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.

Budy
June 16, 2017

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That’s Budy. With one “d”.

Ten years ago when he was in 6th grade, Ben said he wanted a dog. My response? “If you want a dog, pray one in”. So he prayed. I thought if God wants us to have a dog, which I didn’t think He did, he’d send one.

God responds to the prayers of young boys. This young dog shows up in my driveway and immediately Bonnie and Ben fell in love with him. I thought he was really adorable, but didn’t really want a dog. As Bonnie drove away to take Ben to school, the dog starts chasing them down the street. Tears running down their faces, Bonnie and Ben say they want this dog. My thoughts? If he’s meant to be ours, he’ll hang around here.

Ben comes home and all he can talk about is this dog. Bonnie and he talked about the dog jumping up on them, following the van, and now it was gone. I have to admit, I was hoping he’d be there when they came home.

A few days go by, and Ben’s grandma, who had a house on our property, calls Ben and says, “Guess who is here?”. My mother-in-law was not much of an animal lover, even though she fed two cats for 10 years or so. So we go running down the driveway to see this dog, and of course Ben says “God answered my prayer”.

I didn’t want Ben to get too excited, so we checked around and couldn’t find an owner, so we’d decided to keep him until we heard there was an owner looking for him. There wasn’t one.

Ben said he wanted to name him “Buddy”, but with one “d”. We asked why, but a sixth grader doesn’t necessarily need to have a reason. So “Budy” it was.

He was really easy to train so as to go outside to do his business. He didn’t have many accidents until toward the end.

We worried, I worried, about how he’d get along with the cat. No problem. They slept together, sometimes laying on the other ones belly. They became great friends.

Budy was always a kind dog. Never bit anyone, even when grandchildren would lay on him or hit him. But he was very gentle, sometimes just walking away from them. At times he would run away, from room to room to avoid the little ones who didn’t know better. He never snapped at them.

My favorite Budy story was when we would come home and we would find the garbage can knocked over, and we’d follow the trail to where he was. I would yell, before I even saw him, “What did you do”? And would come slinking by, refusing to make eye contact because he knew he was bad.

He had his share of injuries. He had “Cherry eye”, something caused from being in grass where there was a huge reddish welt on his eye. We took him to the vet, and with medicine eventually was ok. It seemed like if anything could happen to a dog, it would happen to Budy. Remember, dogs are expensive.

He was such a baby. The littlest thing and he acted like he was shot! I  was told beagles are pretty much babies. He was definitely a beagle. But his bark also revealed a little basset hound in him also.

He was such a good dog. He was Ben’s best friend, as he always said. Budy helped him through the death of his grandma and the breakup with a girlfriend. When all else around him was collapsing, Budy remained a constant source of comfort. He never failed Ben.

Budy, though, rarely slept with Ben. He slept with Bonnie and me. Almost every night. Bonnie, being the kind spirit she is, let him lay right against her. Me, not such a kind spirit, would scoot him over with my foot so he would lay against Bonnie. But don’t tell anybody. It’s Budy and my secret.

When it was time to go to bed, he waited until one of us went to bed. He wouldn’t go up on his own. We’d let him out, then say, “Budy, time for nite nite”, and off he’d trot up the stairs. Now apparently he slept in our bed when we were at work because we’d come home and all the blankets would be messed up and pillows on the floor. He may have had a party or two.

Ben was always worried that Budy would run away, or sneak out, or have something wrong with him. Ben is the sensitive one, like his mom.  About six weeks ago Ben felt lumps on Budy’s body. Bonnie said to just keep an eye on it. We did  for a couple weeks and they got bigger.

We took him to our vets, Dr. Miller and Dr. Uzarski. Dr. Miller said it didn’t look good. He had lymphoma. We asked what is the prognosis and he said he had no idea. So he decided to put him on steroids. He said to check back in a week.

We brought him back, and they hadn’t got any larger. But that also meant they didn’t get any smaller. I asked the doctor what to look for symptom wise, and basically was told that you’ll know it’s time when he stops acting like a dog.

This past week or so, he stopped acting like a dog. He laid around a lot, we felt the lumps getting bigger, he didn’t want to eat his dog food. So we gave him new food, rice, meat, treats, whatever he wanted.

Two days ago he started to lose control of his bowels. He was getting up in the middle of the night and we didn’t hear him. He would let loose at the door, all of it diarrhea. In the morning he wouldn’t eat. Anything. He barely moved. We knew it was time.

We made an appointment with the vet for yesterday. It’s a long drive to the vets when you know the dog will not return. Ben sat in the back with Budy, just petting him and telling him how much he loved him.

The end was peaceful. I told Budy, “Budy, its time for nite, nite. One shot and it was over in seconds. He had a tumor on his leg and who knows how many inside. But now he was at peace.

Budy wasn’t my dog. He was Ben’s. For 10 years, he helped my boy grow from childhood to manhood, which I am very grateful for. Did I cry? You bet. It’s hard to be strong when you hurt so,  but you need to help those around you. The family all gathered last night and had a tribute dinner to Budy. That’s what family does.

Ben decided he wanted him cremated so he will always be with us. I’m cool with that.

People without pets may not get the hurt we experience. Maybe not get the agony or as Ben says, “My heart hurts”. People without pets may think it’s ridiculous to feel this way about an animal. “He’s just a dog”.

But he was Budy. And always will be to us.

 

 

 

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

Sugar (ba da da da da da) ah, honey honey
March 16, 2017

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Sugar Diabetes. Type II.

What a cute name for a horrible disease. And, to make it worse, a self inflicted disease.

My mother was a diabetic. Sugar diabetic. I remember when she found out and she had to give herself insulin shots. She was overweight, ate poorly, and didn’t exercise. She had a sweet tooth like nobody I ever met.

She always baked, if it wasn’t cookies, it was pie, or cakes (oh, her cakes), or bread. Didn’t know about carbs then and just learning about them now. I’m Italian, of course I eat carbs. I remember pasta every Sunday (and maybe another day during the week), homemade bread with butter. On Sunday, I’d take a chunk of bread and dip it in the sauce while she was cooking it. Delicious doesn’t even describe it. Taste buds heaven is more like it.

So when she got diabetes, she didn’t change her eating much. I remember us kids helping her give herself shots. Two, maybe three a day, I don’t remember. But she hated it. And I said that wasn’t going to happen to me. But it did.

I tease and say it’s all my mom’s fault, but it’s mine. Undisciplined eating, lack of exercise brought this all on. I’m angry at nobody, but disappointed in me. I have a wicked sweet tooth. I wish Dr. Voisey could remove it, but it’s genetic. My father, however rarely ate sweets until he got into his later years after retirement, then he loved pies.

I’ve been diagnosed with this for about 17 years, and have been on Metformin since then. Recently, my sugar has gotten worse. Winter lack of exercise (laziness), and eating horribly (undisciplined). I am the type that as long as meds take care of the issue, there’s no sense in me changing anything. Until now.

My old doctor told me there is never a reason to eat a donut. I disagreed and switched doctors. Seriously, I did. Now my new doctor wants to add a medicine as my sugar has been ranging in the 180-220 range. That is bad and can cause eye, kidney, and other problems. My mother had a stroke at 65 or so. I don’t want that.

I remember mom, God bless her, after her stroke. It affected her speech, her one leg, and one arm. She still loved her sweets. One time I’m in the living room and I hear the fridge door open up and  then she heads out the door. I watch her. She went to the back of the yard and ate a donut! She didn’t want to get caught.

I went to the heart doctor recently, and she had my weight from two years ago to present. It ranged from 255-260. I’m at 257 this morning. I imagine, I’ve learned to maintain my weight, but I’d really like to maintain around 200 or so.

This blog has been about walking to 199, but it has been a journey with a lot of pit stops. I do good for awhile, I don’t do good, I do great, I do lousy, you get it. Up five, down five. Like Joan Rivers said, “I’ve lost so much weight I should be a trinket on a charm bracelet”.

So, I think it’s time. I made a deal with my doctor. I asked her that if she would wait until I see her in two weeks to decide on a new medicine. If I can’t bring it down by diet and exercise then I’m open to whatever she wants. She loves the idea, so I have been trying. And when I’m good with this mentally, it’s easy. When I’m wishy washy, its hard.

My first day of work after my decision, I go on the adolescent units, and there is donuts. Now usually, I go open the box “just to look”, and usually I take one. This day, I decided to treat sweets like porn……I just can’t look at it.

With this being said: I’m on the treadmill at home (B….O…..R….I…..N…..G), have begun packing my lunch for work with healthy snacks, and attempting to eat snacks every 2-3 hours between meals.

It’s working. My sugar has been as low as 110, and only as high as 159. Not where it needs to be, but it’s on its way down. Bonnie has been phenomenal and I couldn’t do it without her. She prepares healthy things, new healthier recipes, and prays with me. How blessed to have someone, when she heard the news about new medicines, took me by the hands and sat me down, saying “That’s enough”, and prayed with me. Through tears. I think she wants me around.

God is bigger than any problem. Jesus has been my help in all my situations. He is my strength. Will I slip up at times? I’m sure I will, but I’m praying that I don’t. I’m praying that however long it takes, I will no longer need medicine for this, but only self discipline.

I’m very thankful for medicines, but, as Bonnie said, “That’s enough”. So I’m praying this journey is helpful for some and hopeful for many. I’m 61, and God has been faithful to me.

I can do this. Romans 8:31- “ What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[a] against us?”

No one.

As I remember, I will continue to put my highest and current weight at the bottom.

Please pray for me.

 

273.6/257.4

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.

 

 

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.

 

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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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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.

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