Lessons from a Hot Tub

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Despite our chronic financial challenges my little family and I (me, wife and boy) occasionally treat ourselves to a night in a hotel.
This we recently did. The hotel in question had a warm pool, a hot sauna, and hot tub that was just a few degrees shy of boiling. Myself and the boy started out in the pool. It was like swimming in an overgrown bathtub, which is exactly how I like it. So pleasant was the experience that we decided to try out the hot tub. That’s where things starting going downhill in terms of the pleasantness.

I felt like a lobster being lowered into a boiling pot. After my body got over the initial shock it was actually quite relaxing. The water was so hot that the boy decided to merely dangle up to his knees, while I sat there fully immersed. After the boy commented on the redness of my skin I felt it was an appropriate time to exit the tub.

But then company showed up and since they were complete strangers we had a lot of catching up to do. The two elderly ladies of the group of three were quite impressed by the outgoing personality of our boy. He did most of the talking while I sat there boiling to death, so they likely deduced that he got his personality from his mother. And they would be right. A short time later the boy engaged in another conversation with a young lady on the elevator. Meanwhile, I stood there speechless unable to muster as much as a simple hello. Then again I was still reeling from my extended stay in the boiling pot.

In any case, our long foray into the hot tub led yours truly to develop feelings of sickness. I self-diagnosed myself with dehydration and wrote myself a prescription for two advil and eight to ten glasses of water.

But the hot tub experience got me thinking about the general experiences of life. Firstly, I entered the hot tub of my own free will. Nobody forced me into it. Also, I choose to stay in the hot tub longer than I should have. And I couldn’t help but wonder. Do we sometimes stay longer in situations than we should just because it’s comfortable? I could have exited that hot tub any time I wanted but I choose to stay in it. It was my choice. And I suffered for it.

Who could I blame? The eight-year old? The company of complete strangers? Ultimately no (tempting though it was). I could only blame myself. Of course, the consequences weren’t overly terrible – exhaustion and a headache. Both were remedied fairly easily (see prescription above). However, consequences for life’s bigger choices are not always so easily remedied.

The problem is that we don’t always feel the full extent of staying in certain situation until we’re out of them. I didn’t have a headache while soaking in the boiling pot of water. The headache came afterward. In fact, I felt pretty good while in the tub, which explains my reluctance to get out. The sickly feelings came once the ordeal was finally over. And that’s often how it is in the steamy situations of life.

It’s only after we leave a situation (or relationship) that we begin to see the damage that it has done to us. Perhaps I should not have entered the hot tub in the first place. What was wrong with the pool? Nothing. It was the perfect temperature. Not too hot. Not too cold. But alas the hot tub kept whispering my name. “Surely, you’re not going to leave the pool and fitness area of this fine hotel until you’ve dipped your weary frame in my swirling, soothing waters.”

Perhaps I should have applied Proverbs 23:31-32 to the allure of the tub.
“Do not look on the wine (water) when it is red (clear), When it sparkles in the cup (tub), When it swirls around smoothly.
(32) At the last it bites like a serpent, And stings like a viper.”

The scaling water bit my hydration level. It stung my head causing an ache. Not the most exegetically sound interpretation of the above verses but it works for me.

All about the Kid

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Now that Christmas is over, I’m tempted to start shopping for next year. I see no other way to avoid the year end financial and mental crisis that assails me year in and year out. I used to love Christmas when it was all about getting instead of giving and my parents paid all the bills. Christmas was a blast in those days. But now I’m the parent and everything has changed.

My problem is that Christmas is all about the kids and I’m not a kid anymore. Those who know me might wish to argue this last point but I’m speaking in terms of chronological age, not my current maturity level. Don’t get me wrong. I love kids, especially my own. But sometimes it’s just hard to be an adult.

Interestingly enough, Jesus told the adults of His day that unless they were converted and became as little children they would not enter the kingdom of heaven. It’s one of my favourite verses (now that I think about it). But I can’t bring myself to believe that Jesus was advocating for adults to become more childish. It seems to me He was speaking of certain childlike traits that adults should strive to have.

Also, He was reminding us that you can’t have a father without being a child. Father’s don’t have fathers. Children do. If we don’t become spiritual children then how can God become our spiritual Father? Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father who is in heaven….”

I hope you know God as your Father. Santa Claus comes and goes. You can’t really depend on Him. He swoops in, drops a few presents, shows up at parades and parties and then he’s off to the North Pole for a 12 month sabbatical. He’s sort of a cross between a visiting relative and a birthday clown. But a loving father? Not so much. Conversly, God promises to be with us all year, every year. Whether it’s 2017. or 2027.

The blow-up snowman, lighted candie canes, and lazer lights may be removed from the front lawn. The big fake tree with its bulbs and garland may be stuffed back into the cardboard box. But it’s comforting to know that our Father in heaven is too big to be stored away in a plastic container. He can’t be confined to my storage room and I’m most glad about it.

Our relationship to Him is not yearly. It’s daily. It can be just as vibrant during the cold dark chills of February as it is during the glitter and pomp of December. Whether you’re labouring with a scoop to remove a sudden dump of wet snow from the driveway or sitting on a padded chair in a heated sanctuary. It doesn’t matter where you are or what you’re doing. You may be hungry. You may be full. You may be sick. You may be well. You may have reached the pinnacle of financial freedom or you may be crushed beneath a load of debt. Either way, God loves you and He promises to be with you always. That’s the message of Christmas.

So the lights may be dimmed. The living room may look a little bare. The spirit of Christmas may have slipped away to another realm. But the Spirit of God doesn’t leave in January. He’s not afraid of the cold and there’s no post-Christmas blues with Him.

As John said: “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5) So if darkness and gloom seems to be circling around you like a swarm of mosquitoes on a hot summer day, then you might consider approaching the Father of light. You don’t need to write Him a letter, or speak to Him through an elf. He’s as near as the mention of His name.

Commercial Christmas may be over but it’s not too late to become a child again.

Bah Humbug

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Firstly, I want to apologize for not writing a blog. I had every intention of writing one. But every time I start to write I am confronted with the tyranny of urgent tasks.

It’s that time of year isn’t it? In the midst of shopping for needless gifts for people who don’t need a thing, the blow-up santa, fake trees, and LED lights must be stragetically arranged somewhere on the front of the house to give maximum effect to passerbys who don’t really care. And it’s cold. And warm. Then cold again. It’s raining. Or is it wet snow? The joys of Newfoundland weather just seem to add something special to an already stressful time of year.

I might as well just say it. Bah humbug.

No, I am not a scrooge. I like Christmas. Seriously. What I don’t like is stress. Caused in part by bills. And long line-ups at Wal-mart. VISA cards that won’t stay in my wallet. I’d cut it up (the VISA card I mean) but I just need it so bad. How can I purchase anything online without it? How can I purchase anything in person without it?

When people ask me if I have my shopping done I must fight the urge to burst into tears. To make matters worse, I am currently a pastor. In our wisdom, we pastors like to schedule extra-services and events this time of year which is much like putting on extra clothes during a heatwave.

Deep down I know it’s more blessed to give than to receive but sometimes I just don’t feel it. The problem is that I’m a terrible gift picker outer. I know what I like. I have no clue what anyone else likes. Well, that’s not entirely true. I know my wife likes clothes. She wears them every day. I just don’t know what particular clothes to select from the hundreds of thousands of options available at the one of 50,000 stores available to shop from. So she ends up picking out her own stuff. But does that really count as Christmas gifts? I want to believe it does but I have my doubts.

So I’m compelled to get a surprise. But what? Oh the questions. Do we have enough for our eight-year old boy? Should we tell him the truth about Santa? Have I strung enough garland across the living room ceiling? Have we spent beyond our means again? These are the type of thoughts that will torment me from now until December 25.

Furthermore, the house needs cleaning. The car needs snowtires. Services need planning. I need a haircut. I’ve been drinking too much pepsi and it’s not even Christmas Eve. Busyness beyond reason. The multitude of unfinished tasks. My to-do list keeps expanding at an exponential rate.

You can see why I don’t have the time or frame of mind to write a sensible blog. My apologies to the three’s and four’s of people who actually read them. I will try to write one at my earliest possible inconvenience.

In the meantime, thanks for the gift of your understanding.

Lofty Hearts

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When I read the following verses from Ezekiel the other day I couldn’t help but think of a certain U.S. Presidential candidate.:
(3) “(Behold, you are wiser than Daniel!
There is no secret that can be
hidden from you!
(4) With your wisdom and your understanding
You have gained riches for yourself,
And gathered gold and silver into
your treasuries;
(5) By your great wisdom in trade you
have increased your riches,
And your heart is lifted up because
of your riches),”

Of course, the prophet Ezekiel is speaking somewhat sarcastically here in addressing the king of Tyre, especially in verse 3 when he says the king is wiser than Daniel and that no secret could be hidden from him. This is actually how the king of Tyre thought of himself because the latter part of verse 5 says, “And your heart is lifted up because of your riches.”

The king Tyre had some lofty thoughts concerning his own self-importance. In fact, verse 6 says he thought of himself as a god. Therein lies the scary part. A world leader who thinks he’s a god. Not a good scenario for a number of reasons. It’s doubtful if either of the two U.S. Presidential candidates consider themselves to be gods, at least not in the literal sense. Such notions are normally reserved for dictators in countries like say……….I don’t want to mention names here but North Korea comes to mind. Men with such extreme god complexes think nothing of steamrolling Christians and hanging them upside down on crosses while burning them alive.

Anyway, at least one of the candidates for U.S. president has managed to increase his riches through “wisdom in trade.” Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. The problem is when the “heart is lifted up because of your riches.” When a man’s heart is lofty he tends to think he can do things that most people wouldn’t dream of doing, such as grab and grope women with or without their permission.

But again I’m not prepared to say that increasing riches through wisdom in trade is bad in and of itself. Many people have done it. Mind you, I’m certainly not one of them. My heart may have been “lifted up” from time to time for other reasons but not because of my great wisdom in trade. Probably not because of my great wisdom in anything. Come to think of it I cannot presently think of any good reason for my heart to be lifted up. Nevertheless, I have the sneaky suspicion that it has been and that it might possibly be slightly elevated even now.

Humility is such a tricky thing. When you think you have it then you don’t really have it. I read that somewhere. Can’t remember where. Just somewhere.

In any case, when a nation has a leader who thinks he’s a god then that nation is headed for troubling times. At least that’s the way it was in Tyre. God had a promise for its king:
(7) ….”I will bring strangers against you,
The most terrible of nations;
And they shall draw their swords against the beauty of your wisdom,
And defile your splendor.”
(8) They shall throw you down into the
Pit,
And you shall die the death of the
slain
In the midst of the seas.”

As far as I understand it, The “Pit” in question was that bottomless one talked about regularly in the book of Revelation . It’s where satan is currently headed and where he’ll be held for 1,000 years while Christ is ruling the earth from Jerusalem. But before the Pit, God promised to bring terrible nations against Tyre. We’re talking large scale military invasion here.

It may seem unfair for an entire nation to suffer because of the pride of its leader but that’s often how it is. Thousands and even millions of people can be affected by the decisions of one man, either for good or for bad. That’s the power of leadership. It’s why we need good leaders in high places.

Leading the nation of America is a high calling best reserved for one with a lowly heart. It’s doubtful if such can be found amongst the two present candidates. Perhaps it’s never been truly found amongst any candidate in any generation. Whatever the outcome of the upcoming election I find a recurring thought in my head that says: “We need to pray like never before.”

Strangers from terrible nations have already come against America to an extent. Could it get worse? Yes it can. Will it? I don’t know. But for what it’s worth, I’m praying about it. Perhaps we all should pray because if times get troubling for America it will likely have a ripple affect on the rest of us.

The Pecking Problem

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Given the subject matter at hand, I’m probably not qualified to write this blog.

It should be written by a happy, peaceful person. Not that I’m completely miserable or altogether void of inner calm and tranquility. I probably have a million reasons to be happy. I just find it hard to think of them. Positive thoughts often elude me. Negative ones come naturally to me. I don’t have to chase after them. They just show up like an unwanted guest at a dinner party.

They’re the ultimate party crashers. Mental bullies. Emotional terrorists. Creeping, crawling insects of the mind. Who let them in? How can I get them out?

My family and I were recently stalked by a Crow. I don’t know what its problem was. He kept showing up on our front lawn pecking at the front steps. Sometimes he pecked at the windows. Maybe he was suffering from an identify crisis and thought he was a woodpecker. Or maybe my eyesight is worse than I thought and he really was a woodpecker and not a crow at all.

I told my wife one day that I wished to buy a pellet gun. It was the only fun solution I could think of to take care of our pecking problem. She didn’t think it was a good idea. She probably had doubts concerning my aim and feared for our neighbours safety. Not to mention our own safety.

But aren’t negative thoughts like the pecking of that Crow? Are they not troubling, tormenting and relentless? They never quit. If you leave them alone they’ll continue to peck away at your sanity. At the very least, negative thoughts will rip the joy right out of your heart.

The other day I was playing floor hockey in the basement with our son. The game went into double overtime and exhaustion began seeping into my aging bones. I suggested to the boy that it might be time to rap up the game as the possibility of cardiac arrest was looming over me.

He said, “Dad, relax. You need to get some joy in your life.”

I thought, “Where did that come from? Should I now take counsel from the lips of an eight-year old? Who did he think he was, telling me I needed to get some joy in my life?”

Trouble is, he was right. Of course, he wasn’t aware of my internal pecking problem. You see, I want to lighten up, I really do. But the constant peck, peck, peck, just wears you down after awhile. Maybe it’s not supposed to happen overnight. Some battles are fought over a period of weeks, or months or years. Perhaps for some of us, the battle of the mind is a lifetime struggle. We think a lot. We’re always thinking about something. But can we afford to just think about anything. Do we have no right to choose our own thoughts?

Yes, we do have the right but if we don’t exercise it we’ll be forced to live our lives joyless. Life for us will be like eating food when you have the flu and can’t really taste what you’re eating. No doubt, as long as the food enters your system it will still serve its intended purpose. But it’s much more fun when you can enjoy the taste.

Serving God, being a parent, and working are a few of many things you can do while miserable, but they’re much more fun when you can enjoy the taste.

6 Reasons Why People Should Drink

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Despite all evidence to the contrary some people continue to insist that there’s something wrong with the consumption of alcohol. For that reason I decided it was high time to show forth some of the benefits of drinking. I managed to come up with six reasons why people should drink but I’m sure there are many others.

1. It’s an easy way of escape from the harsh realities of life.
Prayer is hard work. Bible study requires effort. Going to church often means climbing out of bed when you’d rather not leave the comfort of the sheets. Tipping a bottle or glass to your lips is not difficult. It’s virtually mindless. You barely have to think about what you’re doing. Just pour it, tip it and swallow it. It’s as easy as eating fruit from a tree. (See Genesis 3)

2. It’s expensive
At first glance this may seem to be a reason not to drink but consider the fact that “nothing good is free.” and “you get what you pay for.” The hefty price tag is surely proof of the inherent value of alcohol. If it were cheap we would have every reason to question its benefits. Cigarettes are not cheap either and who can deny the health benefits of repeatedly filling your lungs with smoke and chemicals? What doctor worth his or her salt has ever advised against smoking and drinking?

3. It’s culturally acceptable.
We all know God would never expect us to refrain from something when everybody else is doing it. When did God ever say that we should not be conformed to the patterns and standards of this world? (Romans 12:3 notwithstanding) Didn’t Jesus say that we should never deny ourselves anything that we really want? (see Luke 9:23) It’s pretty obvious that’s what Jesus meant, especially when you take His words completely out of context and twist them so that they are barely recognizable.

4. It’s safe.
The way some people rant and rave against drinking you’d almost think alcohol was a contributing factor to thousands of deaths every year. We need to remember that people who drink and drive are probably bad drivers anyway. They probably would have crashed the car and killed innocent people even if they were sober. Though it has the potential to cause disease, the fact is, you may get sick even if you don’t drink. Just as there’s more than one way to skin a cat, there’s more than one way to destroy a liver.

5. There are millions of alcoholics in the world.
Can millions of people be wrong? If alcohol were so bad why would so many people choose to keep drinking even if it means losing their own family? Why would so many people be addicted to it? Obviously, the sober amongst are missing out on something here?

6. It’s extremely powerful.
It carries the power to cause sorrow, grief and regret. It destroys lives and rips families apart. It makes some men rich and others poor. It’s consumed by old and young, rich and poor, slave and free. It’s the most widely used and abused drug on the planet. Who can deny its universal grip on mankind? It’s almost like……a god.

It’s time to stop living in denial. What’s next? Is somebody going to develop a 12 step program to help people overcome their “drinking problem?” Are Christians going to start living dry as part of their commitment to Christ? It would be funny were it not so silly.

Swimming Upstream

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At the close of an important speech to Congress on January 6, 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt shared his vision for the kind of world he wanted to see after the war was over. He envisioned four basic freedoms to be enjoyed by all people: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. These definitely seem to be legitimate freedoms, who would not want them?

But there’s another kind of freedom that seems to capture the heart’s cry of many in our world today. Ravi Zacharias, in his book Can Man Live Without God, said, “Through technology the whole world has now become the media’s parish, talk-show hosts the prophets, actors and musicians the priests, and any script will do for the Scriptures as long as moral constraints are removed.”

That last phrase is the key, “any script will do for the Scriptures as long as moral constraints are removed.” To be sure, Christianity is not just another form of moralism. Christianity is first and foremost a personal relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ. However, Christianity has always taught, or at least it should have, the inherent danger in casting off moral restraint.

When the moral restraints are removed anything goes and society will find itself on a rapid descent into the abyss of chaos and confusion. The concept of one man and one woman entering into a binding, lifelong commitment to each other through marriage, is seen as one option among many. And not necessarily the best option. For some, marriage becomes an outdated and boring option in a sea of others which are more exciting, more contemporary, more in keeping with the times.

The early church were very careful not to place unnecessary burdens on Gentiles who had converted to the new “Jewish sect” which would later become known as Christianity. Certain Pharisees began to teach that these new Gentiles believers should be circumcised and keep the law of Moses in order to be true Christians. A church conference ensued and a decision was made. A letter was written explaining the church’s decision, the last part of which states (in Acts 15:28-29):
(28) For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us (the council of apostles and elders), to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things:
(29) that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, and from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.”

The council’s decree included some concessions to Jewish believers (“from blood, and from things strangled) but the kicker is that last “burden” where it says “from sexual immorality.” The early church decreed that believers in the Lord Jesus Christ should abstain from sexual immorality (a bit of a catch all term and basically means any kind of sexual activity outside the bonds of matrimony).

It is incumbent upon Christians to swim against the tide of moral depravity evident in the world around us. Sometimes the current is strong and there are many obstacles in the water. Sometimes we just get tired of swimming upstream. It would be so much easier to “float with the flow.” It may be helpful to remember that in the river of life there is a waterfall and once we fall over it there’s no coming back. There’s no rescue from the bottom of the falls. We must be rescued while we’re still in the river.

The way of rescue hasn’t changed. It’s still as easy as calling upon the name of Jesus Christ and asking Him to save you. If you come to Him and ask Him to be your Lord and Saviour then He’ll help you swim against the tide until you safely reach heaven’s shores.