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

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.

 

Give Peace A Chance
February 12, 2016

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Why is everyone so angry? When I watch TV, they say, “America is angry”. The debates are angry, the moderators are angry, and apparently, the voters are angry. Why so much anger?

When I was a young lad, let’s go back 50 years, it was 1966. We were in the midst of a horrible war in Cambodia and Viet Nam. There were racial tensions, there were gang fights, there were fears. Today the racial tensions are more severe, the gangs are REAL gangs, and there are fears.

Fear of not having a job, fear of ISIS, fear of “the other guy”, fear of being taken advantage of, fear of the unknown. I remember people protesting the war.  JFK was killed, fear of Russia dropping nukes on us. I remember in grade school having “tests” where an air raid siren would go off, and we’d hide under our desks. Fear.

They gave us dog tags in school so that if there was an attack, they would be able to identify us when our bodies were charred like overcooked burgers. Want to talk about PTSD? Fear.

Everyone is angry because they are scared. Those on one side say that the presidential race will determine if we go to socialism which will lead to communism. They say that “those people” don’t like the United States. They made deals with Iran and they will nuke us when they make their atomic bombs.

The other side says we’re in the midst of global warming. Everything will melt, we’ll all die. They say that “those people” hate everyone different than them. They want the rich to succeed and the poor to stay poor. They want you to remain quiet and they hate minorities.

Fear. Nothing divides us more than fear. Nothing makes us angry more than fear.

The 12th of this month (today in some parts of the world) is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. I remember he used to be a hero. We had the day off of school, that and the 22nd for George Washington. They now combine all the presidents into one, this year celebrated on the 15th.

Lincoln used to be a hero. So did Washington. Jefferson. Columbus. Franklin. But because of fear, which produces anger, people start slamming these men, stating they were either murderers, rapists, or slave owners.  There’s a great divide in this country. We have a separation. Just like “those in charge” want it.

Can we decide not to be fearful? Not to be angry? Can we choose to love people? Maybe I’m just an old hippie, but can’t we look past the differences and look for what we all have in common.

My dear friend Rich is my former boss. He’s liberal, I’m conservative. He’s Jewish, I’m Christian. He’s a Steeler fan, I’m a Browns fan. There are only three things we have in common. The Yankees, the Beatles (he saw them at Shea Stadium), and a common respect.

I just talked with him tonight as he lives on the other side of Pennsylvania. He’s a good man with a lovely family. We continue to laugh and love on each other, with a genuine concern for each other and their family. We talked tonight about how great it would be to go on the road together and to maybe bring a little peace into the world. It’s a nice thought.

Are we ready for peace? Are we ready to not get angry? Are we ready to forgive and come to the point where we feel we are owed nothing? If we are, then we are ready to give up fear.

2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us the spirit of fear but of power and of love and a sound mind.”

How about I start. If you are Christian, Jew, Muslim, gay, straight, Republican, Democrat, atheist, transgender, male, female, tall, short, skinny, tall, then I choose to love you. We will have differences and that’s ok. But how about we do what John Lennon said. “All we are saying is give peace a chance”.

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.

Bye Bye 2015
January 1, 2016

Well, my “New Years Resolution” is to blog more. See how long that lasts.

Happy New Year to all or any faithful followers. The weight struggle remains real: 260-265 consistently. I imagine that must be where I like to be, because that’s where I be.

It’s been an interesting year. I had gotten off of Facebook because of all the arguing over sports and politics. I have gotten back on because I miss getting updates on what’s going on with my friends. I will, however, not argue sports or politics.  But this has been a good year.

I turned 60, that’s a biggie, and I’ve embraced it fully, and am actually loving getting older. God has blessed me with so much in 2015 and I don’t know where to begin.

Good health, a grandson, Zeke (or Zekers is what I like to call him), Zeke’s dad is buying a house across the street from me, which excites me, Yankees made the playoffs with marginal players and people only about 20 years younger than me, and the Browns are 3-12 with the possibility of being 3-13 after Sunday. I mention the sports teams because I don’t get as upset as I used to.

Example: My boys (Luke, Ben, Josh) and me went to our first game all together. Josh is a Steelers fan, so this was probably just for laughs for him. It was Monday Night Football. And, it was against the Ravens and it was a good game.

Browns line up for a winning field goal and it was blocked and the Ravens ran it back for a winning touchdown. Josh was shocked, Ben just stared into heaven, perhaps asking God why He hates the Browns and the city of Cleveland so much, Luke was mouth wide open. Me? I just laughed. Typical Browns. I’ve  reached that point of life when I don’t worry about stuff like that very much. Very much.

For my 60th, Josh and Jo Jo bought me a ticket to see the University of Michigan play against Rutgers at THE BIG HOUSE! First time there and it was just Josh and me. What a blast.  Michigan won big, but it didn’t matter, the place was fabulous. Loved being there and I discovered that 52 degrees in Ann Arbor, Michigan isn’t quite the same as 52 degrees in Sharon, Pennsylvania. We froze our tails off. But it was a super experience and I want to go again.And besides, how many people can say they got to see both of the Harbaugh brothers coach this year?  Checked off the bucket list. they had a very good season this year. Go Blue!

Things I’ve had too much of this year: Kardashians, Bruce Jenner, Isis, Bill Cosby, “affluenza”, Entertainment Tonight, Hilary Clinton, and biased news shows (left and right).

Things I look forward to in 2016: Closer walk with Christ, losing weight, Yankees winning #28, Michigan beating Ohio State, someone developing a plan to beat Isis, and people loving each other no matter what their color, religion, or sexual choices are. I’ll love you, but don’t try to make me accept your belief if it’s not Biblical.

To everyone: Peace.

 

Melancholy Man
January 15, 2015

This year I turn 60.  6-0, sixty, LX, however you want to put it. It’s nuts.

I waste a lot of time. Games, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Watching continual ESPN SportsCenter, watching lousy football (Browns and the University of Michigan), and it’s going all too fast.

I keep listening to Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s song, “Wasted On The Way”, and it makes me melancholy. Melancholy that I’ve wasted too much time. Too many dreams and not enough pursuit of them. Too many ideas and not enough elbow grease to make them happen. At times melancholy is good. Because it makes you look at reality.

I am so much more than half way home (I don’t expect to live until 120 years old). I am aware of my mortality. But I think melancholy can make you better, if you just visit it and don’t build a house there. It’s a wake up, a “hey, this game ain’t over yet”. As Bob Dylan sang, “It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there”.

So I’m excited now. The weight “is what it is”. It may go down, it may go up. It may stay the same. I could pull a Chris Christy or Rex Ryan and get “THE” operation, but they tell me I’m not big enough. My options then are to lose weight or put on another 50 pounds. I opt for the latter, but Bonnie won’t let me.

I’m not focused on it anymore.

No matter what, God is good. I’m excited. I want to use my time better. I deactivated my Facebook account, and may also get rid of Instagram and Twitter. Baby steps, children, baby steps. I need to focus on the good things in life, and there are many. I need to focus more on the Word of God. I need to stop looking at others and their successes and begin to understand that if I haven’t reached what others have done (financially, physically, emotionally) that doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve failed. It means I’m not them.

I’ve eliminated a lot of stress from my life by eliminating a lot of stressful people from my life. I have to take care of me. And if other people have their feelings hurt, well, sorry. Sorry, your feelings are hurt but not sorry of my decisions. Your hurt feelings don’t get to me anymore. I’m moving on.

So it’s 9 months until 60.  Bring it on, because, honestly, I never thought I’d live this long.

 

Cold Turkey
December 1, 2013

Well, I survived Thanksgiving without too much damage. I am 260.2 pounds, up about a pound. I’ll take that.

I was thinking about how my blogs have been infrequent as I think I have a boring life compared to people I know. I don’t travel much, don’t entertain much, and am a pretty average guy. Oh don’t get me wrong, I love my life. At 58, I’m very happy. But I don’t want to blog just to blog. I will try to blog every Saturday night. (Please hold the applause……or the groans). Also, notice the titles are of songs, at least songs I’m old enough to remember. If you aren’t familiar with them, look them up on YouTube.

I’ve found my identity is wrapped up in several things. Being a man, my identity is wrapped up in what I do. People say, “Tell me about you” and I respond, “Well, I’m a preacher”. Well, that’s what I do, but what am I? If we can get our identity, we can defeat this weight thing. I think we continually search for ourselves. Where or who the heck am I?

I’m a member of the Independent party, so am I Independent? I’m a Yankees fan in baseball, and Br owns, and Michigan Wolverine fan in football, but is that who I am? I had to bring up the sports, because sports causes us to lose who we are. When our team wins, we feel like winners. When we lose, we feel like losers. Winning and losing has little to do with who I am. Although, as you can tell by my football teams, I’m glad I’m a Yankees fan. Winning feels better.

We associate with sports teams. We claim “We’re better than your team”. “We won the World Series”. I’ll be honest. I’ve never played a professional sport, thus, I have never received any compensation from the New York Yankees.

I’m a husband, father, and grandfather. Is that who I am? That’s part of me. I’m a son, although my dad’s dead, but still a son to my Father in heaven. I’m a nephew, a cousin, a father-in-law, uncle and great uncle. Is that me? I’m diabetic. Is that my title?

I don’t know. I think we get a perverted view of ourselves, which causes us to fall into bad ways. We see our flaws and failures and either beat ourselves up (and overeat or over drink) or just get angry and cover it with cockiness saying, “Hey, nobody is perfect. Do you see what THAT GUY is doing?”

I find that my self esteem cannot be wrapped up with anything to do with me. I’m told “You’re a nice guy”, but deep down, I know what a rotten fellow I am. I’ve learned not to sugarcoat who I am.

We all have failures. We all make mistakes. We all have “issues”. But it’s who God says I am that matters. Not my wife, my friends, my enemies, my betrayers. It’s what God says.

I’ve noticed that I do much better when I focus on God than on me. I can be such a horrible person with hatred or anger building up inside. Yet, when I come to my senses and repent, He accepts me. Just like I am. Jesus died for me when I was yet a sinner. I must be worth something.

Psalm 139 tells me I’m fearfully and wonderfully made. I never feel fearfully or wonderfully made. But He says I am. My focus has to be on God and who He says I am. I’m worth dying for. How crazy is that?

So I remember this, and find I eat less, exercise more and for the right reason. Not to be accepted by anyone, or even God. But because He has placed a desire in me to succeed. To live a healthy life. To help other people. To be what He made me. To be who I am.

Who am I? I’m Joe and everything that goes along with it. And God is OK with that.