Imagine
January 1, 2017

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Well, here we are. In less than three hours on the East Coast of the U.S., it’s goodbye 2016, hello 2017. Oh there’s so much promise in the new year, isn’t there?

We look back and forward at the same time. Look at the past with all its pain and suffering as well as its joys and loves. Look forward to all the hopes and promises that lie ahead.

Face it, it was a good year and a bad year. Family and friends coming together, family and friends having a falling out. Great financial decisions made and poor financial decisions made. Lots of laughter and lots of tears.

Some people say, “I can’t wait until 2016 is over”, as if 2016 had magical powers to create good or evil. We have hope that 2017 will be better, that we’ll be wiser, that fate will be kinder, that there will be peace on earth and goodwill toward men.

It’s a time of resolutions: I’ll lose weight, I’ll exercise more, I’ll be vegetarian, I’ll be kinder, I’ll be whatever. Notice in those, it all comes down to “I”. I want you to look at 2017 in a different way.

How about instead of “I” in us, we focus on “God” in us? We focus more on others instead of ourselves? But we ask for abundance, yet keep it for ourselves. We ask for health for us, but don’t help our weaker or older neighbors. We ask for deliverance, yet look down on others who aren’t delivered.

How about instead of asking God for things, we ask Him to change us? We can look at others that are different and still love them? We can debate without arguing? We can work things out peacefully instead of fighting?

How about we trust God instead of our bank account? Trust God instead of our job? Trust God instead of our wants? This could be an exciting 2017.

The Middle East is exploding. Syria is in shambles. We’ve had the most divisive president and election in the history of the U.S. We are divided in race. We are divided in politics. We are divided in religion. We are divided in class. We are divided in beliefs.

What if, seriously, what if everyone decided that they would be, as St. Francis put it so well, “instruments of peace”? What if we decided to not listen to the negative and find the positive?

I’m not talking about fantasy garbage like John Lennon’s “Imagine”, which states that we’d all get along if there wasn’t religion, governments, property, possessions, and poverty. That won’t happen. Our sin nature, untamed, will never permit that.

I’m talking about the basic biblical teachings of loving the Lord Your God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.

Just think if everyone followed those rules. We all decide to get along?

Imagine.

 

273.6/263.0

 

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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.

 

Old Friends
January 27, 2016

Reflective mood tonight. (Notice how I’m avoiding the weight issue? Yes, astute readers, you are). I was reflecting earlier today and re-reflecting tonight about Old Friends. Probably because of listening to Simon and Garfunkel.

I always thought I’d have boyhood friends forever. Just like the song “Old Friends/Bookends”.

Old friends
Old friends
Sat on their park bench like bookends
A newspaper blowin’ through the grass
Falls on the round toes
Of the high shoes
Of the old friends

Old friends
Winter companions, the old men
Lost in their overcoats, waiting for the sunset
The sounds of the city sifting through trees
Settle like dust
On the shoulders of the old friends

Can you imagine us years from today
Sharing a park bench quietly?
How terribly strange to be seventy.

My buddy growing up, Keith, was my next door neighbor. Heck he was class president and I was vice-president of our class. Actually, before I got into counseling, I worked for him in his construction business. He lives in the area. We speak to each other twice a year. I call him on his birthday and he calls me on mine. Funny how that works.

I had a friend Chuck who I was real close with throughout high school. He introduced me to underage drinking. We went to concerts together, ball games, and drove around a lot just drinking and trying to tune in the New York Yankees on WGAR from Schenectady, NY. (If we found the right place at night, we could listen to the whole game). We spent so much time together. He’s in Chicago or somewhere. I was in his wedding, haven’t seen him or talked to him in over 35 years. Funny how that works.

I lamented not having that, but then realized I have four or five people in my life I would call close friends.

Lon is who I see more than the others. Him and Janet, I’ve known for about 20 years. I actually communicate more with them than with other friends. It’s a beautiful friendship, but it will change as eventually they move to North Carolina. Not soon, but soon enough. Funny how that works. I love him.

Jim has been my friend for 40 years. He lives in Florida. We lived together for awhile there. It seems that when we get together, it was like we were just with each other. We have had more experiences than you can imagine, and as he is a CEO of a non-profit organization, we’ll leave it at that. Concerts, parties, girlfriends, video games. We went through break ups with our girlfriends and more Tony’s pizza than you can shake a stick at. I love him.

Cindi, my cousin, who also lives in Florida. We have experienced so many things growing up, and it was always good to bounce things off her when girls drove me crazy.  I was the same to her. I spent summers at her house when she lived near by. So many stories, and we have verbally agreed not to blackmail each other. I love her.

Johnny, my cousin. He lives near by and we don’t see each other near enough. Nobody made me laugh like him, and my goal has and continues to be, to get him to pee his pants. He’s 60, so it shouldn’t be hard. His mom was like my second mother. He’s a chubber like me, and even now, deep down, though we struggled to lose weight by dieting and exercising together, we both hope the other stays fat. I love him.

Bonnie, my wife. We have been married over 30 years. We’ve known each other closer to 40. She knows everything about me. She is my biggest critic and my biggest fan. When I’m down, she builds me up. When I feel full of myself, she brings me down. She didn’t know me when I was going through my struggles, but has kept me from going back to them. My best friend. I am blessed. I love her.

The song continues:

Old friends
Memory brushes the same years
Silently sharing the same fear

A time it was, and what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence
A time of confidences

Long ago it must be
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They’re all that’s left you.

But I can see myself at 70 sitting on a park bench with Bonnie or Jim or Cindi or Johnny. In fact I do that now because it’s actually “terribly strange” to be 60.

“Old Friends/Bookends” by Simon and Garfunkel.

 

 

 

Looking At The Rain
December 21, 2013

With Christmas and New Years Day approaching, it’s very easy to get distracted from your weight loss goal. My goodness, I mean cookies, different dishes, all sorts of things that make you forget that you have a goal.

The Christmas season is the best time of the year, but it could bring on a flood of emotions, some good, some bad. Memories of childhood, lost friends and relatives, a “simpler” time.  And we can use this as an excuse to delve into some “comfort foods”.

There’s a song by Gordon Lightfoot, old but new because I never heard it, called “Looking At The Rain”, a reminiscing song about times past. And it got me to thinking about how we reminisce about things that make us happy and sad. This time of year I think of when I was a young boy and the family would all be together and we’d have get togethers. My mom and dad were still alive and I was a young boy who didn’t know about the cares that my mom and dad may have had, or any world problems. Heck, we were in the middle of Viet Nam and the threat of nuclear annihilation was very real.

I miss my mother-in-law Nadine Bateman. She lived on the property we had in West Middlesex. Christmas Eve was when Santa would arrive at her house and my kids and Bonnie and I would “go down the lane” to her house after church and the kids would be opening up their presents. Oh, we would eat! She always had plenty of goodies. Good memories.

I got a realization this past month, well, since Thanksgiving. The old saying goes, “You can’t go home”. I never understood it. Of course you can go home. You can visit there, take vacations, trips, whatever, but you can go back home. But I’ve just understood that you can’t go “home”.

“Home” is the way things were. I can go back to my house I grew up in, but there won’t be uncles, parents, the player piano, the Italian cookies, the booze.  Ok, you can buy cookies and booze, but I think you get my drift.

Nadine isn’t here. My kids are grown. We can’t go down the lane. We don’t live there anymore. We may seek comfort foods to help deal with the losses, the reminders of good old days. The food won’t bring back those times.

But we have memories. Even though we can’t go back to those times, we always have to remember the times that brought joy, and the times that brought sorrow. These times are what make us what we are. Now we have to handle the past, and live for today. Today we are making memories for our children. Today will be our kids “good old days”.  It’s ok to look at the rain.  We can visit there.

But we can’t live there anymore.

Finding Jim Paynter Part 2
July 8, 2013

This is a bit off of “My Walk To 199”, but felt it was important to update. Last November, I wrote a blog about a man I used to work with that was very influential in my walk with Christ. His name was Jim Paynter.
I had sent feelers out all over the place to try to get in touch with him. I was a bad boy when I met him. Drinking and drugging, yet this guy never judged me but did nothing but work next to me and live his life in front of me.
I decided to google “Jim Paynter Eustis Florida”, as that’s the last place I heard of him. It brought me to a page that was an obituary of his wife, Judy, who passed away from a flu shot that went septic. It gave names and cities, but no numbers.
I called my niece Dee Dee and asked her to look around and find if the Jim Paynter listed might be him. It said he was 74, and lived in Lady Lake. She gave me the address, but had no phone number. She gave me the address of one of his sons.
I left a message, not trying to sound like a creeper, and said he was visiting grandchildren out of state. She gave me his cell. I told her I didn’t want to bother him, but she said he’d love it.
So I called him and re-introduced myself. I told him I worked with him in 1976, mentioned some co-workers we had in common, and says he remembered me. I told him what an influence he was on me and that he was semi-famous, at least in my small church. He said isn’t it funny how you can influence people without even knowing it.
He tells me he has been traveling the country to speak to his grandchildren about Christ. He states he feels the time is short and he needs to speak to them about Him. He has 40 something grandchildren and great grandchildren. Around thirty of them were there when his wife passed. He said God was glorified.
He said he’s going from Michigan to Arkansas (“Man, I didn’t realize how far that is”) before heading back to Florida for a day, then taking a youth group to camp in North Carolina.
He told me to call him anytime, as “preachers don’t have a lot of friends they can talk to”, and if I ever needed to talk, he’d listen. I told him I’d be honored to be his friend. It was like talking with Andy Taylor of Mayberry, that comforting.
Thank God I was able to reach him. It was like a trip back in time, as Billy Joel says, “when I wore a younger man’s clothes”.
Here’s to you Jim Paynter. May the Lord continue to use you.

When I’m 64
June 25, 2013

Well, it’s been a month since I started blogging “My Walk To 199” I’ve been on a roller coaster for the past month.

Those of you that have been following know about my friend Bobby dying of cancer. Well he passed away on 6/22, my 28th wedding anniversary. I guess it’s one way that Bobby will always be a part of my life.

We had talked, Bobby and I, about being old men walking the mountains of Haiti. Now it won’t happen. But God has a plan, always has, and has called Bob home. It makes me very sad and it makes me realize that I cannot ever, and I mean EVER, figure God out.

We believed that Bobby would be healed, and God took him home. We believed that Bobby would live in Haiti and be our missionary. We believed that Bobby would build a house in Haiti on property of our friend Buetto. But God has other plans. Truly, the Scripture that says, “My ways are not your ways, and My thoughts are higher than your thoughts” certainly is ringing in my ears. Bobby is at peace. I’ll get there.

It’s been a rollercoaster weight wise also. So many up and downs, but with all the stress it’s still good.
Today’s weight? 264.0. A nine pound loss in a month. Thank The Lord.