So Unfo……what was I talking about?
June 11, 2017

 

forgetful

So, the one thing I am consistent on is my inconsistency. I didn’t realize that it has been two months since my last blog. It’s not that I didn’t have anything to say, as that rarely happens, but it’s not on my radar. I forget. I’m not focused.

I love writing (or typing) but it appears that I am not doing what I love to do best. Well, obviously, EATING is what I do best, and I do that well, thank you.

But I find I am getting forgetful. Age? Maybe. Too busy? Doubtful. Not focused? Bingo! Hold your cards, we have a Bingo! Again, hold your cards, we have a Bingo!

I am the least focused person I know. Example, just today. I go to pay for something today at the store and you have to put your card in with the chip to pay for it. So I wait…..and I wait…. then I ask the lady, “Does this machine not have a chip and I have to swipe it?”. She says, “No, it has the chip”. So I wait. Bonnie leans over and tells me, “You put the card in backwards.” As she always says, I’m not “in the moment”.

Then I go to the car and as I head for the door, I think, “Why is Bonnie driving?”. Well, she wasn’t, I was, but I apparently was heading for the passenger door. Forgetful. Not in the moment. Unfocused.

I have lived in the Shenango Valley for 55 of my 61 years. I walk in Buhl Park anywhere from 3-5 times a week. I love that park. But like today, I go to head to my car and Bonnie is going a different direction. I realize that I am headed for the wrong parking lot. I quickly catch up to her and pretend nothing happened.

Have you ever driven somewhere and as you’re driving, think, “I don’t know where I am or where I am going”? I’m not talking driving through Moscow, but your town, your county, places you’ve traveled your whole life. I have to focus on where I’m going.

Now I’m not really worried about this as I’ve been this way most of my life. I remember as a teenager driving home from Canfield, Ohio toward my home in Sharon, PA. I’m thinking, “take 11 South”, so I go. And I go. And I go. And I’m thinking, “I don’t remember it being this long”. My buddy Chuck was with me and I say, “are we going the right way”? He tells me that we are. So I drive. I saw a sign that said “Airport 12 miles”. I’m thinking I took a wrong turn and am heading toward Vienna, Ohio airport. It wasn’t until I saw the sign saying “Welcome to West Virginia”, I realized I needed 11 North, and the airport I was 12 miles from was Pittsburgh, PA, not Vienna, Ohio. I stop at a gas station for directions and watch two guys lifting their engine out of their truck with a two by four. West Virginia.

Yeah, that’s me. Unfocused.

Praying is hard for me. As I’m a preacher, that’s not good! I’ll be praying and in the middle say “Is that coffee I smell? Gee, what will I eat for breakfast? Did the Yankees win last night?”.  Then I try hard to go back, and start thinking about the day, the night, the anything, and I’ve spent 10 minutes praying, and the only one prayed for is my dog because he’s sitting in front of me. It’s work.

I start conversations and never finish them. Ben says, “What?”. I ask him what he’s talking about. He said, “You started a sentence and never finished it”. I tell him, “Be quiet and watch the game”. Then I realize he turned the channel and he’s watching SportsCenter now. Unfocused.

So, I attempt to be focused. It’s not easy for me. Maybe for you that is reading this, maybe you can’t relate, particularly if you’re a female. But fortunately for this country of ours, the draft ended and I didn’t have to go to the military. Because, it would be quite possible I would end up wandering into a Vietnamese village asking if this was West Virginia.

 

P.S. I had to edit this blog. I said I walked 3-5 times a day in the park. I wish! It’s 3-5 times a week, so I changed it because, Hey look! A squirrel.

 

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Winter
February 12, 2017

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This isn’t open to debate. I’m telling you the truth. I love all the seasons as there is beauty in them.

But what I like about western Pennsylvania is the beauty of winter. Although fall is my favorite, I truly love winter next.

There is something about winter that is peaceful. I chose this picture as its a picture I took of a beautiful February sunset over the wide open fields. The calmness and the serenity of the photo is what winter is for me. What comes to your mind when you hear the lyrics “Silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright”? A beach? Nah, me either. I see a snow covered peaceful field, where shepherds heard the glorious news about our Savior.

People complain that it is too cold. Winter here is cold. But that’s ok, I’m not that much of a sissy that can’t handle some cold. This winter and last has been mild with little snow. I love snow, so it’s a bit of a disappointment to me.

Now I’m not saying I like snow on the roads. Untreated roads are nerve wracking, and troublesome, but if that’s the worst of it, I’ll take it.

I remember living in Florida and missing the cold. I went to the movies, saw “The Shining” (NOT recommending the movie). There was a scene at the hotel where it was surrounded in snow. Made me miss it.

I had a friend that lived down  there and he was from Cleveland. He said he hated the winter and that the cars were dirty, you track snow into the car. I didn’t .

I remember Christmas shopping in Florida, and you’re in the mall and shopping with Christmas music, Santa inside, place all decorated, and you go around the corner, sunshine, people in shorts, step outside and it’s 85 degrees. Not my cup of tea.

I lived in Florida twice, and when I moved back the second time, it recorded the coldest actual temperature in the history of Mercer County. This was 1984. And I remember, thinking out loud, “God, why have you brought me here”. I really felt that He said, “Because I need you here.”

That’s the point. That’s when I really fell in love with winter. Because God placed me here, then this is where I want to be. See, people move because they don’t like the area, and they don’t even ask God if this is where they should go. I asked, and He said so.

They say, “I want to live near the ocean”. “I need to live in the mountains”. “I need to live with no humidity”. “I need to live where the land is flat”. “I need to live where their are lakes and streams”. And they never consult God. I want to live where God has me.

I just realized I moved back here 33 years ago. I have lived a great majority of my life here. God has placed me here because I am needed here. I’ve gotten married, have three great kids, two in-laws that aren’t in-laws to me because I consider them my own, and three grandbabies here. And it gets cold.

I see the little ones bundled up, cute as can be. I see the blessings of being able to have a warm house and car, “winter skin” that I can put on, and, on days like Friday, open up the windows because it’s 60 degrees.

Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t like other places. Southern California, driving along Pacific Coast Highway, is absolutely gorgeous. No humidity. I like it there, but I like here better. Because this is where God wants me. At least for the past 33 years.

People that say “come to paradise” doesn’t phase me or entice me. “Paradise” for me is doing and being what God wants, when He wants. Before I was a Christian, comfort was what I strived for.

I’ve learned that when we complain about the weather, we are murmuring against God. As Paul said in Philippians, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” How? “I can do all things through Him (Christ) who strengthens me”.

I’m content here. Small little house, nice little church, great church family, great family, and all four seasons. Solomon, the wisest man ever, says everything is vanity. He had chased after fame, fortune, success, yet was not satisfied because his affections left God and focused on other things.

My focus is God. Wherever He wants to send me, I will go. And if He tells me to stay, I will stay, because there are two things I absolutely know.

  1. There is a God.
  2. I’m not Him.

 

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Christmas Eve Eve
December 24, 2016

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Well, here we are. As I write this, it is 15 minutes until Christmas Eve, so this is still Christmas Eve Eve. Best time of the year and, if you follow this blog, you know I love living in western Pennsylvania, especially from September first until New Years Day.

It’s just so beautiful, and this year there has been lots of snow, and although it is getting warmer, there will be snow on the ground for tomorrow night, Christmas Eve.

There’s just a special, almost magical feeling on Christmas Eve. There is the thrill of the celebration of the birth of Christ. I know that nobody knows when Jesus was born, but it’s the celebration. It’s the realization that God Himself came to earth, took on human form and becoming 100% man while still being 100% God. Immanuel, God with us.

I love the giving spirit behind this. The anticipation of children. Haniah is 3 1/2, is well aware that Santa is coming but realizing it’s also the birth of Jesus that we celebrate. I have Christian friends that do not celebrate Christmas, and my thoughts are, why wouldn’t we celebrate the birth of the Savior of the World?

Church on Christmas Eve is my favorite. All my brothers and sisters in Christ gathered together to worship the King of the world. The music, the companionship, the shaking of hands, hugs, and kisses on cheeks. The realization that this day celebrates the one thing us believers all have in common…..Jesus Christ is Lord.

This time of year I think of the importance of Christ’s birth. I was always amazed as a child that there would be a ceasefire in the Vietnam War during Christmas. Amazing. People trying to kill each other in the name of their governments would stop and take a day or two of peace. All because of Christ Jesus.

People being nicer to each other. But I’ve noticed the election has brought out the worst in people, particularly this season. There is no forgiveness, no tolerance to opposing views, and love is hard to find. People who think differently than others are bigots, racists, stupid, and more.

But that’s where we come in. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Not for peace with each other, but peace with God. We were enemies of God because of our sin and our falling away from God. But when we realize that the One who’s birth we celebrate in two days also is the one who died for our sins, then we find peace with God.

We celebrate that Christ took us, totally not worthy, and made us worthy. No other religion has a God that died for us. No other religion has a Father who sacrificed His own Son. No other religion has grace for our sins.

This Christmas is remarkable. The joy in little one’s eyes as they wait for the day. The joy of giving to loved ones and the joy in giving to those in need. The joy we have in knowing that we will have eternal life with other believers, if truly ourselves, we are believers.

For so long it’s been politically incorrect to say “Merry Christmas”. But there appears to be a renewed Spirit in this land. “Merry Christmas” is welcomed. And in some places, Christ is even welcomed back. He’s always been welcomed in my home. Hopefully, someday, He will be welcomed back to the United States. At least that’s what I pray.

Merry Christmas.

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Merely Mortal
July 26, 2016

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It’s been a strange couple weeks. Not “strange” as it being odd, but “strange” in being eye opening. So maybe the word shouldn’t be “strange”, but instead, “enlightening”.

First, since it’s been awhile, I have a new granddaughter, Selah Hope, who I absolutely adore. I now have three grandchildren, two granddaughters and a grandson, whom I love in a way that I didn’t know was possible for me to love. It’s like loving your kids, only different. A lot different. Hard to explain it, but its like God opens up a new part of your heart to have these little munchkins inhabit. Beyond words.

With that being said, two weeks ago Bonnie, my wife of 31 years, was hospitalized with chest pains. I was called to where she works and told she was having pain. Now my wife is a daughter of a nurse, and unless you’re dying, you don’t go to the hospital. I tell you, it was the scariest thing I’d been through. She was pale and weak. So off to the hospital we go.

They ran tests, labs, x-rays, CT Scans, the works. They decided to keep her overnight for observation. My wife, to say the least, is a very poor patient. She was in the hospital bed with a gown, refusing to take off her pink scrubs from work, and wearing her tennis shoes! I told her to take her pants off and stay in bed and she tells me there is no need for that. She believed that there was no reason for her to be in the hospital, and that the Lord had her there to pray for people. That, in a nutshell, is my wife.

It was discovered that she had a leaky valve in her heart, and that she has to wear a heart monitor for a month. Now, it’s been over 90 degrees for a week and a half and will continue to be that way, and we are helping my daughter and son-in-law move into a new home. She had no intention of  doing this heart monitor thing, however, our doctor is the sweetest woman we know, so she wouldn’t fight her. So here we are with that.

Last week, the young Princess (that’s what I call Selah), was running a fever of 101.8. She was three weeks old and the doctor told my daughter to take her to the ER. So it’s 2 in the morning, and Jo Jo, Selah, and I are in the ER. They ran tests, took blood, and I admit, was horrible to watch. The poor thing was poked and prodded, and trying to get blood from a three week old was very, well, trying.

They could find nothing wrong, but decided that they needed her to go to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh, and by ambulance as her fever wasn’t coming down, and a three week old shouldn’t be having a fever. So I go home to be with the Princess (Haniah, Selah’s three year old sister) while mom and dad go to Pittsburgh. It was a crazy week.

They took tests, x-rays, couldn’t get blood so tried a vein in her head, and the nurses said that Selah was one tough girl. They were testing for meningitis and other things. She was hospitalized 4 days and mom and day got to stay at Ronald McDonald House, which is a fantastic place that parents utilize to stay close to their kids while they’re hospitalized. I will not rush by the donation requests for the Ronald McDonald House at my local McDonalds anymore..

Needless to say, all came back well, and it was a virus. Thank God for that.

These two incidents brought me face to face with the blunt reality that we are all mortal. We have a beginning and an end. From my wife to my granddaughter, thoughts of the reality of the end of life smacked me in the face. What would I do if something happened to Bonnie? Or Selah? Or, actually, anyone in my family. Are we ready for this?

I’m 60 and realize that things happen as we get older. This past month also saw my blood pressure getting out of control, and have been monitoring it closely with slight adjustments to meds. I’ve been walking nearly every day, but that is no guarantee, although helpful. of a longer life. Bonnie’s Uncle Ron, who is the most fit man in his age group (early 70’s) that I know, was hospitalized with a blood clot. It could have killed him.

There will come a day of reckoning for all of us. Some sooner than others. It is with this thought in mind that I wonder if I’m doing enough for God. I wonder if there is more I should be doing. I know God loves me no matter what I do, but what do I do that shows God how much I love Him? Do I love my fellow man and woman? Do I care at all for the poor? Am I self-centered or Christ-centered?

As I reflect on these, I realize that all that matters is that at the end, Christ will say ‘well done, My good and faithful servant’. My goal now, is to make sure that all I do is for Him, not for me.

I’m finding that it is hard to do. I’m finding that I am merely mortal, and it’s God’s grace alone that compels me to do good. To serve. To love.

I think I woke up.