. I noticed it was casting not just one, but two of my shadows. I cannot recall another time when the light from either the moon or the sun cast two shadows. Maybe it has happened to me before and I did not notice it. I definitely noticed my two shadows that night. The first moment I spotted them there was a smaller shadow just ahead of me followed by a much larger shadow directly ahead of it.

 

When I saw this, it reminded me of our life following Jesus. There Jesus is walking ahead of us and we are following Him in His shadow. After staring at this image for a few moments I turned the corner with Daisy and the two shadows changed in their appearance. The much larger shadow was still directly ahead of me, but the smaller shadow was now beside me no longer walking within the longer shadow. This change in location of the smaller shadow got me thinking how sometimes we choose not to follow Jesus and walk outside the shadow of His presence instead. By the time I turned the final corner and headed home, gone were the two shadows which were now replaced with just one.

 

As I said, if the moon and sun had ever cast two of my shadows before I never realized it. This moon-filled night reminded me of the two choices we can make in life: 1) To walk in the presence of the shadow of Jesus and follow Him, or 2) to walk outside of the presence of His shadow. Read more

December 2nd - A Season of No

 

She wrapped Him snugly in strips of cloth and laid Him in a manger because there was no lodging available for them (Luke 2:7).

 

My mother called me on Monday afternoon to tell me her furnace was not working, and she had no heat. I got to her house at 4:00 p.m. and tried to get the furnace working but to no avail. I called a local heating company before 4:30 p.m. to see if they could get there that afternoon or evening. I called their office and then called their emergency messaging service. Both times I got no answer. I left my phone number hoping they would call back after supper, but I received no phone call.

 

It was not until the next morning when I finally received a phone call that they would send a technician over. Tuesday morning at 10:00 a.m. the service technician gave us the news that the furnace was beyond repair and as a result a new one would need to be installed. There she was with one more day of no heat until they could install the new furnace on Wednesday.

 

These past three days have been a time of NO for my mom when it comes to heat. Her situation served as a reminder to me how this second wave of COVID-19 has brought upon us a whole lot of NO! Read more

November 25th - What Life Has Taken From Us

 

The regions of Toronto and Peel entered into a second lockdown as of Monday, November 23rd for 28 days. The Tuesday morning newspaper shared the stories of two business owners impacted by the lockdown. The first was the owner of a pub and restaurant. He shared how he invested over $10,000 to properly protect his staff and patrons from COVID-19. The owner also spoke highly of his landlord who has been patient in regard to the rent. This business owner is so frustrated by the fact that his business has done everything the Province of Ontario has asked with respect to following COVID-19 guidelines and yet has been shut down by this recent decision. He is going to keep trying to stay in business, but this second lock down is making it difficult.

 

The other story featured in the newspaper on Tuesday was of the owner of a clothing store in a mall. She too is worried about her business surviving this second lockdown. Her sales are down on average by 80 percent. The Christmas shopping season is her busiest and most profitable time at her store. Being closed for 28 days leading up to Christmas was heartbreaking for this store owner. She admitted crying for two days after the province announced this shutdown last Friday afternoon. This owner is not sure if her business can survive a second lockdown.

 

These two stories are a reminder to us of how this pandemic has taken so much away from us. Read more

November 18th - Good News in the Midst of Bad News

 

Jesus traveled through the region of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And He healed every kind of disease and illness. (Matthew 4:23)

 

As we progress deeper into this second wave of COVID-19 it seems like the news is getting worse:

- Hearing reports on the high number of cases each day,

- Listening to the number of deaths,

- Stating that the health care system is at a tipping point,

- Modeling data projecting infection rates could rise to 6,000 daily by mid-December if restrictions are not put into place,

- Receiving updates that some areas of our province are moving into the red category and experiencing further restrictions,

- Medical experts wanting the province to go back into a complete lockdown like we saw in March and April,

- Restaurants and other businesses saying they will not survive another shut down,

- Situations worsening in other provinces and the United States and Europe,

- More outbreaks in our Long-Term Care facilities putting the most vulnerable at risk,

- The Government of Canada having to put more money into COVID-19 recovery plans increasing our level of debts.

 

With a pandemic like this comes a steady stream of reports that are filled with bad news. The more bad news we are exposed to, the more depressed and discouraged we can become. In the midst of it we have to find some good news to lift our spirits. I found my good news this morning. Read more

November 11th - The One Who Has the Answer to Our Questions

 

Jesus told him, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6)

 

We lost a true icon this weekend with the passing of Alex Trebek. For over 3 decades Alex was a daily presence in many homes as people tuned in to watch JEOPARDY. Tributes have come in from so many people since news of his passing. Monday morning, I had the opportunity to read tributes from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Toronto Mayor John Tory and actor Ryan Reynolds. The one tribute I found the most interesting was from Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings who many of us who have watched the show have come to know. Ken Jennings said: Alex was not just the best ever at what he did. He was also a lovely and deeply decent man and I am grateful for every minute I got to spend with him.

 

When I learned of his death I thought back to a day in August 2018 when we actually visited the set of Jeopardy at Sony studio. They were not filming Jeopardy that day which allowed us to tour the set. Right next-door, Wheel of Fortune with Pat and Vanna was being filmed. I had my picture taken behind the Jeopardy desk with a cardboard cut out of Alex. Many of his awards were displayed there as well. Read more

November 4th - Covered in White

 

Yet There are some in the church in Sardis, who have not soiled their clothes with evil and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. (Revelation 3:4)

 

For much of the month of October my backyard has been covered in leaves. I am not one of these ministers who procrastinates when it comes to raking leaves. I rake several times a week when the weather permits, bagging up each pile. After I finish, my backyard returns to being covered by green grass, weeds and a few bare patches. Within a day, my backyard will be covered once again by leaves.

 

This has been my reality every October since we moved into our home in August 2009. On November 1 this year I looked out and saw that my backyard was covered in snow. It was a shock to see and I know many people hate to see the first snow, but it reminded me of some benefits too:

- Since the snow covered my leaves that had fallen in the high winds the day earlier, I did not have to worry about raking on Monday,

- When I took Daisy out at 6:15 a.m. to do her business in the backyard, the snow on the ground made it far easier to see in the dark,

- Daisy got so excited by the snow that she ran around in circles on her leash and played some more by putting her nose in the snow,

- The snow allowed me to see what animals had been roaming through the backyard that night as their tracks were quite visible.

As hard as it was to see snow so early, the sight of my backyard being covered in white provided me with some blessings too.

 

As I thought about these blessings it got me thinking about how Christ desires to see us covered in white. Read more

October 28th - Count First on Him

 

Turning to Philip, He asked, Where can we buy bread to feed all these people? He was testing Philip for He already knew what He was going to do. (John 6: 5-6)

 

When he became Premier of Ontario, Doug Ford never imagined what he would be counting in 2020. After he was elected, he probably imagined he would spend time each day counting:

- The increase or decrease in the unemployment rate,

- The increase or decrease in the provincial deficit,

- The ways he could reduce costs and create more efficiency in government services,

- Or the ways he could reduce the wait times for surgeries or overcrowding in emergency rooms.

This year, COVID-19 has caused the premier to focus his attention on counting the number of cases each day. He shared at a news conference this week that each morning he spends time counting:

- The new cases by region,

- The number of people in intensive care,

- The number of people needing ventilators,

- The number of deaths,

- And the number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities.

It must be hard some days for the premier to focus his time and energy counting these numbers. Read more

October 21st -What Our World Needs From Us Right Now

 

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world you are My disciples (John 13: 34-35).

 

I was in the grocery store last week and when it came time to check out, I was in the line of a cashier I had not seen in the past several months. As I unloaded my groceries onto the conveyer, I said to her I have not seen you in such a long time. She told me that she had been off work during Covid-19 and this was her first day back.

 

She then proceeded to tell me the reason why she took time off was not because she was afraid of catching COVID-19, but rather she did not want to deal with the angry customers all the time. She explained how, on the day she had enough, it seemed like every customer that came through her cash register was angry. It was not just her register, as all the cashiers were experiencing the same anger from customers. One customer was so upset that they actually threw their money at her. That was the tipping point that resulted in her taking several months off work.

 

After hearing her story, I welcomed her back and told her I was sorry she had to go through that and finished by saying, At least you have had one kind customer to start off your first day back. She smiled and thanked me for taking the time to listen and care. Read more

 

October 14th - Our Calendars are Out-of-Whack

 

Remember to observe the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy. You have six days from each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath Day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God (Exodus 20: 8-10).

 

When it comes to professional sports right now, their calendars are out-of-whack. Take for instance Thanksgiving Monday. Normally on this day the Canadian Football League would have its usual Thanksgiving rivalries: the Toronto Argonauts playing in Hamilton against the Tiger Cats and the Calgary Stampeders playing against Edmonton. There was no CFL football being played this past Monday due to COVID-19.

 

Normally a new NHL season starts in early October, but this year is different. The Tampa Bay Lightning just won the Stanley Cup a few weeks ago and a new season is not expected to start until January 2021. The same is true for the NBA. A new NBA season starts in October as well, but its season ended this past weekend with Lebron James and the Los Angeles Lakers winning the title. Tennis has been experiencing the same. The French Open, which is usually played in June, happened over the past two weeks instead. Golf has done the same with some of its events. The Masters, usually played in April, will be played this year in November. Although some professional sports calendars are still normal like the National Football League, many other sports calendars are out-of-whack.

 

Our calendars are usually filled with things like work, school, medical appointments, activities for kids, meetings, church, Bible studies, get-togethers, and social outings. This pandemic has certainly caused many of our calendars to become out-of-whack. Many things that filled up our calendars have either been cancelled due to COVID-19 or postponed to a later time. Some people have enjoyed their calendars being freed up and less busy, while others have struggled with this change. Read more

 

October 7th - God Blesses

 

May the Lord bless and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you His favour and give you His peace (Numbers 6:24-26).

 

The first page of the Toronto Sun told the story of a father and grandfather from Alabama who left a bucket of baseballs that he used to pitch to his son and grandson. His son and grandson are both adults now, so he no longer needs this bucket of balls. He decided to take this bucket of balls to a nearby batting cage to leave for anybody there who could use them. Before leaving the bucket of balls behind, this man left the following note attached to the bucket:

 

FREE

 

HOPE SOMEONE CAN USE THESE BASEBALLS IN THE BATTING CAGES. I FOUND THEM CLEANING OUT MY GARAGE. I PITCHED THEM TO MY SON AND GRANDSON FOR COUNTLESS ROUNDS. MY SON IS NOW 46 AND MY GRANDSON IS NOW 23. I AM 72 AND WHAT I WILL NOT GIVE TO PITCH A COUPLE OF BUCKETS TO THEM. THEY HAVE BOTH MOVED AWAY. IF YOU ARE A FATHER, CHERISH THESE TIMES. YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE HOW QUICKLY THEY WILL BE GONE. GOD BLESS

 

P.S. GIVE THEM A HUG AND TELL THEM YOU LOVE THEM EVERY CHANCE YOU GET! Read more

 

September 30th - Seek and Find

 

Keep on asking and you will receive what you ask for.

Keep on seeking and you will find.

Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.

(Matthew 7:7)

 

On Sunday nights Coral has a two-hour basketball practice at the University of Guelph. Due to COVID-19 only players and coaches can be inside the gym. In other years I would be inside the gym sitting in the bleachers with a coffee in hand watching Coral practice. Without being let inside this year I usually go to a nearby McDonalds and do some work while having a coffee.

 

Last week I was done my work fairly quickly and I still had another hour to wait for Coral to finish her practice. I decided to return to the university and go for a walk around the campus. As I was walking, I was praying asking God to help Coral learn and develop her skills that night. I also started sharing with God how much I missed seeing Coral play and practice and how I wished I could see her work out with this new team.

 

Shortly after praying that part of the prayer, I found myself nearing the Athletic Centre where the team was practicing. I felt a nudge from God to just keep walking so I did. I turned the corner around the Athletic Centre and found a set of stairs I did not know existed. I climbed the set of stairs and at the top was a set of windows looking down over the gym in which Coral was practicing. For the next 45 minutes I was able to watch Coral practice, just like old times. Read more

 

September 23rd - Overcoming Fatigue

 

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

 

We have been hearing a lot in the news recently about people gathering in large numbers whether it be at outdoor BBQs and parties or at indoor events. Many of the people attending these events are not wearing masks or maintaining proper social distancing and as a result the number of cases of COVID-19 is on the rise in Ontario. The reason being given for why people are choosing to participate in these gatherings is they are fatigued and tired from the restrictions put upon them by the province.

 

When we think in terms of fatigue, our focus tends to go first toward the physical. While we may not have been as active as we normally were due to COVID-19, the fatigue it is causing so many people to experience is emotional. This pandemic has been hard on us emotionally because of:

- Being isolated from others in the beginning,

- Staying in a social circles of just 10,

- Missing out on gathering with family and friends at school, work, church, coffee shops, and in other ways.

 

People want this pandemic to be over. They want their lives to feel the same again. Read more

 

September 16th - Look and Consider

 

Look at the birds, they do not plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your Heavenly Father feeds them. And are not you far more valuable to Him than they are?

-Matthew 6: 26

 

The number of cases of COVID-19 are on the rise in Ontario. A few weeks ago, we had days where the number of cases were under 100. As of September 15, 2020, the number of cases has risen to 315. The Premier of Ontario is worried about the rising numbers. The hospitals are not being overrun with the rise in new cases. The majority of these cases are in people 39 years of age and younger. A lot of these cases among this age group are a result of them attending large gatherings and not social distancing. If this rise in case numbers continues, the Premier of Ontario is worried it will be the start of the second wave of the virus that has occurred in other countries. The first wave of this pandemic brought enough concerns for all of us. The possibility of a second wave occurring keeps these concerns lingering.

 

It has been hard living with these on-going worries. Jesus knew worries would be a part of our lives. While He did not address the worries associated with a pandemic, His advice during His teaching in the Sermon on The Mount are very helpful as we continue through this season of worries in our lives. Read more

 

September 9th - The Need to Learn

 

Moses called all the people of Israel together and said, listen carefully, Israel, hear the decrees and regulations I am giving you today so you may learn from them and obey them!

(Deuteronomy 5:1)

 

My daughter Coral starts high school this week. She is attending BCI just like both of her parents did. Even though it was 42 years ago (yes, that number is correct) I still remember my first day of high school. My first class was typing, and I asked my home room teacher where to find it. Nerves and butterflies must have been interfering with my listening abilities because instead of going up one flight of stairs to the typing room I went all the way across the school and ended up in and art class with Doug Hughes (I did not see any typewriters there). Thankfully, Doug took pity on this Grade 9 student, who would one day be his minister, and gave me the right directions to eventually find my first class.

 

So much has changed in the 42 years since I started Grade 9 at BCI: Read more

 

September 2nd - Trust the One Who Does Know

 

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not disaster, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29: 11)

 

September 2, 1988. Thirty-two years ago, to the day that you might be reading this message. Thirty-two years ago, the lights were on at our church. The reason why I know this is because Nadine and I were there to say our vows and to enter our life of marriage with each other. There were some things I did know as I stood at the front of the church waiting for Nadine to come down the aisle:

 

- I knew we were running late,

- I knew I was in love,

- I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Nadine,

- I knew I was blessed and fortunate she wanted to marry a guy like me,

- I knew the next day we would be leaving for a short honeymoon.

 

But there was so much more that I did not know at that time: Read more

 

August 26th - Because Nothing is too Hard

 

I see their faces everyday as I turn to the editorial section of my newspaper. The faces I see are of the two MICHAELS - MICHAEL SPAVOR AND MICHAEL KOVRIG. These two Canadians have been held captive in China since December 10, 2018. As of August 25, 2020, they have spent 625 days in captivity. The conditions these two Michaels have endured have not been easy:

 

- In the beginning they were given very little food to eat.

- It was only when COVID-19 started, that they were fed larger portions.

- They are forced to sleep with the lights on instead of in the dark.

- They have gone long periods of time not being able to talk with family or with representatives from the Canadian Consulate.

Their situation reminds me of something I heard a former POW (prisoner of war) during the Vietnam War say about his experience: Being a POW is the loneliest experience you can ever have. Read more

 

August 20th - Spending Time Pulling Weeds

 

The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear the word of God, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced (Mark 4:18-19).

 

I have spent a lot of time on my knees since May. I wish I could tell you that all this time on my knees has been spent praying. Unfortunately, most of the time spent has been pulling weeds out of the grass in my backyard.

 

After 10 years of neglect, weeds had taken over my backyard. Every year I tackled dandelions in my yard but left all the other weeds alone. Besides dandelions, I began to see lots of weeds that sprouted purple flowers on them, and lots of other weeds that would display yellow buds and white ones at times. Since late May I have been outside at least an hour a day, usually six days a week weather permitting pulling weeds with my trusty little tool in hand. Some seeds would have long deep roots. Others just had short roots. Some weeds seemed to spread across quite a large area.

 

When you have a 300-foot-deep lot it takes quite a while to pull weeds out of your grass. Read more

 

August 13th - Do Not Leave Home Without It

 

Your Word Is A Lamp to Guide My Feet and A Light for My Path

(Psalm 119: 105)

 

Remember never to leave home with out it! When we were children, and experiencing old Canadian-style winters, our parents would remind us never to leave home without wearing our hats and mitts. Then once we learned how to drive, we needed to remember not to leave home without a purse or wallet or sunglasses when getting into the car. Then with smartphones and cellphones we had to remember not to leave the house without them. I often remember to take the cell phone when I leave but I do not always think to turn it on so Nadine can call me. Several times the waitress at my local coffee shop would come to say, your wife called; will you turn on your phone! Once we got our dog Daisy, we had to start to remember to have a certain bag in our hands before we left the house to take her for a walk. Now with COVID-19 we have one more thing to remember never to leave home without: a FACE MASK.

 

It is certainly a new thing for all of us to have to remember to grab our face mask as we leave the house. I forgot to do so two weeks ago when I stopped to get gas in the car. Instead of paying at the pumps I went inside and immediately realized I had forgotten my mask at home. I apologized to the clerk and pulled my shirt up to cover my mouth while I paid. Taking a mask with us whenever we go out is certainly a new reality for us. Read more

 

August 5th - A Retro Moment

 

On Sunday afternoon and evening Coral spent time going through our closets in search of some of our outfits and items from the 1990s. Apparently, RETRO has come back into style recently amongst teenagers. Coral has the right parents when it comes to RETRO since both Nadine and I are in our fifties. Yes, our closet still has outfits from the 1990s and late 1980s.

 

At first Coral focused her attention solely on Nadine. It was interesting seeing Coral put on some of her dress jackets from the 1990s. After she put on one of her red jackets Coral looked in the mirror and said, I look like Hillary Clinton in this jacket. If Coral was wearing dress pants at the time, she would have looked like Hillary.

 

After we got back from visiting the Rev. Mother Sunday night, Coral went back upstairs in search of more RETRO clothes. I was downstairs watching the Leafs lose to Columbus, but I could hear a bit of laughing and giggling going on as Coral was looking through our clothes. Later that night I heard Coral yell, Wow Dad, I did not know you had this sweater. I looked and there was Coral wearing a University of Michigan sweater that I had not worn in years. It looked good on her. Next thing I heard her telling me was, It is mine now Dad, thanks. My loss was her gain but if it saves me buying her a new sweater for school in the fall then it is my gain as well. Read more

 

July 29th - Grieving Change

 

As soon as Jesus heard the news, He left in a boat to a remote area to be alone (Matthew 14: 13).

 

In a normal year much of my grief right now would have to do with the Toronto Maple Leafs having gone another year without winning the Stanley Cup. This has been no normal year for any of us as a result of COVID-19. Throughout the past four months I have found myself grieving at times as a result of the many changes brought on by the pandemic:

 

1. As I mentioned in an earlier mid-week message, I have grieved at times for the losses my daughter has experienced with a cancelled basketball season, no class year-end trip and a delayed Grade 8 graduation.

2. I am grieving the fact that we cannot get away this summer for a vacation that we look forward to each year.

3. I grieve when I hear that certain stores are closing as a result of COVID-19 and begin to think of all their employees without work.

4. I grieved recently for a family I did a funeral for feeling guilty that they could not have more people to celebrate the life of their mom.

5. I grieved after our recent session meeting knowing that when we do reopen some of you may not be able to return until a later date.

 

This pandemic has brought about so many changes and as a result caused us to experience losses in our lives. It is natural for us to grieve whenever we experience loss in our lives. It is important for us to acknowledge our grief in these moments. Jesus did when He experienced losses in His life. Read more

 

July 22nd - Having a Home

 

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of Heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honour at Gods right hand (Colossians 3: 1).

 

As I write this message, the Toronto Blue Jays are still looking for a place in which to play their home games for this shortened season starting on Friday. It was this past weekend when the federal government made the decision not to allow the Toronto Blue Jays to play their regular season games at the Rogers Centre. According to their general manager Ross Atkins, the Jays have five plans in the works as to where they will play their home games.

 

It must be hard for the players as they packed their bags and left Toronto to play two exhibition games in Boston before starting their regular season in Tampa Bay. For this 60-game season these players will be:

- living out of their suitcases each day,

- not able to look forward to heading home after a road trip like they could in other seasons,

- not able to have the advantage of playing in their home ballpark where they are familiar with the bounces that come off the turf, sight lines and lighting,

- unable to have their families to return home to after each home game. Read more

 

July 16th - Hearing and Listening as a Child Does

 

Our family was listening to Premier Doug Ford make an announcement at his press conference on Monday that parts of Ontario will now be allowed to reopen under Phase 3. After explaining how Phase 3 works and what can reopen in this stage, the Premier than took questions from the media.

 

A reporter from Toronto acknowledged that he was confused as to whether the City of Toronto would have to wait four more weeks before they could move into Phase 3. Both the Premier and the Minister of Heath had explained a few minutes earlier that the Chief Medical Officer of Health likes to see a 4-week period of testing and numbers before making a decision about which areas of the Province are safe to reopen. The communities allowed to reopen this Friday have gone through the 4-week period and areas like Toronto that were delayed by a week before entering Phase 2 would likely not be allowed to move into Phase 3 until the following week. Read more

 

July 8th - Wanting Consistency Again

 

But the Lordís plans stand firm forever;

His intentions can never be shaken (Psalm 33:11).

 

Three of the major sports leagues are preparing to restart their seasons after shutting down due to COVID-19. The NHL, the NBA and Major League Baseball are all preparing to return soon. The athletes will be returning under different circumstances than what they are used to. For instance, when NHL players return and enter into the bubble of one of the two hub cities, they will have to adapt to these new realities:

- Daily testing for the virus,

- Being prohibited from giving handshakes, high fives or fist bumps,

- Not reusing towels,

- After games they cannot use the spa or sauna to soak sore muscles,

- When they return to the hotel, they must use their elbow or knuckle to push the elevator button,

- Once the doors to the elevator close there is no talking allowed. Read more

July 1st - Reach Out and Up

 

Friends of our family texted us last week asking if we were comfortable getting together during COVID-19. I was surprised at first by the text in that we typically get together with them just once a year. To receive this text when we did, made me think this was more than just a social visit. The minister in me began wondering if God was behind this visit.

 

We arranged to meet on Sunday afternoon in our pool area. Our friends teenage daughter is the same age as Coral so they swam as we visited. During the course of the conversation I began to realize the purpose of the visit was they needed to reach out to us. Their teenage daughter was having a very hard week as a result of not having a proper Grade 8 graduation and recounting other losses from COVID-19. It was a week of tears and sadness at times for this young lady. Her mother realized she needed to help her daughter reach out to somebody at this time and her first thought was Coral. Read more

June 25th - We Will Make it Back

 

And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues His people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lords battle, and He will give you to us (1 Samuel 17:47).

 

June 25th marks the 70th anniversary of the Korean War sometimes called the Forgotten War. The Korean War began on June 25, 1950 when 75,000 North Korean troops marched across the 38th parallel into South Korea. The country had been divided at the end of WWII. The Soviets occupied the North and the Americans took over the South.

During the cold war era, this act by North Korean troops was seen as Soviet aggression and the spread of communism. The United Nations recommended military intervention and 21 UN member nations including Canada stepped up. Under the leadership of general Douglas MacArthur, UN forces battled the North Koreans back over the 38th parallel. Then China entered the war and their troops were able to push the UN forces back south. The war went back and forth like this until peace talks began and an armistice was signed in 1953. Read more

June 17th - Building Confidence

 

But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; You are my glory, the One who holds my head high. I cried out to the Lord and He answered me from His glory, the One who holds my head high. I cried out to the Lord, and He answered me from His holy mountain. I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me. (Psalm 3: 3-5)

 

The theme of Psalm 3 is confidently trusting in God. David is reflecting upon a time when he was fleeing for his life because of his son Absalom rebelling and desiring to become king. As many as 10,000 soldiers may have surrounded David according to Verse 6. David was experiencing this difficult crisis in his life and yet still chose to confidently trust God. As you read the verses, I have provided for you above, the confidence David has in God is definitely on display. Read more

June 10th - Seeing the Difference: A Wall Coming Down

 

I WAS REMINDED A FEW DAYS AGO THAT June 13, 2020 will mark the 30th anniversary of work officially beginning on the destruction of the Berlin Wall. Even though the process had begun 7 months earlier on November 9, 1989, it was not until June 13, 1990 that the destruction of the wall was officially begun. The Berlin Wall was built in 1961 to prevent East Germans from fleeing to freedom in West Berlin. The wall became a symbol or iconic image of the Cold War era. Hundreds of people were killed or wounded trying to go over, under or around the wall to escape communism.

 

I spent four months in West Germany in 1985 as a foreign exchange student. Some of the students I was studying with contemplated traveling to West Berlin so they could see the Berlin Wall firsthand. I still recall my teacher warning these students: Do not drive into East Germany. The police will be checking and watching you closely. If you do go you are better to fly into West Berlin. Do not cross any of the border crossings into East Berlin. It is not safe. Read more

June 3rd - So Much I Wish For Right Now

 

I have been finding myself saying over and over again this past week the words -I Wish- as I endure another week of COVID-19 and watch the video of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the demonstrations that have followed. Some of the things I have being saying and thinking are:

I wish we were not having to go through this pandemic.

I wish things could just return to normal.

I wish my daughter could have finished her Grade 8 school year and all of the meaningful experiences that come with that.

I wish she could be hanging out with her friends.

I wish that her basketball season had not been cancelled.

I wish a vaccine could be found sooner than later.

I wish we could get back safely to worship. Read more

May 27th - Trying Things That Do Not Work

 

People are trying a lot of different things right now during COVID-19 thinking it will work but discovering afterward it did not.

 

Inmates at a Los Angeles County jail thought that if they drank from the same water bottle and breathed from the same facial mask, they could become infected with COVID-19 and if so, be released from prison. Thirty of these prisoners did come down with COVID-19 but none of them were released from prison. Their plan did not work.

 

A former US Congressman tried to convince people that the COVID-19 virus was just a hoax and accused the Democrats of using the virus to try and gain power. His claim that all this was a hoax did not work out as his own son who is a U.S. Senator in Washington DC came down with the virus. Read more

 

May 20th - A Humbling Time

 

These past eight weeks during our COVID-19 isolation have been humbling for me at times. If anyone asked me at the start of this if I was good at math and answering questions on the Bible I would have responded of course I am. A person like myself who earned a professional accounting degree as well as having a Master of Divinity should be good at answering questions in these areas.

 

During COVID-19 students like my daughter Coral have had to do their learning online. Several times when she was struggling with a math question, she came to me and sought my help. How hard could it be for me to answer a Grade 8 math question? I have come to discover it is very hard at times. I will look at some questions and realize I have no clue where to begin. Read more

 

May 12th - Wanting to Know When

 

The question that most people are asking right now is WHEN?

When will the restrictions be lifted?

When will my kids be able to get back to school?

When will sports like hockey, basketball and baseball resume?

When can I gather with friends and relatives?

When will restaurants open so I can enjoy a meal out again?

When will I be able to get my hair cut?

When can I get back to work?

When will there be a cure or vaccine?

When will we be able to get back to church?

WHEN? is a common question being asked by so many right now, and we want certain specifics included when it comes to the answer. Read more

 

May 5th - Peaks and Valleys

 

It is in late April and early May when ambitious mountain climbers try their best to ascend Mount Everest. Every year around this time I pay attention to the news to see how many people successfully reach the summit, how many fail and how many perish. I have always been interested to read testimonies about their struggles to conquer the highest mountain in the world.

 

However, Mount Everest is quiet at this moment. No permits were granted to climbers this year. With no activity taking place on the peak of Everest the only activity will be in the valley below. Read more

 

April 28th - Gardening Tips for the Current Season 

With all of us practicing distancing and self isolation at home during these past six weeks I have noticed on some of my walks with Daisy how some of my neighbours are trying to keep busy. In late March and early April, I would often see my neighbours out picking up sticks and branches from their lawns that had come down during the winter. Once that was done, I would see many neighbours get out their rakes and pick up those piles of leaves that had gathered since the fall. Once the leaves were done, I saw them begin to rake the grass in their front lawns. I have to admit that many of my neighbourhood lawns are looking really good at the moment (my lawn is not one of them). Read more

 

April 19th - Having to get Creative 

National Hockey League players have had to become very creative with respect to keeping up their training during this COVID-19 pandemic. With rinks closed at this time, hockey players cannot keep in shape by skating or playing scrimmage games with other players. With this form of workout taken away from them NHL players have been coming up with some creative ways to stay in shape. Read more

 

April 10th - With All These Deaths 

As of 6:20 p.m. on Tuesday, April 7, 2020, a total of 381 people in Canada had died as a result of COVID-19. As of Wednesday, April 8, 2020, I found out I knew one of these 381 people. Her first name was Linda and she was a parishioner at the Presbyterian Church in Petrolia where I ministered from 2001-2007.

 

It is hard to be upbeat and positive with all the death we are bombarded with each day during this pandemic. Normally we do not want to focus on death in order to lift our spirits during times like this. There is one death we do want to focus on this week and in the days and weeks to come which is JESUS DEATH ON THE CROSS. Read more

April 3rd - Turn Those Worries Into Prayers  

One of the realities for us as we continue through this COVID-19 pandemic is that we will find ourselves having more moments of feeling anxiety than we may have ever had before. There are so many things with our current reality that will trigger these anxious feelings within us. Read more

March 26th  - When This is Over

It is astonishing to think how much our life has changed over these past ten or more days:

- Schools are closed

- Restaurants can only do take-outs

- Shortages of items at the grocery stores

- Cancellations of sports

- The need to do social distancing

- The closing of our borders to non-essential travel

- People returning from trips isolating themselves at home

- The temporary closing of our churches and so many other changes. Read more

March 19th  - We Shall Overcome

There is a hymn book called Praise Ways that I had a copy of at home but had misplaced. I knew it would turn up eventually and yesterday, as Nadine did a thorough cleaning of our room, she pulled out our magazine bin. Sure enough, in the bin was the missing Praise Ways. When I opened the book to the first page, I came to the song We Shall Overcome. I began reading the words to the song and I thought to myself how fitting for these days and times. Read more

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