Archive for October, 2017

But I like it here……
October 22, 2017

So my last two blogs have been about death, so let’s talk about life.

I love autumn in Pennsylvania. It truly is beautiful. Actually, from Sept. 1 through Jan. 1, to me, is the best time of the year.IMG_7229

You heard the saying, “different strokes for different folks”? Some people like the beaches. Some people like the hot weather. Some like mountains. Me? I like the changing of the seasons, with Autumn being my favorite. I love everything about it. Especially here.

I love the smell of Autumn. When leaves fall and the wind blows. The sound of leaves crunching under your feet. When the colors remind us that paintings and pictures are good, even with filters, but only God can make colors so stunningly beautiful with a rainbow of colors that man can’t match. I noticed this summer when walking with Bonnie how there were so many shades of green. But Autumn is magnificent.

Now I enjoy winter. The cold is refreshing, and my thoughts are, “you can always add clothing”. The beauty of the snow. How it sits on the branches. OK, driving in it is a bit much at times, but that’s not the norm.

IMG_2261

I love the cold on my face, then sitting near a fire for warmth. I love the sound of crunching snow when I walk. I love the taste of hot chocolate. I love the sounds of silence when one goes outside. It is never depressing to me, it’s enlightening. It causes me to realize that seasons pass, just like in our lives, and that even when it is harsh, like life, you can still find beauty in it.

The first snow, particularly December snows, are the most beautiful to me. It’s like a reminder that God blankets His earth as He pleases. And it’s beautiful. I love the “winter sky”, you know, the gray puffy clouds reminding us of the storehouse of snow they hold.

Spring is always gorgeous. The thawing of the snow, the sprouting up of flowers, buds on the trees (the return of insects, however, is not as beautiful). It’s a reminder of the end of the harshness of winter, and seasons change. As George Harrison said, “All Things Must Pass”.

IMG_5911

The excitement of kids that school is ending soon, the excitement of adults that they will not have to shovel snow for a few months, the excitement of sports fans that their favorite baseball team is up from the south, ready to “play ball”.

Of all the seasons, summer is probably my least favorite, although it is beautiful. It’s usually hot and “buggy”. The good thing is the sun is out longer, lightning bugs appear, cookouts begin, and everyone plans vacations. Why people wait until the weather is nice to leave and go somewhere else where the weather is nice is beyond me.

IMG_0762

People say I’m crazy for staying in western Pennsylvania, but I like it here. It has everything I need, especially my family.

Home is where your heart is. Mine is here. And while I used to always want to leave this “hick town” and area of the country (I did, TWICE), I always came back.

And here I am.

And here I stay, satisfied, not having to go anywhere.

Because my life is a vacation. And I can go to Buhl Park.

Advertisements

Hey Joe
October 5, 2017

Joe BeckA little over three weeks ago, I had to do another funeral for a friend. As a preacher, weddings and funerals are part of the gig. Weddings are mostly fun, at least in the beginning. Funerals, however, are bitter sweet. This one, of Joe Beck, was sweet because he’s with the Lord, but bitter because I won’t see him again.

Some funerals are hard for me. I’ve done my dad’s, my brother-in-law Tom’s, Bonnie’s mom Nadine, and friend’s parents. I rarely get my own time to grieve. So let me use this as a final chance to grieve. This funeral was hard.

Joe was a character, to say the least. He had a hard time hearing, a hard time saying “no” when people were in need, and just an all around good guy. We say that at funerals, don’t we? “He was a good guy”. “She was a great gal”. But Joe truly was a great guy.

I performed his and Cindy’s wedding. I went to see Bob Dylan with Joe and our friends, Rich and Roberta. Joe and my wife Bonnie aren’t big Dylan fans, go figure, so Joe was my date. We shared many bonfires, Christmas parties, and work days at the church. We talked often how that for some reason God saved us from ourselves as we should be dead. But for some reason, we were alive.

We ran with some of the same people in the past, and it was amazing that we didn’t run into each other, unless of course, we did when we were drunk. We both became Christians, and continually thanked God for not letting us turn our craziness and debauchery into death, and that He saved us for a reason.

We always had a routine we did in church. Whoever would see the other one first, one of us would say, “Hey Joe,” and the other would respond ” where you going with that gun in your hand”. (For you young folks, this is a line from a classic Jimi Hendrix song, “Hey Joe”).  As we would leave church we always hugged and gave each other a kiss on the cheek. (2 Cor. 13:12- “Greet each other with a holy kiss”.)  None of this was ever premeditated, but it just happened. And neither one minded.

He sat on the right side of the church, first row. Those of you who know me sometimes are aware that I ad lib a bit. I do that in my sermons, and when I did, it usually included a friendly jab at Joe, teasing him. He would turn red, but always smiled, the congregation would laugh, and Joe would say, “Well if you’re picking on me, you’re leaving other people alone.”  I always told him, “I only pick on the ones I love.

He always talked about “Going home”. He knew he had an eternal home waiting for him and was ready to go. I know he didn’t want to leave Cindy or his kids and grand kids, but he certainly wanted to go home. We both talked about wanting to “go home”.

The Sunday before he died, we gave each other a kiss on the cheek and he started to walk away. He turned around and said, “Hey keep me in prayer. The doctor says that I only have 20% of my heart working. They’re putting me on a transplant list, but I’m almost 70, they’re not going to give me a heart.” “Of course”, I said. Four days later he was dead.

So he died, 4 days before his 70th birthday. He shared his birthday with Bonnie, and they were birthday buddies.  It’s hard not seeing him in the front row. It’s hard seeing how his wife Cindy and sister Sue still mourn. Death is the great equalizer. An old Italian proverb says, “At the end of the game, the pawn and the King go into the same box.” That’s how death works.

He went home. I miss him.

Hey Joe, where you going with that gun in your hand?