Thursday, September 13, 2012

About: Gains and Losses - Lifes Ups and Downs

This post started out as a short sermon to some elderly folks and I thought that perhaps it’s a message that deserved a bit wider audience.
I called it “Gain and Loss” because that is what life is like, and if you haven’t discovered that for yourself, look out!
Eventually, we will all discover the nature of loss, even though for the first part of our lives, most of us experience gain, after gain, after gain.
Our youth is all about discovery, learning, exploring, receiving, in fact it’s a bit of a dream world for many of us. I realize that this is not always so, many children experience an untimely loss of a parent, a pet, a sibling or grandparent or even their innocence.
But in general, the first half of our lives is often a steady series of gains and in the whole, is probably quite positive. But eventually we realize that there is much more to the story, this state of being can’t go on indefinitely, eventually life (or death) catches up with us.
Even though we probably recognize that life is a series of gains and losses, ups and downs we try our best to forget that every time that we gain something, as wonderful as that is, it opens us up to the possibility of losing what we’ve gained sometime in the future.
A house can burn down or it could be re-possessed, a car wears out and eventually quits. When we get a new puppy or a kitten, we know that it will grow older and one day it won’t be with us anymore.
We know that a job doesn’t last forever, our health deteriorates over time and when we get married, part of the vows say, “as long as you both shall live” so we know that even the best marriage doesn’t last forever.
Our kids don’t stay little; they grow up and move away. Our hair doesn’t stay red or black or brown or blonde, eventually it turns grey and sometimes it even falls out!
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking. “Who is this guy with all the bad news? This is depressing.”
But there is some good news and I’m getting to it right away here, don’t worry.  Because even though every single thing that exists will someday fade away, absolutely everything, even mountains will one day be gone, but there is one gain that will never turn to loss, there is one thing that is very real, that will never perish, never fade, never disappear.
Some of you may have guessed already what it is I’m talking about.
I’m talking about being fortunate enough to gain Jesus in our lives, to have a personal relationship with God; I’m talking about salvation, the most incredible gain that we can ever experience.
And the wonderful thing about knowing Jesus as our savior, about being saved, and having that assurance that we will spend eternity in the presence of God, the wonderful thing is that this is a gain that we will not lose.
In Romans 8:35-39, Paul says that nothing will be able to separate us from the Love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Nothing! And that my friends, is GOOD NEWS!

So even though everything else will one day end, the most precious thing, the most valuable thing, will never end. And this is something that we can all have if we choose Jesus, it’s not some exclusive club that only the rich get into, we all have that opportunity to choose life.

Once we have truly accepted Jesus Christ into our lives and made that choice to love Him, to follow Him, to worship Him, then He will never leave us and our eternal future is secure.
I’m just full of good news now, aren’t I? This is the part of being a Christian that I love, not just knowing the good news, but also being able to share it with others!
So here it is again: Jesus died, He gave His life for our sins and He did it so that we can be forgiven, and our faith in Him guarantees our forgiveness and that means that we are truly saved.
Our faith in Jesus means that we are forgiven, our faith means that we can have hope, it means that we are adopted sons and daughters of God like it says in Romans 8:23.
Loss is part of life, death is part of life, and every gain will one day turn to loss and disappear, except one, the very best one of all!
Antique Skates at the Ukrainian Heritage Village

Friday, July 20, 2012

Weird Sounds in the Chimney leads to Tearful Confession

Have you ever had one of those days when you’re just minding your own business, sitting on the sofa and whammo, something weird happens? Well, I have. The other day that was exactly what happened when I began to hear weird sounds coming from inside the fireplace chimney. Those weird sounds reminded me of an incident that happened maybe 20 years ago when we came home from holidays to a bit of a horrific scene that was a bit reminiscent of a Quentin Tarantino movie, or maybe even a Walt Disney Movie, (why yes Bambi, your mom has been murdered by hunters, time to grow up!)
On this particular day many years ago, we came home to find that some poor, stupid young bird had blundered down the chimney and right into our living room. Of course, that probably wouldn’t have been too bad for the little avian invader except that we have a cat. The feline protector that owned us at the time was named Chenille and she took her duties to us and the cat community very seriously indeed. So seriously that she considered all of our personal property dispensable when it comes to repelling invaders, what a ruckus that must have been! Lamps knocked over, something like that movie with the famous song, “we are Siamese, if you please, and even if you don’t please.”
I imagine the poor bird must have eventually surrendered to thirst or hunger and tried to swoop in and sample the cats water or food dish that was being replenished often by my wife’s sister (in case you were wondering) and with a quick pounce that was the end of that, squab a’ la carte, with little left over!
So the other day when I heard the sounds of what could only be a bird in the chimney, I glanced around for our latest fuzzy wonder, Mischief, or Missy as we call her when she is occasionally being good. No cat bungler in sight, so I sat back to listen and wonder why it is that chimney cap designers and wasp trap designers share the same tricks designed to trap inside whatever happened to blunder in.
After a few minutes of flapping around sounds, all went quiet, “good, I thought, this particular birdy is a bit smarter than the last intruder, no need for heroics on my part. No breaking out of the ladder, no rappelling down the confined space in my Santa suit, no embarrassing reindeer messes on the roof-tops, what a relief.”
I didn’t give it another thought…….until the next day.

My wife, Rose got up a bit earlier than I did that morning and practically the first thing she said to me was, “can you do something?  Missy has been trying to get into the fireplace all morning, she knocked over the fireplace screen and she thinks there is something in the fireplace.”

“What do you need me for? Was my inner response, "why is it my job to kill the big hairy spiders that occasionally crawl out of the drain and to deal with whatever is caught in the chimney? Don't we live in an enlightened society (sort of)?" Then why does she get all, “somebody help me, you’re so big and strong and handsome, please do something, there’s a ferocious weasel trapped in the chimney and you learned all about how to deal with that in pre-marital counseling or boy scouts or something, right honey?”
Of course, I’m not so dumb that I would say anything like that out loud, no sir’ee, Mrs. Petry didn’t raise me to be so foolish. So what I actually said was, “of course, I’ll take care of it.” And that’s what I did, I proceeded to take charge, making life or death snap decisions like I was born to it!
“Ok, I’m going to open the patio door, we’ll put the fireplace screen here, blocking the way so it doesn’t go further into the house, Rose, you stand here and don’t let it get past you. Ok, all ready, I’ll open the damper and see what happens.”

I grabbed the handle of the damper and gritting my teeth, gave it my best Chuck Norris move. Wham, a giant cloud of soot and ash billowed out of the chimney……along with a very sooty, bedraggled, startled looking little sparrow. He, or she, took one very quick look around, didn’t like what it saw and flew straight out the patio door. Crisis averted, yay, Mr. Dad saves the day.
A second later and floompph, another cloud of soot and ash, and another very sooty, bedraggled, startled looking little sparrow, looking very much like a sort of befuddled looking miniature crow. That didn’t last long though and then it was, zoom zoom zoom, right out the window after his buddy.

“What is this, a convention?” I thought to myself. “Any more of you up there?”

Rose and I looked at each other and laughed out loud, “that was weird, she said. I think Mischief saved the lives of those birds!”

                                      A sparrow takes a bath in our backyard pond.     

It thought about that, if she rescued those birds, I imagine it was quite by accident, because if they were here right now, and even covered in soot and ash, I think she would gobble them up in a second, very much like Sylvester the cat and Tweety bird.
As I reached up to close the damper again, my eye was drawn to a broken tile on the hearth, “oh no, I put those tiles in myself 20 years ago, now one is broken, great!”

Angry, of course not, (ha ha) I wasn't angry, just disappointed that I was going to have to replace one tile for sure and if I know my wife, and I do, probably all of the tiles, and the mantle, and the trim, and I suppose this would be a good time to repaint the walls and scrape off that icky popcorn ceiling and build a garage!
“Might as well just move and get it over with.”
"Huh?" she said, for some reason she wasn't following my train of thought!
Well, first things first, “let’s clean up this mess” she suggested, shrugging her shoulders. Soon the dustpan and the vacuum were busily employed cleaning up ash and after a few minutes I noticed my lovely wife had gone a bit quiet.

“What’s wrong honey?” I innocently enquired.

“I have a confession to make, don’t be mad at Missy, she didn’t break the tile.”

“Oh, this should be interesting,” I thought to myself.
“I broke the tile a couple of months ago when I was cleaning the mantle, I knocked over the mirror and when I tried to grab it, I knocked the plant off the mantle and the pot crashed down and broke the tile.”

“That’s why that Catch Phrase game sat there for a month and then I went out and bought a basket and set it over the broken tile, I was trying to find the right time to tell you.”

“LUCY, you’ve got some ‘splainin to do!” No wait, I’m not Ricky Ricardo and my wife is not Lucille ball and our lives are not the “I Love Lucy’ show in spite of the many similarities.

It was then that I had a little bit of a deja ‘vu moment that reminded me of a time when this same wife, (I’ve only had the one) told me a few years ago that she had been backing out of a driveway and we now had a nice fresh scrape down the side of the car. “How had I responded that time?” I asked myself. And then I remembered and knew just what to say.
 “Don’t worry honey, I like my car (or in this case tile) but I LOVE YOU!”

Friday, June 22, 2012

Adventures In Banking

I thought I would write today about one of those mundane, everyday chores that we all do, banking!  And I should say that not every trip to the bank is so much fun, but on this particular day it was a treat. I’m sure you know how it is; all of those little things come into alignment and shazam! What is usually tedious turns out to be fun.

For some reason, the most mundane of chores, becomes, "what you make of them", just like the old cliché says. Life is full of things that we would rather not do; standing in lines, changing tires, scraping frost off of car windows, and BANKING! I’m sure that banks try to make it less stressful, tiresome, and irritating for their customers, I’m sure they try, they must, don’t they?

Before I get to the actual subject of today’s post, how about a quick banking adventure that went the other way, not so much fun, but seemingly designed to instill patience into a bank customer? Did I hear a yes? Well okay then, you asked for it.

 Today, a lot of banking is done with ATM machines or on-line and that does help a lot, but occasionally for work I have to go to the bank. Often I'm just making a quick stop to make a deposit and I love the little "quick-deposit" slot at the bank for commercial deposits, what a great idea. One day though, I was surprised when there was a "closed" sign over the deposit slot and a long line at the tellers and of course I didn't have the night deposit key, ouch! I decided to come back later and when I returned, the sign was still there, along with the long line. Were these the same people? In a bank line, anything is possible! But there were no lawn chairs or sleeping bags to be seen so they must have been new victims.

 I was thinking at that point that it was weird that the quick deposit was still closed and because I really needed to make the deposit, I approached two bank employees standing at the reception desk.

 This is our conversation:

Me - "Hi, I need to make a deposit and I was wondering why there is a CLOSED sign over the quick deposit slot."

Bank Lady - "Oh, it's not closed; it's just that after a certain time of day, the deposits aren't counted until the next day, they must not have taken the sign off last night."

Me - "So the deposit slot was never really CLOSED, it's just that if you were to use it after the cut off time, it wouldn't be counted until the next day?"

Bank Lady - "That's right."

Me - "I think a better sign would read like this, "Deposits Made after 3pm will be counted on the next business day."

Bank Lady - No response - just a weird look.

Me – (Trying to clarify the meaning of the apparently incomprehensible sentence that I had just spoken) "The slot is not actually closed, right; it just won't be counted until the next day?"

Bank Lady - "That's right."

Me - Then why does the sign say "CLOSED"? This is my second trip to make a deposit to the "Quick Deposit slot" and I'm still trying! Maybe you could mention that to whoever would be in charge of changing it?"

Bank Lady - "OK" (accompanied by a weird look)

Months later, the sign still says, "CLOSED" but now I just move the sign out of the way, make the deposit and put it back, oh well.

 Now I’ll tell you about one day when I went with a work colleague to the same bank. Occasionally we need to go to the bank and do some specialized banking that requires a particular person, usually the same lady, I’ll call her Betty, (because that’s her name).

 Betty has a desk with a couple of comfy chairs in front of it and this is Betty’s desk so she has it customized with little mementoes, personal items, very nice. We had been sitting there for a few minutes, doing the usual banking stuff when she asked our names and said something like,

“don’t tell me, I remember, it’s Bob and Doug, right?”  Yes, we said, that’s right, good memory!

“Oh, it’s just that a long time ago I had two boyfriends named Bob and Doug, that’s why I remember.”

 Of course I can never resist a perfect setup! So I shot back with, “at the same time?”

Fortunately Betty has a good sense of humour and she took it in stride and responded primly, “no, not at the same time!”

 “Well”, I was thinking, “I got away with that, what other mischief can I get into?”

 “Bob” my colleague, seemed to pick up my mood, along with some kind of a little knick-knack off of Betty’s desk, and waving it around, he asked, “What’s this?”

 Betty looked up from the computer screen and replied, “that’s one of those Aztec pyramid things, a…….” “Ziggurat” we all seemed to chime in at about the same time. “One of my customers gave it to me; she got it on a trip to Mexico.”

 “Oh, that’s nice”, we said together.

 Picking up a framed picture of a really attractive alert looking dog off the desk, I said, “Is this your customer’s dog, too?”

 We laughed because it seemed funny, but Betty piped up, straight faced, “no, that’s my dog Max, he’s gone now.”

 Oops, way to put your foot in it, Doug! But Betty was a good sport and I quickly came back with an apologetic, “Oh, I’m sorry, he’s beautiful.” (He was, just a gorgeous reddish sort of colour, and very alert looking, did I mention that?)

 We took a break from the revelry and got down to some banking business for a few minutes before my hyperactive colleague noticed all of the paraphernalia on Betty’s desk where she keeps a stapler and some scissors and as we picked up each item and looked it over, we noticed that all of the stuff at her desk is carefully labeled, “Betty’s stapler or Betty’s scissors or Betty’s frying pan”.

 Sensing an opportunity for more fun, we patiently waited for Betty to go off on one of the numerous errands to the copier or whatever and as soon as she was gone I grabbed a pen and one of the big elastics lying around and carefully printed on it in big bold letters, “Betty’s Elastic”.
Betty's Hook - (just kidding)

 Oh, oh, Betty was coming back, what would James Bond do? Quickly I slipped it over her personal telephone, so that the printing faced her chair. “Betty’s elastic” she chortled as she sat down, “I love it!”

 Her co-worker took a quick glance at the situation and rolled her eyes, as if to say, “don’t encourage her!”

 Ah, those were the days, Betty where are you now?

 Still working at the bank you say. Oh well, see you next year when we come down again for a bit more banking fun!