Bucket List
December 12, 2016

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It’s funny but recently people have been posting on Facebook and even talking at work about having a “Bucket List”. It intrigued me as I thought about it because I realized I don’t have a bucket list. I used to have a bucket list when I felt certain things were important, but realize now that they’re not that important. It’s not that I “don’t have” a bucket list now, but rather I “don’t need or want” a bucket list.

I look at my life and think, “what do I want to do or where do I want to go before I kick the bucket”? The answer is nothing and nowhere.

I guess that makes me an odd kind of creature, but in analyzing it all, its because of a couple things. First,  I think that the Apostle Paul had it right when he said, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content”. (Phil. 4:11). I feel good about that. I guess I’m content.

Second, whatever God has planned for me is ok with me, either plenty or lack. The things I really want to do and go to are whatever God has planned for me to do or go to. It’s all in the Lord’s hands. See, because the things I want to see and places I want to go are all up to what God wants of me.  Let me explain.

I want to see Benny married. I want to see my grandchildren. All of them. I want to dance at their weddings. I want to help them with their homework. Have them call me when their mommy or daddy is “mean” to them. I want to see them at their prom. I want to take them to McDonald’s, take them fishing, see the Yankees or Browns play, walk with them at Buhl Park.

I want to play in the snow with them. Walk on the beach with them,  whether it’s Lake Erie or Maui. Lay in the grass with them at night and count all the stars and tell them that God has given all of them a name. I want to teach them that their really is a heaven and Jesus is the only way to get there, and when “Bapa” is gone, they will be with me there.

I want to teach them about God. His faithfulness and His purpose He has for their lives. I want to teach them to honor their parents, be a good sport when they lose, be a graceful winner when they win. Teach them that there is nothing more important than following God, finding out about Him, studying His Word,

I want to teach them about purity, that celibacy isn’t just a good idea, but it’s following God’s laws. Teach them that the teachings of this world about right and wrong most likely don’t line up with the Word of God. Teach them that their secular teachers and professors aren’t as smart as they think. Show them about respecting and loving spouses, fighting through tough times, and enjoying the good times.

I want to teach them that alcohol doesn’t make you braver and drugs don’t make you cooler. Swearing doesn’t make you distinguished, smoking is a stupid habit, and faithfulness is all that God asks of us.

I want to explain to them that Bob Dylan is a literary genius and he was the best songwriter of their grandfather’s lifetime, that the Beatles are the best band ever, and that it’s ok to be different.

See if this is a bucket list, then this bucket list isn’t about going or doing, but it’s about being. I want to live. A quiet, peaceful, life that causes no harm to anyone. I want to positively impact my grandchildren’s lives.

I watched “Elf” with all my kids and their spouses and my grandchildren tonight. I don’t think I could ask for anything more than that. I’m perfectly content with my life and in need of nothing.

Although seeing a World Series game with Ben in Yankee Stadium would be pretty cool.

273.6/257.3

War (What is it Good For?)
November 12, 2016

img_4610Well hasn’t this election been crazy? The campaigning seemed longer than most wars. I’m particularly glad that the advertisements are off the television. I’m glad we’re moving on with life………oh wait.

People decided they didn’t like the democratic process, so, as the Doobie Brothers put it, they’re “taking it to the streets”. Riots. Damaging cars and stores. Because. They. Lost. The. Election. Think about that for a moment.

They’re not rioting because the poor aren’t being fed, the veterans can’t get services, the homeless are sleeping on the street. It’s because. They. Lost. The. Election.

I got to admit, I never cried when the candidate I wanted didn’t win. I remember though, being 12 and crying when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated.  I had great hope for him. But I mourned a death, not a lost election. OK, I’m old, so humor me and answer me this question?

What the heck is wrong with this generation? Cornell University had a “cry in”. Seriously, a “cry in”. Students who couldn’t handle that Hillary lost, all met together and cried. Now wait, there’s more. The school gave them chalk so they could write their feelings on the sidewalks. I’m talking COLLEGE kids, not elementary school kids who had their crush move to another school, but this is college age students.

So a couple schools made tests “optional” because how distraught the students were that their candidate lost. Seriously. The phrase “Nutty Professor” is making more and more sense. What is wrong with these kids? But its not just the kids.

Adults, on Twitter, hoping someone would assassinate Trump. A black woman tweeted about how a “brother ought to take one for the team” and kill Trump. This is the tolerant, kind hearted, liberal people who feel Trump is going to “destroy the country” while they are burning buildings and cars? Does anyone see the absurdity of all that?

When I was a teen, I got involved in a campaign to have a Lt. Kelly be released from going to trial. His crime was during the Viet Nam war, he killed innocent people because of orders given to him. He did kill them, no doubt. But he was under order to. I started a petition in high school, got hundreds of signatures to release him and to arrest the commanding officers who ordered this. My teachers thought I was crazy, and my friends were stumped why I, a long haired hippie, would support a soldier instead of being against the war. I just felt it was the right thing to do. I sent it to President Nixon. I never heard anything, he must of been busy. Did you know he was a Quaker? Quakers are against war of any kind. I guess we can say he wasn’t a very good Quaker.

I hated the war. It was long already, but back in 1973, it was winding down. Nixon ended the war and the draft. I don’t care about Watergate. He ended the draft. Thank you “Tricky Dick”.

The war made no sense. (I say this with the realization that some wars do make sense). I knew people that came back in a box. People came back horribly addicted. Some people came back with mental problems as well as physical issues  because of “Agent Orange”, a chemical we used that ended up hurting our soldiers.

I was 18, not ready to run through the jungles of Viet Nam or Cambodia and try not to die. I couldn’t imagine how different I would have been if I went. For those who went, I salute you. You are better men than me. But as Billy Joel said in his liner notes for “Goodnight Saigon”, a terrific song of the fear and horror of Viet Nam, “To those of you that didn’t go to Viet Nam, you didn’t miss anything”.

But I didn’t loot or riot. I didn’t want to kill the president. I didn’t want to go, though. I wanted to stay home and listen to the George Harrison, Moody Blues and Dylan. Heck if Muhammed Ali could avoid the war, I could (although he went to jail for awhile). To this day I don’t know if I’d had gone or went to Canada like all the liberal Hollywood liars said they’d go if Trump won, but are still here. I honestly was a scared kid who didn’t want to die.

So, yes, I was young once. And as far as I remember, I was against a lot of things, but I never rioted to make a point. I guess my parents were better parents than I thought. I was raised better than these college kids, I guess. Values do that.

 

273.6/258.4

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.

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!

 

 

Winter
January 7, 2016

Well, week one into 2016 and winter has arrived. I’m ok with that, as apparently, I’m a northern kind of guy.

Christmas Eve and Day was like 60 degrees, which is kind of nice. See, I like cold and cool weather. So 60 is cool and lovely. I guess that at my age, I’m over a white Christmas. If it happens, cool, if not, I’m very ok with it.

We’ve had just one snow, less than an inch. I find I like snow also. Not a “Oh boy, it’s snowing”, but more like a “oh, it snowed”. I’m learning to adjust to life. So let’s throw a bit of Bob Dylan in here, which is to no one who knows me surprise.

This song I discovered is called “It’s Not Dark Yet” off his “Time Out Of Mind” CD (in case you want to buy it……). Fascinating song as I am approaching the winter of my life. I’ve learned to accept things that are. There are a few things this song says, and I’ll quote it without permission and hopefully not infringe on copyright laws.

I have come to the conclusion that western Pennsylvania, maybe where I’m at in Sharon or somewhere near by, is where I’m supposed to be. This is where God has me. This is where God wants me. I had wanted to move to California with the kids, but they moved home. I had wanted to travel, but that desire has left me, also. If I travel, I want to do it as a family. I’ve also discovered that I love it here. Maybe that’s the Lord helping me, but I do. My desire is to live where my kids and grandkids will live. I have a friend Bill Jones who picked up and moved with his wife to eastern Pennsylvania because it was between where his two kids lived. I get that.

I never understood why Paul McCartney always dreaded his “Beatles” years after they broke up. He rarely sang Beatles songs, mainly doing his solo work. I’ve noticed as Paul’s aged that he has embraced that the Beatles was a part of who he was, but not who he was. Now he does a nice mix of both in concert, so I’m told.

I’ve found that out about me. I hated the high school years. I think that’s why I drank so much in high school. Started drinking at 13, just hated Sharon. Moved to Florida twice, and came back to the area and when I got married we bought a house in West Middlesex. Not Sharon. As I’ve aged, I’ve noticed that I’m embracing my high school years as a part of who I was, but not who I was, just like McCartney. It was a part of who I am, but does not define me as who I am.

I was popular in school, but it didn’t satisfy me. I look back on the drama of high school and some of the crazy things I did and I should be dead. But God spared me and here I am. Friends who betrayed me, friends I betrayed, relationships that ruined me and relationships I ruined, poor decisions that I made. This brings me back to Dylan.

Always was a Dylan fan. He spoke for my generation, but it wasn’t until lately I’ve encountered some of the songs he did, especially off the Bootleg Series 1-12, that really speak to great depth in my life. Songs that I go, “Yeah, that’s true” or “yeah, I believe(d) that”. As I’ve turned 60, it’s becoming clearer to me that I have become older and wiser. Things don’t bother me like they used to, (well, except the Browns, but I’ve been working on that for years), and I really don’t care what people think. I believe if I had that attitude in high school I would have enjoyed it more. But back to Dylan.

The whole song “It’s Not Dark Yet” is so good and speaks so much to who I am. The one verse goes:                “I was born here and I’ll die here, against my will. I know it looks like I’m moving, but I’m standing still. Every nerve in my body is so naked and numb. I can’t even remember what it was I came here to get away from. I don’t even hear the murmur of a prayer. It’s not dark yet. But it’s getting there.”

I guess as I’m in the autumn of life, late October I’d say, that’s where I’m at. I’m in Sharon, at first against my will but now my will is lining up with God’s. I’ll probably die here. I’m ok with all of that. Heck, I got cemetery plots here.

This is where I’m to be. I like it here. Everything I need and want is here. My wife, my kids and their spouses and their kids, all here. I’m a blessed man. I don’t need a vacation. My life is a vacation. It was 12 degrees this morning and I walked in the Park. Crazy? Nah, enjoying home.

My home isn’t gorgeous or in the greatest neighborhood. I’m not a “fixer upper” kind of fella, so things need done. I get to things eventually, although I’d rather pay someone to fix things because, hey, that’s why we work, don’t we? Ain’t got a whole lot of money (“but I’m so in love with you honey”)But I love where I live. I do. I’m home. People say you can’t go home. You can, but it’s not the same. It’s different only if you’ve changed.

I absolutely have only one regret. I wish I’d married Bonnie earlier in life instead of 30 so I’d be around for the grandkids longer, but who knows? God’s timing is perfect.

Winter is here. It doesn’t last long. I’ve embraced it. Life is very good, and I’m realistic about life and the outcome. It’s Not Dark Yet. But it’s getting there.