Hey Joe
October 5, 2017

Joe BeckA little over three weeks ago, I had to do another funeral for a friend. As a preacher, weddings and funerals are part of the gig. Weddings are mostly fun, at least in the beginning. Funerals, however, are bitter sweet. This one, of Joe Beck, was sweet because he’s with the Lord, but bitter because I won’t see him again.

Some funerals are hard for me. I’ve done my dad’s, my brother-in-law Tom’s, Bonnie’s mom Nadine, and friend’s parents. I rarely get my own time to grieve. So let me use this as a final chance to grieve. This funeral was hard.

Joe was a character, to say the least. He had a hard time hearing, a hard time saying “no” when people were in need, and just an all around good guy. We say that at funerals, don’t we? “He was a good guy”. “She was a great gal”. But Joe truly was a great guy.

I performed his and Cindy’s wedding. I went to see Bob Dylan with Joe and our friends, Rich and Roberta. Joe and my wife Bonnie aren’t big Dylan fans, go figure, so Joe was my date. We shared many bonfires, Christmas parties, and work days at the church. We talked often how that for some reason God saved us from ourselves as we should be dead. But for some reason, we were alive.

We ran with some of the same people in the past, and it was amazing that we didn’t run into each other, unless of course, we did when we were drunk. We both became Christians, and continually thanked God for not letting us turn our craziness and debauchery into death, and that He saved us for a reason.

We always had a routine we did in church. Whoever would see the other one first, one of us would say, “Hey Joe,” and the other would respond ” where you going with that gun in your hand”. (For you young folks, this is a line from a classic Jimi Hendrix song, “Hey Joe”).  As we would leave church we always hugged and gave each other a kiss on the cheek. (2 Cor. 13:12- “Greet each other with a holy kiss”.)  None of this was ever premeditated, but it just happened. And neither one minded.

He sat on the right side of the church, first row. Those of you who know me sometimes are aware that I ad lib a bit. I do that in my sermons, and when I did, it usually included a friendly jab at Joe, teasing him. He would turn red, but always smiled, the congregation would laugh, and Joe would say, “Well if you’re picking on me, you’re leaving other people alone.”  I always told him, “I only pick on the ones I love.

He always talked about “Going home”. He knew he had an eternal home waiting for him and was ready to go. I know he didn’t want to leave Cindy or his kids and grand kids, but he certainly wanted to go home. We both talked about wanting to “go home”.

The Sunday before he died, we gave each other a kiss on the cheek and he started to walk away. He turned around and said, “Hey keep me in prayer. The doctor says that I only have 20% of my heart working. They’re putting me on a transplant list, but I’m almost 70, they’re not going to give me a heart.” “Of course”, I said. Four days later he was dead.

So he died, 4 days before his 70th birthday. He shared his birthday with Bonnie, and they were birthday buddies.  It’s hard not seeing him in the front row. It’s hard seeing how his wife Cindy and sister Sue still mourn. Death is the great equalizer. An old Italian proverb says, “At the end of the game, the pawn and the King go into the same box.” That’s how death works.

He went home. I miss him.

Hey Joe, where you going with that gun in your hand?

 

 

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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.

Changing of the Guard
January 11, 2017

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Well here we go, the changing of the guard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas Eve Eve
December 24, 2016

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Well, here we are. As I write this, it is 15 minutes until Christmas Eve, so this is still Christmas Eve Eve. Best time of the year and, if you follow this blog, you know I love living in western Pennsylvania, especially from September first until New Years Day.

It’s just so beautiful, and this year there has been lots of snow, and although it is getting warmer, there will be snow on the ground for tomorrow night, Christmas Eve.

There’s just a special, almost magical feeling on Christmas Eve. There is the thrill of the celebration of the birth of Christ. I know that nobody knows when Jesus was born, but it’s the celebration. It’s the realization that God Himself came to earth, took on human form and becoming 100% man while still being 100% God. Immanuel, God with us.

I love the giving spirit behind this. The anticipation of children. Haniah is 3 1/2, is well aware that Santa is coming but realizing it’s also the birth of Jesus that we celebrate. I have Christian friends that do not celebrate Christmas, and my thoughts are, why wouldn’t we celebrate the birth of the Savior of the World?

Church on Christmas Eve is my favorite. All my brothers and sisters in Christ gathered together to worship the King of the world. The music, the companionship, the shaking of hands, hugs, and kisses on cheeks. The realization that this day celebrates the one thing us believers all have in common…..Jesus Christ is Lord.

This time of year I think of the importance of Christ’s birth. I was always amazed as a child that there would be a ceasefire in the Vietnam War during Christmas. Amazing. People trying to kill each other in the name of their governments would stop and take a day or two of peace. All because of Christ Jesus.

People being nicer to each other. But I’ve noticed the election has brought out the worst in people, particularly this season. There is no forgiveness, no tolerance to opposing views, and love is hard to find. People who think differently than others are bigots, racists, stupid, and more.

But that’s where we come in. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Not for peace with each other, but peace with God. We were enemies of God because of our sin and our falling away from God. But when we realize that the One who’s birth we celebrate in two days also is the one who died for our sins, then we find peace with God.

We celebrate that Christ took us, totally not worthy, and made us worthy. No other religion has a God that died for us. No other religion has a Father who sacrificed His own Son. No other religion has grace for our sins.

This Christmas is remarkable. The joy in little one’s eyes as they wait for the day. The joy of giving to loved ones and the joy in giving to those in need. The joy we have in knowing that we will have eternal life with other believers, if truly ourselves, we are believers.

For so long it’s been politically incorrect to say “Merry Christmas”. But there appears to be a renewed Spirit in this land. “Merry Christmas” is welcomed. And in some places, Christ is even welcomed back. He’s always been welcomed in my home. Hopefully, someday, He will be welcomed back to the United States. At least that’s what I pray.

Merry Christmas.

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