Posted in My Journey

Giving Thanks

Next Monday will be Thanksgiving for us Canadians. I can honestly say that this year has been one of the most remarkable years of my life. Never have I experienced such a powerful renewal of spirit as I have. And I believe this year is just the beginning.

The little things are what I am thankful for.

Such as when I finish shopping, a line will open up for me at checkout, saving me oodles of time later on. I enjoy how the lights going home all turn green, as if by some unforeseen miracle the lights themselves know I am on the road. It still impresses me when I arrive in a restaurant with the family with no reservation and the server gives us the last booth in the place. And I am in awe whenever I go to a movie to find it has sold out, but when ordering the ticket, a spot just happens to become available. This has happened on more than one occasion.

I am thankful for autumn, when the leaves change into a rainbow of colors, and all I can do is stand there wondering what have I done that I should so enjoy such an incredibly inspiring sight. I am thankful for this season’s rain, and the way it makes the moss on the rocks in the woods smell musty and worn. I am thankful for the lake in town, that I can watch the ducks paddle in among the fallen leaves by the shore, and relish in their simple life.

I am most of all thankful for my family—for my wife, Luana, who has supported me this year during my change from being lost to being found. I know she has prayed to God for my change in heart, as I know the kids have had their hand in it, too. I am thankful for my kids, one who is studying business, and the other who is pondering the life of a preacher. Both have been my inspiration. Both have provided me countless hours of joy.

Lastly, I cannot end this post without being thankful for my new church, where I have learned that I am worthy to go before the throne of God and worship him with my whole heart. No other place have I felt this before.

Oh, and of course, I am thankful for God patiently waiting for me (Isaiah 30:18) while I got my head straight as to realizing what is important in life. He has blessed me with peace (John 14:27). He has given me the hope that lies in Christ (Ephesians 1:11-12). He has shared with me his Sabbath rest I so truly sought for so long (Hebrews 4:9-12).

For all these things, next week’s Thanksgiving Day will be a day of absolute gratefulness in my home.

Posted in Freedom Friday

Black Friday Deals

By the time you read this, I’m hoping it will have snowed. At least that is what the weather channel says. Putting it into perspective, I’m writing this a week in advance with the thought that Americans will have celebrated Thanksgiving the day before and it is currently Black Friday. Happy Thanksgiving weekend, y’all.

Black Friday
Black Friday

For today’s Freedom Friday, let’s have a look at shopping on Black Friday. Is it worth it?

In recent years, Canada has played host to Black Friday deals offered to Americans. That’s how I had purchased my new laptop last year. I managed to pick up one of those fancy IPS touch screen laptops. It’s a beautiful machine, fully loaded and made to last. Only, you wouldn’t have found me lining up in front of the store. Shortly after midnight, when the online specials had gone live, so did the thrifty shoppers with their clickers. I was one of them. I’d saved $200 on that deal alone. The next weeks leading up to Christmas, that same laptop had gone back up to the regular price.

Worth it? Definitely.

In 2010, as part of a promotional deal, an unknown site was raffling off several Apple iPod touch at half-price. To give you an idea how it worked, a shopper had to click an “I want one” button, fill in their credit card details in the form, and submit. The site had only 70 devices available, displaying also the amount of shoppers wanting one. The odds? 1,200 to 70. You guessed it. I won the chance to purchase the device at half-price. I saved $160. At the time, it was the best Christmas ever.

Christmas Shopping
Christmas Shopping

I’m also a finicky buyer when it comes to headphones. My ears are important to me, and how I feed them is equally important. Being a Tinnitus sufferer—that’s ringing in the ears to all you folks who are wondering—I make sure when I purchase headphones or earbuds that they are of the highest quality. Anyway, one year I’d wandered into the Best Buy in town to see what deals they had to offer in the audio department. I wasn’t expecting much. I figured everyone had already picked over the spoil. But to my surprise I found a top-of-the-line pair of Sennheiser earbuds stuck behind the cheapies stock on the shelf. I’m assuming someone had placed them there for safekeeping until such a time when they could come back and purchase them. Total savings for that purchase was $200.

There are other deals. Like the $250 my kid saved last year for his very first laptop, the $75 for my first Apple iPod classic in 2007, and the $90 for my second Apple iPod classic in 2009.

Adding it all up makes for quite a chunk of change. Is Black Friday worth it? I don’t know. You do the math and tell me what you think?

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Do you shop on Black Friday? What did you pick up that made the day special?

Posted in Freedom Friday

Waiting

I’m not sure how it works in other neighborhoods, and it might very well be the same, but all I know is once November 1st hits, the Christmas lights come out in full swing. If you’re from the Toronto area, you’ll know what I mean.

Halloween
Halloween

Enjoy this Freedom Friday post about the merits of waiting.

October 31st is Halloween. You wouldn’t guess that is true from what happens the next day. The day after Halloween is fun. It’s like the stores magically turn their decorations from ghouls and goblins to Santa’s merry little elves, and the Christmas trees are ready for their assault on shoppers. I never know what to make of it. Like a perfectly timed choreography, even the radio ads turn to Christmas carols—and it’s only the day after Halloween! Yes, I know I said that a few times. I suppose I’m trying to make a point here.

Christmas
Christmas

Now, I understand retailers wanting to start early with all the festivities, but I’m just not ready for that. In the United States, it’s a sweet deal. Being Canadian, I actually appreciate it more than you’d know. For Americans, the day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday. It’s when retailers finally turn their bottom lines into black. Christmas for them also officially begins that day. I know of a family in the States, and possibly most families, who string up their decorations for that weekend.

See, to me, that makes sense. I don’t think Americans would argue with me either. The day after Thanksgiving gives you a whole month to go off and plunder the stores all in an effort to get the best deals around. That’s logic. It makes sense.

Here where I live, the day after Halloween the kids are still recovering from having eaten that pound of candy they told their parents they wouldn’t consume. The boney ornaments from the night before are still hanging on the door outside, waiting to greet the mail carrier who will more than likely be there to deliver the Christmas catalog from your friendly neighborhood department store. And the nearest coffee shop will have the Christmas tunes blaring on their sound system hoping customers would purchase their cinnamon mocha cappuccino ole espresso Irish divine cream coffee.

Whatever happened to waiting? Everyone’s in such a rush to do the Christmas thing nowadays that no one stops to ask why. Has the media conditioned us in such a way that we accept everything fed to us? Where’s the patience?

I say all good things are worth the wait. I know it’s a cliché, but isn’t it true? I’m not talking about Christmas only. Sometimes waiting for the perfect opportunity to act on a decision will yield the best results. Sometimes waiting for the next bus will save your life. And sometimes waiting for the rain will make things grow faster.

Waiting patiently makes for an incredible character-building experience. Perhaps this time of year is the most optimal time to build that character.

Or maybe—I just don’t know what I’m talking about.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

Have you had to wait for something in your life that you wished would have come sooner?

Posted in Freedom Friday

Autumn

Autumn is my favorite time of year. I know, it is weird talking about fall in the middle of summer, but if you’ll amuse me for a moment, you’ll see where I’m going with this. Besides, I’m strange that way. I was the guy talking about summer vacation while it was still snowing outside. And believe me, being Canadian, although we do get quite a lot of snow, we don’t receive half as much as some of the places in the States. Anyway, let’s talk about autumn for Freedom Friday.

Small Town in Ontario, Canada
Small Town in Ontario, Canada

I like autumn. Yes, we’ve established that. I like it because of a few reasons. In Canada, we celebrate Thanksgiving a month prior to our American counterparts. So when we’re carving up our turkey, filling our gut with tryptophan, that’s the stuff that makes you sleepy after a turkey dinner, south of the border it’s business as usual. I suppose the reason for this stems from the fact our autumns come earlier. Yet, when I look at some of the northern states, they just as equally have fall around the same time. Therefore, I’m in a bit of a quandary as to rationalize why either we Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving early or Americans celebrate it late. Don’t ask me to google it, ‘cause I’m not going to. If you know, tell me!

All right, back to this autumn and Thanksgiving bit. I enjoy our Thanksgivings here in Canada because the leaves have all changed colors and haven’t dropped to the ground yet. It makes for a perfect opportunity to take some pretty awesome shots.

Now, where I live, I’m in the middle of farm country. We have plenty of cornfields, and tons of cows, horses, sheep and any other farm animals you can probably imagine. No, not velociraptors. Well, other than Halloween. The best part? We have a vast swath of woods to discover. I have been to maybe a tenth of what my area has to offer. The rest lays dormant for me to explore.

Farm Country, Ontario, Canada
Farm Country, Ontario, Canada

What else? I love autumn because it’s not too hot and it’s definitely not too cold. I need a jacket in the mornings, but I can shed it by early afternoon. Also, it’s the rainy season, and if you’ve read my blog long enough you will know just how much I love the rain. I relish the water beating down on freshly cut grass. The smell is intoxicating. Ah, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

My most beloved time is that sweet moment when the leaves begin to fall and the rain has yet to dampen them to a brown hue. The crackling sound under my feet drives me to want to dive into a newly raked pile.

The Woods, Ontario, Canada
The Woods, Ontario, Canada

In that time, one single moment exists I cannot resist. Late in the evening, when the wind tosses and churns the leaves into the neighbor’s yard and I stand there under a street lamp right before it begins to rain. I can feel it. That eerie feeling when everything’s about to erupt into thunder, and the lightening takes over the skies. My nostrils fill with the smell of moss. My ears hear the breeze wafting over my shoulder.

And then—it rains. Like a symphony.

I dash into the house and the skies explode as a choir of angels heralding the second coming. It’s beautiful. It’s spectacular.

Now do you see why I love autumn?

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale October 22.

Do you like autumn weather? Is it strange talking about the fall when we’re still in the midst of summer fun?