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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Already Gone
March 1, 2016

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Not trying to copy Bob Dylan (as if I could do it justice), but time is ridiculously quick. As I type this, it’s the end of February, and I can’t believe it’s gone, even with an extra day.

I remember my dad used to tell me how fast it goes as you get older. And now February 2016 is gone.

It doesn’t seem long ago it was New Years Eve 2000, and we all feared the planes would fall from the sky, the computers would crash, we’d have no food, not water, no gasoline. And here we are 16 years later.

It’s funny how things go as time passes. I’m not going to have the body that my head said I could have when I gained weight back 30 years ago. Still overweight, but realizing that I won’t have the “beach body” I thought I’d have. It’s that realization that is overwhelming now. I can probably lose some weight, diet the right way and exercise, pray that God gives me the strength to do that. But “beach body”? Nah. Time went too fast.

I’ll never get good at the guitar. I’ve had a guitar for 15-20 years. Oh, I can pick a few songs, but not where I can look at the music and play any song. It was hard to reach some of the chords. I don’t even touch it now. I practiced some for a few years, said I’d pick it up again, but it won’t happen. Not that I’m old and going to die, but just because that desire has pretty much left me. Time went too fast.

I’ll never get Bonnie the house she deserved. We lived out in the country for 21 years, 4 acres of land. Always wanted to get her a wrap around porch. Put a rocking chair out there, sit back and drink coffee in the evening watching the sunset, and strum my guitar. Sort of like Andy Taylor in Mayberry. I live in the city now. That porch isn’t going to be built out in the country. Time went too fast.

I’ll never get to England. Always wanted to walk Abbey Road, check out where Apple Studios was, visit the Cavern, go to Liverpool. Oh, and some other non-Beatle things are there I hear. But I’m not going to spend money on that now. Time went too fast.

I’ll never learn Italian. Bought an Italian course, never kept up with it. It’s a hard thing to learn a second language. At least for me it is. It’s too much work for now, and seriously, what’s the point?  Time went too fast.

I don’t want this to sound depressing or “woe is me”, like I’m old and ready to die, because I’m not. I suppose that if I desire, I can get back with the guitar or learn Italian. The key is “if I so desire”. The beach body and house with a wrap around porch in the country just ain’t going to happen. But see, it’s like John Lennon sang, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

Dylan is right on with this. Time flies, we grow old, our views change, and nothing stays the same. But like he says, “you better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone. Oh the times they are a changing”. Everything changes. But here’s the good news.

I am writing blogs. I am studying the Scriptures more than I ever have. I’m mentoring young guys at the church. I know God better than I ever have. I’ve learned how to pray, not how a book tells me to pray, but how God tells me to pray.

I play with my grand kids and spend more time with Bonnie and my kids. I enjoy the sunset and sunrise. I’ve rediscovered Buhl Park. I stop and smell the roses. I don’t drink, smoke cigarettes or pot. I remember “the night before”. I have deeper relationships with friends that are deeper than any I’ve ever had. I have a love for my wife that can’t compare to what it was 30 years ago or with any other type of love I’ve felt. Before I used to care what people thought of me. Today, it doesn’t matter.

I’ve learned to not sweat the small stuff and discovered that most everything is small stuff. I don’t worry like I used to. I have learned to keep expectations low on people and high on God. I’ve learned to lean on Christ more and me less.

Actually, life is good right now. The past is the past and it’s already gone. But today? Man, I really am digging it. And tomorrow? Can’t wait……..but let’s not go so fast!

 

 

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”.

Death of My Heroes
January 22, 2016

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The deaths of Glenn Frey and David Bowie have me remembering about my old heroes. Glenn and David weren’t “heroes”, but definitely “influences”. But I have several heroes whose deaths have affected me greatly.

The first one was on June 5, 1968. I remember it clearly. I was 12 years old, and for the first time was getting involved in politics. I remember watching him give speeches on TV, always was told his brother was a great president, and firmly believed he’d end the Viet Nam war, cause I didn’t want to go be a part of that mess. But when Sirhan Sirhan assassinated Bobby Kennedy, it just shook my world. I barely remembered his brother John getting murdered, and was fully aware of the murder of Martin Luther King on April 4th, and here we are, two months later, and another senseless killing. I like the term “senseless” killing, as if some killings make sense. I realized, at the age of 12, the world was mad. He was 42. And I wanted nothing to do with politics for a very long time.

Oh Captain, my Captain! August 2, 1979 I got a call from my brother-in-law Tom. He said “Did you hear the news”. I said no. He said, “Thurman Munson died in a plane crash”. Now Tom was a die hard Red Sox fan and I’ve been a Yankees fan all my life. I told him, “This is sick if you’re making a joke”. He said, “It’s not a joke. Thurman is dead”. Thurman was a great guy, learned to fly a plane so he could go back and forth to his wife and kids in Cleveland. He should be in the Hall of Fame. I got to meet him after a ball game in Cleveland. I asked if I could shake his hand. He kept walking but his wife talked him into it. I shook his hand. I wish I wouldn’t have let go. He was 32.

I was living in Florida and on Dec. 8, 1980, I was watching a Monday Night Football game, I believe. Howard Cosell comes on with breaking news. John Lennon was shot outside of his apartment in New York City. He was 40. I couldn’t believe it. Of all the Beatles, he wasn’t my favorite (more on that later), but he was THE BEATLES. There would be no reunion. A part of my childhood died. I cried. It reminded me the world was mad.

On July 16, 1981 I heard that singer/songwriter Harry Chapin was killed in a car accident. He was driving his VW with the emergency lights flashing and was hit by a semi truck. The impact killed him instantly, with the police saying the truck driver pulled him out of the burning car. He was a great humanitarian and was on his way to perform a free concert. He was 38. Cats in the cradle with a silver spoon.

August 13, 1995 was when a big part of my childhood died. Mickey Mantle, my first hero, died at the age of 63. Growing up, I became a Yankees fan because of him. My entire house loves the Indians, and my dad said that it was because of Mickey Mantle I became a Yankees fan. Thanks Mick. He had a lot of issues and if he was alive today, they would smear him because of his issues. See, nowadays, you can’t have heroes. Not sure why that is. Through all the injuries, through all the pain, there was something about him that made me want to be a Yankee. I got to see him play, but I’d love to have met him.

On November 29, 2001 the rest of my childhood died. George Harrison died at the age of 58, succumbing to cancer. I was devastated. Of all the Beatles, he was and is my favorite. I had tickets to see him on his solo tour in 1974 in Cleveland at the Richfield Coliseum. A blizzard cancelled the tour, and they never rescheduled it. He influenced me in an almost hypnotic way, to the point I read the Bhagavad Gita. It’s a Hindu book, with a forward by Harrison. I was searching philosophically at the time for the answers. I had a million questions, but the answers were out there somewhere.

Now I talked of Bowie and Frey, but also Chris Farley, John Candy, Peter Sellers, James Cagney, Jim Croce, Leslie Nielsen and others were all influences. Not heroes.

But no day has affected my life like January 19,1984. It was on that day that I realized who my greatest hero was. He died around 33 A.D., and His name is Jesus Christ. Of all my heroes, He was the only one who knew me. He was the only one who knew I existed. He was the only one who lived for me. And He was the only one who died for me. I didn’t have to pay to hear Him sing. I didn’t have to pay to watch Him play ball. And I didn’t have to vote for Him for president, because He is the King of the Universe.

When my other heroes died, I was sad. But when I realized that Christ died for me, it brought tears of happiness. Joy, inexpressible joy. Peace, a peace that goes beyond human understanding.

I may never see my heroes again. I know everyone doesn’t go to heaven. But I know that I will see Jesus Christ, face to face, soon. Because He’s my hero. And He knows me.

 

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes
July 6, 2013

The last few months have been awfully confusing to me. It’s made me realize that this life is not for the weak. Thank God for God.

My friend Bobby passed, like I said earlier, and three days later I’m welcoming my first granddaughter into the world. Then later in the week Gerda, a wonderful Haitian woman I met and just loved her spirit when I was there, had a stroke and died. I’m really confused with what to do about Haiti so please pray. And I’m really aware of the uncertainty of life.

John Piper, one of my absolute favorite authors and preachers said, “I am fully aware that I stand on the edge of eternity”. That means, he realizes that any second he could leave this life and enter eternity. Humbling to say the least.

It’s funny how old habits kick in so easily. I haven’t been eating great nor have I exercised like I should. It’s almost one a.m., and I’m seriously thinking of heading up to Planet Fitness, but I think I’d regret it tomorrow. But I’ve learned one thing: No guilt. If I fall off the wagon, dust myself off and get back on. It’s really that simple.

As much change that has been going around, the same amount remains the same. Old habits come back, old relationships come back, old songs stir old feelings. Kind of poetic in a way. Yet kind of freaky.

I’m trying to slow it down a little and enjoy this thing called life. People that believe in heaven and hell say that this life on earth is hell. I tell them that that is a crazy thought because there is way too much love and good in this life for it to be hell. We just need to slow down.

John Lennon sang, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”. That is so true, my friends. We plan, but God decides.

My weight is up 3 pounds, back to 267, but I’ll get it off. I’m not discouraged, I just need to get serious. If I’m off the wagon, it’s no guilt for me. Just get back on. My goal is to do a 5K, like Ms. Emily Alexander. It’ll happen. I put no time frame on it. Just don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.