Archive for March, 2016

Homeward Bound
March 31, 2016

 

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I love where I live. It’s a pleasant little home, in the city, and I really like it. I lived in the country for over 20 years and then was “transplanted” back to my hometown of Sharon, Pennsylvania. It’s not a bad place.

But my house, I love it. I find that I don’t like to leave it. It’s “homey”. Now my other house was homey too, but I found we liked to leave it to do things. Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s complacency, or maybe it’s that I like being home. Either way, I like it.

When Paul McCartney left the Beatles, he had difficulty talking about the Beatles. When his new band, Wings, was playing, many times the interviewers were asking about Beatles times, and he didn’t want to talk about it. In fact, many of his concerts featured zero, or only a couple Beatles songs. It’s like he didn’t want to remember his time there, as he isn’t THAT GUY anymore. He couldn’t embrace what it was because it ended badly.

I thought about that when I got out of high school. I didn’t hate high school, but I didn’t love it either. I was into alcohol pretty regularly my last two years, and discovered pot my senior year.  I had two sets of friends, actually three. Those I drank with, those I smoked with, and those I didn’t do any of those with. Obviously, I had NO relationship or awareness of Jesus Christ at this point in my life. I’m beyond thankful that I do now. And so do my kids.

I was a pretty friendly fellow, had lots of friends.  I had a good relationship with my classmates. I was the class vice-president for the Class of 1973. It was fun. I didn’t run for president, too much work. We’d drink a lot, spent a lot of time drinking at a doctor’s house where his wife would actually serve us drinks. His son was in my class. Drank a lot with my friend Chuck and would be with him at Francis’s house, where his mother never minded if we drank there.

I was unbelievable slow with girls. Only had a girlfriend or two during the high school years. Even though I was popular, I was never pushy with them. Had tons of crushes but, believe it or not, was actually too shy to pursue them.  I was a virgin when I graduated high school. Never went to prom as I didn’t want to go. I’m still not much of a dancer.

We started a group called “Bleacher Bums” and we’d travel to all the basketball games. We started chants and choruses of songs.  Chuck, Frank, Scott, Tom, just a bunch of us having fun. What a great time that was. Usually drinking. One game Chuck and I arrived late, and there were no seats so we sat in the New Castle section. This was back when we were a big school playing big teams. For some reason that I don’t remember, we were kindly escorted out of the gym by two of Sharon PD’s finest. The principal, Mr. Bennet told us to meet him in his office on Monday .

We went to our usual parties, and my buddy and I  were at the party imitating Mr. Bennet, saying “Get your hat and coat son, you’re going home”.  We thought we’d be expelled. Well Monday comes, and no call to meet with Mr. Bennet came……..until 10 minutes before dismissal.

Well, a bit nervous, we approached Mr. Bennet and he was as cool as could be. Said he was disappointed with us, hoped we’d represent the school and team better, and if it happened again, we’d be expelled. Well, from that point on, we made better decisions. Just one beer before the game ( a 42 oz. beer), then party afterwards.

With all that being said, I loved THAT part of it, but couldn’t wait to get out of Sharon. I remember running into Nick and I told him I was living in West Middlesex and he said, “Couldn’t you find a house in Sharon?” as if that was THE place to be in the valley.  I wanted no part of it. Until I came home.

I felt like Paul McCartney (I wish), and being completely sober for 30 years, I am fond of my time in Sharon, and I fell like I really am at home. I embraced who I was then and who I am now. As Paul began doing Beatles songs and embracing his past, I too have embraced those times and celebrate my past. I’m so thankful to be home. The saying is, ‘home is where your heart is’. Well, I guess I’m home.

I really don’t know what I would have done if the principal told my kids, “get your hat and coat, son you’re going home'”. They were better kids than their father was a kid. But I think they had a better father than I did.

 

Thanks For The Memories
March 24, 2016

192,585 miles.

Bought in 2005, my Dodge Caravan finally had to be taken down. It was a great van, bought it new and probably is the only car I bought new and paid off during my married years. A lot of family history was in that van. It was more like a covered truck than a van.

It had 192,585 miles on it. It had the original motor and original transmission. And it’s a Dodge, so you know how amazing this van was. We had the van checked at 40,000 miles and they told us that this transmission will be lucky to go another 40,000 miles. They were wrong. Way wrong.

“Blue Thunder” moved my eldest boy Luke to and from Allegheny College. Actually, I think all our trips were in that van. We’d take the seats out and fill it up. In fact Bonnie’s “Allegheny Mom” sticker was still on it.

The van also moved my daughter Jojo to and from Kent State University. Again, take out the seats and load it up.

The van brought me home from Pittsburgh after my back operation. Lying down on the middle seat with my brother Bob trying to avoid all the potholes on the way home. This is Pennsylvania, remember, land of taxes and potholes (but not necessarily in that order).

The van was part of the funeral procession for Bonnie’s mom, Nadine.

The van took us to and from church every Sunday. Drove us to Parkside Church to hear Alistair Begg preach, or go to the Pastor’s Conferences.

It drove us to North Carolina.

It drove us to the airport on numerous occasions for flights to California.

It drove us to Buhl Park so Bonnie and I could take our walks.

It took us to concerts, Browns games, Yankee games, and Cavs games. It took us to see the Scrappers play, as well as kid’s softball, soccer, and baseball games.

It caused Bonnie to be very angry at me because she got pulled over by the police because the registration had expired. I think she is over this, however, it’s mentioned annually, sort of like a holiday.

The kids needed furniture moved. Blue Thunder to the rescue.

The kids needed to borrow it for whatever reason. It was always there. But, like a human body, it began to break down. The body was eaten away by the salt from the 11 winters of western Pennsylvania. The window on the driver’s side didn’t work. The latch to the hood was broken, the air conditioner didn’t work, it needed an exhaust system, the horn didn’t work, and the material on the ceiling was starting to sag with age. (I said, just like a human body).

Finally, today, the decision was made to put the old girl down. So much history, and although I don’t get attached to material things, it’s kind of sad to me.

Not even for all the times I used it and the stories mentioned above, but it was a part of me. Not like a human or a pet, but I loved having the windows down and blaring Dylan out the window. I didn’t need or want a fancy car because I’m not a fancy guy. I just wanted something reliable and faithful. And it was each of those.

So Blue Thunder, thanks for all the great times. Thanks for all the times we counted on you and you didn’t let us down.

Dang, thanks for all the memories.

I hope my Honda does just as well.

He Ain’t Heavy……Well, Yeah, He Is
March 16, 2016

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So I went to the doctor’s last Friday for a follow up appointment from when I had my urinary tract infection. Listen to this wonderful story about my health insurance.

Before I took the insurance, we called to see if our doctor was covered, and was told she was. I then asked what hospital I was to use, as my doctor is associated with the one at the end of my street, called Sharon Regional. So they said it wasn’t on the list, but I was “probably” covered. I don’t trust any of them.

Let me back up. In February, I ended going in to see an associate of my doctor, as my doctor wasn’t in, and told him my complaints. He gives me a urine test and says there is an infection. Antibiotics and if there are still problems then I should go to the ER.

That night, I couldn’t breathe. Bonnie was at work, she calls the insurance and says what’s going on and what hospital should I go to. The lady said Sharon Regional wasn’t covered and I had to go to UPMC (which I preferred as I believe it’s a better hospital. I’m so glad Bonnie called, because this gets better). So off I go and all sorts of tests, x-rays, etc., and I go home.

Now I like my doctor and I’m deciding do I find a doc associated with UPMC? After all, if I’m hospitalized, she can’t come see me. So, as I like the doctor, I’m keeping her.

Ok, back to the present. Before I go to the doctor’s on Friday, Bonnie opens the mail and we get a bill for my urine test. My doctor’s associate, apparently, sent it in for testing TO SHARON REGIONAL, and I got a bill for $500! I’m going to sell my urine if it’s that valuable! Chanel No. 5, look out.

Now my doctor who I saw last Friday is a sweetheart. I like her personality and her medical skills. So she tells me my blood work is good and I’m in “great shape”. (I love this doctor). Other than my sugar which was 8 on my hemoglobin A1C. It should be 6 or lower. So, back to walking and watching what I eat. I also have a cyst on my kidney that they will monitor.

I’ve discovered something about me during this aging process. I’ve said this before, I don’t care much what other people think. They want me to get on the scale, and normally I empty pockets, wear shorts, no socks, take off coats, and trim my nails and eyebrows to get my weight taken and tell myself that the kidney cyst must weigh 5 pounds AT LEAST. Not anymore. Jeans, hoodie sweatshirt, socks, jacket, pockets full of keys and a wallet. It didn’t matter. I am what I am.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m going to try to lose weight, and normally I weigh myself in the morning with just my gutchies on (sorry for the visual there), and weigh myself before and after my shower and take my lowest number. However, I’m no longer stressing about it. I’ll try my best and weigh myself occasionally. I’ll exercise and attempt to lower my A1C, but that’s it. No fad diets, but will try to get off the diabetic med.

Now, I realize I am in “great shape” because of medicine. So I will try my best to get off the meds for blood pressure (maybe just quit following the Browns, that should lower it) and keep the cholesterol low. I’ve incorporated oatmeal with all natural peanut butter and add fruit. Actually, it’s my favorite meal, at least for now.

I want to be around for my grandchildren and dance at their weddings. (When I dance now, I realize I move like a drunk rhino or Elaine on Seinfeld). So I’m not making light of it. I want to encourage everyone to do what you can to lose the weight you need, strengthen the muscles you need, and don’t give up.

In the meantime, I cut my portions, have an occasional piece of Philadelphia Candies chocolate, share mini M&Ms with Haniah, but try to focus on more balanced meals. Ok, yesterday we had Olive Garden and I ate enough bread sticks to build Trump’s wall, but that wasn’t the norm. I wish it could be. When I’m home I eat wheat pasta, and I hear my mother’s voice saying, “Joey, I raised you better than that”. But, she died at 68 from complications from her diabetes and heart. So, Mama, I gotta do what I got to do. With the help of Christ, through prayer.

I hate on Facebook when people say, “I’m going to do this” or “I’m going to do that”. Just do it. After you’re done, let us know what you did. That’s my plan. An occasional update. Today I weigh 273.6, fully clothed, as I don’t want to have you visualize me, you know, the other way.

 

I, Me, Mine
March 10, 2016

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I’m self evaluating. Not sure why now, not sure what brought this on, but that’s what I’m doing now.

I find myself questioning my motives on all things lately. Why do I share certain things with others? Is it for their approval/disapproval? Why do I do the things I do? To please myself, others, God, none of the above?

Why do I put expectations on myself but not on other people? Do I feel I have to “be” a certain way or “act” a certain way? So bear with me while I figure this out.

As a pastor, who loves Jesus, I find that my behaviors and actions are at times more that I “like” Jesus more than love Him. I have attitudes, behaviors, thoughts, etc., that certainly wouldn’t be pleasing to Him. I feel shame with some of this, but as I evaluate, do I really feel shame or is it that I’m “supposed” to feel shame?

Do I write these blogs to get noticed, or do I write them for me? Do I have a need to be noticed, and if so, why? Am I that self absorbed?

I’m remarkably flawed, and it astounds me that God would ever want to use me in the pulpit. I tell Him, “You are one desperate Deity”. But yet He does. And He never lets go. Subtle changes have taken place, and other changes are yet to come, so let’s just put it out there. This is me.

I love Bob Dylan ( I have 35 of his CDs and have seen him twice in concert) and the Beatles. I find that the music moves me. There’s a show that is called “House of Cards”. It’s not a nice show, it’s a political show that I would not recommend to other Christians, but I like it very much. I am a very strong New York Yankee fan, I’m passionate about them and the Cleveland Browns. Win or lose, they are just a part of me. I get angry when they lose. But, as I’ve aged, the anger leaves quickly.

I’m a conservative Independent from a liberal democrat family. I will probably vote for Donald Trump. Everyone says if you’re a Christian, you shouldn’t vote for him. I don’t care, I probably will because I like the changes he wants to make. He’s vulgar, verbally abusive and can be mean. I’m not voting for his bedside manner.

I remember when my daughter had to go to a specialist and the doctor was very mean and ill mannered. I didn’t care because I hired her for her expertise, not her chumminess.

I loved my mother deeply and liked my dad. I get angry I see my dad in other people but I get madder when I see my dad in me.

Did I mention I love Bob Dylan?

I think our current president is one of the most ungodly presidents ever put in the White House. Then I remember that the Lord puts rulers in their places, and sometimes gives the people what they want.

I have a wickedly sometimes warped sense of humor. Morbid at times, inappropriate at times, but I always go for the laugh. I’m told I’m not supposed to. I’m working on it. But obviously, not very hard. I’m 60, not sure how much longer it’s going to take.

I’m greatly overweight, or I’m undersized, depending how you look at it. If I was 6′ 8″, I’d be the perfect weight. I’m undisciplined in my eating, but I do enjoy my walking to 199. I love it. I’m bald, and I am so ok with it. People think I shouldn’t be, but I am. And as I’ve gotten older, I care less and less about what people think of me. Although I care deeply what my wife and children think, and more so for my grandchildren.

But, I love all people. Christian, atheist, whatever. I love people who like the Pittsburgh Steelers (even though for the life of me I can’t figure out why they do). I love people who love the Boston Red Sox, although I believe a mental disorder is present. I realize if it wasn’t for Christ, I would not be very likable.

I love my church people, but some I love more than others. I’m like that with a lot of people. People tell me “I love them in Christ” but they don’t like them. My response is that if you love them in Christ then you’ll die for them. Outside of my wife, kids, and grandchildren, there aren’t many I’d die for.

I think I am a very good preacher, not by my doing, but by God’s. I don’t think I’m a very good pastor, however. I can get distracted and be lazy. I can put myself first at times, and that truly bothers me that I can do that.

I don’t want my flaws to be a stumbling block for someone coming to Christ. My political or sports or music views should not cause one to stumble. I wouldn’t want that.

Nobody knows how many prayers I’ve prayed for the Lord to change me more like Him. Struggles with thoughts and actions, confusion about “what is a Christian?” or “how does a Christian act?”. I look through the Scriptures and see David, a murderer, Jacob, a liar, Peter, a denier of Christ. Yet the Lord used them, as He uses me.

So my reflection has taught me this: I am a Christian pastor. I am also a human being sanctified daily.

 

Already Gone
March 1, 2016

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Not trying to copy Bob Dylan (as if I could do it justice), but time is ridiculously quick. As I type this, it’s the end of February, and I can’t believe it’s gone, even with an extra day.

I remember my dad used to tell me how fast it goes as you get older. And now February 2016 is gone.

It doesn’t seem long ago it was New Years Eve 2000, and we all feared the planes would fall from the sky, the computers would crash, we’d have no food, not water, no gasoline. And here we are 16 years later.

It’s funny how things go as time passes. I’m not going to have the body that my head said I could have when I gained weight back 30 years ago. Still overweight, but realizing that I won’t have the “beach body” I thought I’d have. It’s that realization that is overwhelming now. I can probably lose some weight, diet the right way and exercise, pray that God gives me the strength to do that. But “beach body”? Nah. Time went too fast.

I’ll never get good at the guitar. I’ve had a guitar for 15-20 years. Oh, I can pick a few songs, but not where I can look at the music and play any song. It was hard to reach some of the chords. I don’t even touch it now. I practiced some for a few years, said I’d pick it up again, but it won’t happen. Not that I’m old and going to die, but just because that desire has pretty much left me. Time went too fast.

I’ll never get Bonnie the house she deserved. We lived out in the country for 21 years, 4 acres of land. Always wanted to get her a wrap around porch. Put a rocking chair out there, sit back and drink coffee in the evening watching the sunset, and strum my guitar. Sort of like Andy Taylor in Mayberry. I live in the city now. That porch isn’t going to be built out in the country. Time went too fast.

I’ll never get to England. Always wanted to walk Abbey Road, check out where Apple Studios was, visit the Cavern, go to Liverpool. Oh, and some other non-Beatle things are there I hear. But I’m not going to spend money on that now. Time went too fast.

I’ll never learn Italian. Bought an Italian course, never kept up with it. It’s a hard thing to learn a second language. At least for me it is. It’s too much work for now, and seriously, what’s the point?  Time went too fast.

I don’t want this to sound depressing or “woe is me”, like I’m old and ready to die, because I’m not. I suppose that if I desire, I can get back with the guitar or learn Italian. The key is “if I so desire”. The beach body and house with a wrap around porch in the country just ain’t going to happen. But see, it’s like John Lennon sang, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

Dylan is right on with this. Time flies, we grow old, our views change, and nothing stays the same. But like he says, “you better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone. Oh the times they are a changing”. Everything changes. But here’s the good news.

I am writing blogs. I am studying the Scriptures more than I ever have. I’m mentoring young guys at the church. I know God better than I ever have. I’ve learned how to pray, not how a book tells me to pray, but how God tells me to pray.

I play with my grand kids and spend more time with Bonnie and my kids. I enjoy the sunset and sunrise. I’ve rediscovered Buhl Park. I stop and smell the roses. I don’t drink, smoke cigarettes or pot. I remember “the night before”. I have deeper relationships with friends that are deeper than any I’ve ever had. I have a love for my wife that can’t compare to what it was 30 years ago or with any other type of love I’ve felt. Before I used to care what people thought of me. Today, it doesn’t matter.

I’ve learned to not sweat the small stuff and discovered that most everything is small stuff. I don’t worry like I used to. I have learned to keep expectations low on people and high on God. I’ve learned to lean on Christ more and me less.

Actually, life is good right now. The past is the past and it’s already gone. But today? Man, I really am digging it. And tomorrow? Can’t wait……..but let’s not go so fast!