Mid-Week Messages from Rev. Dean
September 28th - A Rare Sign of Loyalty
A quality that I often saw displayed when I was growing up was loyalty. I would see it being displayed:
in places of work between employers and employees,
in pro sports between athletes and owners,
in friendships, families, and other relationships,
in commitments and promises made to one another.
It is a quality that I admired so much that I have always tried to pattern and embrace it in my own life. Sadly, we have seen a decline in this admirable attribute over time. One person attributed the start of this decline in the sports world to the time when Wayne Gretzky was traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings. When this decline with respect to displaying loyalty began to occur in other aspects of life is harder to put an exact finger on.
Loyalty may not be as common today as it once was, but I did see a sign of it last week. I was contacted by a player of another basketball team who was inquiring whether there might be the possibility of my players coming over to their organization. This player shared how she has played for the same coach for five years and how much she respects and admires him. She is hoping that she can play one more year for him, but the challenge is they only have three players at the moment. My first impression as I read her e-mail was how proud this other coach would be to see the loyalty and respect she has developed for him over the past five years. I admired this person's loyalty and I shared that with her when I responded by e-mail. I was touched and encouraged to see her loyalty, especially when I find it lacking so much in these days and times.
Perhaps many of you have had the same observation over the years that loyalty is becoming more of a rarity. As we reflect upon this change, we may want to take time to consider if we have fallen into this trend when it comes to our relationship with our Heavenly Father. One thing that Jesus makes very clear to us in His teachings in the Sermon on the Mount is how our Father examines our heart to see if our loyalty toward Him has changed. Read more
September 21st - A Blast From the Past
Something my daughter and I would often do on Saturday mornings when she was younger was to stop into our Brantford Market. I did not usually buy a lot on our visits. Often it was just to buy some meat and a few items like apples, potatoes, or turnip. While we shopped for these items, we also got to enjoy some free samples. There was a pizza place that we always scouted out for whatever sample they were offering that day. We would also make our way over to get a free sample of garlic bread, and then end up at one of the bakeries that often-had nice loaf breads, or other treats to sample.
Our visit to the market would never be complete until we purchased a chocolate swirl cookie on our way out. It must have seemed odd to the vendor at this bakery stall that we would only spend 75 cents on a cookie every week. My daughter looked forward to that cookie and even if we had our fill of samples, she still had room to eat it once she got to the car. It has probably been 4-5 years since the last time my daughter and I bought a chocolate swirl cookie together at the market. She tends to sleep in now on Saturdays and is not awake when I go to the market.
This past Saturday I found myself purchasing some of these cookies even though I did not plan to do so. I was just about to exit the market when the vendor from this bakery came running over to me and said, I have a package of two chocolate swirl cookies that I just did up. Would you like them for your daughter? I could not believe she remembered our preference for this kind of cookie after so many years. How could I possibly say no to this vendor? I purchased the cookies and quickly realized they have risen in price from the 75 cents we once paid for them. When my daughter got up, I told her the story of what the vendor said. A huge smile came across my daughter's face and it continued as she ate a chocolate swirl cookie after a hiatus of many years. Having this cookie was a "blast from the past" for my daughter that brought her good memories and joy.
It is a real blessing when we receive reminders or blasts from the past like we did on Saturday of things that brought us joy. Read more
September 14th - Trouble With Opening Locks
One of the biggest challenges my daughter has experienced during her first three years of high school is with the lock on her locker. In Grade 11 she went through three different locks. Even though they were all quality locks, it seemed every three months they would no longer close properly. Grade 10 was not quite as bad as Grade 11 because she only went through two locks that year. Grade 9 saw the same thing happen even though students were not in the classroom the entire year due to interruptions with COVID.
My daughter bought a new lock to start off Grade 12. She tested it several times before the first day of school to make sure it would properly open and close. She had no problem with the lock on the first day until it was time to leave. I was sitting out in my car waiting to drive her home and saw no sign of her even though most students had left for the day.
Around 3:15 p.m. I received a message from her that her lock was not opening. She had tried several times but to no avail. I met her at the front of the school and went in with her to see if I could open it. It had been 40 years since I have tried to open a lock on a locker at BCI. I said a quick prayer before trying the combination and thankfully it did open. Since it was the end of the day, we took the lock home with us to make sure it would consistently open. The only time it opened is when I said that prayer. We tried the combination again in the car, and many times later at home, but the lock never again opened.
This story is a reminder how sometimes we might have difficulty with opening certain things. Locks can pose this challenge for us, but so too can lids on jars. Something else we may struggle with opening is our hearts to receiving God's messages. Read more
September 7th - Those Days
Sometimes we have what I refer to as one of those days! These are the kinds of days when it seems we are feeling:
- unlucky rather than lucky,
- discouraged rather than encouraged,
- weak rather than strong,
- fearful and anxious rather than at peace,
- unhappy rather than happy.
We all have those days. When we do we think nothing is going to change our feelings or outlook. On one of those days recently God found a creative way to make me feel better. A few weeks ago, while I was greeting people at the door after the church service a person handed me a piece of paper upon which was written a passage of Scripture. I looked at the note at the time and thanked the person for doing this. I put it in the pocket of my shirt and forgot all about it.
On one of those days recently I reached for that shirt and rediscovered the passage that had been given to me. I read it more closely this time and realized God meant for me to find this note when I did in order to encourage me. The passage that had been given to me was Joshua 1:9: Have I not commanded you, be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
This passage is a favourite of mine and God realized I needed to be reminded about its assurances on one of those days I was experiencing. My frown quickly turned to a smile and my discouragement changed into encouragement seeing God's presence and love being shown at a much-needed moment. Read more
August 31st - Lucky or Blessed?
I shared with everyone in last week's message how my family was on vacation in Las Vegas from August 15-20th. What none of the travel guides shared about a vacation in Las Vegas is to expect a hurricane to occur there every 84 years. There was no mention of Hurricane Hilary before we left Brantford, but by Friday we were beginning to see warnings and experiencing some rainfall and flooding in parts of Las Vegas.
On Saturday the local news was predicting the worst of the hurricane's impact would occur on Sunday and to expect delays and interruptions with respect to travel. Our flight was booked to leave Las Vegas Sunday night at 11:15 p.m. We considered leaving a day early, but we had tickets to a show on Saturday night that we were all looking forward to. We would have been truly disappointed to miss seeing it. I am glad we did not miss it because afterward my daughter said it was the best show she has ever seen.
Having made the decision to stay through to the Sunday as originally planned, we began doing some serious praying hoping we would still be able to leave Las Vegas on our scheduled flight. On Sunday morning we began to see that many of the flights were either delayed or cancelled. This was a surprise considering the weather was actually quite nice in Las Vegas. The rain was holding off and we were able to spend a portion of the afternoon doing a few last things on the Las Vegas strip. We kept checking our flight status throughout the day and it kept showing that it was on time.
When we got to the airport that night, we were told by the WestJet staff that our flight was still on time and how it was the only one all day that had not been cancelled or delayed. Thankfully we were able to leave Las Vegas as scheduled and arrived in Toronto Monday morning at 6:30 a.m. Nadine and I realized how blessed we were by God to help us arrive home safely and on time despite the rare occurrence of a hurricane hitting the area while we were there. Read more
August 24th - Loss and Gain on My Trip
If you were wondering why there was no midweek message last week it was because we were away on vacation. We flew to Las Vegas last week for a five-day holiday. Before we went, I met up with a friend who has gone to Las Vegas many times in order to get some insights from him about this city I had never visited before.
One of the things he shared with me is how Las Vegas is a city that is designed for people to lose. When he said this, he was referring to gambling in the casinos. I do not gamble so I was not worried about losing in this manner in Las Vegas. However, my friend's advice became a reality for one person I met at a show we attended on Friday night.
As we awaited the beginning of the show, I started up a conversation with the gentleman seated beside me who happened to be from North Carolina. He shared with me how earlier that day he lost $300.00 at the casino. But, his loss in Vegas did not end there. Afterwards he went to a nearby Walgreens to purchase a few things he needed. When he pulled out his wallet to pay, he did not realize somebody in the store was watching him closely. He shared that when he put his wallet back into his pocket, he did not zip it up like he normally does.
The person who was watching him must have seen this because as this man made his way back to the hotel he was pick-pocketed. This was a bigger loss for him than the $300.00 he lost earlier at the casino because all his identification and credit cards were taken. He admitted that after losing his wallet in this manner, he lost his temper and was not very pleasant to be around that afternoon. Read more
August 10th - Different Perspectives
Something my daughter and I have been doing this summer is playing tennis. I used to play tennis quite a bit as a teenager and made it onto my high school team one year. Even when I went off to university, I would find time to play tennis with some of my friends there. Nadine and I have played from time to time over the years but nothing on a consistent basis. It was actually while Nadine and I were playing tennis one day 18 years ago that we picked up on the fact she might be pregnant.
Eighteen years later I am now playing tennis with my daughter, and I am quite impressed how quickly she is picking up on the game. She has a natural serve that lands in the service box on a consistent basis. We have not played games against each other yet, but we do engage in some pretty intense rallies. When I used to play in my teens I was in pretty good shape and could get to balls quite easily. Now I tend to sweat more profusely and breathe more heavily.
Something that Coral has been noticing is that after every rally I will walk over slowly to retrieve the ball we just played even though we may still have one or two more in our pockets to hit out. From her perspective she sees this as a sign that I am getting slower in my old age. I have a different perspective however when it comes to my actions. I see it as wisdom on my part conserving my energy so I can come back and start the next rally breathing less heavily. My actions on the tennis court are a reminder of how two people can see the very same thing but have a different perspective of it.
Being reminded of this got me thinking how sometimes God has a different perspective of a reality than we do. One of the best examples we find in Scripture is God's call to Moses found in Exodus chapters 3 and 4. When Moses approached the burning bush and discovered he was standing on holy ground God shared with him what His plan was. Read more
August 3rd - It is Nice to See a Little Excitement
I usually film our online worship service on Friday mornings at our house. Our dog Daisy gets really excited when it comes time to film worship. As soon as I hit record on the camera and sit down in my chair to begin speaking, Daisy runs to get her basketball. For the first few moments of recording, I can count on Daisy to place the ball at my feet and begin to play around with it. By the time I begin my prayer of praise and confession Daisy has moved to the living room to roll over onto her back and wiggle back and forth. Sometimes while doing this, she will let out a bark in her excitement. It is not long before she comes back in to where I am filming and starts eating her food. By the time I get to the sermon she settles down and sometimes lays at my feet while I preach. If I should get up at any time during filming, Daisy will start these routines all over again.
This past Friday my wife Nadine was home when I was about to start filming. She decided to take Daisy for a walk so that she would not be a distraction. As soon as they headed out the door for the walk, I hit the record button. Apparently, Daisy did not want to miss out on the excitement she experiences while I record the worship service. She plopped herself down on the front step and would not budge for Nadine at all. Her tail wagged immediately when Nadine conceded and let her back into the house so she would not miss worship. While it can be challenging at times to film an online worship service with a dog scurrying around me, it is refreshing to see her excitement.
Wouldn't it be nice to see this kind of excitement from people again when it comes to experiencing worship? Prior to COVID, congregations in many denominations were beginning to see a decline in attendance at worship services. One of the things COVID did was to motivate many churches like ours to offer online services when restrictions prevented us from worshiping in person.
Many congregations have not seen everyone return to in-person worship after the restrictions were lifted. Many pastors I have talked to have commented that only fifty percent of their congregation have returned. There are many reasons to explain why we have seen these declines in in-person worship. It would be wonderful to see this trend reverse. I can't help but wonder if one of the ways to reverse this trend will be for people to gain the same excitement for worship as is expressed by Daisy. Read more
July 28th - Sometimes We get an Answer, and Other Times We Do Not
A warning light appeared on the dash of our Toyota Prius on Thursday afternoon. Thankfully I was not too far from home when it first appeared. When I got home, I pulled out the vehicle manual from my glove compartment and discovered the warning light was indicating the coolant temperature was too high. I opened the hood, hoping all I needed to do was add some coolant, but peering in I could see fluid resting on top of the radiator. I was able to book an appointment for Friday morning with my garage. hoping it might be repaired that day.
My daughter was also hoping for a quick fix to the car because she wanted to use it Saturday for something special she was planning to do in Ancaster. Around 11:00 a.m. on Friday morning the garage called to say they found two holes in my radiator, and it could not be driven until it was replaced. Unfortunately, the radiator was not in stock and it would not come in until the following Tuesday.
Receiving this news was devastating. I know many of you might be thinking I was devastated to have to open my wallet and pay for a pricey repair. You are not totally wrong as I was hoping for a simple fix. What devastated me more was knowing how disappointed my daughter would be not being able to drive our Toyota Prius on Saturday to Ancaster. Even though we have two vehicles, my daughter has basically driven our Prius up until this point. She has only driven our Nissan Sentra on one previous occasion. Saturday was going to be the first time she would be driving out of town to Ancaster on her own. We knew she would be more confident driving the Prius than the Sentra.
The timing of all of this was not great to say the least. Naturally, being a person of faith, I vented to God and said, "Why could this not have happened earlier in the week so there was enough time to get a new radiator in? If not earlier in the week God, then why not next week so my daughter could drive her preferred car to Ancaster?" I had questions as you can see in this vent, and it did not take long for God to provide me with an answer. Read more
July 20th - A Constant, Regardless of the Day
I celebrated my 59th birthday on Sunday. With my birthday falling on a Sunday this year I got the privilege of having the congregation sing "Happy Birthday" to me on the actual day. I even took advantage of my birthday being on a Sunday to incorporate it into my children story. It is not every Sunday I can make those participating in the children's story put on hats, make noise with party horns, and blow out candles. My birthday celebration continued later that day with friends coming over to my mother's house for dinner.
While I was celebrating on Sunday, I was also aware of somebody else who was experiencing a very rough day dealing with grief. My heart was breaking for this person, and I wished there was something I could do in order to turn it into a better day for them.
Sunday was a day where there was celebrating happening for me but unfortunately sadness and tears occurring for somebody else. This is a reality of life. Some days we find ourselves happy and joyful but other days can be very difficult to get through. We have all experienced being on both sides of this pendulum.
This was not the only reality I was reminded about on my birthday. The other reality I was reminded about on my special day is that we can consistently count on God being there for us on either of these two kinds of days.
The first reminder of these realities came from two cards I received on my birthday. I was handed a birthday card by a congregation member on Sunday morning before the service. When I opened it later, I was surprised to see it said: Five Things God Wants You to Remember In Trying Times. At first it seemed like an odd card to receive on my birthday. Read more
July 13th - Not Luck at All
We are blessed to have a considerable amount of bush at the back of our property that contains many mature trees. Around 3:00 a.m. on Sunday July 2nd, I heard a loud crash that woke me from my sleep. It is surprising the sound woke me because I can sleep through the loudest of storms, and even my loudest snores. When I heard the sound, I thought it might have been thunder.
When I took Daisy out for her morning business around 7:00 a.m., it was then when I discovered what made the loud sound earlier. I found that a large portion of a tree from my neighbour's property had fallen onto my side of the bush taking several other trees, branches and limbs with it. The debris was not only on my lawn and in my bush but continued into my other neighbour's lawn also. The fallen tree had just missed landing on my shed and came a few inches short from hitting my neighbour's, too.
While there was a considerable quantity of branches and limbs all over our two backyards there was nothing I could do about it at that time because I had to get ready for church. It was not until late that Sunday morning that my neighbour spotted the fallen tree out back. He sent us a text thinking at first the tree damaged our shed, but then messaged back shortly after that he was wrong and there was no damage to it. It was not until 3:00 p.m. when I could finally go out back to survey the damage up close, and begin to start cleaning up all the foliage.
All I had was a hand saw to begin cutting away at all the branches. My neighbour saw me from his window and came out with a better tool for cutting branches into smaller pieces. He also told me to place all of the cut-up branches into his trailer and once it was full, he would take it to the dump to dispose of. He even offered to come over one night with his chain saw during the week to cut away the bigger pieces of wood. I was grateful for all the help he was offering.
We stood there for a moment assessing all the damage. Read more
July 6th - A Much Needed Break
School is out for another summer. I know kids and teachers enjoy having this break, but as a parent, so do I. For the next two months I am
going to enjoy having a break from:
- trying to wake a teenager up at 7:00 a.m. each morning,
- trying to figure out what different things I can include in her lunch each day for school,
- making sure any books or binders brought home the day before get put back into her backpack for school that day,
- trying to get out the door each morning by 8:35 and then navigating through the busy traffic on the Lorne Bridge and Brant Avenue in order to get my daughter to school before the bell rings,
- stopping what I am doing at 2:30 p.m. each weekday to make the same trek across the Lorne Bridge and Brant Ave. to pick her up at day's end and then navigate through heavier traffic heading home.
I do not begrudge or mind in the least doing these things for my daughter during a school year, but as a parent it is nice to have a break from these weekday routines, just as it is for the students and teachers.
Summer is a time when we look forward to some much-needed rest and breaks from our normal routines. Just as it is nice to get a break from the routines of school during summer, we also look forward at this time of year to travel and vacation in order to get away from the realities of day-to-day life. Perhaps you still remember some of your summer vacations that provided you with this opportunity for rest.
Growing up, many of our family vacations would be spent staying at a motel in Niagara Falls. Even though we were not far from home on these vacations I still enjoyed doing different things like swimming in the motel pool, eating out at restaurants, playing mini-golf, going to some of the museums, or visiting the Skyline tower where they had bumper cars.
My wife Nadine and I have spent some of our summer vacations traveling through the maritime and western provinces of Canada, seeing parts of England and Germany, staying in resorts up north, and exploring parts of the United States. Read more
June 29th - What the Wind Blew My Way
In last week's message I shared how I can feel a bit anxious some Monday mornings when I place my garbage out for pickup, especially when I have large amounts of cardboard included in my recycling or am exceeding the number of bags I am allowed. I had no anxious feelings at all this Monday because I only had a few bags of garbage to put out and my recycling bins just had normal items included in them.
When I put my garbage out, something unusual turned the corner that caught my attention. It was not a car, nor a person, nor an animal but rather a balloon being carried along by a slight wind. While it was surprising to see, it was not shocking as I quickly remembered how there was a birthday party going on Sunday night not far from us and it probably came from their yard. The wind was gentle at that time of morning, so it just kept the balloon slowly moving along the opposite side of the street.
Two hours later the wind picked up as it poured down rain around 8:00 a.m. If the balloon was anywhere near our house at the time, I am sure it got quickly whisked away by the high winds. I did not see the balloon when I drove my daughter to school at 8:30, nor when I returned home. The winds must have changed direction two hours later. When I went back out at 10:30 the balloon was once again across the street close to where I first saw it at 6:00 a.m. I returned home again around 11:45 to find the wind had now carried the balloon across the street to our lawn and halfway up our driveway. This balloon started off at a birthday party celebration on Sunday, but the winds on Monday took it on quite a journey.
Seeing the journey the wind took this balloon on got me thinking about the various directions life's storms and high winds can try to blow us in. Read more
June 22nd - Out With the Trash
Mondays are garbage pickup days in my neighbourhood. Some Monday mornings I feel a bit anxious when I place my items out front. I notice I tend to feel this anxiousness on those Monday when I put leaf bags out for collection. Part of my anxiety comes from wondering if I will find a pile of leaves or dirt to be cleaned up afterward because some have fallen out as they threw the bags onto their truck. Usually, I find myself out front later that day cleaning up.
I also get a bit anxious whenever I have to place a large amount of cardboard out front for recycling. I do my best to cut up these boxes and tie them up in bundles but there have been times they have not been taken away because I did not cut the cardboard up small enough. So there is always a bit of anxiousness whenever I put bundles of cardboard out front.
Usually, I only have 2-3 bags of garbage to place out front each week for pickup. Sometimes I may have 5 or more bags and, on those occasions, naturally I have a little bit of anxiety hoping they will throw all the bags on and not leave any because I am past the limit. On those even rarer occasions when I have to use a few contractor-sized garbage bags to dispose of a few things I find myself anxious too, hoping they will take away these larger amounts.
The apprehension I feel on these particular Mondays usually begins at 6:00 a.m. when I tend to put my garbage out for that day and subsides by lunchtime when everything has typically been picked up. There was one Monday recently however when my anxiety lingered late into the afternoon. The garbage truck had picked up across the street from my house but by 3:00 p.m. had not come back down our side. I began to wonder if the truck driver had forgotten our side of the road, or whether they had experienced mechanical issues. On that particular Monday I had six bags out front. I did not want to be left holding those bags if you know what I mean. Finally, around 4:30 p.m. the garbage truck came and my apprehension was gone.
I know it may seem strange to some people to think I have anxious feelings at times around this weekly event, but this observation got me thinking about a different kind of garbage that we need to consider putting out at the curb. Read more
June 15th - Fathers
With Father's Day approaching this Sunday I began thinking about the gifts I gave my father on this day. I'll be honest, I had a hard time remembering any of them. I do remember giving him a homemade gift that my kindergarten teacher had us make, but that is because my mother saved it and gave it to me a couple of years ago as a keepsake. I am sure I made my dad a card each year and wished him a happy Father's Day, but I cannot remember anything else I may have given him on his special day. I do not know if the reason I am struggling to remember is because I am now 58 years old, or because my father passed away 24 years ago.
This Sunday will mark my eighteenth Father's Day as a dad. I have been blessed over these years to be given some very special gifts on this annual day. On my first Father's Day I received a pendant for my necklace that said, "#1 Dad" on the front and had Coral's name engraved on the back. Several years on Father's Day I received shirts as my gift. A couple of these shirts Coral designed herself. One shirt had her handprints and footprints done in paint on the front and back. On another shirt she included crosses, so I wore it to church on that Father's Day Sunday and led the service wearing it. She also got me a shirt one year that said, "Blessed to be a dad". One of my favourite Father's Day gifts was a tie that had three pictures of my daughter at different ages in her life. I get complimented so often when I wear this tie whether I am in church or having Sunday brunch after the service at a restaurant. Last year I received a framed picture of Coral and I together after we played our final game at the provincial championships for basketball. I always smile when I see this picture. I definitely have been blessed by the gifts I have received.
I mentioned earlier how I cannot remember the gifts that I gave to my father in past Father's Days. I do not know if other people have a better memory than I do when it comes to gifts they have given but what I have frequently observed is how quickly people remember the special things they did with their fathers on this annual day. I can recall several times when I have sat with somebody after their father passed away and they shared with me how it was their tradition to go golfing with their dad every Fathers Day. Others have told me how they would celebrate Fathers Day by having a barbeque with their dad. Some people have even shared how they would spend that weekend camping with their dads. Read more
June 8th - A Thank You for Asking
I ran into an acquaintance on Saturday morning at the grocery store. I knew this person had been going through some struggles over the past few years and took this opportunity to ask them how they were doing. For the next 5-10 minutes we stood in the aisle as this person shared their feelings around this difficult struggle. During the conversation I acknowledged the person's feelings, listened attentively, and showed sincerity and compassion.
After the conversation ended, we each went down different aisles and continued our shopping. A few minutes later this person saw me at the end of the aisle and shouted, "Thank you for asking!" Probably five minutes had passed since our conversation ended when the person said this. Obviously during those five minutes the person was realizing how good it made them feel that somebody took the time to ask how they were doing.
This is something I try to do whenever I run into somebody unexpectedly that I am aware of who has been struggling. I often see these as "God encounters" and respond to His nudge by going over to the person and asking how they are doing. It always amazes me afterward how God divinely arranged for the encounter to happen at a time when the person needed to know somebody cared.
Perhaps we have experienced the same thing as I did on Saturday where God purposely had us run into somebody unexpectedly so we could strike up a conversation with them and bless them by asking how they are doing. Or maybe we have been the recipient of such an encounter arranged by God where somebody we knew took the time to ask and listen to us in our moments of struggle. It is nice to have somebody sincerely ask how we are doing, and it is humbling when we realize God chose us to be the person to do this for somebody in need. Read more
June 1st - Loving Our Neighbour
My neighbour's cat got loose just over a week ago. This cat had been a stray prior to Covid. My neighbour befriended this stray cat who would frequently come into their backyard. At first, they would put food out for it. Once the cat became comfortable with them, they would sit on the back porch and spend time petting it. Finally, after six months of doing this, the cat trusted them enough to come into their home as a pet. This cat adjusted well to its new home over the past few years.
When a garage door was accidently left open recently, this cat seized the opportunity to sneak out and began roaming the neighbourhood again. My neighbour told me what had happened about 10 days ago. All last week my neighbours have been putting up signs around the area asking people to let them know if they see the missing cat. I have been amazed at the level of neighbourly love I have seen offered to this couple.
My neighbour two doors down spotted the missing cat three nights in a row in her driveway and contacted this couple each time she saw it. My neighbour directly across the road from me spotted the cat in his yard a few times at 4:00 a.m. before heading off to work. He came and knocked on my neighbour's door to let them know. Several other neighbours have been doing the same thing after spotting the cat in their yards. Our neighbour on the right side of us helped them out by posting a picture of their cat on Facebook in our neighbourhood group to help them try to find it. These sightings provided my neighbours with so much hope knowing their cat was still in the area.
My neighbour stopped in at a pet store last week not far from where I live and told the owner about her missing cat. The owner of the pet store spent a good hour talking with my neighbour about where to look for the cat and agencies out there that actually send volunteers to help search for missing animals. In fact, a few nights ago, a group of people from one of these agencies spent a couple of hours looking for this cat. I have been keeping an eye out as well for their cat every time I am working in my back yard or taking our dog Daisy for a walk around the block. I have also spent time each day checking in with my neighbours to see how they are doing emotionally. As one would expect, there have been days when their hopes were lifted and others when they were feeling down and discouraged. I have shared with them in my conversations how I have been also praying for them asking for God's help in finding their missing cat.
So much love is being shown right now for my neighbours. Seeing all of this love and support has touched them so much. This outpouring of neighbourly love has reminded me of the obligation we have as believers to be doing this on a daily basis. Read more
May 26th - Choosing Our Seats
My daughter Coral and I attended a concert at the Sanderson Centre on Thursday night. As we were entering, I was surprised to see that our neighbours who live right across from us were there too. He had booked his seats a year prior for this show. He told me how he purposely chose seats two rows up in the upper section, center with the stage. The reason why he selected these seats was not only for the good sight line it provided but also because it allowed them quick access to the bathrooms and to the bar. It was my wife Nadine who selected the tickets for Coral and me. She got us great seats just eight rows from stage right in the middle.
My neighbour's comment got me thinking about some of the criteria I use at times when it comes to selecting seats. Whenever Coral and I attend basketball games at McMaster University we always try to get in the section where there are plastic seats with backs on them. If you have ever sat through a basketball game on stands with no back rest, you will understand why we prefer this kind of seating. Whenever we have purchased tickets for Toronto Blue Jays games, I have gotten seats in areas where we might catch a foul ball. When it comes to selecting seats at the movie theater, we tend to look for them in the back row, or second to back and preferably right in the middle. During COVID we would also look for seats far away from where others were seated. When it comes to concerts, usually price is the biggest factor in determining which seats we select. Because of the high prices being charged at some concerts, we tend to find ourselves very high up in seats quite a distance from the stage. My brother has his own strategy when it comes to selecting seats at a theater. Because of his height, he prefers to get a seat on the aisle so that he has more leg room. If my mother is going to a live theatre performance, we try to get her seats close to the front so that she can hear and see the show better.
We all have our own criteria when it comes to selecting seats at events like these. Whether we have considered it before or not, we also have criteria when it comes to being seated with Jesus. The story where Jesus and His disciples spent the night at the home of Lazarus and his two sisters Martha and Mary reveals the criteria they used in being seated with Jesus. We find this story in Luke 10. Read more
May 18th - Shining the Light of God When on the Losing End
I found myself in a situation for the second time after my daughter's basketball team lost in the bronze medal game at the Ontario Basketball championships. The first time was back in 2019 when my daughter was just 13 years old. I was not her coach at the time, and it was her first season of competitive basketball. The bronze medal game that year was a close contest and our team ended up losing by two points. After the game both teams were asked to line up so the bronze medals could be awarded to the winning team. The convenor at that championship said," Unfortunately there has to be a winner and a loser in these games." He was right in what he said, but as a parent sitting in the stands at the time and seeing the disappointment on the faces of the players on my daughter's team it was hard to hear. I wish he could have used some other way to acknowledge my daughter's team had not won.
Four years later I was the coach of my daughter's team when we played in the bronze medal game at the Ontario Basketball championships. My players gave it their all but unfortunately fell just short at the end. Once again, we were asked to line up for the medal ceremony. Standing there I was hoping the convenor would use some other expression to convey we did not win. Once again, I heard those words, "There has to be a winner and a loser." I took the words with grace and dignity even though it was hard to hear and experience. What I did not know at the time was how God would soon use my reactions to our loss to shine His light into another coach's behaviour to losing.
Thirty minutes after we lost in the bronze medal game I was still at the gym when it was half time in the gold medal game. One team was losing by 15 points at that time. When the players got to the bench the assistant coach of the team that was losing slammed things on the ground and shouted at the girls in a loud voice telling them how disappointed he was in them. Next, the female head coach began swearing at her players loud enough for everyone to hear in the gym. She kept swearing constantly at her players for the next two minutes. I could not believe what I was seeing taking place.
I happened to be standing beside the stands where the parents from that team were sitting. After seeing how this coach was responding to her team losing, I felt God nudging me to say something. I turned to one of the parents in the stands and asked if they were okay with the language being used by the coach. The parent shook his head indicating no. I then pointed at my team jersey and said, "You saw me on the court 30 minutes ago after my team lost. Did you see me act in that way toward my players?" Then I said to him, "I was a goalie when I was 16 years old, and I had a coach who used this same kind of abusive language toward me whenever we lost. Let me tell you from personal experience how damaging it is emotionally to be treated that way after a loss or any time." He looked at me and said, ``You are right. You did not act that way. I am going to have the other parents join me after the game and express our displeasure to the coach."
I realized afterward I would not have been able to say that to this parent if I had acted in the same manner as this other coach did after our loss. Read more
May 11th - A Demand for Smiles
Last week Tim Hortons was selling their Smile Cookies for charity. These cookies are always popular when they come on sale. I went into my nearby Tim Hortons one morning to get a coffee. Some of you who read this message will be shocked by that news. One of the changes that the pandemic has had on me is enjoying drinking their coffee once again. When I placed my order for a large coffee the person taking it asked if I wanted to buy a Smile Cookie too. I told her, "If I bought a Smile Cookie without my teenage daughter present, she would be very upset with me." That brought a smile to her face, and she shared how her teenager would respond the exact same way. I did tell her that I would be back after school with my daughter to buy some Smile Cookies.
True to my word dad and daughter enjoyed eating our first Smile Cookies of the week that afternoon. It was interesting to see during the course of the week how much demand there was for Smile Cookies. Several days last week I saw people walking out with a box containing a dozen Smile Cookies. One person I spotted doing this worked at a nearby bank. Another person appeared to be a teacher. She carried out several boxes of Smile Cookies, so I assumed her students were going to be smiling when she gave them out. There were plenty of Smile Cookies available to be purchased the first few days last week.
By Friday I began to notice there were fewer of them in the trays behind the counter to purchase. On Sunday my daughter and her friend tried to get some when they stopped into a Tim Hortons while shopping but discovered they were all sold out. When she told me about this, I decided to go over to my nearby Tim Hortons to see if I could surprise my daughter and her friend with Smile Cookies while they were watching a movie downstairs in our house. I could not surprise them as they were sold out at this location too. It would seem there was a high demand and desire for smiles last week, even if they were on the front of a cookie.
It is always nice and uplifting to see a smile. I remember one person from my congregation who would always smile at me just before I started the service. I would smile back and found these interactions a comforting way to begin. Read more
May 4th - A Lesson in Living from a Wonderful Woman
The mother of a dear friend of mine passed away last week. I met her on several occasions and always came away smiling and uplifted after spending time with her. She had such a sweet, kind nature about her. A wonderful tribute was written by her son last week that included some of his mom's thoughts as she lived out her final days. He shared how his mom was actually anxious in a good way during her final days to get to heaven and find out what it would be like. Her anxiousness about heaven provided her with a true sense of peace knowing she was going to be reunited with her family and live with God there.
One of the things she was curious about was what she would be wearing when she got there. Her ability to focus on heaven and eternity allowed her to face her passing with grace, dignity, calmness, and also with a healthy dose of humour. In fact, she wanted her cause of death to be listed as "too many birthdays". She had seen this reading somebody else's obituary one time.
She was quite intrigued during the course of her life by reading obituaries. I remember one time after I began my ministry in Petrolia, she was worried when she saw my name listed in an obituary in The London Free Press and thought I was the deceased. It took her reading it again to realize the reason my name was in the obituary was because I was officiating the funeral.
Her ability to be able to live out her remaining days with such dignity, comfort, and grace had to do with her faith. Her son wrote how his mom was devoted to her church and God. It was her faith and love for God that allowed her to live each day embracing the values of kindness, honesty, forgiveness, generosity and love. I was saddened to learn of this wonderful woman's passing and the grief and loss it would be for my dear friends and the rest of her family. I was also inspired by how she lived out her faith in her final days focusing on eternity which helped her to be comfortable and have a non- anxious presence.
After I read the obituary my friend wrote about his mother, I got thinking that we should be following her example by focusing on eternity when we face challenges in life. Read more
April 27th - The Difference a Day Can Make
This past weekend we had to drive to Thornhill for basketball games on both days. Saturday was a very stressful day to say the least. The stress began when it seemed like we were hitting every red light in Brantford making our way to get onto the 403. It was raining very heavily at times on Saturday morning which made the drive a bit more stressful. Traffic seemed to slow down at spots along the way putting us a little behind schedule. Then as we transitioned from the 427 to the 401 everything slowed down as traffic had to merge due to construction.
Usually, I try to get to games one hour before tipoff but by 11:00 a.m. we were still at least 15-20 minutes away. Then we started receiving texts from my players that they were caught in traffic and would not get there until 10 minutes before the game. It was a stressful half hour before the game having players, parents, officials, and even the opposing team question me as to whether we would have enough players to start on time. All 8 of my players finally arrived but with less than 10 minutes before the start of the game.
I talked with many of the parents after our first game and they too shared how stressful the trip was for them. Our second game was very stressful as well. We had the lead late in the game but let the other team back in to tie it in the final minute. Then in over time it became even more stressful as we let another lead slip away and found ourselves behind by 1 with just 15 seconds left. After a timeout one of my players was fouled and went to the line for two free throws. I was stressed watching her take each shot, but she was successful at both attempts and we won by 1 point. It was a stressful game, but an exciting one, too.
After a stressful drive to the gym, and two intense games it was time for us to drive back home. I was hoping the drive home would not be as stressful, but it was. There were several accidents along the way which added another 60 minutes to our drive home. Saturday was a very stressful day.
Sunday was a very different day. Read more
April 20th - Ahead of Plans
We were blessed last week with some unseasonable weather. The warm weather allowed us to get a head start on many outdoor activities. I took full advantage of this gift last week. I started by picking up the limbs and branches that had come down during the winter in our front and backyard. Next, I focused on the leaves. I was able to get all of the leaves cleaned up that gather under my carport during winter. I then focused on cleaning up the leaves that congregate in our pool area. After purchasing a few more leaf bags I started raking up under some of the bushes in our yard. I even made it to our front flower bed and got it raked.
With the raking done I noticed a few weeds beginning to pop up in my grass so I found my trusty digger in the shed and got my hands and knees a bit dirty attacking the weeds before they get the better of my lawn. I even found time to put away my snow shovels hoping I was not being premature in doing so. I am never this far ahead at this point of time when it comes to the outdoor work. I would say I am a good month ahead of schedule right now. It feels good to be so ahead of schedule.
I imagine many of us were taking advantage of the beautiful weather this past week to do many of the same things. There are quite a few things for us to do around our places as we transition out of winter into spring. Getting a head-start on those plans either allows us to add to what we hope to get done, or gives us more time later on to enjoy spring and summer. As I was thinking about being ahead with my outdoor work it got me wondering if I am ahead when it comes to God's desires and plans for me.
Coming out of Easter we have been reminded that it has always been God's plan for us to choose to have a relationship with Him. Read more
April 13th - Getting My Tickets
My daughter and I were very excited when we heard that one of our favourite musical groups would be coming to Toronto on tour. Even though the concert is not until October, tickets were to go on sale Friday, March 31st at 10:00 a.m. on Ticketmaster.
It is not an easy process to get tickets for some concerts through Ticketmaster, especially if the group is very popular. Ticketmaster encourages everyone to sign into their accounts with them at least 10 minutes before the tickets go on sale. Once signed in, you are placed in their waiting room before being assigned a random spot in a queue as soon as the sale begins. Your spot in the queue will appear once the sale starts. On a previous attempt I was informed there were 2000 plus people ahead of me in the queue. Once you are in the queue you have to wait and watch as the number of people ahead of you begins to dwindle down. Finally, you will see that you will be the next one to leave the queue and be able to select seats.
Two weeks prior to March 31st I tried this process for another concert my daughter wanted to go see. Once it became my turn, every time I tried to click on certain seats that matched our price limit, I was informed that somebody else beat me to those tickets. I kept trying for 30 minutes but every time I got this same response. Finally, I got a message that all of the tickets had been sold. That was my experience on Ticketmaster on Friday, March 17th.
On March 31st I was informed at 10:00 a.m. that I was in spot 1753 in the queue. It was a stressful few minutes while I watched my spot in the queue get closer to being able to select tickets. Read more
April 6th - Why It Turned Out Good
I received a compliment recently for doing a good job from one of the parents on my basketball team. The compliment was a result of being able to arrange three upcoming exhibition games. It may sound easy to do but it is very complicated in my case because most teams want to have these games on Sunday mornings. It might be convenient for these teams to play on Sunday mornings but not for this pastor who happens to coach as well.
I had been trying to arrange exhibition games since January with various teams but to no avail. I sent out an e-mail to my players and parents in mid-March explaining to them my lack of success in finding exhibition games to play. After I sent the e-mail I prayed and asked God to help me fulfill my players' wishes to have a few exhibition games. It did not take long for this prayer to be answered.
The very next day I received an e-mail from a coach in Guelph who was interested in playing us. We found a Monday night in April that worked for both teams. The very next day I received another e-mail from a coach in Hamilton looking for games. I had never heard of this basketball team before. A few e-mails later we had arranged for two exhibition games. A few days earlier I had no exhibition games, and now I had three. Many of the parents commented how surprised they were to see the follow up e-mail sharing with them this good news. This led to the one parent complimenting me for doing a good job. I appreciated the compliment, but I realized it was God who did the good job. All I did was pray. God did the good job in answering the prayer by making these three games happen.
It should not come as a surprise to anyone of us how prayer can result in good things happening. In fact, we would not have "Good Friday" if it were not for prayer. Read more
March 30th - The Bags We Carry
My daughter turned 17 last Friday. Every year on the eve of my daughter's birthday Nadine and I will reminisce about the events that transpired on the day before her birth. We always recount how we went on a walk that night and talked about packing the bag we would take to the hospital when the time came. We planned on packing the bag the next day even though Nadine was only just past the 33-week mark at the time. Little did we know at that time that we would need the bag packed sooner.
We had just settled into bed that night when Nadine's water broke. We had to pack a bag very quickly and head right away to the hospital. We spent the next 17 days at London's Sick Kids' Hospital until we could finally bring our daughter home. On the eve of my daughter's birthday, we always remember talking about the need of getting that bag ready.
Last Thursday night on the eve of my daughter's 17th birthday I found myself carrying basketball bags out to the car heading off to practice. Carrying these bags got me thinking back to the night before our daughter was born and of the many changes we have experienced in these 17 years with her.
This walk down memory lane last week not only got me thinking about some of the bags I have carried for Coral through the years but reminded me how we all carry many bags through the course of our lives. The kinds of bags we have carried through the seasons of life are many. Parents may remember the bags they took with them to the hospital for the birth of their child and the diaper bags they carried for a few years after that. Having children, chances are we have packed and carried our fair share of backpacks and school lunches over the years. Parents with children in sports have had to carry their hockey bags or gym bags. Then there are the many bags and suitcases we have carried navigating through airports or hotels while on vacation. We have all carried our fair share of grocery bags and sometimes have had them rip in our hands. Golfers may have carried their golf bags around a course before getting wise and using a cart. During the Christmas season, we have carried bags coming out of the mall containing our gift purchases. Then there are the purses that have to be carried, or the brief cases and computer bags we take to work. We may even carry a few bags under our eyes at times depending on how little sleep we are getting. These are just some of the bags we carry during the course of our lives.
Sometimes the bags we carry are heavy and other times they are light. If the bags we are carrying are filled with burdens, then they become extremely heavy. Think of some of the burdens we have had to carry at times. Read more
March 23rd - Working on the List
My daughter Coral loves movies. She was really excited about the Academy Awards a week ago and made sure leading up to that event she watched every movie that was nominated for a major award. She even had a prediction list made out ahead of time picking who she believed would win each category.
I am not a film buff like my daughter. I enjoy watching movies but over the years I have not seen what some people consider to be some of the best ones of all time. Realizing this, my daughter gave me a list of six movies back in January that I should watch so I would become more enlightened about some of the best films ever made.
By March I had only watched one of the movies on her list and half of another one. It was not that I had forgotten about her list during those two months, but rather other things just took a priority over watching those movies during that time. Last week I turned on a movie that was not on her list. She happened to come into the living room while I was watching the movie and commented how it was not on her list.
Guilty as charged and with a guilty conscious added to it, I decided to start watching a few movies on her list. It was a good week for me to do it because I had no evening basketball practices with it being March Break. I was able to watch two of the movies that were on my daughter's list and enjoyed both thoroughly. A couple of times my daughter walked in while I was watching her movies. She smiled each time and commented how anxious she would be to hear what I thought about it later. Afterward I did seek her out so I could debrief with her my thoughts about the movie.
I have been working on one of my lists during this past week after ignoring it for the previous two months. Doing this got me thinking about a list that God has given to us in the Bible to work on. Read more
March 16th - It Has Been Three Years
It is hard to believe we have arrived at the three-year anniversary of COVID-19 shutting the world down. I can still remember the week before all of this happened. My daughter's basketball team played a tournament in Hamilton the weekend before and won the gold medal. During that next week we started hearing about more cases of people being infected with COVID. The NBA shut down games and other professional sport leagues were talking about doing the same. We had a basketball practice on the Thursday night and the girls were told to keep conditioned if things shut down as it would probably only be for 2-3 weeks. Little did we know at that time it would be 18 months later before they would play again. We went to the library on the Saturday and stocked up on as many books as we could in case things did shut down. We were not sure whether to hold a service that Sunday, but decided to go ahead in case it would be the last in-person one for awhile.
My memories of the days leading into the lockdown are still very vivid. Every one of us experienced loss and changes to our lives as a result of the pandemic. I took time on this three-year anniversary to think about some of the losses and changes I experienced. It is funny how one of the changes I began to reflect upon was my view towards toilet paper. Prior to COVID I used to be embarrassed buying toilet paper at the store. Even though it is a necessity, I always worried about running into somebody I knew when buying it. It may seem silly, but I was always conscious of this.
Our view toward toilet paper changed during COVID. It became a highly sought after and prized possession to purchase. My attitude toward this necessity changed as a result of this reality. I was no longer embarrassed when purchasing it, and in fact carried it like a prized possession. I remember running into my neighbour at Shoppers Drug Mart early in the pandemic. I was in line proudly holding up my success in finding toilet paper and encouraging him to hurry to the back of the store and get some before it was all gone. I found it amusing reflecting on how one of the changes I have experienced during these three years is my comfort level toward purchasing toilet paper.
A lot of things have changed for all of us during these past three years. Some of the changes we have experienced are unlike any we have ever seen before. Read more
March 9th - Being Reminded of the Need to Forgive
One responsibility I have currently is being the clerk of the Presbytery of Paris. There are a lot of administrative aspects to this position including registering clergy with Service Ontario to perform weddings. I was contacted by a minister a month ago asking for my help to get him a temporary licence to perform a wedding in May. He gave me all of the details pertaining to the wedding, so I typed up a letter supporting his application for a temporary licence and mailed it to him to include in his correspondence with Service Ontario.
A week after sending the letter I received a phone call from him that he had given me the wrong date for the wedding. He apologized for the mistake and asked if I would send a new letter of endorsement with the proper date on it. I was glad to do it for him.
Another week passed and I received a call again from this same minister. When he received my second letter, he realized he had given me the wrong date again. He felt so bad and said, "I hope you can forgive me for all of the trouble I am causing you." He could not see me smiling on the other end of the phone, but I replied, "I am a minister. Forgiveness is part of the job." I sent the letter of endorsement off a third time thinking this minister finally had everything he needed to submit his application.
The following week I received another phone call from this minister. He told me he had made a mistake in filling out certain dates on one of the applications I had forwarded to him, and asked if I could send another one to him. Four times I heard apologies and each time I forgave, despite the inconvenience and cost each mistake created for me. What helped me to forgive him each time was being conscious of the reality that forgiveness goes with the job.
This same awareness helped me to be forgiving at the bank in the midst of that same four week period. Read more
March 2nd - Giving Some Inspiration
The basketball team I coach has played their first six games of the season. So far, our record is 2 wins and 4 losses. Some people would look at our record and think we are not one of the stronger teams in the league. I do not believe the wins and losses at this point of the season truly tell the story of how well my players have done. In one game we did lose by over 20 points to the opposing team but we only had 6 players and two of them were very close to fouling out so we had to play conservatively. In the other three games however, we only lost by 5 points or less. We played these 3 games at times with just six players due to injury, illness, and vacations. In fact, in our last game in which we lost by 5 points one of my best players became ill during the first quarter and could not play the rest of the game.
While our record is 2 wins and 4 losses, I think we are a far better team than the results show. I could not be prouder of my players and how they have competed and played this year. I am not a coach who gets obsessed about wins and losses, but it is hard not to feel for my players at the end of a game when they have come up on the losing end.
I realized after our last set of games I needed to provide my players with some inspiration as we move forward into the remaining 2-3 months of the season. I am planning to take a few moments at the beginning of our next practice to share with them how I believe our current record does not tell the true story about our team. I want to remind them how close we were to winning three of the games we lost despite the obstacles we were facing. After telling them these things, I am going to write the following word on a whiteboard and hold it up for my players to see: BELIEVE!
I want them to move forward in this season believing what I believe. Read more
February 22nd - What I Find
I went to Shoppers Drug Mart on Thursday to pick up a prescription for my mother, and when I got out of the car, I happened to find a nickel in the parking lot. It had been a while since I found any money on the ground. I used to find a lot of pennies left on the ground, but now that they are no longer in circulation that is not the case for me anymore. Naturally, the reason why I picked up the nickel and put it in my pocket was in order to clean up the parking lot and not for the gain it would provide to this cheap, frugal, Presbyterian minister's savings account.
Little did I realize at the time I picked that nickel up that God was using it to make His presence and help known to me a few days later. Early Monday morning I was beginning to ponder what my mid-week message would be. As I always do, I prayed and asked God for inspiration. After doing these weekly messages for almost three years now, I need all the inspiration I can get.
I was thinking about a few ideas for the message while I was walking our dog, Daisy. When we got back home, I came up our front steps and found another coin on the ground, just like I did on Thursday. This time it was not a nickel, but rather a penny. I had gone up and down those same steps probably five times the day before. If it was there, I did not see that penny any of those times. Yet, there it was, waiting to be found by me on Monday morning much to my surprise considering neither Nadine nor I carry any pennies with us anymore.
When I found the penny, I instantly remembered how on Thursday I had picked up the nickel thinking about how I no longer found pennies anymore. I realized right away this was all of God's doing in order to make His presence known to me and remind me He is always there to help me even when it comes to finding inspiration for these messages. If anyone is wondering if I picked the penny up, of course I did, for the same reasons I gave for the nickel.
With prices going up as they are I would not mind finding a few more nickels, dimes, quarters and loonies on the ground. While it is rare for me to find nickels or pennies on the ground anymore, I do find a lot of subtle signs like this from God allowing me to see His presence and help in my life. Read more
February 16th - How I Know
Two weeks ago, we went out for brunch after the Sunday service with my mother and when it came time to pay the bill, I had to go up to the front counter to do so. When I got there, I happened to overhear a conversation some of the waitresses were having. The one waitress was suggesting that their restaurant should really promote pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. Her colleagues were confused as to the connection between Shrove Tuesday and pancakes. She began to explain to them and after doing so looked over at me and asked, "You knew that didn't you?" I smiled and said yes but did not reveal how I knew because I wanted to wait and see if a certain something was mentioned. It did not take long for what I was hoping for to be mentioned. When her colleagues asked her how she knew this she replied, "At church when I used to go and serve at some of the pancake suppers there!" I smiled when I heard this and replied, "That is how I knew too!"
It is nice to see how some people still know things they have learned while in church. It is so easy for us to forget certain things we learned in the past. I am constantly reminded of this whenever I am asked by my daughter for help with her homework. I shared with you a few months ago how I had to teach myself again how to do functions and trigonometry in order to help her with math. I used to know how to do it in high school and university, but the years have not been kind to me remembering how to do this kind of math. I found the same thing with French when my daughter was taking it in Grade 10. I was really good at it in my high school years. It took me a little time to figure it out, but I was pleased how I was able to help my daughter understand certain tenses in French better.
Just as we have learned at school, we have also experienced this over the years at church. Over the years we have heard many sermons preached and have had various lessons taught to us in Sunday School and sitting in the pews. How much do we still know and remember over all of this time? Are we able to recall certain truths and teachings from our years at church like the waitress at the restaurant was able to do? For instance, do we truly know in our heart of hearts and with complete certainty: Read more
February 9th - Reminded of My Youth
On Saturday morning I happened to look out my window while waiting for my coffee to brew and noticed a young boy skating on the ice at our park with a hockey stick in hand. When I saw this my first thought was how crazy it was for him to be out on such a cold morning, but then I remembered how I used to do the same thing at his age. Our family home backed onto a park which always had ice in the winter to skate on. I used to spend hours and hours on that ice even on the coldest of winter days. I usually would not get off the ice until I had to come home for supper, or until I saw the porch light turned on which was my parents' signal to me it was getting late, and it was time to come home.
I am sure some of those winter days were extremely cold out on that ice, but it did not stop me from being out there as long as I could. Now that I am 58 years old, I would not be able to stay out there very long. I get annoyed with the dog on extremely cold days if she takes too long to do her business while we are outside. Even if the temperature was just below zero, after 30-45 minutes on the ice my ankles would be hurting, my upper thighs would be screaming at me, and the rest of my body would be telling me it is time to get off.
As I looked out the window on Saturday morning at the boy skating on the ice on one of the coldest days of this winter, I was reminded of what I could do in my youth, but also what I am capable of now. Some days, we see things that remind us of our youth. These reminders quickly make us realize some of the many ways we have changed over the years. These changes in us may include: Read more
February 2nd - Was it Good or Bad?
I needed to do some banking on Monday morning and was pleased to see there were only two other customers ahead of me in the line when I arrived. When I got to the teller and told him I needed to make a deposit he proceeded to ask me how my weekend was. I must have hesitated for a second, or perhaps my tone was not convincing, but I replied, It was good! He looked at me strangely and replied, Based on that I would say it was 50-50 whether it was good or bad! Instead of thinking about what he said at the time, I asked him in return how his weekend was. He was far quicker and more convincing with his response. He smiled and shared how it was a really good weekend for him because he got to do a lot of the things he had hoped to do. I was glad it was a good weekend for him.
After I left, I began thinking about my weekend and why, despite saying it was good, it did not come across as convincing. It did not take me long to realize if I had really thought about my response, I would have had to admit it was not a very good weekend. The reason why it was not so good was because over the course of the two days, Nadine and I learned about several people we know going through difficult losses and challenges.
On Saturday we received a phone call that somebody we knew passed away earlier that morning in hospital. We were also informed on Saturday about somebody needing prayer after they were told that their cancer had returned more aggressively. Later that same day I was also asked to remember in prayer a family who was going through a very difficult day emotionally. On Sunday morning I was informed of another individual who needed prayer as a result of a battle with cancer. On Sunday afternoon I learned of another young person we knew having died the day before. I remember saying to Nadine on Sunday night how we received so much bad news over the course of the weekend. I realized this explained why my response to the teller at the bank did not come across as enthusiastic when he asked about my weekend.
It is hard to view a weekend as being good when I hear about people suffering and going through difficult times physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I paused many times through the course of the weekend to pray for these people. I also found my thoughts turning toward them often on Saturday and Sunday. I think we all wish that every weekend, and every day for that matter, was good. Read more
January 26th - Canadians and Believers
Right after church on Sunday the snow started falling very quickly for a few hours. While I was shovelling my driveway on Sunday afternoon a lady walked by out for her daily walk. I have seen her many times before, but I do not know her name because we usually greet each other with a smile or hello and keep going. I do not know if the snow put her in a good mood, but this time after I said hello, she stopped for a short conversation.
She started off by saying, "Isn't it great that it is snowing. This is Canada we should expect snow at this time of year." Remember this comment came from the one who did not have a shovel in their hand at the moment. I smiled and replied that it is always so pretty to see the snow on the trees and ground, but how I do not like it when it affects driving. I thought she might agree with what I said, but instead she replied, "It's Canada! We Canadians should be good at driving in the snow!" I do not know if she drives or not, but that very afternoon the 403 was backed up due to several accidents as a result of the wintry conditions.
After she made this comment, she continued on with her walk down a snow-covered road on a Sunday afternoon in Canada. I still had shovelling to do after our conversation, and as I continued, I began to think more about her comments how we do have certain expectations when it comes to being Canadian and experiencing winters. I began thinking about how people from the United States or other countries view Canadians and life here. Canadians are sometimes portrayed as:
- using the word "Eh" a lot in our vocabulary,
- being very polite and kind,
- being very good at playing hockey (I wish the Toronto Maple Leafs would remember that some nights),
- having a love for maple syrup.
These are just some of the ways people portray Canadians. My reflections while shovelling did not stop with just how people perceive these character traits we may have as Canadians. As I was finishing up, I began thinking about some of the traits that should describe us as believers, too. Read more
January 18th - A Different Kind of Lesson
Most Sundays I can be found at church teaching a truth from God's Word to the children and congregation. This is where I prefer to be on a Sunday morning. Instead, this past Sunday found me on a basketball court in Unionville teaching another important truth. I do not like having to take a Sunday off for basketball, but it sometimes happens.
I knew heading to Unionville that morning that it would be two very challenging games for our team. Normally I have nine players for each game. Because one player was on holidays, another was ill, and another was limited in the number of minutes she could play, I would have only 6 players to play the majority of these two games.
Before the first game I reminded the girls about the importance of believing in one's self and maintaining hope even when we go into situations where we are outnumbered. I was so proud of how our girls played. Despite the disadvantage we were at, the girls competed right to the end and won 35-32. I thought this was the lesson that I was meant to teach them on Sunday about the importance of character.
Little did I know at the time there was a greater lesson to be taught on that subject. In the second game our girls competed very well against a more experienced team for the first 12 minutes. The other team played a very aggressive style of basketball. I wish this style on their part was just physical, but it crossed over into the emotional realm as well. Many disrespectful and profane comments were being made by their players to mine while on the court.
By half time I could see the impact these hurtful comments were having on my players. Their comments were taking away the fun and enjoyment my players usually have when playing. The other team's behaviour and comments just got worse as the game continued and did not stop even when they opened up a 20-point lead on us toward the end.
At the end of the game players will meet at center court to shake hands. When my players got back to the bench after the final whistle, they did not want to go shake hands with the other team. Read more
January 12th - Reminded of My Blessings
On Monday morning I had to get back into my normal weekday routines with school starting again after a two week break for Christmas. My morning routine started with finding my daughter's lunch bag and filling it with healthy snacks. It continued with making sure breakfast was made on time for all three of us. My daughter slept in most days during the break, so I only had to think about making two breakfasts those mornings.
After breakfast, my normal school day routine continues by checking her school bag and making sure no books or items are missing. After all of this it is my routine to drive her to school each morning. I was glad to see that on this first day back we were three minutes ahead of schedule pulling out of our driveway.
Getting back into these normal routines on Monday allowed me to stop into the grocery store after I dropped my daughter off at school. Yes, this is sometimes part of my routine as well during the school year. I do this because I find it quicker and easier to pick up a few items at the grocery store when it is not busy. The other reason why I sometimes make groceries a part of my morning routine is sometimes I will find items reduced and can snatch them up before other shoppers beat me to them.
I decided to stop in at Sobeys on Monday and found some deals (No I am not getting paid to advertise for them). One item I found was $2.00 off, another was $3.00, and still another was reduced by $4.00. I was quite proud of myself on Monday morning finding these savings. I went to the self checkout and showed the clerk on duty how much each item was reduced. I had to scan each reduced item first before she could apply the discount from her terminal. Because my cheap ways required a little extra work on her part, I made sure to thank this clerk for her assistance.
As I thanked her, I already felt blessed by the fact that I had found these three items and saved $9.00 in the process. The best blessing of all was about to come. After I thanked her and wished her a good day, she said to me, God bless you. The tone of her voice conveyed it was very heartfelt and sincere. I turned and replied, May God bless you too!
As I walked out to my car, I began to reflect upon her words to me and began to think about the many things God had already blessed me with that morning. Read more
January 4th - Let Us Not Put This Away
With Christmas now over and the new year upon us we are beginning to see people putting things away. I was reminded of this after seeing several real Christmas trees being put out at the side of the road for pick up when I walked our dog Daisy on New Year's Day. That meant these people had to put away the ornaments that once decorated those trees and the gifts that once were placed under them. I do not know if these people put away the rest of their Christmas decorations at the same time as they were doing the tree, but it makes sense if they did.
We have an artificial tree, so we have not put away any of our decorations yet. That will probably be on our list of things to do this weekend. It's not just our trees and decorations that we put away at this time of year. Soon we will be putting away singing the songs we love during the Christmas season. We may also put away some of our favourite memories of Christmas and hope to remember them next year. We may also put away our Christmas spirit that has touched our hearts in this season and we might replace it with the usual feelings that arise as our lives return to normal day to day living. The only reminders some may soon have of Christmas are when their Visa or Mastercard bills come in, or if the Hallmark channel continues to show some of their movies about this season.
With the new year here, as we begin to put away our Christmas decorations and related items, some people may also put away all thoughts of Christ now that Christmas is over and never think about Him again until Easter or next December. I hope this is something we are not doing at this time of year. We just have to focus on the Good Friday story to be reminded of what happens when we try to put our belief in Jesus away for any period of time.
In three months, our attention will be drawn toward Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Read more
December 29th - Grateful for Being Part of Something
At our last basketball practice before the Christmas break, I was handed a card by one of the new players on our team. I did not open the card at the time, but instead waited until Christmas morning to do so. I was deeply touched by the words she wrote in her card. It said: Thank you coach so much for letting me be part of this special team.
I do not often see this kind of gratitude expressed by somebody so young. As I am getting to know her better, I am discovering showing gratitude is part of her nature. One thing that has stood out to me about her is how she always thanks me after every practice, even when she is exhausted by the end.
I know she is grateful for being part of this team, but in all honesty, I am the grateful one. She was an answer to prayer when she decided to join our team. She did so when we still did not have enough players. She helped me recruit another player to join us this season as well. Her positive energy and attitude have contributed to this being a very special team for me to coach. I guess we are both grateful for being part of a very special team this year.
Her card on Christmas Day got me thinking about the many people who expressed gratitude for being part of something very special when it came to the birth of Jesus. Mary was one person who was grateful for the opportunity God was giving her of being part of this special plan. She expressed this gratitude in a song that she sang called The Magnificat: Read more
December 22nd - A Sign of Being Busy
I stopped into a jewellery store on Friday morning around 11:30 a.m. to get a new band for my watch. The band had broken on Wednesday, and it was the first time I had the opportunity to be up to that end of town. I already had a very busy morning by the time I got there. I went to school with the owner of this jewellery store, so we always take a few moments to chat whenever I go in. He was telling me his morning had been so busy that he had only time for one coffee when usually he has had 3-4 by that point. I am an avid coffee drinker too. When he said that, it made me pause and think how many coffees I had time for so far that morning. I realized I had only had 1&1/2 cups by that time of the day, when most days I have already had 3-4 cups just like him. Both of us had busy mornings on Friday, and this truth was reflected by how few coffees we had been able to drink up until that point.
This incident reminded me how we all have signs that reflect how busy things are for us. Maybe the indicator is coffee like it is for the jeweller and me. For others, these indicators might be the number of messages we have not returned, or piles of things left by the door that we have not had time to put away, or laundry that we have not gotten at, or ironing that has piled up. These may be indicators to us revealing we are going through a busy stretch.
This week leading into Christmas adds a whole different layer of busyness to our lives. There are last minute gifts we still need to get. We may still try to find time to send out a few more Christmas cards. We have to get to the grocery store to pick up everything we need to make Christmas dinner. Let's not forget about trying to find time to wrap gifts. It is such a busy week leading up to Christmas. Imagine if we were ministers during this week. I do not have to imagine when it comes to that. Somehow, we find the time to get these things done before the big day because we know it is important to us and to others that we do.
I pray that in the busyness of this week that we will find time to be with God like the shepherds did on the night Christ was born. Read more
December 15th - Empty
On Sunday afternoon I noticed my bird feeders were empty so I went out to refill them. After I did this, my bird feed container became completely empty. About twenty minutes later I took my daughter out driving and noticed my windshield wiper fluid was empty when I tried to clean the back window. I solved one empty on Sunday but discovered two new ones. These kinds of empty are not too bad as I can easily go and get more bird seed and wiper fluid. It is more difficult however to replace what is empty when it comes to our feelings and emotions.
Unfortunately, the Christmas season can leave many people feeling empty emotionally. It is supposed to be a joyous time of year reflected by some people asking us if we are feeling the Christmas spirit. Many of the songs in this season talk about feeling the joy as well. Some years we may feel this kind of joy, but it often depends on what is happening in our life. When life is going well for us, then it is easy for us to get into the joy of the season. It is when we are going through seasons of loss, hardship, suffering or disappointment that we feel empty when it comes to the joy of the season. Maybe this is the case for some of us reading this mid-week message. Perhaps we are struggling with some challenge in our life right now that is causing us to feel empty emotionally, or even physically. These challenges may be:
- grieving the death of a loved one,
- a care giving situation that is draining us of all patience,
- added responsibilities at work or in the home,
- sadness or depression that affects many of us as the nights become longer and the days shorter,
- health issues that linger or still go undiagnosed,
- money issues as we adapt to the rising costs of utilities, gas, and groceries.
These kinds of struggles do not make us feel empty right away but rather gradually over time. Before we know it, we begin to notice that we are on empty when it comes to our strength and emotions. I hope this is not a reality for any of us right now, but if it is, then we may find strength from being reminded how God steps in and deals with empty things when He sees them. Read more
December 8th - It Has to Do With the Attitude
My family often goes out for brunch with my mother after church on Sundays. We usually alternate between 3 or 4 different places and have become familiar faces to some of the waitresses. This past Sunday the waitress who seated us marvelled at my mother being in such fine health for being 93. (Yes, she got my mom's age wrong by one year but I will get back to that later). She proceeded to tell us how her mother is 93 as well and still spends her winters living in Florida. After telling us this she said, "I think it is because our mothers have such a good attitude toward life and living that they are doing so well for their ages." I could not agree with her comment more. It is so true how a person's attitude can make a difference with how they approach life and living.
The waitress' comment made me think back to some of the mid-week messages I wrote during the pandemic about how it was beginning to affect some people's attitudes toward life. At the beginning of the pandemic, we were all very much supportive for the most part of the lockdowns and measures that needed to be taken since this was so new and unknown to us. As things progressed, we began to see how the restrictions were beginning to affect some people's attitudes. I sometimes commented in my messages how we were seeing more incidents of people getting angry and upset with others in stores and parking lots. These kinds of things happened before, but they were becoming more common place in our new reality dealing with the pandemic.
I also wrote a few times in messages how these changes in attitudes were resulting in more divisions and splits happening amongst family members, friends, colleagues, and neighbours. If we are being honest, one of the things the pandemic has done is change some people's attitudes in ways not for the better.
The season of Christmas is another time when we see people's behaviours and attitudes not always change for the better. It is at this time of year we will hear of altercations happening in parking lots at the mall as drivers fight over the same parking space. We also hear about unkind words exchanged between shoppers in some stores. Store clerks and cashiers also notice customers seeming to be ruder and less pleasant at this time of year. Read more
November 30th - Hope Burning
We lit the candle of hope in church this past Sunday as we celebrated the beginning of the season of Advent. While it is nice to see a candle burning to remind us how hope can be found in the Lord regardless of the circumstance, stories can provide us with an even more powerful reminder of this truth.
One of my basketball players shared with Nadine last week how she was impacted by seeing hope displayed recently. This particular player had tried out for many different teams before coming to one of our practices. I have shared with you in previous messages this fall how challenging it has been to find players to form a team because so many decided not to return to the court this year.
At one tryout this player attended the coach was very pessimistic about the chances of forming a team. This coach did not leave her with very much hope at the end of the tryout. She then attended our tryout. I was honest with my players at that tryout that we did not have enough players to form a team yet, but that I would keep trying and not give up. She shared how it was seeing this hope and optimism displayed on my part that made all the difference in her wanting to accept a position on our team.
When she joined our team, we still had to fill 2-3 more positions before we had enough players. One parent commented how hard I worked to find those other players. It was not hard work on my part that made the difference but rather maintaining hope and keeping it on display for the players and parents to see. God was the one doing all the hard work of finding the other players we needed.
Last week I not only heard this story from my player who was touched by hope, but also discovered the other coach who had shown pessimism was not able to put a team together. My heart breaks for the coach and the girls of that other team. I have a heart filled with thankfulness though that hope made all the difference and it is one lesson I will be able to pass along to my players this year.
This player's story reminded me how we can offer people the gift of hope as we go through difficult circumstances together. As Christians our hope is found in our belief in God through Jesus Christ that nothing is impossible for Him since He is in complete control. Difficult circumstances are an opportunity for us and others to see that we truly do have hope in God to work in these situations to make something good happen. Read more
November 24th - When One Looks After the Details
With the American Thanksgiving taking place this week, and Advent beginning on Sunday it is now time for Nadine and I to get more intentional about shopping for Christmas. My daughter Coral has made it much easier for us this year. She has always given us a list of the things she wants for Christmas, but this year it was more detailed than in any previous one.
When I first saw the list, I noticed Coral had it all typed out so it was easy to read. Besides typing it out she had all of her gift wishes arranged by category. Books and records were just two of the categories that were included on her list. In previous years she ranked which books she wanted in order of preference. This year I noticed numbers placed beside some of the other items she had listed in other categories.
At first, I thought she was ranking her preferences like she does with her book wish list. Nadine pointed out to me that the numbers beside certain items actually referred to links and websites where we could purchase these items. Sure enough at the bottom of her list was a whole series of links we could click on to buy these items. She provided us with eleven links in all. When I looked at all of her links it reminded me of a list of citations one might see at the end of an essay.
Coral put so much work and detail into providing us with her Christmas wish list this year. If she had just provided us with a list with no links included, it would take a lot of work on Nadine's part (notice I did not say my part) to research where to find and purchase them. By providing us with all the details, Coral has made our job (okay I should say Nadine's job) of purchasing gifts for Christmas a whole lot easier.
Coral's Christmas list reminded me how much easier some things can be for us when somebody else looks after all the details. It made me begin to think how God looked after all the details that first Christmas in order to make things easier for all involved. Read more
November 17th - I Still Got It
Last week was very busy for me to say the least. Besides all of my regular ministry duties I had to find time to help my daughter with her upcoming math test. Coral is in Grade 11 right now and she is taking functions in math. She is usually really good in math, but this recent unit has been giving her some struggles. I was really good at math back in my day so she asked for my help as the test approached.
It has been 42 years since I did Grade 11 math. When I first looked at the math, none of it looked familiar to me. I told Coral I would have to spend a little time familiarizing myself with the unit before I could help her. That was Wednesday of last week. On Thursday I began reviewing each unit being covered on the test. I had to familiarize myself again with:
- quadratic functions and their various forms
- determining the maximum and minimum values of quadratic equations
- finding the inverse of a quadratic function
- solving operations with radicals
- solving quadratic equations
- finding the zeros of quadratic functions
- finding families of parabolas
I am sure many of you remember how to calculate these things despite the years that have passed. I talked with two ministers on Thursday and shared with them how I was reintroducing myself to these math concepts. They both shook their heads and were thankful it was me and not them having to do it. In fact, the one minister who has two children in high school said he refuses to help them with math and pays for a tutor instead.
There were moments when I was thinking about opening my wallet and doing the same, but my cheap (frugal) side won out. Read more
November 9th - Together Making Seven
One of the things I enjoy about handing out candy on Halloween is getting the opportunity to talk with some of the children in our neighbourhood. I see many of these children often throughout the year waiting for the school bus, or playing at the park when I am walking our dog Daisy. I do not get the opportunity to talk with them on these occasions but they are willing to talk on Halloween if I just delay handing out the candy to them for a slight minute.
When two of the children came up the driveway last Monday night, I recognized them right away and took a moment to catch up with them about what grades they were in now. The oldest sibling shared she is in Grade 5, and her younger brother said he is in Grade 2. What they said next caught me by complete surprise. They said, "Did you know 5 and 2 make 7!" I was not expecting a response like that. I thought it was fitting coming from siblings identifying that together they make 7.
I had a good laugh about this interaction as they went off to the next house after getting their candy. If you are wondering, I did not give the oldest sibling 5 chocolate bars, and the other 2. I might have if I thought about it then as opposed to now as I am typing this. It would have been interesting to see how these siblings would have handled that math equation.
I have been thinking a lot about what these two siblings said. Adding five and two together is just one way to come to the number seven. There are other possible combinations too:
7 + 0 = 7
6 + 1 = 7
3 + 4 = 7
All four of these combinations can be used to add up to seven. As I focused on the seven, I was reminded of how in the Bible this number has a symbolic and deeper meaning attached to it. Seven is not the only number from Biblical times that carries with it a symbolic meaning, but it is the number most often used in this manner in the Bible. Read more
November 3rd - It Is Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
I still remember this one November 1st very well. I was working as an accountant at the time and stopped into the food court at the mall to grab a coffee on my way to work. It was 8:45 a.m. and the mall was already decorated for the Christmas season. What shocked me was how just the day before the mall had all of its Halloween decorations up as I grabbed my morning coffee. From the time the mall closed on October 31st until it reopened on November 1st staff were busy taking down Halloween decorations and replacing them with their Christmas ones.
That was probably 25 years or more ago. Today we do not have to wait until Halloween ends to see signs of Christmas. I noticed by mid-October the Dollar Store I shop at already had their aisle of Christmas decorations on display. The W Network started showing some of their Hallmark Christmas movies a few weeks ago. I received a few catalogues during October showing items that might be purchased from their store for Christmas.
Now that Halloween has passed, we will see even more signs that Christmas is coming soon. It won't be long before we hear Christmas music being played on the radio, or in stores while shopping. Soon we will be hearing about Santa Claus parades taking place, or when children can expect to find him in the mall to sit on his knee. If we have not already done so we will be making our Christmas gift list and asking others to come up with theirs.
Advent and Christmas services are fast approaching and ministers like me are already busily planning ahead. After the American Thanksgiving we will be seeing more of our favourite Christmas shows and movies being aired on television. In a few weeks I will see my neighbour's Christmas lights and decorations on display when I walk my dog around the block. Despite the warm temperatures of late and the fact we still have leaves in our trees and many more on the ground it is starting to look a lot like Christmas.
It is during this time of year we are sometimes asked if we are feeling in the Christmas spirit. Our answer to this question usually depends on whether we are feeling cheerful, excited, and happy as we get closer to celebrating the birth of Christ with family and friends. Our emotions can swing and vary so much in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas. Read more
October 27th - Bumpy Roads Smoothed Over By Jesus
One of my favourite stories in the Bible which can be found in Mark 5, is about a man named Jairus. Jairus was the leader of the local synagogue and he had been on a bumpy road prior to Jesus arriving in his town. Jairus' daughter, who was 12 at the time, had become very ill. I imagine he had seen doctors and tried many things as any parent would in order to help his daughter get better but unfortunately Jairus experienced many bumps in these attempts.
On the day Jesus arrived in the town, the daughter's condition had become even worse. Jairus went to greet Jesus and pleaded with Him to come heal his daughter. Jairus must have breathed a sigh of relief when Jesus agreed. As the two of them began the journey to his home Jairus experienced a few bumps along the way:
- The first bump came when Jesus stopped to find out who had touched His robe in the crowd of people resulting in healing power flowing out from Him.
- The second bump came when Jesus took time to listen to the story of the woman who had touched Him and shared with her how her faith had made her well.
These were bumps in the road that must have frustrated Jairus. He knew time was of the essence to get Jesus to his house in order to heal his daughter. Before Jesus' conversation with this woman finished, Jairus experienced the worst bump of all when he was notified by a messenger that his daughter had died. This bump would have shattered Jairus' heart and soul of all hope. Jesus heard what had been said and told Jairus: "Don't be afraid. Just have faith." (Mark 5:36)
If anybody other than Jesus had said this to Jairus after the bump he had just experienced, the words would have come across as being insensitive. Jesus was smoothing the bump Jairus had just experienced out by giving him hope. Read more
October 20th - Outnumbered
On Friday morning my daughter's high school basketball team was in Hamilton to play the opening game of the St. Thomas More Hoops Invitational. We had to play the host team in the opening game of the tournament. Little did we know before we arrived what we were in for. St. Thomas More's student council turned it into a spirit day event where students could pay $2.00 to come to the game and miss their first period class. That is a pretty good deal for teenagers to be able to miss class and hang out in the gym with their friends to watch basketball.
I am guessing over 500 students were sitting in the stands for this opening game. We know which team they were rooting for. The only fans at the game from BCI were yours truly, another dad and one other parent. The dads decided to sit together to form a cheering squad for BCI. We were not only outnumbered by all of the students there, but also by their cheerleading squad. I am guessing 20 cheerleaders were positioned at the end of the court cheering loudly for the home team. We were also outnumbered by the school band. As loud as we dads tried to yell and scream the band proved to be much louder. We were also outnumbered by their team mascot. Their team mascot was on hand, but I do not think I qualify as the team mascot even though I am at almost every game.
The BCI basketball team was certainly outnumbered and at a disadvantage going into this game. It reminded us of the atmosphere we see on television when watching a football or basketball game at one of the USA colleges. The BCI players had never experienced this before, and I could see how nervous they were at the start of the game. It showed in their play as BCI went down by 6 points very early. Whenever our players went to the free throw line to shoot, the fans from St. Thomas More would try and distract them by making lots of noise. If our player missed the shot, their fans would cheer. When BCI made a basket, only the two dads could be heard cheering. After the game the players acknowledged how intimidating it was to be so outnumbered but admitted it will be one of those experiences they will never forget.
This story is a reminder of how we can find ourselves in situations where we feel outnumbered based on the challenges we are facing.
October 14th - It Is Getting Dark Earlier
Have you noticed how it is getting darker so much earlier these days? We expect this to be part of fall just like we anticipate leaves turning colour and falling to the ground. Not very long ago it would be about 9:00 p.m. when we would see it getting dark. By the end of August, we noticed a slight change with respect to this timing. As September rolled into October, we saw a more significant change in timing. I was walking our dog Daisy last week around 7:15 p.m. when I stopped to talk with a neighbour who commented on how much earlier it was getting dark. Nadine's mother made the same comment on Monday night when she was over to our house for Thanksgiving dinner.
With it getting darker earlier in the evenings we begin to notice a difference in people's behaviours and patterns. For instance:
- I used to see families with their children playing in the park until 8:00-8:30 p.m. during summer but now they are heading home by 7:00 p.m.
- I used to see people walking their dogs around 8:00 p.m. most nights (probably after Jeopardy was over) but now they are going by my place around 6:30 p.m. (before Wheel of Fortune).
- I used to see my neighbour out in his yard doing various chores until 8:30 before calling it a night, but now I see him doing it either before supper on weekdays, or on the weekends instead.
We see changes like this occurring once the evenings start getting darker sooner. When the time change happens, making it become darker even sooner, we will see other patterns begin to unfold. Read more
October 5th - Always Thankful?
The first thing I do every Monday morning after I get up is take the garbage out to the curb for pickup. Most of my neighbours will do this on Sunday nights instead. I have walked my dog enough on Monday mornings to see garbage bags that have been opened by racoons or recycling bins overturned by these nocturnal visitors to realize I would rather wait until the morning of to put my items out.
During the week I store my garbage in a shed underneath our car port. On Monday I noticed that the door to my shed was wide open. When I went outside, I found both of my garbage bags had been ripped wide open by a racoon and found a huge mess needing to be cleaned up. There I was at 6:15 a.m. picking up two bags worth of garbage from my driveway. As I was doing this, I thought to myself what an awful way this was to start off my week.
It was very unpleasant to have to pick up uneaten oatmeal, eggshells, and other items of rotten garbage with my bare hands. Fifteen minutes later I finally got everything cleaned up and the bags out to the curb. When I got to the curb, I noticed every one of my neighbours who put bags out the night before did not have their garbage opened by a racoon. It was my luck, or lack of, that a racoon somehow got my shed door open and began exploring through my garbage. It would have been so much easier if this critter had gone for a stroll down the road instead of stopping at my shed. It did not happen that way and as a result I had a messy start to my Monday.
After I got back inside my house I wondered if it was going to be one of those days or weeks. You know what I mean. Sometimes a bad start to a week makes us wonder if it is a sign of how the rest of the week will be for us. I was beginning to wonder if this would indeed be the case when a few other things did not go well on Monday morning. A few hours later I began to realize as unpleasant as it was to have to pick up all that garbage, the experience was a reminder of some of the things I can be thankful for. Read more
September 28th - Another Fall
Summer turned into fall last week on September 22nd. We are starting to see signs of fall all around us:
- Some mornings we are already seeing frost on peoples' roofs
- Furnaces are being turned on to remove that morning chill in the house
- People are beginning to wear coats and pants again after wearing summer attire for the past few months
- We are beginning to see some trees turn colour and others begin to drop their leaves
- We are seeing pumpkins and gourds for purchase at stores
- Turkeys are beginning to be advertised with Thanksgiving fast approaching
So many signs are beginning to appear to let us know fall is definitely here. I just have to look around my house as I write this to be reminded. Nadine got out our fall decorations on Sunday afternoon and has them beautifully displayed around the house. Fall is definitely here. The Bible reminds us in many places how God created the seasons. One place in Scripture we see this is in Psalm 74:16-17: Both day and night belong to you; You made the starlight and the sun. You set the boundaries of the earth, and you made both summer and winter.
Scripture not only reminds us how God created the seasons, but also encourages us to pause with the beginning of each one to reflect on His character and attributes. Read more
September 22nd - Pass It On
My daughter had a math test right after lunch on Friday. As the class was about to start, I received a text from her. One of her classmates, who knows that I am a minister, asked Coral if I would say a prayer for her before she started the test. I will be honest I was surprised to see this request. I have never had one of Coral's classmates ask me to do this before. I sent a quick "thumbs up" text back to Coral letting her know I would do so. She passed this confirmation along to her classmate.
I not only prayed for this classmate but for my daughter too because I knew she was also worried about this test. About 30 minutes later I received a text back from Coral to tell me the test was over, and it was not as hard as she thought it would be. It was then that I shared with Coral I had prayed for her as well. I was very impressed with this teenage girl asking Coral to have me say a prayer. I was equally impressed with Coral for passing along this prayer request from her friend. Obviously, I was so impressed by both of these teenagers that I decided to pass this story on as my mid-week message.
When we look at this story, Coral could have made the decision not to pass her friend's prayer request along to me. Think of some of the things that may have been missed out on if she had not done this: Read more
September 14th - It Keeps Coming Back
I have had something very interesting happen to me these past two Mondays. Monday is garbage pickup day in our neighbourhood. Usually, I have a couple bags of garbage to put out each week along with our two recycling bins. One of the items of paper I put in my recycling bin that first week was the schedule from last May when my basketball team played in the Provincial Championships in Ottawa. I had been cleaning out some of my basketball files that week and realized I no longer needed to keep it.
The recycling truck came as usual that Monday around noon and emptied both bins. Just after supper I happened to take our dog Daisy for a walk around the block. When I got around the first corner from our house, I noticed a piece of paper on the road. I looked down at it and realized it was the basketball schedule that I had put in my recycling bin. I do not know if the wind blew it out of the bin that morning or if it fell out of the truck once it turned the corner. I picked it up and put it back in my recycling bin once I got home from walking the dog.
That piece of paper stayed there for a week with more recycling added to it. This past Monday I put the recycling out once again. To ensure no papers would get blown away this time I put the other bin containing the plastics and glassware on top of it. Once again, the recycling truck picked everything up by noon. I took Daisy for a walk around 4:00 p.m. that afternoon. When Daisy and I got to the front of our house at the end of the walk I noticed a piece of paper on the road. Sure enough, it was the schedule from our Provincial Championships. It looked like it had been run over a few times by cars and stepped on as well. Some of the ink had smeared due to the road still being a bit wet from the rain earlier in the day.
Just as I had a week ago, I picked up this piece of paper again. Instead of putting it back in the recycling again I decided to bring it in the house. I just had a feeling that this was no coincidence but rather God letting me know He did not want me to dispose of it yet. Read more
September 8th - Because I Asked
Last week I was asked if I would offer pastoral support and comfort to a person who has been struggling to find hope. A time was arranged for the two of us to speak by phone around 8:00 p.m. one night. We had never met before so I was a bit anxious wondering how the conversation would go. Sometimes in pastoral care situations it takes time to develop trust before somebody is willing to openly share their feelings. I was also feeling anxious about this call because the situation causing this person to struggle with hope was something I had not encountered very often in my twenty plus years of ministry.
Because of my anxiousness I decided to pray asking God to give me the right words to say in order to provide this person with some much-needed hope. Part of this prayer was asking Him to use me as a vessel in order to share what He wanted said to this person. I felt more assured after praying and as 8:00 p.m. approached I went outside and sat awaiting the person to call me. This person contacted me right on time.
I started the conversation by asking questions in order to get a better understanding of what this person has been feeling.
About 5-10 minutes into our conversation a bunny rabbit suddenly appeared and came to a stop right between my feet. We get a lot of rabbits around our place. Usually, they stay still and if I happen to approach closer, they will hop off. This bunny did not seem to be afraid or anxious by my presence. After a few minutes I moved from the side of my house to the front while still talking on the phone.
Sure enough, this bunny followed me to the front of the house. As the conversation continued the evening light turned into darkness. Once again, even as it became darker, this bunny stayed within three to four feet of me at all times. The conversation lasted for about 75 minutes in total. A lot of sharing was done during that time. I was able to offer this person some suggestions on how to maintain hope and strength in difficult times.
Once we disconnected, I looked down at the bunny. It had been with me almost the entire time of the conversation. Now that the conversation was over it was time for me to head back into the house. As soon as I turned to walk into the house, the bunny went on its way around the opposite side into my neighbour's back yard. Five days have passed since that night. I have been outside many times since that night making phone calls and working around the yard. I have seen a couple of other rabbits since but not this same bunny. Read more
September 1st - Help*Hope*Prayer
I have had a three month break now from coaching basketball. During these three months I have spent some time researching new drills and examining some different plays to introduce. These things are within my control as a coach during the off season. What is beyond my control however is wondering if we would have enough returning players and new ones to form a team this coming season. The team I coached last year was made up of girls in Grade 10. Many of these players were balancing their schoolwork with extracurricular activities, jobs, and competitive basketball.
As the season was coming to an end, I knew some of the players were worried about their school work load going into Grade 11 and were considering not returning this year to our team. Over the summer I received word four players were not planning on playing this year. Suddenly I began to wonder if we would have enough players to form a team. I knew my daughter was beginning to worry about the same thing. I shared with her I had been praying since June for God to provide us with enough players.
I kept making this request part of my daily prayers since then. Last week I was sent a list of players who had signed up to try out for our team. When I looked at the list there were three players from last year who decided not to return. On this same list were the names of three new people who had signed up to try out. Seeing their names was an answer to prayer for me. I could see God had been at work speaking into these player's hearts to direct them toward our team.
Just when I thought my prayer had been fully answered I received news the day before tryouts that another one of my returning players had a change of heart and was not coming back. I received more bad news that two of the three new players had not paid their fee to tryout and could not do so unless the money was received before Tuesday night. Read more
August 25th - Christmas in August
Some of you might have wondered why I did not publish a mid-week message last week. Perhaps others of you who read this message regularly did not notice it at all. In case you are part of the group wondering why there was no message last week you will be happy to know I finally took a week of holidays. It was my first week of holidays since August of 2019. A pandemic has had something to do with a few missed weeks of holidays since then.
Due to all of the uncertainty with flying we decided to drive across the border into Michigan and spend the weekend in the Frankenmuth area. If you have ever visited this part of Michigan, chances are you have gone to the Bronner's Christmas Wonderland store in Frankenmuth. It is advertised as the largest Christmas store in the world. We spent a few hours there on Saturday. When you walk into the store it is hard not to smile right away and feel the Christmas spirit. You are put into the spirit hearing your favorite Christmas songs playing over the store's speakers while you are shopping. Before you know it, you are singing or humming your favourite songs. Seeing display after display of Christmas decorations puts you into the spirit of wanting to add to your decorations around the house. There were so many decorations my family wanted to buy but when we looked at the price and factored in the exchange rate, my cheap spirit took over and put it back down instead of placing it in the cart.
The spirit of the season continues when you get to the section where they have all kinds of Christmas ornaments. It is so easy in this section to begin imagining your own tree at home and wondering if there is room for a few new ornaments. My daughter found two new ones she plans on adding to our tree this year. At the back of this large store, the spirit of the season is found while gazing at and admiring all of their Christmas trees. It is wonderful to see them lit up and decorated. You also have to look up in each section of the store where you can see some of the best displays and decorations this store has to offer. Nadine and Coral took a lot of pictures of these beautiful displays.
It was so nice for two hours to get a taste of Christmas in August. My focus for those two hours was on good memories about Christmas, on songs I love to hear, on seeing smiles on people's faces, and of course on Jesus. For two hours I did not focus on my work, nor on the long list of things that were awaiting my attention once I returned from holidays. Experiencing Christmas in August was a much-needed gift and blessing.
As I returned to work on Monday and began contemplating my mid-week message, I could not help but think if we all need to experience a little Christmas right now in our lives. Read more
August 11th - What a Father Did - What Our Father Does
I officiated at a funeral service last Sunday afternoon. I usually have funeral services on other days of the week, but over the years I have had a few on Sunday afternoons. I did not know the deceased, but the family had been to a previous funeral I had done and asked if I would do this service. Three eulogies were included in this celebration of life. I always listen carefully to the eulogies to ensure the things I plan to say about the deceased match up with what those who know them best are sharing.
One of the people who spoke at this funeral was the deceased's daughter. My ears perked up when the daughter shared about her time at Brock University. I happened to do my understudy years there, so I know the university well. She shared how on the days she found challenging at Brock she would call her father, sometimes in tears. Whenever he received these calls from his daughter, this father would stop what he was doing and drive down to the university and bring her back home for the rest of the night. After being comforted spending a night at home in her own room, in the company of her parents, she shared how her father would turn around the next morning and drive her back to Brock so she would not miss any classes. By sharing this story and so many others, this daughter revealed so much about the character and nature of her father whom I had never met.
This daughter knew it was part of her father's character that he would always be there for her whenever she reached out for help on those difficult days at university. If we are going to turn to a person in a time of need it is so important that we know it is part of that individual's character to be dependable and reliable. Something The Bible does for us is to reveal our Heavenly Father's character traits so we will know that it is part of His nature to be reliable and dependable whenever we may reach out to Him. One passage that describes God's character traits to us is found in Proverbs 15. Read more
August 4th - Knowing the Severity - Knowing the Greatness
Last Wednesday I finally got the results from my sleep apnea assessment that I did back at the end of March. I will be honest, I was expecting ahead of time to be diagnosed with severe sleep apnea. The reason why I was thinking this is because usually when I am diagnosed with something they tell me it is one of the worst cases they have ever seen. For instance, when a nurse did an assessment on me when I was 5 years old to see if I was colour blind, she informed me I was the worst case of it she had ever seen. Then in 2007 when I had my gall bladder removed the surgeon said it was the most diseased one she had ever extracted.
I do not have health issues very often, but when I do they tend to be of a severe nature. Now you know why I was expecting to be told I had severe sleep apnea. Sure enough, my results revealed I have severe obstructive sleep apnea. There are benchmarks for what is considered to be normal, mild, or severe. In my six hours of sleep at the clinic that night I blew by all the criteria for normal and mild. When I slept on my side, the number of sleep apnea occurrences I had every hour were six times over what would be considered normal. When I was sleeping on my back these occurrences rose to eight times above normal on an hourly basis.
Yes, I would consider these statistics to be severe. I did not disappoint on my oxygen levels either during the study. These levels dropped to just seventy per cent of what would be considered as normal. Being an accountant prior to becoming a minister, I did take note that I had 209 occurrences in my six hours of sleep. I am just glad I did not make that many trips to the bathroom during the night.
I share this with you as a reminder how we all have to deal with various issues that may arise at times in our lives. These issues do not always involve our health. Read more
July 29th - Some Water Cooler Conversation
I had a great water cooler conversation on Monday. Usually, water cooler conversations happen in work environments amongst employees. My water cooler conversation happened to take place at a funeral home which can be a workplace for me. Prior to the funeral I was about to conduct I went to the water cooler to get a drink and met a ten-year-old boy already standing there. I asked him how the water was, and he told me it was not bad because the cooler was doing a good job of keeping it cold. When he finished drinking his water, he turned to me and said, Well I better get back to my seat before it starts. Off he went. As I stood there sipping my water I had to agree with this young boy's assessment of the water.
After the funeral I went back to the water cooler to get another drink before we made our way to the cemetery. To my surprise I found the same young boy standing at the water cooler. I said to him, The reason why I need to drink so much water is because I tend to drink more coffee than I should. He nodded and said, My problem is I drink too much tea. Then he said something that caught me totally by surprise. He said, I want to tell you what a good job you did up there. To receive a compliment like this from a ten-year-old boy caught me off guard. I had seen him during the service and at one point he was crying in his pew. Obviously, he was listening and taking it all in. I thanked him for the compliment, and we left the water cooler to make our way to the cemetery for the committal service.
At the cemetery, this same young boy placed a medal that had belonged to the deceased beside the urn. This young boy showed a calm demeanor as he did this in his great-grandfather's memory. After I completed the committal service, I went over to this young boy's parents and told them how their son complimented me earlier, and how impressed I was. The biggest smiles crossed the parents' faces when I said this. The father reached out and shook my hand, and the mother said to me, Thank you for being such a good role model to him. Again, just like at the water cooler, I was not expecting to hear that. What started off as a simple conversation between two thirsty people at a water cooler turned into a series of uplifting compliments.
Some who are reading this message right now may be retired and no longer experience conversations around the water cooler. Read more
July 22nd - Depending on the Shoes I Wear
Our dog Daisy is paying very close attention to what shoes I put on lately. If I happen to put on my old running shoes, she gets very excited and runs to the back door thinking I will be working out in our pool area. The reason why she gets excited is because there are usually lots of chipmunks for her to chase around our pool area. Even if there is not one initially for her to chase, if she stays patient, one usually appears, and she sets chase. If I put on my newer running shoes, then she assumes it is time for her to go for a walk. When she sees me put these shoes on, Daisy will usually jump off the couch, stretch her back legs, and come over to have her leash put on. If she sees me dressed up on a Sunday morning and start putting on my dress shoes, then Daisy usually puts her head back down and falls asleep. It has been interesting of late to see the various reactions I get from Daisy depending on the shoes I put on.
I am sure we all have shoes we put on for different occasions. We may have a certain pair of shoes we prefer to walk or exercise in. We may have some shoes that we wear with a particular outfit. We may have other shoes for cutting the lawn or working in the garden. We may have certain shoes we tend to wear depending on the season. The fact that we are in summer right now brings out certain shoes and sandals that we do not wear in other seasons. We may have certain shoes that we purchased to wear to work, or when we dress up to go out to the theater or church. Some of us may have a lot of shoes we like to wear, and others keep just a few.
Back in Biblical times, I imagine most people had just one pair of sandals that they would wear until they wore out. One of the interesting things we discover in certain passages of Scripture is how the wearing or removing of sandals reveals a lot about a person's attitude toward God. One example where we find this is when Moses began to approach the burning bush. As he got closer, Moses heard this warning from God: Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. (Exodus 3:5)
It was God's command here for Moses to remove his sandals as a sign of respect and reverence. Moses did as God desired and approached Him with the right attitude and the respect deserving of our sovereign Lord. Read more
July 14th - The Difference a Win Made
My daughter Coral loves to read. Something I did not realize is she has been going onto a certain publishing website that posts about new books coming out. On this website she can enter a contest to win a copy of a new book before it is even released. It was last Thursday when I first learned about this. Coral and I were about to take Daisy for a walk when we noticed a big envelope in our mailbox. I pulled the envelope out and saw that it was addressed to Coral. When she first saw the envelope, she wondered if she had accidently ordered something from Amazon she did not mean to. When she opened the envelope, inside was a free book that will not be released in stores until September. She could not believe she finally won. She shared with me on the walk with Daisy how an ordinary day suddenly turned into a good one all because of winning.
Winning does have a way of changing our attitudes and feelings. I saw this so often during the past season of coaching basketball. I am not one of those coaches who believe that we must win at all costs. I came across a few coaches during the year that had this mindset. My philosophy is one of trying to provide my players with the right training, skills, and plays to put them in the best position possible to win. We lost more games than we won during the year, and I was proud of my players regardless of the outcome.
As a coach it is hard not to notice the difference in the attitude of these players depending on whether we had won or lost. We lost a few games in overtime and some others by just one point. After these losses the girls would sometimes be frustrated that they missed a basket near the end or that a referee's call did not go in our favour. I would not see much smiling or talking going on after these losses. Whenever we won it was definitely a different mood. The girls would be laughing and joking as they removed their shoes and packed up their gear. They would gather around the score sheet to see how many points they each got. They would also gather for a team photo holding up the score sheet after the win. As their reactions show, we have different attitudes and emotions when we win.
My daughter's reaction to winning the book reminded me how everyday life has its share of wins and losses for us. We face battles every day in life. Read more
July 7th - Some Gifts From Canada Day
Canada Day has come and gone for another year, and I hope each one of you had a blessed time last Friday. I was blessed this Canada Day with three gifts. The first gift was the opportunity for our church to have our first social gathering in over two years. Of course, we have gathered for church when we have been allowed during the pandemic, but we had not restarted any of our social gatherings. We arranged for people to come at 11:00 a.m. to the church on Canada Day to enjoy strawberries and ice cream while visiting with one another in the back yard. It was so good to see those in attendance enjoy being able to socialize with one another in a comfortable and safe way.
I was worried about the weather as showers had been forecasted earlier in the week to occur around the time this event was to take place. I prayed many times throughout the week that if it was His will for us to have this event to hold off the rain for us. God gave us this gift. We received another gift during this time of socializing. Right at noon, just as we were about to bring the gathering to a close, O Canada started playing on our chime system. It was so fitting for us to be able to stand together outside as our national anthem was being played on Canada Day. Having this social event happen at our church topped off at the end with the playing of O Canada was the first gift on Canada Day.
Later that afternoon we went over to Lions Park in Brantford for the Canada Day celebrations. Our plan was just to walk around, grab a bite to eat, and then come home shortly afterward. We had just finished eating and were about to head to our car when I happened to notice two of my daughter Coral's teammates from her basketball team walk by. What was so surprising is they live in Ancaster and we had no idea they would be there that day. They asked Coral to stay with them and go on the rides and watch the fireworks together.
Coral was so excited at the opportunity as she rarely gets to hang out with these friends outside the basketball season. The parents of one of these girls offered to bring Coral home after the fireworks, which gave Nadine and I the opportunity to return home and to get some work done in preparation for Sunday. About an hour after we left Coral texted to say another one of her basketball teammates was there and now all four of them were hanging out. These four girls received the gift of being able to spend time together on Canada Day even though nothing had been previously arranged. It was a gift I know my daughter appreciated.
The final gift from Canada Day was something a young girl in our neighbourhood did. On Canada Day, she decorated the tree in front of her house with Canadian flags. She then attached an envelope to the tree with a sign on it that said:
Please take a lollipop inside the envelope and enjoy Canada's birthday!
When I saw this sign in front of her house, I thought to myself what a great gift she gave to people on Canada Day. The interesting thing is I did not see this gift that she had given others on Canada Day until two days later. I saw it as I was walking my dog Daisy on Sunday afternoon. A few minutes earlier on the walk I began praying and asking God what my mid-week message should be about this week. It was shortly after I prayed that I stumbled upon this kind gesture and gift from Canada Day. It was then I knew exactly what I would be writing on this week.
I think these three gifts have something more in common than the fact they had to do with Canada Day. What these gifts also share in common is that in my eyes they all came from the generous and loving hand of God. Here are the reasons why I see it this way. Read more
June 30th - Was Lost But Now Is Found
On Saturday June 18th we received a knock at our front door around 9:45 p.m. It is an unusual time for us to have somebody knocking at our door. When I opened the door, I saw a lady that lives three blocks over from us. I usually see her riding her bike holding onto a dog leash while her husky runs beside her. She told Nadine and I that she found a lost dog in the area and wondered if it was our Daisy. She found out right away it was not Daisy as she was barking up a storm behind me.
Nadine and I went out to see this dog and sure enough it had a lot of similarities in looks to our Daisy. Standing with this lost dog was this woman's daughter, and another neighbour from down the street. I did not recognize the dog, nor was there a tag on its collar. We were all surprised that nobody was out looking for this dog at the time. We decided to walk over to the home of a neighbour who knows a lot of people and their dogs in the area. Nadine knocked on her door but being the time of night it was, they did not answer. By this time, it was 10:00 p.m.
We began discussing what we should do at this late hour. We could not take the dog in because our Daisy is not very pet friendly with her colleagues. The one lady aiding in the search said she would take the dog for the night even though her husband would have a fit. Before departing Nadine suggested that she put a photo of this lost dog on our neighbourhood Face Book page with the hopes somebody might see the picture and recognize who the owner was. Nadine did not have her phone with her so she told the lady who would be keeping the dog she would come over to her house to take the picture once she got her phone from our house. Before we all left the three people who originally found this lost dog thanked us for trying to help them find its owner. We thanked them in return for having done everything they had.
I am going to leave you in suspense for a few short moments about whether we found the dog's owner or not. What I want to focus on is how the three people thanked us for making the effort to help find this lost dog's owner. We all lose things from time to time. I am not talking about our patience or our minds, even though we sometimes lose these things. When we, or somebody we know loses something, how much effort do we put into finding it? For me, it depends on what it is and who is asking. Read more
June 22nd - Letting People Know We Appreciate Them
As I write this message Fathers Day has come and gone. What I loved most about this Fathers Day were two cards I was given. The first card was given to me by two girls who were in Sunday School that day. At the end of the service, they presented me with a Fathers Day gift. One of the items included was a piece of paper that listed some of the things I enjoy in life, but also what these girls have come to appreciate about me. It was so great to hear from them how they enjoy my sense of humour when I do crazy stories to help them learn about God. It made me smile to think they appreciate how I try to find fun and creative ways to help them come to know God.
The other card I was given on Fathers Day came from my daughter. She is really good at making personal cards for her friends on their birthdays or for Nadine and I on special occasions. Something Coral does each time she makes a card for somebody is to include pictures of things she knows that person likes. Coral had pictures of a coffee and a peanut butter and jam sandwich on the front of my card; two staples in my diet I love every day. On the inside of the card, she included a picture of my favorite basketball coach and team. Then on the back of the card she put a picture of my favorite music performer.
If Coral wrote nothing in the card, these pictures that she included would be enough for me to know she appreciates me. Along with these thoughtful pictures, she also writes inside each card quite a bit about what she appreciates about that person. To sit there on Fathers Day and read everything that Coral wrote about the things she appreciates about me was the best gift she could have given. I know how much she loves and appreciates me, but to see it written out and said in a card is very touching.
These two cards got me thinking about whether we do this often enough in our lives for others. We get so caught up in our busy lives that we often take the people in our lives for granted. We think these people already know how much we appreciate them and feel we do not have to take the time to remind them of this fact. We all need affirmations from others that we are appreciated and valued. Affirmations like these can also be the key to developing positive and lasting relationships in our life. We see an example of this in the life of Moses. Read more
June 15th - When We Know Our Forgiveness is Complete
There is an interesting story in the Bible where some people were not completely sure if they had been forgiven until a death happened. We find this story in Genesis 50 when Jacob died. Upon his death, his sons were fearful that their brother, Joseph, had not truly forgiven them for selling hm into slavery. Joseph had already forgiven them when he revealed his true identity to them but now that their father was dead the brothers wanted to be reassured that they had been completely forgiven by their brother. Joseph assured them by saying:
Don't be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so that I could save the lives of many people. No don't be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children. He reassured them by speaking kindly to them. (Genesis 50:19-21)
At this moment after the death of their father, the brothers were assured that they had been completely forgiven. I think Joseph too received confirmation at this moment from God that his forgiveness was complete.
Sometimes death provides us with an opportunity to see if we have completely forgiven somebody. I experienced this reality last week. I was notified on Thursday that somebody from my past had passed away. I spent a lot of time around this person for a two-year period when I was 15 to 16 years old. This person had a very negative effect on my emotional well being during those two years. Things were said to me that were very hurtful. Some of the comments left emotional scars. I began to lose the love for the sport I was playing at the time because of the emotional abuse. I was always on edge wondering when the next emotional outburst would occur.
I began to realize the negative impact this emotional abuse was having on my overall wellbeing. I decided to take a year off from playing that sport at a highly competitive level in order to focus on healing from the scars I incurred emotionally over the previous two years. Even though some people questioned my decision at the time it was the best thing I could have done. That year away from the abusive environment allowed me to heal emotionally. I found a love for the game again that had been taken away from me. My sense of self worth began to improve. I also found my inner strength again that helped me to have a newfound confidence not to let negative comments from this individual or others adversely affect me again. Most of all I learned to forgive this person during that year. A sign of my healing came the very first game I returned to playing at a competitive level. Read more
June 9th - The Barker and the Talker
I had my dog Daisy tied up on her leash in front of our house Friday morning while I was doing some chores outside. All of a sudden, I heard some barking and some talking out front. The only two that were out front were Daisy and the person who delivers our mail. It is not hard to figure out who was doing the barking and who was doing the talking. If Daisy was able to talk, I might be able to make some money off that reality. Personally, I am glad Daisy cannot talk because I would then have three people in my house complaining about my snoring.
When I heard the barking and the talking, I came out from the side of the house to check on things. It was wonderful to see this mail delivery person carrying on a conversation with Daisy while she was barking loudly. He put his own interpretations on what Daisy was conveying with each bark. It was quite refreshing and entertaining to see. Usually, I have to apologize for her behaviour whenever she barks excessively at the person delivering the mail. No apologies were needed this time. In fact, I noticed that this man had an interesting affect on Daisy. Usually, she keeps barking at the person delivering the mail until they are far enough down our street that she cannot see him or her. Because he carried on a conversation with her in a pleasant tone, Daisy stopped barking the minute he crossed our property and went to the next house. As soon as I watched this all transpire, I knew I had my next midweek message idea to share with you.
As I have shared with you previously, one of the things I have noticed more and more during the last two years is how people are barking at others rather than talking. I cannot count the number of times I have been in grocery stores hearing complete strangers getting into confrontations with one another, barking words of profanity and anger at one another. I also see it a lot more in parking lots and on the roads when a driver does something that the other person does not like or appreciate. I think a lot more of this behaviour and speech is going on in people's homes, workplaces, at sporting events and so on.
The pandemic has resulted in many people becoming less patient with others and responding in a manner like my dog Daisy does with the person delivering the mail: barking in an aggressive nature. Read more
June 2nd - What Works Best on Deep Roots
One day recently while I was spending some time in my backyard trying to get rid of dandelions my neighbour happened to come over to chat. If you are wondering, yes it was the neighbour who is a Montreal Canadiens fan. I was using one of the claw tools you may have seen that allows you to stand over the dandelion and twist it around until you pull up the weed and hopefully the root. After watching me dig up a few dandelions with this tool, he said to me, What I find works best on dandelions is getting down on your knees and digging them out! I have done that before and agree that it works best at getting the entire root out. The problem for me is I have a 300-foot-deep back yard by 70 feet wide. I have a lot of dandelions that appear at this time of year in my back yard. If I took this approach every year of getting on my knees and digging them out, besides taking me forever to do so, I probably would need to book a few visits to the chiropractor as well. We talked for a little bit longer before I returned to my dandelions, and he went off to do some chores around his property.
I began thinking about his advice that the best approach to getting rid of dandelions is getting down on the knees. Naturally, I began to think about how this wisdom works best also to deal with deep rooted problems and issues that arise in our lives. A powerful tool we have as Christians is to be able to get down on our knees and pray. We are blessed to be able to know that each time we do pray God not only hears us, but answers when we call on Him. David expressed this confidence in Psalm 4:3 saying:
You can be sure of this:
The Lord set apart the godly for Himself.
The Lord will answer when I call to Him.
When we are on our knees in prayer, we not only realize God is listening but are also reminded about His attributes such as goodness, love, and faithfulness. We have this very powerful tool at our disposal. This tool we call prayer can help remove deep roots that try to take control of our hearts and lives. Think of the many things that are trying to take root in our lives right now: Read more
May 26th - Coping Through This Tragedy
By now all of us have seen or heard the news about the terrible tragedy that took place in Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday. We were all shocked when we learned that a man carrying a gun entered Robb Elementary School and killed 19 children and 2 teachers. Just 10 days earlier a similar incident happened in Buffalo when a man carrying a gun killed many people both inside and outside a Tops grocery store.
Both incidents are sad and tragic. I have noticed a greater outpouring of frustration and anger the Texas event. The frustration may have to do with both incidents happening so close together, or the Tuesday shootings taking place in a school that mainly consisted of students in Grades 2 to 4. As I watched various news outlets report from the scene in Uvalde, I began seeing people I know post messages about the shooting. People I do not normally see post too often felt the need to share their feelings about the tragedy. I took a moment to reflect upon the situation and just stood in silence listening for God. The message He planted on my heart was this:
Let the little children come to me!
After the Spirit placed these words on my heart, I began to understand why He did so. I immediately began to think about when Jesus spoke these words to His disciples. One day some parents were bringing their children to Jesus so He could touch and bless them. The disciples actually began to scold these parents for bothering Jesus. When Jesus saw this happening, He was not angry with the parents, but rather with His disciples. He said to them:
Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. (Mark 10:14)
By remembering this story, my thoughts turned immediately to what the young children who were killed on Tuesday were experiencing that very moment. I envisioned Jesus coming to each of those children as they entered heaven on Tuesday and all of them sitting around Him as He comforted them. Read more
May 11th - Finally, Something Easy
This weekend Coral asked me if I could help her with something at school she is struggling with. I am always willing to help her when she asks, but she realizes my limitations. For instance, I am not a science guy, so she has come to learn it is easier for her to figure it out herself, than to try and watch me painfully try. In English she just finished reading Macbeth by Shakespeare, and I knew I could not help her understand it any better. Even though I am pretty good at math, because I struggled helping Coral with it in Grade 8, she asks me less and less for help.
One of the courses Coral is taking right now is business. Currently the teacher is teaching income statements and balance sheets. Knowing I was an accountant before God called me into ministry, Coral realized I could help her understand this topic. It was so nice for me to be able to look at one of her assignments and know immediately everything about it. I did not have to refresh my knowledge on anything or do any practice examples before sitting down and teaching her the basics about income statements and balance sheets. It was wonderful to finally be able to help Coral understand a subject at school that comes so easily to me.
How I wish every subject that Coral might need help with at school came so easily to me. When she attended a Christian school from Grades 6-8, helping her in Bible class came easily to me. There was one time though when she was learning online during the pandemic, and she yelled to me from the top of the stairs to help her with a question that her teacher was asking about the Bible. I gave her the answer and when she offered it to the teacher, he said it was wrong.
I never have said I am perfect. It would be nice if everything in life came easy to us. There are some things that we find easier to do than others. I am sure all of us found certain subjects came easier to us at school than others. Now that we are adults, there are certain tasks and skills that come to us easier than others. Even as Christians some aspects about our faith may come to us easier than others. For instance:
- Do we find it easy to forgive others, or do we still struggle with this?
- Do we find it easy to wait patiently upon God to answer prayer, or do we struggle and become impatient?
- Do we find it easy to turn control of our lives over to God, or do we struggle with giving Him complete control?
- Do we find it easy to trust Him completely, or do we still struggle with having a confident faith in Him?
Just as we find some things come easier to us than others, there are aspects about our faith that may not come so easy to us. Read more
May 11th - Giving Others One of Their Best Experiences
My first year as a head basketball coach has come to an end. Many people shook their head in disbelief when I told them I would be coaching basketball this year. Some of these people questioned if I had the ability and skills to do so. It was a fair question, having never played basketball myself. I knew I would have to prove myself to my players, my assistant coaches, and even the parents that I have what it takes to be a head coach. Others questioned whether I had the time to do so being as busy as I am as a pastor. Coaching a basketball team does require a lot of your time. Most weeks it would require about 10 hours of my time to plan out practices, travel to and from the facilities, and run the team through the various drills. On the weeks we had games on a Saturday or Sunday coaching would take sometimes 20 hours out of my already busy week. Tryouts took place at the end of August, practices started in September, games began in December, and the Provincial Championship was played this past weekend in Ottawa. Add it all up it was a lot of time, and travel put into head coaching this year. Now our season is over.
One of the goals I had for the season was to try and make this year one of the best experiences the girls had playing basketball. I knew many of these girls were disappointed they had lost out on playing basketball as a result of COVID. When COVID lockdowns began in March 2020, many of these girls were training hard to play at the Provincial Championships that year. Naturally, the season shut down and the championships were cancelled. These girls not only lost out on that experience but did not play the entire 2020-2021 season either. Knowing how much these girls had lost out on over the past two years I tried my best as a coach to make this year as special as possible. Our girls were really excited about heading to Ottawa for the Provincials this weekend. That was great to see. Our players played with such heart and determination this weekend. They were able to beat the top ranked team in one of the games but lost very close games to the eventual silver medalists and to a team from Huntsville. It would have been so nice if we could have ended the season with a medal, but we fell short due to the many injured players we had. In fact, in the final game three of my players had to play the entire game due to so many being injured. Even my two assistant coaches were sick before the final game and could not be on the bench with me.
After the final game, I gathered my players together and shared with them how proud I was of how far they had come as a team. They had overcome so many adversities, and yet had never given up trying their best. After I finished speaking, one of my players spoke up and said, I just want to thank all of you for making this my best experience at the Provincial Championships ever! What I found so interesting about her comment was she had played with other teams at these championships in her earlier years. Some of the teams she was on actually won medals at these championships. To hear this player say what she did could not have made me happier. It was not just my contribution as a coach that made this year the best experience playing basketball this player has had. Her fellow teammates, my assistants, as well as the parents also contributed to all of this happening. For me, all of the time I put into being a coach and stepping out of my comfort zone to take on this position, was all worth it to know it helped somebody to have the best experience playing that she has ever had.
The reason why I wanted to share this story in my mid-week message is to hopefully inspire other people to do the same and try to help somebody experience one of the best memories in their lives too. Read more
May 5th - Memories
On Saturday we had to drive to Sarnia to play two basketball games. These games were not for the team I coach, but rather involved players from the high school team. We were excited to go to Sarnia because from 2001-2009 we spent a lot of time there living nearby in Petrolia. The town of Petrolia is only a 15 to 20-minute drive to Sarnia, similar to driving from Paris to Brantford. Between games on Saturday, we decided to take our daughter on a trip down memory lane.
Coral was only 3 years old when we moved from Petrolia back to Brantford, but she can still recall a few things from that time. One memory she still recalls is when we would take her under the Bluewater Bridge in Sarnia. If you have ever been there, you will know how beautiful it is to spend a summer afternoon or evening under the bridge. There are playgrounds and swings for the kids, an area where you can feed fish, food trucks to enjoy French fries or an ice cream cone, and many benches to sit on and watch boats and ships pass under the bridge. Coral can still remember playing on a pirate ship slide at this park and feeding the fish.
On Saturday we spent an hour or two reliving some of these memories. We bought our lunch from one of the food trucks and enjoyed sitting at picnic tables watching a ship go by. Then we went over to the play area and looked at the pirate ship that Coral used to play on. It seems to be a lot smaller now than when Coral played on it as a 3-year-old. Coral listened as Nadine and I pointed out certain slides she preferred to go down on the pirate ship. Then we made our way over to feed the fish again just as we did so many times when Coral was younger. After this, we showed Coral some of the things we used to do with her there that she could not remember like getting down close to the water to throw stones in and make big splashes. We all enjoyed the opportunity on Saturday to walk down memory lane and revisit some of our experiences from our time under the Bluewater Bridge in Sarnia.
Revisiting some of our pleasant memories can be such a joy and blessing. I often share at funerals that I officiate how the memories we have of the deceased are a gift that God has given to us. Remembering some of those pleasant memories, as my family did on Saturday, are a much-needed gift that God provides. For an hour or two our minds were taken off all our priorities and focused instead on special times we were provided by God at a certain season in our lives.
With Mothers Day coming this weekend, I hope that you might be able to take a walk down memory lane and remember some of the special times you spent with your mothers. Read more
April 28th - Time is Running Out
Time is running out for me as a basketball coach right now. Time is, in fact, my enemy. The reason why I say this is because in just under two weeks my team is supposed to travel to Ottawa to play in the Provincial Championships. If the tournament was to be played today, I would have to forfeit. The reason why I would have to do this is at the moment I do not have enough healthy players. The minimum number of players I need on my team in order to play in the championships is 8. Even though I have 10 players on our team, only 6 are healthy at the moment.
My best-case scenario will be to have 9 healthy players for these championship games. I already know that one of my players who currently has a concussion will not be available to play. Her doctor has already ruled out the possibility of her playing. Another one of my players sustained a broken finger a few weeks ago in a weekend series of games we played. She is still wearing a splint on her broken finger. The doctor thinks it will be able to be removed before we go to Ottawa, but that decision will depend on what another x-ray shows later this week. Fingers crossed, including broken ones on this player. My other two players who are injured have back and ankle injuries. These girls have been battling these injuries for nearly five weeks now, and they don't seem to be getting better. In fact, the player with the ankle sprain reinjured it last week at her school dance. The reality about back injuries and ankle sprains is there are no timelines with respect to recovery.
With less than two weeks to go I am running out of time with respect to these healings. My assistant coaches are beginning to become concerned if we will be able to attend and play. I will admit my mind has thought about this possibility often of late. Every time my mind goes there, I am reminded of a story in the Bible that encourages me that I may be running out of time, but I am not running out of hope.
The leader of a local synagogue named Jairus was running out of time when it came to the health of his twelve-year-old daughter. We do not know how long her health was declining, just that it had worsened to the point that she could soon die. With time running out when Jairus heard that Jesus had just arrived in his town, he went immediately to see Him and pleaded for Him to come and lay His hands on the little girl in order to make her well. This father obviously had faith in Jesus that He could heal his daughter. Along the way Jairus received word that his daughter had died. It would appear time ran out for Jairus. Naturally this father was devastated at this moment and lost all hope. The words Jesus spoke to Jairus at this moment were these: Don't be afraid. Just have faith. (Mark 5:36) Read more
April 21st - What Spell Check Missed
Last Wednesday afternoon I had a meeting to moderate. When I got to the meeting, I looked over the agenda and noticed my name was misspelled. Usually, people have trouble spelling my last name, but this time they got my first name wrong. It was quite a shock to see my name on the agenda as Dead Adlam. Dear Adlam, or Deal Adlam would have been easier to see than Dead. The funny thing was I was not the only Dean at the meeting that day. The other Dean present also had his name on the agenda, but his was spelled right. I almost got up and left, not out of anger, but if I was dead than it gave me a good excuse to be absent from the meeting. When I pointed out the mistake to the person who did up the agenda, she laughed and said, I guess spell check did not pick up on that one! She was right. Spell check would not see Dead Adlam as a spelling error.
We have come to rely on technology so much in order to make our lives easier. Using spell or grammar check after we have typed a message is meant to find the mistakes we have made. As helpful as these tools and aids are, they are not perfect in finding every mistake. Typing my name as Dead Adlam was a mistake that spell check was unable to recognize. If we want to avoid mistakes like this, we must still carefully review what we have written, even after completing spell check, to ensure nothing was missed. It was not a big deal that this mistake was missed in my case. I am a pretty forgiving guy, and everyone at the meeting had a good chuckle. Not everyone would be as understanding in this situation. Some people or employers would be very upset and angry by such a mistake.
The Bible cautions us to be very careful about the words that we speak. The words we choose and speak are very powerful, and are a reflection to others about our relationship with God. That is why we find passages in the Bible like James 3:2 which say:
Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.
We not only make mistakes with the words we speak, or don't speak, but also in the ones we write. Read more
April 14th - Things I Need That Start With C
About two weeks ago my Keurig coffee maker stopped working. Both Nadine and I tried to fix it but nothing seemed to work. After disposing of it, I had to rely on my old coffee maker which makes six cups. My old coffee maker is okay, but I admit I prefer my Keurig. I thought about waiting until Easter to get a new Keurig as a gift from my mom, but I could not wait. Last week after doing some searching online, I found that Walmart had certain kinds of Keurig machines on for $59.00. One morning after dropping Coral off at high school I went up to Walmart. When I got to the Keurig section in the store, I could see the machine that was advertised for $59.00, but at first glance they did not have any on the shelves. My next option was going up to a price of $99.00 which I did not want to do. So, I searched through the inventory again and found the one and only $59.00 Keurig unit they had left. I was happy to say the least.
Once I had my need for coffee fulfilled, I decided to go over to the cereal aisle before leaving to see if they might have my favourite brand on sale. Finding my favourite cereal has been as much of a challenge for me at times as finding the last Keurig on the shelf. You have probably experienced the same thing that I have in cereal aisles where the shelves are rather bare. When I do see my favourite cereal, sometimes they are charging $5.00 a box. I love this brand of cereal, but I am also cheap and will not pay above a certain amount. Sure enough, Walmart had my cereal on sale for $3.00 a box. I got three boxes and proudly walked out of the store carrying my new Keurig as well as my cereal. When I got to my car, it hit me that I was able to get two C's that are important in my life - coffee and cereal. I prefer cereal for breakfast and for a late-night snack over anything else. Most people who know me, realize how much I love my coffee too. Last week, I was able to fulfill two very important things in my life, getting my favourite cereal on sale, and brewing my coffee again in a Keurig.
That was last week. This week I am reminded of two more things that start with C that are necessities in my life, namely the cross and Christ. Holy Week has begun and by the time you read this message Good Friday might be just hours away. Read more
April 7th - What a Conversation Revealed
Apparently, I snore. I do not think I have a snoring problem because it never wakes me up. If you ask my wife and my daughter however, they both claim I have a snoring problem. Apparently, I can keep them both awake at times. They will even send texts back and forth some nights saying, The bear is snoring again! I find it interesting that the other female in our house, our dog Daisy, does not complain about my snoring. She snuggles right into me at the beginning of most nights and has no complaints or howls.
I decided to do something about my supposed snoring and had my doctor make a referral to a sleep clinic. Last week was my first clinic appointment. If you have ever been to one of these clinics, you will know there is quite a process to have all the straps and probes connected to you. I began chatting with the technician as she began to attach all of the necessary probes. I asked questions about how many nights she works a week, how COVID has affected the clinic, and various other questions. The more I chatted with her, the more she began to open up about some of the challenges she has been enduring recently.
She shared how early on in 2020 her husband passed away at the age of 50. She then revealed some of the challenges she has been encountering raising her teenage daughter. We talked the entire time she was attaching all of the probes to me. I offered words of sympathy and compassion along the way and listened as she opened up about these and other things going on in her life. As she attached the last probe, she looked at me and asked, What do you do for a living?
I smiled at her and replied, I am a church minister.
With that she said, I knew it. I could tell by the way you talked.
Not once during the conversation did I mention I was a Christian, or quote scripture to her. I just started up a conversation and talked as I would with anybody. It was interesting that the words I was speaking revealed to her that I must be a Christian minister. This story is a reminder how the words that we use can be very revealing about ourselves. Read more
March 31st - Is Showing Grace Natural For Us?
The basketball team that I coach played four games this past weekend. We played two games on Saturday and had two more games to play late Sunday afternoon. I was tired heading into the last two games after having led worship on Sunday morning. Besides being tired, I was also very frustrated before our fourth and final game of the weekend. In the third game we had the lead for most of the game despite the referee calling 33 fouls against us. My team is not a rough or dirty team by any means, but it seemed this referee was calling everything as an infraction. All these fouls allowed the other team to catch up and force overtime. In overtime, my four best players had fouled out of the game leaving me with just five players. We lost the game due to all these fouls against us.
I admit I was frustrated with the poor officiating but was more upset because of the impact it had on my players. Some of my players were in tears afterward, and others were upset thinking they had lost the game for us with all of their fouls. We had only 90 minutes to cool down and regroup before our next game. Little did I know at that time my ability to show grace would come into light at this moment when I was already tired and frustrated. A few minutes before we were to go onto the court the other coach came over to me and shared how one of his players had forgotten her jersey and would have to play wearing a white t-shirt instead. The only way she could play was if I as the opposing coach was okay with it.
Naturally I was. I did not want her to miss out on playing the game. I even shared with the other coach that I would go over to the referees and let them know I was okay with it. As we walked on the court, my assistant said to me, I am surprised you showed such grace. Most opposing coaches would not have let her play if she did not have on a proper uniform. It never even crossed my mind for a second to disqualify her from playing. It just came out so naturally for me to extend grace in this situation even though I was tired and still frustrated from what happened an hour earlier. Imagine if I had not shown grace in that situation. Imagine how disappointed this teenager would have been not to be able to play. Imagine how upset her teammates, her coach and even her parents would have been if I had not allowed her to play. Imagine the negative witness I may have displayed to my assistant coach or my own players or parents if I had not shown grace. Extending grace in that situation came naturally to me even though I was exhausted and frustrated from the previous game. I am so thankful and glad it was my natural response.
I have thought a lot about this incident over the last 24 hours. The question that I keep pondering is whether showing grace comes naturally to us, or if our ability to offer it is affected by various circumstances and situations we find ourselves in. Read more
March 23rd - The Ultimate Caregiver
Back in February I had an appointment with my financial planner to purchase an RRSP before the deadline. Yes, it may surprise you that even ministers who used to be former accountants will use a financial planner. During my appointment, the financial planner took time to review various forms they have to keep on file for every client they handle. Most of the forms we reviewed together were ones I have had on file with them for the better part of 30 years.
This time around there was a new form they wanted me to fill out. The form required me to name a caregiver they could contact in case the financial planner was beginning to worry that I was declining in my ability to make good decisions or properly look after myself. The first two people who came to mind for me were my wife and my daughter. The financial planner proceeded to say that it could not be either of their names on the form. That eliminated the two most obvious ones. The planner asked whether there was a friend, or colleague, or an independent person who could be this contact person.
I was honest with my planner that no name was coming to mind because I am the caregiver for so many people at this moment in my life. This is my reality being a father, a husband, a son, and a pastor of a congregation. There was one name that came to mind, but I do not think the planner would have allowed that name on the form either. Just as the planner would not accept my wife or my daughter, I doubt they would have accepted Jesus as my caregiver.
I have no problem, nor complaints about being the caregiver for so many people. I am glad that others can find comfort and support in me being their caregiver. I relied on my wife Nadine as my caregiver when I was ill for two years back in 2007-2009 and am not too proud or stubborn to admit that I rely on Jesus as my caregiver always. There are certain qualities we look for in somebody to be our caregiver. Read more
March 17th - Encourage Each Other
I attended a funeral recently with my daughter after the grandfather of one of her friends had passed away. The friend actually asked my daughter to attend in order to offer her some encouragement and support through this difficult time. My daughter certainly stepped up in offering encouragement to her friend.
She did the same for me after the reception. At the reception I met the father of the friend for the very first time. During our conversation he shared with me he grew up in Brantford and attended high school at B.C.I. where our two daughters currently attend. I asked him what years he went to B.C.I. because I also attended high school there and wondered if we overlapped in any years. When he shared with me that he went there between 1991-1995, I was really glad that he did not ask me when I attended B.C.I. I would have had to be honest and tell him that I went there from 1978-1983. It is easy to do the math to see that I am much older than this other father.
One of the realities of becoming a dad at the age of 42 is that I am usually a lot older than the fathers of my daughters friends. It is usually very humbling when I am reminded of this fact. When I told my wife Nadine about this conversation, she laughed about the age gap. Now you understand why it is humbling for me. When I shared the story with my daughter later that day she said, Dad, that surprises me because you both look about the same age.
Her words were a source of encouragement to me. Now some people might be reading this and thinking perhaps the other father looks older than his actual age. I can honestly say this other father still had a full head of hair, just a little bit of greying, and only a few wrinkles. It is because this father still looked this way that I took the words as a compliment and source of encouragement.
We all need a little bit of encouragement at times, but I think we need this more than ever right now in our lives. Read more
March 10th - Kind People Needed
I had a medical appointment last Thursday for the first time in several years. It was nothing serious, just my annual physical which has not been so yearly of late due to COVID. When I arrived at 3:30 p.m. the receptionist questioned me immediately if I had come on the right day for my appointment. These are not the words one wants to hear when they arrive at the office. I assured the receptionist this was the date and time they had given me when I made the appointment. She looked at her computer screen and could see that the appointment had been originally booked for this time and day.
She then looked up at me and said, Didn't we call you to reschedule your appointment? I replied, Your office called my wife and rescheduled her appointment this month, but she wasn't told that mine had been changed. I could see the receptionist becoming more and more anxious, so I said to her, If you have to reschedule, I will not be mad or angry. She replied, You are sure we did not tell your wife on that phone call we were changing your appointment? I once again reiterated no, then said to her, You need to remember it is usually husbands who fail to pass on messages not wives!
Right after I said it, the whole waiting room and the two receptionists burst out laughing. I did not realize the other patients waiting for their appointments were listening to what was transpiring. After I said this the receptionist smiled and said, You do not know how stressful my day has been. Thank you for being so understanding. With that she said, Normally we are booking three weeks in advance, but because you have been so kind and understanding I am going to get you in early next week. I walked out of the office about 5 minutes after arriving with a new appointment in hand.
I showed kindness that afternoon instead of frustration and anger. As I was driving home, I began to reflect on the impact a little kindness had at that moment. Read more
March 3rd - Properly Grieving
While I was walking our dog Daisy on Sunday afternoon, I happened to spot another couple down the street doing the same thing. Normally I run into this couple two or three times a week walking their dog around 6:45 a.m. On those early mornings when I see this couple with their dog usually the husband is just wearing a sweatshirt rather than a winter coat even when the temperatures are well below zero. On Sunday afternoon the temperature was around zero and I was surprised to see him wearing a warm coat. When I caught up to them, I said, I am confused. Normally I see you in a sweatshirt on the coldest of days but here you are today wearing a winter jacket. You are confusing me. We all laughed about his typical attire on cold, winter days, and his wife agreed with me completely. I used this as a conversation starter to ask what they had planned for the rest of the day. I knew they must have had something planned because this man is a contractor, and he usually works seven days a week. It is odd to see him home on a Sunday afternoon.
They shared how they were going to the home of her sister for supper to celebrate her dads birthday. When I asked how old her dad was, they shared with me that he had passed away four years ago. They then proceeded to tell me how they have done this every year since his passing. The family gets together on his birthday for dinner, and then they watch some of his favourite movies. This family has found doing this every year very healing in dealing with their grief. Knowing a little bit about grief as a pastor who has done a lot of funerals, I commended them on keeping this tradition up and dealing with their grief in such a healthy way. There were no expressions of sadness on their faces as we talked, but rather excitement looking forward to their annual tradition to recognize their loss and honour his memory.
This encounter made me contemplate the amount of grief people have experienced over these past few years. So many people have lost loved ones during these past two years, and perhaps have not had the chance to properly grieve because they had to postpone the funeral or celebration of life. Grief is not only experienced when a loved one dies. We feel grief when we experience declining health, retire from work, lose a job, have a friend move away, or go through a divorce. During these past two years dealing with COVID, we have also experienced grief due to lost opportunities, missed celebrations and other things that have been taken away from us. Grief is a feeling we experience whenever we go through a loss of any significant kind. A lot of people are ashamed to grieve thinking it is a sign of weakness. Other people are uncomfortable grieving and try to keep busy so they can avoid dealing with their feelings. This approach may work for the short term but eventually those feelings associated with grief catch up with us.
I think it is important for us to recognize that we have all experienced grief in certain ways due to the various losses that have occurred to us during COVID. Read more
February 24th - In Need of Healing
We ran into one of our neighbours yesterday while we were out walking Daisy. She had just returned recently from Vienna, Austria after attending the funeral of her mother-in-law. She shared with us how she watched all the protests going on in Ottawa and at the Ambassador Bridge on television while she was away. She was surprised these events were making news in Vienna. I discovered these events were also making the news in Slovakia after I talked recently with a friend who is now living there. CNN and Fox News in the United States have also been carrying coverage of these events. The world has been watching these events unfold and so have we. It seemed so surreal to me at times to see these events happening in Canada. We have maybe seen this happen in other countries, but not here.
Watching all of this unfold made me think back to two years ago when COVID began drawing our attention. Do you remember how united we were for the most part when we first had to confront COVID in March 2020? We were united in staying home and keeping ourselves and others safe. As life slowed down, we saw families and people come closer together. Businesses stepped up by changing their production lines in order to produce masks, ventilators, and other items needed in the fight against COVID. People would step outside at 7:00 p.m. to make noise in order to show support for our front-line workers. Some people banged pots and pans, others played music, and we played the chimes at our church. When encouraged to start wearing masks we put them on even though it was strange at first. For the most part we were united when we began this journey with COVID.
Over these past two years we have lost that sense of unity and have become divided. I have heard stories of families that were once close but are now divided and disagreeing over vaccines and other issues surrounding COVID. I have heard similar stories happening between once close friends, neighbours, and even in some church settings. I am sure many workplaces are experiencing it as well. The recent events in Ottawa, at the Ambassador Bridge, and elsewhere in Canada are showing this division is happening across this great country of ours.
As I thought about this shift from unity to disunity during these past two years the saying, United we stand, divided we fall came to mind.
February 16th - An Unexpected Call
On Sunday afternoon, I spent a bit of time planning out my basketball practices for the coming week and catching up on e-mail. The phone rang around 3:00 p.m. and I was surprised by whose name appeared that was calling. It was a colleague of mine in ministry that I had not talked to in three years. Prior to that, we probably only talked once since 2009. I got to know this minister when I was in Petrolia from 2001-2009. She became a good friend during that time, and we shared a lot of conversations together over coffee. After I moved back to Brantford, we just failed to stay in touch with each other. The busyness of life and ministry has a way of doing that between ministers. We still send Christmas cards to each other every year, but rarely pick up the phone and talk. In 2019 her son died, and Nadine and I went to the funeral to offer our support. I called her once on the phone after his death, but that was the last time we talked before Sunday. It was so good to hear her voice on the other end.
She shared with me how she just felt led by God to give me a call that afternoon. I am so glad that she followed His prompting and reached out. We talked for over an hour. This is unusual for me to talk that long on the phone. I may talk a lot in a sermon, but when it comes to the phone, I try to keep my conversations short and sweet for the most part. There was so much for the two of us to catch up on. One of the things she shared with me was her journey to seek healing after the death of her son. The last time I talked to her after the funeral, I knew she was not in a good place emotionally, or spiritually. I prayed with her on the phone, and afterward to God asking Him to bring the right person into her life to help her to heal. My friend shared with me how God had answered that prayer for her. I noticed a huge difference in her from the previous conversation. She is stronger and more at peace right now. By the end of the conversation, we both realized that God had arranged for this unexpected call to happen. God not only wanted two old friends to be reunited, but for each of us to see how He had answered our prayers.
God has a way of arranging unexpected calls for us. Look at what God did for Moses as he approached the burning bush in curiosity. Read more
February 9th - Playing for Him
Back in September I shared with you that the hardest part of being a basketball coach was making the final cuts of players. At the end of tryouts, I had to decide which of the final two players would get the last roster position. When I made my final decision and informed her mother that she made the team I realized at that moment that God had influenced my decision. When I shared the good news, the mother told me my call had come on the one-year anniversary of her stepfather dying from cancer. I had no idea about this when I shared the good news. God did and knew the perfect timing to share this good news.
This is the first year this player has played basketball at the rep or all-star level. I knew this when I selected her but saw in the tryout her love for the game, and her dedication to keep improving. She has worked so hard over these past four months. She listens well to instruction and works hard at improving her skills and getting to know how to play the game better.
Last weekend we had two games on Saturday in Toronto. In between games I had the chance to talk to the mother. She opened up a bit more about the death of the stepfather a year ago. I was told that he was a basketball player and loved the game. It was his love for it that drew the daughter into wanting to play. In fact, she spent a lot of time with her stepdad learning how to play and they became quite close as a result.
As you could imagine, it was hard for this young lady to experience the loss of her stepdad being as close as they were. Something the mother shared with us this weekend was how her daughter wanted to honour her stepdad by making a rep level basketball team and play for him. I have been impressed by this young lady ever since she first made the team. Hearing about her commitment to play in her his memory has left me even more impressed.
I have been thinking about what she has committed to do since Saturday. It made me begin to wonder if we have made the same commitment when it comes to Jesus. Read more
February 3rd - Evidence in the Footprints
I shared with you in a mid-week message a while back how I went out one morning to get the garbage bins that belong to my neighbour which were on the road, and he came out of the house at the same time. It led to a little trash talk between neighbours, but he appreciated the fact that I wanted to help him out by taking his bins in. Last week it was my wife who did the same for our neighbour.
Nadine saw that his bins were out on the street as she came home for lunch after finishing at the client she cleaned for that morning. Before bringing in our bins, Nadine went next door and took in the recycling bins and trash container. I did not know she had done this for our neighbour until four days later. He sent a text message on the Friday thanking her for doing that for him.
When she received this thank you, Nadine wondered how he knew it was her and not me who brought the bins in. Neither he nor his wife was home at the time when she did this. I said to her that I bet he saw her footprints in the snow on his driveway once he got home. When Nadine texted him back to ask how he knew it was her he confirmed that he could tell it was her by the size of the footprints left in the snow. It is easy to recognize Nadine's footprints because she wears a size 2 youth boot. Not many kids with that size of feet would carry recycling bins in, but my wife certainly would, as a kind deed to a good neighbour.
The incident was a reminder to me how the footprints we leave can be a source of information about us. Snow, sand, and dirt can be just a few surfaces in which we leave our footprints. A quick search on the internet reminded me that footprints can also be left on countertop surfaces, chairs, and even people. Read more
January 26th - Out of Service Again
I shared with you last month how our e-mail was down for 10 days after somebody hacked into it. We could send out e-mails after a few days but could not receive any until Bell could resolve the issue. I did not like being unable to receive my e-mails for that length of time. I was worried that I was missing important messages and wondering if people were questioning why I was not responding to their e-mails. We have become reliant on e-mail as one means of communicating and staying in touch.
This weekend I experienced the problem of not being able to receive messages again. Thankfully my e-mail was not hacked this time. On Friday night our smart phone which has our home phone number on it began to overheat. An error message popped up on it saying we needed to shut it down to save the device. Nadine turned it off and let it cool for a few hours. Before we went to bed that night, she tried turning the phone on again only to get the same warning. We turned it off for the entire night and went to bed. On Saturday morning we tried turning the phone on again only to have the same error message come up that the phone was overheating.
Nadine did some reading on the internet to see if there was something we could do to fix the problem but many of the sites she looked at said the phone was probably beyond repair. Here we were again, just like with our first e-mail issue, not being able to receive phone calls or messages from others. Not that we get a lot of phone calls some days, but a pastor needs to have a reliable phone so people can reach me if there is a pastoral emergency. I felt so helpless once again knowing that I might be missing out on people trying to reach me.
It is amazing how reliant we have become on our internet and phone providers to communicate with others. As much as we appreciate the advancements we have made in these areas of communication, there are times when our devices or our providers can fail us. As I was experiencing this problem again on Saturday morning, I began to think about how we communicate with God. Read more
January 19th - Getting What We Wish For
Before she went to bed on Sunday night my daughter was hoping that Monday was going to be a snow day resulting in school being cancelled. Sure enough, she got what she wished for. We let her sleep in when we learned school was cancelled. Just as I sat down at my computer to type this message around 10:00 a.m. on Monday morning I heard my daughter get up and scream with excitement that she got what she wished for.
Each one of us has this tendency to wish for certain things to happen. For instance:
- Leaf fans wish their team could play to their actual potential on a consistent basis, but we do not see that happen enough,
- my parishioners wish to hear a good sermon every Sunday, but I will have to let them tell you if that happens or not,
- we may wish for the doctor to report good news after a series of tests and check-ups,
- we may wish for God to answer our prayers in a certain manner and time frame,
- we may wish to take a trip or vacation to a certain destination,
- or we may wish for somebody to call or pay us a visit sometime.
The list of the things we wish for is endless. Our wish list can vary day to day, and there may be some items on it that remain consistent. Some days we get the things that we wish for, but other times we do not. Those are not the days we let out an excited scream of joy like my daughter did that morning. On the days we do not get what we wish for we let out a sigh of frustration or find ourselves frowning and disheartened due to the disappointment. Not getting what we wish for is never easy for us. If this kind of day tends to become repetitive and consistent, then it can greatly impact our emotional and physical well being. Something else it can affect is our view of God. We see how this happened with Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Adam and Eve seemed to have everything they could ever wish for living in the Garden of Eden. They certainly did not have to worry about fashion trends. Read more
January 12th - Revealing Our Weaknesses
Nadine and I had our booster vaccines last week. After my booster shot, I basically had the same side effects or symptoms afterward that I did with the first two. Like so many people, my arm was sore and hard to lift for the first 24 hours. I was so glad I did not get the booster on a Saturday because it would have been hard for me to raise my arms for the benediction at church on Sunday.
With each vaccine I also noticed that my sciatic nerve began to act up for 24 hours or more afterward. I injured my sciatic nerve when I was in Grade 9 playing hockey. I recovered after six months of treatment and never had a problem with it until about three years ago. Whenever I exercise or workout, it sometimes acts up on me. Usually with a little rest it heals quickly, and I can resume exercise. For the past year I have noticed that it does not bother me in the daytime but rather when I crawl into bed. If I turn on my right side to try not to snore as much and keep Nadine awake, my sciatic begins to hurt immediately. So, I turn back over to sleep on my back or turn onto my left side to relieve the pain. When I wake up in the morning the pain is gone until I crawl back into bed that night.
With each of the three vaccines however, my sciatic nerve would pain me constantly for 24-36 hours. It seemed to attack this weak area in my body. We noticed the vaccines did the same thing with Nadine. She suffers from tinnitus or ringing in the ears. Sometimes the buzzing is loud in her ears, and other times it is not. After each vaccine shot however, she noticed the buzzing noise intensified. I do not know if you had the same experience or observation that we did after our vaccines that it seemed to target some of the weak areas in your body.
Something this pandemic has done over the past twenty-two months is reveal some of our weaknesses. We all have areas of weaknesses whether we recognize them or not. Read more
January 5th - Something Bad, Something Good
On the morning of Friday, December 17, 2021, our e-mail was hacked. Around 10:30 that morning I started getting messages, phone calls, and texts from people about an e-mail they had received that my wife Nadine was asking for help. I could not keep up with all the messages. I would be on the phone talking to one person, and could hear my phone beeping that other calls were coming in. I would check my voice mail messages as soon as I hung up and discover my mailbox was full of messages. As soon as I tried to listen to some of them the phone would ring again. In amongst the phone calls, I was bombarded with text messages from people. Nadine was not home at the time, so I was dealing with this solo. I could not even sit down at the computer to see how the problem happened or try to resolve it with our internet provider Bell. For 90 minutes it was a non-stop frenzy of calls, texts, and voice messages. The timing of this could not have been worse. Nadine and I were planning to go to the church after lunch to film our online service for Sunday. I had to go to St. Thomas later that day for a funeral visitation. I still had a Christmas Eve service to work on that morning for the following week. An already busy Friday turned into a very hectic and chaotic day all because our e-mail was hacked.
This was the first time that my wife and I have ever experienced having our e-mail hacked. I know of others who have experienced it and I would not wish it on anyone. When Nadine did get home, she was finally able to get on the computer and contact Bell about what happened. She had to spend a lot of time on the computer and on the phone with various technicians. Due to a few mishaps and miscommunications on the part of Bell, it took ten days for us to get the situation fully resolved. With Christmas being such a busy season, this misfortune happened at the worst time for us.
One thing this unfortunate situation did do was remind Nadine and I how much people care. Read more
December 30th - Thank You For Asking
Something happened at the grocery store recently that made me pause and think. As I was loading my groceries onto the counter, the cashier asked me how I was doing. I appreciated that she asked me this, so I in turn asked her how her day was going. It seemed at first that I caught her off guard by asking. She said to me, Thank you so much for asking. It means a lot to me that you asked!
Usually when I respond in kind like this, the person responds, Oh, I am good. In this case, I sensed a deeper level of gratitude and appreciation from this cashier that I took the time to ask. Seeing this response from her made me begin to wonder if any other customer had taken the time to do the same for her that day. I imagine during the course of her shift she probably had one hundred or more customers come through her lane. In talking to other cashiers at this same store I know they have found customers angrier and more impatient to deal with during this pandemic. One cashier I know of actually took four months off work because she found it too hard emotionally to keep dealing with anger.
This type of response is not unique to those people who work at grocery stores. My wife Nadine was at Staples last week to pick up some items she ordered. When Nadine arrived the employee she was dealing with said the order was not ready as promised. Nadine did not get mad, and said she understood how busy it must be for them right now. This employee thanked Nadine and said, You are the only person all day who has been this kind to me. You would not believe how horrible people have been toward me these last few hours.
I imagine this is happening more often than we realize to those who are working in retail and stores. Was this cashier at the grocery store that day having these experiences with the customers she had dealt with before me? I imagine she asked each one how their day was just like me. The fact she seemed so caught off guard that I took the time to ask how her day was going made me wonder if few or any customers prior to me did this. Read more
December 23rd - Coincidence or God-incidence?
My sister Patty and her husband moved out to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia this summer in order to be closer to most of their family. They let us know a month ago that they would be coming to Brantford around December 10th to attend the 75th birthday party of her brother-in-law. We arranged to go out for dinner with them on Monday, December 13th. One of her children still lives in Brantford. When I asked her if they had seen him since they arrived, she told me how they had to take him to the hospital when they saw him because he was so gravely ill. Patty talked to her son on the phone prior to arriving in Brantford and everything seemed okay. The night we had supper with Patty, she shared how earlier that day they had talked to the doctor who had said the next 48 hours would be very critical for her son. He was experiencing a blood infection that was affecting his heart.
When my sister shared this with us it was very evident to me that it was no coincidence that God had arranged for them to come back to Brantford at this time. They had no idea when they boarded a flight to come here that their son was dealing with such a serious health issue. They thought they were coming to Brantford to spend a few days here before Christmas to celebrate a 75th birthday and visit with their son and a few other family members and friends. Some would say it was a fortunate coincidence that they were here when their son came down with this serious blood infection. I knew it was a God-incident that they were back in Brantford at this exact time. This is what God does to show us that He is sovereign, in complete control, and cares for us so dearly.
Here we are just a few short days away from Christmas. Our focus at church on Christmas Eve is the gift of Jesus lying in the manger in Bethlehem. This is just one of so many stories in Scripture that remind us there are no coincidences when it comes to God. It had been foretold by the prophet Micah that the birthplace of the Messiah would be Bethlehem. God chose Mary to be the one who would give birth to the Saviour of the world. Read more
December 15th - A Little Trash Talk
Mondays are our garbage pickup day where I live. On Monday, December 6th the wind was particularly strong when I put my garbage out at the curb. I happened to look out my front window later that morning and noticed that the trash container belonging to my neighbour had blown into the middle of the road. It belonged to my neighbour who is the Montreal Canadiens fan that I have talked about before. He was working from home that day and I thought about calling him but decided to do the neighbourly thing and get my shoes on to retrieve it.
As I began walking down my driveway to get it, he happened to come out his front door at the very same time. Usually, a Leafs fan and a Canadiens fan would fight over who could lift the Stanley Cup. Here we were heading toward a trash container to see who could get to it first. When he saw me, my neighbour asked, Were you going to get my trash container for me? I said to him, Of course, Leafs fans are used to taking trash from Canadiens fans! As he got his container, and I picked up my recycling bins I reminded him how this year Canadiens fans are in no position to trash talk the Leafs. We talked a bit more about hockey before we each went back into our homes.
The winds were still strong around noon that same day. As I was walking my dog in front of his house, he yelled out his door to me asking if I would come over and help him. The strong winds had blown the tarp off his boat that he stores in the backyard for winter. For the next hour, a Leafs fan and Montreal fan were able to work together to get this tarp back on his boat for the winter. When we were finished, I said to him, Who would ever think that the trash talk we did this morning would lead to us working so well together this afternoon! He laughed and replied, Well you got something else to tell the people at your church! So now I have told you just as he suggested.
There is a lot of trash talk going on in these days. Unfortunately, it is not the kind that my neighbour and I were doing that Monday morning. Read more
December 9th - A Need Indeed
On Saturday afternoon I took my daughter Coral to the Lynden Park Mall because she wanted to purchase a book at Coles that she knew was available there. My daughter loves to read and whenever we go to this store, she takes a lot of time looking at various books on the shelves. She could spend a whole afternoon in there if I let her.
While she was looking in her section, I decided to go over to the Christianity section to see if there was anything I wanted to buy. Just a few shelves down from the Christianity section are the self help and wellness books. As I was looking through my section, I could overhear a conversation going on between two customers at the self-help section. These two customers were both male and in their mid-to-late twenties. The one man seemed to be mentoring the other about setting goals in his life. The man, who was being mentored, acknowledged he was struggling with trying to define some goals and needs in his life. He said to his mentor, Some people will say they have a need to have a relationship with God in their life, but I don't see that as a need for me right now. I was not trying to eavesdrop but standing just six feet away from these two men it was hard not to be aware of what they were saying.
I have been thinking about what this man said for the past couple of days. It is so true that many people do not feel they need God in their life. This incident reminded me of a story I read not long ago about a pastor who was sitting beside a woman on an airplane. During the course of the flight the two of them began to talk and when she found out that this man was a pastor, she made it a point to tell him that she did not need God in her life. The flight began to experience severe turbulence. The captain came on over the speaker and asked everybody to put on their seatbelts because the turbulence was getting worse. Hearing this, the woman turned to the pastor and said, I still do not need God, but would you include me in a prayer for our safety?"
Her story is not unique. Read more
December 1st - Running Out
Last Thursday I had a few things I needed to print off from my computer. When I clicked to print, a message appeared saying the printer was out of black ink. Thankfully I had a replacement cartridge of ink and replaced it. I clicked to print again, and this time I got a message saying the printer was out of paper too. Thankfully, I still had some paper left to put in the tray. I hit the print key again waiting to see what I might be out of next. I know I was running out of patience by this time. Sure enough, one more thing appeared. My printer was out of alignment, and I needed to perform a scan before I could resume printing again.
My printer was not the only thing telling me last week that I was running out of something. At basketball practice on Saturday, we were missing one player to scrimmage, so I stepped in as the fifth player. After running up and down the court for several minutes my assistant coach could see that I was running out of breath. Not even my mask covering my heavy breathing could prevent others from seeing this.
Then on Sunday night my daughter showed me the math test she got back. Thankfully she got every answer right except one. As I looked over the math she is doing in Grade 10, I realized it is out of my ability and comprehension to be able to help her with some of it.
The theme being out of something certainly came up often for me this past week. Discovering we might be out of ink or paper is not a major deal, but there are situations and scenarios in life when we might feel overwhelmed by running out of something. It can be worrisome to run out of things like:
* strength and energy
* options and possibilities to turn things around
* food on our shelves and in our pantries
* patience with our family or certain individuals
* hope and optimism.
It is never pleasant to run out of these, or so many other things, in life. A lot of people not only lose their patience in these situations, but also their sense of hope. Read more
November 24th - A Slight Adjustment Was Needed
I shared with you in a previous mid-week message how I am coaching basketball this year. We have not had any games yet, but they will be starting soon now that the high school basketball season is over. Prior to last week our practices were very sporadic. Sometimes we would get a practice in once a week, and other times two weeks would pass between work outs. Now we are starting twice a week practice.
This past Thursday at practice I took the opportunity to look at some of the players techniques as they were shooting. I noticed that one of my players was not lining her feet up with the basket when it came to her free throw shooting. I showed her what she was doing wrong and encouraged her to make the adjustment with respect to the positioning of her feet. She did and discovered more of her shots were going into the basket.
One of my other players was having trouble with her shot as well. I noticed that her feet were shuffling side to side as she prepared to shoot instead of staying planted in one spot on the floor. I pointed out the mistake she was making and encouraged her to make some adjustments to her feet. When she arrived at practice on Saturday, she told me she had taken my advice and had been working hard at making the adjustments.
During practice on Saturday, I had each player take 10 shots from the foul line. I do this at every practice. This time, instead of hitting just 1 out of 10 shots, she hit 8 out of 10. She was so happy and excited with her improvement. The other players noticed her improvement as well and complimented her on it. Leading up to our Thursday practice, I knew both players were struggling with their shooting. All it took to improve it was some slight adjustments to the positioning of their feet.
How often do we ever consider that maybe a slight adjustment might make a huge difference for us? Read more
November 17th - A Walk Down Memory Lane
Last week my daughter finished her history course at BCI. For her last assignment she had to choose somebody to interview who could share their memories about their past experiences in school and life. Many of her classmates chose to interview their parents for this assignment. My daughter chose to skip over my generation and interview her 91-year-old grandma instead. She made a wise choice in choosing her grandma because she could provide some interesting insights having grown up through the Depression and World War II.
I took my daughter over to see her grandma, and sat in another room as they did the interview. I could hear all of the questions being asked, as well as every one of the responses. Even though I had heard some of the experiences before, it was still quite interesting to hear my mother share with her granddaughter what life was like back then. I also found it fascinating to see how my daughter led the interview and asked questions that were not required of the assignment.
My daughter loved hearing all of these stories from her grandma. I think Grandma loved it just as much. In fact, both of them were talking about how much they enjoyed it afterward. On the car ride home, my daughter was sharing how much she enjoyed doing this assignment and how thankful she was to her history teacher for making it possible. Grandma could not wait to tell her friends the next day at lunch how much she enjoyed being interviewed and sharing her memories. In fact, the next day Grandma began to tell my daughter even more stories that she remembered after the interview.
After the interview was over, my mom said to my daughter, You better tell your history teacher that Grandma expects you will get a mark as high as my age! Read more
November 10th - Persistence Paid Off
Since my daughter was in Grade 6, she was excited for the day when she could play high school basketball. For three years we sat in the stands cheering on the BCI&VS Mustangs girls basketball teams. We not only attended their games here in Brantford but also went to see them in Guelph and Kitchener when they played in CWOSSA championships. I remember when my daughter was in Grade 8 saying to her at one of the games, Next year that will be you out there! Little did I know when I said it, that COVID would happen and prevent high school sports from taking place last year.
Sure enough, my daughter made the junior basketball team at BCI this year. She even got the jersey number she had hoped for. When they posted the regular season schedule the students were informed that no parents would be allowed to attend the games. We understood the reasons why but still were disappointed to think we could not be in the stands cheering for our daughter. In late September when the season started, I contacted one of the superintendents at the Grand Erie District School Board to see if plans were being made to eventually allow parents to attend. I was told that they had to peel back many layers of protocols, but they hoped to have a plan in place before the season ended. I had hope and so too did my daughter that eventually she would see her parents in the stands. Read more
November 4th - Nothing Surprises Me of Late
The house across the street from where my mother lives went up for sale recently. It is just a small brick house with a detached garage and a decent sized backyard. The list price was $399,000 which I felt was way overpriced knowing what the house was like on the inside. It did not take long for this house to sell. My mom found out it sold for over $500,000 dollars. When she asked me if I was surprised by how much it went over the asking price, I said to her not really. I have been hearing so many stories lately of homes selling significantly above the asking price.
This was not the only thing that did not surprise me last week. The basketball organization that I coach with informed me that the public and Catholic school boards in Hamilton were making changes about COVID protocols for outside groups like us using their facilities. It did not come as a surprise to me after two months of having practices at these facilities that they have now changed things on us once again.
We also had contractors come to our house this week to look at replacing some rotting wood on the outside of our house. When the contractors checked with the suppliers about the availability of the wood they needed, they were told it would be a special order and be a lot more costly than expected. That news did not come as a surprise to me either as I had been hearing from other contractors about rising costs and the shortage of supplies.
Then we went out for brunch after the service on Sunday. We placed our order right away. Forty-five minutes later we still did not have our food. We asked the waitress how much longer it would be, and she said probably another 15 minutes. The problem was so many people were ordering Skip the Dishes from this restaurant around the same time. At least 30-40 meals went out the door via the Skip the Dishes option during the time we waited for our food. It did not surprise me to see this option take priority over the customers actually choosing to dine in the restaurant.
I really was not surprised to see any of these things happen during the past week. It is not that I have become overly cynical, or pessimistic, nor critical of late. Read more
October 28th - Looking Forward
I am writing this message on the morning of October 25th. It is hard to believe that two months from today we will be celebrating Christmas. It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas right now, at least to me. We went out Saturday afternoon to Michaels to get a shirt for my daughters Halloween costume. I expected to see the store decorated with fall and Halloween decorations but much to my surprise the whole front display was all Christmas decorations.
After finishing at Michaels, we drove over to Lowes. As I was walking in, I was remembering when my daughter was a little girl and was scared by the Halloween decorations Lowes would often have on display. I thought as I entered that I did not have to worry about that this time now that she is 15. Once inside, instead of seeing Halloween decorations, I was immediately confronted by their Christmas display.
It was not only while we were shopping that it felt like Christmas to me. The W network began showing their Hallmark Christmas movies this weekend. I admit that I watch some of these Hallmark Christmas movies even though the endings all seem to be the same with the main characters falling in love. My daughter happened to come down the stairs, and when she saw one of the movies on she said, I just love Christmas.
To top it all off, my mother walked over to the Dollar store and another favourite store of hers on Saturday to buy Christmas gifts. When I asked her after church on Sunday what she would do that afternoon, she told me she was going to pull out her Christmas gift bags and start filling them with the presents she has already bought. Now you can understand why it is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas to me.
A lot of us look forward to Christmas just like my daughter. It is a very special time of year. There are some things about Christmas that we do not look forward to, however. Read more
October 22nd - Grace Instead of Anger
I shared with you last week how I was at a meeting on Tuesday night to consider ending the pastoral tie between a minister and a congregation due to financial constraints. The pastoral tie was dissolved at that meeting and one of my responsibilities as a result was to help the minister and congregation agree on a settlement package. Our denomination has a policy to help in these matters and there is a sample agreement to be used as a guide. The head office sent me a sample template of the settlement agreement that I could use to fill in the names and specifics agreed to by both parties. I put together the sample agreement I was given, made the appropriate changes needed to it, and was able to get both the minister and representatives from the congregation to agree to the terms and sign the document. I have had to do this on several occasions and there is always a sense of relief on my part when it is finalized.
Two days after the meeting I was about to forward the agreement to the head office when they informed me that they sent me the wrong version of the settlement agreement. They had sent me the 2015 version instead of the more recent 2018 version. Some of the conditions in the newer version were different from the previous document including the eligibility period the minister would have concerning his insurance and health benefits. Even though it was not my mistake, I was told I would have to go back to both parties and try and get them to sign this newer version.
As you might imagine, I was very upset about the mistake that was made, and the inconvenience it would cause having to get both parties to agree to a new settlement agreement. Read more
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.
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:
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.
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!
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.
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