The Story and How It Goes
August 13, 2017

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Sooooo, I’ve been busy. LOL.

It’s been quite a while since I blogged. But here’s what is happening.

I have been enrolled in a pilot program from UPMC for people with various ailments (i.e. diabetes, high blood pressure) to teach proper eating and appropriate replacements for foods not so good for you. The purpose is to see how people’s blood numbers can change for the better by proper eating and live a healthy life.

This is how it works. They send you 3 meals for two people, (Bonnie is in the program also,  she’s healthier than me but also a cancer survivor, praise God) every Monday, with all the fixin’s and the recipes for the week. Then for three dinners, you eat what they send you. The rest of the meals are on you. But they give you a goal for the week.

For example, the first week is to divide your plate into four sections: protein (so far that can be meat), grains, fruits, vegetables. So that is the focus for week one. For week two it’s focusing on including different vegetables into your diet. This will go on like this for 16 weeks with different goals.

This is a great program and we both want to do well because this program could save lives and relieve the need for pharmaceuticals.  We are both very excited. It’s not a diet, it’s a changing of eating. A changing of living. The first thing Bonnie and I noticed were “portions”. They’re small in regards to protein, but not small with healthy veggies and fruit.

I realized that my portions prior to this could feed a small African village. I had been exercising but never losing weight, and it was because of portions and crappy food selections. And the change in all this has been easy.

Today is Day 12 and I’ve lost 12 pounds! That excites me. I no longer drink anything but water. I thought not having pop (soda) or diet pop (soda) would be difficult, but it isn’t at all. It’s not even a challenge, or even an “urge”. We don’t drink alcohol, so that’s not a problem. No sweets either, and there’s no temptation. Bonnie had a zucchini brownie she made that was very good, and satisfied the cravings for sweets, which have been minimal since I started this. I’ve had issues that my blood pressure is TOO LOW! That has never happened. This trend will quite possibly result in less medicines or getting off the medicines all together. That’s the plan.

Also, if you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram (please feel free to do so) you’ll notice I am at Buhl Park a lot. Bonnie and I walk three miles at least 5 days a week and usually 6 days. This also is what is helping I’m sure. We are both just so excited with this and our kids are behind us 100% and are very supportive. They will glean off of us for the recipes.

I love that this isn’t a diet, but a changing of eating. The nutritionist asked me what my goals were and I told her I just wanted tools. Tools on what to eat, tools on how to cook, and tools on how to adjust my mindset.  They give me these.

This program has been an answer to prayer, as we both asked the Lord to help us learn what to do right when it comes to eating. And this program does just that. We eat much less meat (If you’ve never watched the documentary “What The Health”, you should). People are giving me advice, but all I know is that what I am doing is working.

Now, I take no credit for this, but give the glory to God. I don’t buy into this “self love” thing, I do this for my love of God. I’m a miserable sinner and God loves me, so I don’t need to love myself, because there is nothing lovable about me. It’s ridiculous, because that is the problem with most of the world, “Look at me”. I prefer to point to God. That’s why I won’t post pictures to say “Look at me”. I took one of those “before” pictures, but that if for my own chuckling. It was pretty repulsive.

I won’t post my weight, maybe when I get down to where I want to be. I will post my progress (you know, up a pound or down a pound). I won’t post recipes or “plans” other than diet and exercise is the answer. I’m 61 and never been so excited. I will be encouraging others to take control with God’s help. If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ, hit me up on Social Media and we can talk.

My life is a vacation. I have everything I need with Bonnie, kids and grandbabies. I am happy. And if losing weight makes be around longer, I’m for it. Because my bucket list only has one thing on it.

I want to dance at my grandchildren’s, all my grandchildren’s, weddings.

I covet your prayers.

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

 

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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.

 

273.6/257.2

Finally Doing My Part
April 1, 2017

 

OK.

So Bonnie said something totally profound to me. (She does that, quite a bit). She said, “Joe, you are totally happy with your health if you can take a pill to make it all better”. Ouch. Hurt like pricking my finger to take my blood readings.

She’s right.

I’ve been flirting with my diabetes, well, actually its a wild affair, for 18 years I think. It has been manageable by walking, kind of watching what I eat, and then just living life. Well, apparently, life has changed for me.

My readings have not been good for a while, going between 180-210, especially in the mornings. So the doctor increased my meformin from 500 twice a day to 1000 twice a day. I thought the increase would keep me at status quo. But oh no, not at all.

My next step is insulin. I told the doctor. Give me two weeks of diet and exercise and see if I can change this. So I’ve been working it. Like a champ.

Walking, more often than not, and eating much better. I’ve added color to my diet: peppers, veggies, all sorts of healthy things. Bonnie has been cooking a “Mediterranean Diet” from a book she got. Healthy choices, better choices. Couldn’t do this without her. Couldn’t do this without God. Who thought I could or would want to eat healthy?

Sugars are rarely in the 150’s mostly 1320’s-140’s, sometimes in the mornings, and dinner time around 97-120.  There is nothing to brag about so I’m not bragging, but finally the light has clicked on. I’m eating better, exercising a wee bit more, and avoiding sweets totally (although Bonnie made this black bean cake that’s a killer). Eating more veggies for sure, and healthier snacks.

I’m saying this to encourage others that may be going through this. It’s doable. Pray. Research. Change some habits.

I’m excited, down to 254, lowest I’ve been in at least 10 years, and its dropping off.

You can do it. Seriously, if I did it, so could you.

273.6/254.4

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.

 

273.6/256.2

 

Saturday Nights
January 29, 2017

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I remember Saturday nights when I wore a younger man’s clothes. As I sit here at 11 p.m. on a Saturday night, I began thinking of those times.

EVERY Saturday night was a party night. Sometimes we didn’t go out until eleven p.m. and still it was a rowdy night. Let me tell you of those days.

Let’s start with the big one. Saturday, October 2, 1976. My best friend at the time was Chuck Jones (who I haven’t seen in 40 years. Funny how life does that.) My birthday was October 1st, his was October 3rd. We would both be 21. October 2nd was a Saturday, so it seemed the most logical day to celebrate.

My cousin Don Lacey, Chuck, and I decided to hit every bar in Sharon, Pennsylvania or maybe the Shenango Valley. Now, I’m going to tell you about this night, but I don’t remember all of it.

There were many bars in the valley at the time, and I don’t honestly remember where we started. Now, we weren’t rookies as we both started drinking on a weekly basis at the age of 13. We would go to the bars in Ohio every Saturday and they would serve us, usually, as we used fake ID’s to get in. Sometimes we would just get quarts of beer and ride around, or sit on the side of State Line Road  and listen to Yankees games on WGAR out of Schenectady, New York. Night time was the only time we could hear the games. But I digress.

We thought, rather foolishly, we would stop at every bar and have a shot and a beer. I never cared for alcohol, but beer was always good. Alcohol made me angry (except Rum) and beer made me “happy”.

We immediately realized that after the 5th or 6th bar, we had consumed a lot of alcohol. But there were so many bars left, we trudged on. A couple bars didn’t serve Chuck as it wasn’t officially his 21st birthday, which we thought was petty.  So we moved to the next bar.

It gets a bit fuzzy now, but somewhere along the line, Chuck was getting sick. We pulled off, actually, not too far from where I now live, so he could vomit. Don asked us if we wanted to quit and we said no.

Then, Chuck couldn’t walk. We were in the parking lot, and Don and I carried him. Unfortunately, we dropped him two times, with each time he hit his head on the pavement. We had to explain the excruciating headache he had the next morning to him.

I then was told that our final stop was at the Lube downtown, our usual stomping grounds. I was told that my friend Bill bought me a beer, and as I was talking to him, i apparently put my hand down to the side with the mug in my hand and spilled it on the floor. He said I looked at the mug and said, “Oh, that was quick. Guess I better go.”

And we did.

That was Saturday, October 2, 1976. At the time I thought it was fun.

But today is Saturday, January 28,2017. I think this Saturday was more fun.

I stayed home most of the day and read a book that’s been on my shelf for two years. It’s by Tim Keller called “Jesus The King”. Keller has become one of my favorite authors, and I actually got to meet him.

I helped Bonnie make three different soups for what we call our “Super Soup Sunday”, for church, held the Sunday between the Championship games and the Superbowl. Everyone makes a bunch of soup and desserts and crackers and breads and it’s a blast. Actually, she made the soups, I just cut up onions, carrots, etc. I really enjoyed working in the kitchen with her.

I had to pick something up at Jo Jo and Josh’s house and got to see Haniah. She cracks me up, and I love how she greets me. Enjoyed the visit there and came home. Because we were busy, we got a pizza from Francescos, my favorite quick Italian place.

I had ginger ale. No beer. No alcohol. Ginger ale.

I am so thankful that I no longer have to drink like that to have fun. I don’t have to get drunk to get away from my problems. I don’t have to get high, try to pick up a girl, or get into a fight for my entertainment. Jesus Christ took that desire from me. There is no other way I could stop drinking. It was Christ.

When my dad was my age, he was still a heavy drinker. He didn’t have Christ. Thankfully, I do.

Sitting at my computer, am I missing anything out there that would benefit my life? Nah, I’m good right here. I tell people that what I have, I could never give up. My life is very, very, good. Besides, I have church in the morning.

I don’t need a vacation. My life is a vacation, and it’s all because of Christ Jesus.

 

 

Gee, That Went Well
January 23, 2017

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Well here we are, 3 days into the new presidency and the country has gone mad. Wait, the world has gone mad. I’m 61, and I’ve never seen anything like this.

Protestors, which aren’t protestors when they don’t know what they are protesting about, are out on the streets because the democratic process of electing a president was upheld. Let that sink in.

There is nothing wrong in disliking your government. Jesus’ followers hated the government they had. They were under bondage. They were under oppression. They waited for a savior, someone to get them out from all of this. That is what they expected Jesus to do.

They wanted a revolution. Change things, and they were certain Jesus was the one that would change it all. He would restore a government for the Jews where they would rule. But that wasn’t why He came.

He paid taxes. Remember the story where He sent Peter fishing to get a coin from the fish’s mouth to pay? Or how about the time the Pharisees tried to trick Him about paying taxes, and Jesus’ response was “render unto Caesar what is Caesars and render unto God what is God’s”? (Mark 12:17)

Prior to Jesus coming to earth, there were many uprisings that were squelched by the Romans. Many times they tried to overthrow the government. But Jesus and His followers told them otherwise.

Paul said, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.  For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,“. (1 Timothy 2:1-3)

He didn’t tell them to hold up signs, break windows (if they had windows there), call names, and swear at them. He didn’t say overthrow the government, punch people, assassinate them, or belittle them.

Romans 13:1 Paul says, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”

So God gives us the leaders we need. Some He uses to bless us and others to punish us. When He blesses us we thank Him, when He punishes us, we repent. The Old Testament is filled with those situations. So basically, when we fight against the government, we are fighting against God.

But people will continue to be people. They will continue to fight and all the things we shouldn’t. And that is where we rise up as a Chosen people to fight back with the best weapons that God has given us.

Pray.

 

 

Changing of the Guard
January 11, 2017

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Well here we go, the changing of the guard.

America changes every 4 or 8 years and we are in for another change for president. Whether you love him or hate him, too bad. He will be president in 10 days. President of the United States.

Such hatred during elections. Name calling, losing friends, losing customers, jobs, all because of differences of opinions and tastes. We need to tolerate other views.

For example, I have many, many friends that are Pittsburgh Steeler fans. Am I still friends with them? Of course. It’s differences.

I wonder, what would happen if we could disagree and be ok with each other? Let the other person have their opinion without dismissing them from our lives, or calling them names. I notice both sides of the political spectrum that each side called each other the same name: Hitler, fascist, stupid, and other things that are very hurtful.

If you’re a Christian I want to remind you of something. If you’re not a Christian, then I want to enlighten you with something.

Romans 13:1- “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” Yep, think about it.

Barrack Obama? Yep, placed there by God. Donald Trump? Yep. Placed there by God. So when we argue or name call  the president ( or president-elect), then your argument is really with God. Not that dirty, rotten, so and so that doesn’t agree with you!

Without getting into a discussion or argument, the Bible shows us that He puts people in power to bless or punish a people. So you can look at the president and decide which one it is.

We are a peculiar people, aren’t we? We take things personal and we try to demean people that don’t think like us. They’re uninformed, uneducated, even “deplorables”. And doggone it, we are right! Right?

Look at the crazy world we live in. Just think if we all could live together in peace. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

So as a Christian to other Christians I challenge you. Follow what Paul told the Romans in Chapter 12:14- “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

If all my brothers and sisters in Christ did this, no matter what the response is from those around you, we may not have peace on earth, but we will have peace with God.

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.

273.6/257.0