Hi, My Name is …

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Hi, my name is Chuck and I am a pastor. Those of you familiar with 12 Step meetings may recognize this opening line. In truth, I am many things, included in which is the fact that I am an alcoholic, sober now for nearly 30 years by the grace of God.

I am also, as stated above, a pastor. My wife Betsy and I run a ministry out of our home. You can find out what we are doing for the Kingdom of God by going to www.lakesidechristianministries.org if you would like.

I am also a fledgling blogger. This is one of those activities that was not on my radar of things to do. It was the suggestion of my wife that I start jotting down some of the thoughts that rattle around inside my bald head. I am so happy I took her up on it, because blogging as become one of the highlights of the things I get to do with my time. WordPress has exposed me to some wonderful people. Though we are of varying backgrounds and beliefs, I have found this venue to be open-minded and fair. I cherish the friends I have made around the globe here.

As I said, being a writer was not on my to do list. In the past, writing has been an exhausting exercise for me. I think back now of the numerous papers that needed to be written for seminary and I wonder how I did it! Again, the encouragement of fellow bloggers has helped me to overcome much (not all) of the self-doubts I had. Thoughts like, ‘who wants to read anything I write’ no longer get much attention in my consciousness.

These same blogger friends encouraged me not to look at the numbers of ‘likes’ or followers and just keep writing what is on your heart. I must admit though, I do look at the numbers from time to time. As I glanced at them yesterday, I saw that the numbers of followers had jumped up noticeably. I am awed and humbled by this.

So, to those who have been with me so far on this journey, thanks so much! Your input and encouragement truly mean the world to me. For those who have recently signed up, here are a few pertinent facts about me that might spare you having to go back through all my blogs for context:

Betsy and I have been married for 37 years. She is simply the most wonderful human being I have ever known. I am blessed to walk through life with her. We live in a small town, Fulton New York. It is most famous for its lake-effect snow, as we get an average of 250 inches per winter (that’s over 20 feet!)

We have two adult children: Our oldest is Kenny. He is married to a sweetheart of a girl named Ashley. They live only 30 minutes away so we get to see them often. Kenny took over my old job as Facilities Painter at Le Moyne college when I stepped away from full-time employment to oversee our ministry as my primary focus. He learned the trade from me over the seven summers he worked with the summer paint crew there. These past 4 summers I have gone back to work with him from mid-May to the end of August (good thing I was a good boss to him now that our roles are reversed!)

Our youngest son Auger lives about 3 hours from us. He lives with his partner Mic. They make a great team, and we love them dearly. Over the past 18 months Auger has taken up the pursuit of his undergraduate degree in English, with an emphasis on creative writing. At no surprise to me, he is excelling at this. He has been gifted with the ability to write in ways that are so compelling on many levels. We are excited for what the future holds.

Betsy and I share our home with Violet, a standard-sized (70 pounds) Goldendoodle. You would not have to go back far in my posts to see one about her. She is, in my humble opinion, the best dog ever. The joy she brings to our home is immeasurable.

Our home ministry is quite active in the community. One rewarding activity is the bringing of bible studies on the road, going to peoples homes. This is especially helpful to folks who have had trouble in church settings in the past. Our ministry goal is simple: To be the hands and feet of Jesus and to meet people right where they are, just as the Lord did.

Betsy and I have a unique hobby, if you will: We sing our National Anthem at sporting events around the central New York area. We also sing O Canada when teams from north of the border to play here. We really enjoy doing this. It allows us to honor our country that we love, and we have met some really cool people in our travels.

There you have it, for now, newest followers. Again, thanks so very much for taking the time to read my stuff and to comment when so moved. I appreciate you all!

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

Life is Happening in Front of, not Behind You

Violet

Another walk with Violet, another illustration on life. Violet, I’m sure most of you know by now, is our Goldendoodle. Unless it is a downpour, my wife Betsy and I take her for a 1.5 mile walk every morning.

Violet, in my somewhat jaded opinion, is simply the best dog ever. She is everything I could hope for in a pet: a wonderful disposition, smart and non-shedding (those of you who have had Basset Hounds know how good this can be!) All in all, Vi is very low maintenance.

This is not to say that she has no faults at all. Her need to have absolutely everything (wind velocity and direction along with proper barometric pressure) in order so she can go number 2 can be frustrating. The other quirk my dog exhibits is the inspiration for this post: Violet frequently (and for no apparent reason) will whip her head around to look behind while continuing to walk forward. This peculiar behavior has caused her to walk into more than one car bumper on our strolls.

Being one who talks to the dog like she’s human, I have tried to explain to Violet that life is happening in front of, not behind, her. If she would only stop looking back so much I tell her, she could avoid the painful bumps on her skull. While my discussions on this point have revealed little change in Vi’s frequent over-the-shoulder glances, I have been trying to apply this same principle to my life.

One of the teachings from 12 Step recovery says that we do not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. (From AA’s Big Book.) Simply stated, this tells me to learn from my past mistakes to reduce the likelihood of repeating them. To shut out all the memories from my dark past, then, would be a mistake, less I forget the lessons I have now gleaned from them.

For the most part, I have had success with this. By keeping some of the pain I caused in my consciousness, I am reminded daily of the devastation I am capable of but certainly do not want to inflict or go through again.

However, there are certain events or conversations, no matter how old they are, that will still pop up in my head, trying to gain my full attention. Things that I thought I had dealt with will seemingly be there out of blue. Hurts, both real and imagined, will come swimming to the forefront of my thoughts. These tend to keep my focus on things past rather than on what is in front of me.

Most of the time, I realize that these random intrusions are just that, random. Part of not shutting the door on the past does make it possible for other things kept back there to want to creep out. Staying aware of this happening often allows me to quickly put them back in their proper place.

When I do not quickly put these thoughts back into the past however, if I decide to linger over them, I risk joining Violet in bumping into something right in front of me because my focus was on what I thought might be behind me.

Like Vi, I need to remind myself that life is currently happening in front of me, not behind. If I will but properly use and learn from the experiences of my past, I can usually avoid bumping my head when I did not have to.

Life’s joys, challenges and yes, mundane daily occurrences are all happening before my eyes. Things to enjoy, challenges to be met and rote things to be done can all be further experiences to help me learn and grow in this life. But I must face them all, head on, without spending undue time trying to walk forward while staring backward.

Like most opportunities to learn, this one is a process for me. There are times when I wonder how I could have ever stumbled by looking back, and there are times when I wonder if I will ever get my focus back to where it needs to be.

God, in His mercy, is always ready to guide me back into His light. He will minister to my heart regarding those things in the past that vie for attention when they have already been forgiven by Him. When I live this out, I avoid many unpleasant bumps to my noggin.

As for Violet, I guess I will just have to be diligent for her as I remind myself that some of her lumps on the head have helped me avoid some of my own!

How about you? I’d love to hear how you have dealt/deal with the thoughts of the past as you try to navigate the present.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

What a Conversation Starter!

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As we continue to face the challenges and changes the corona virus outbreak is having on all of us, I have also discovered a few silver linings in my daily life.

One of these is the on-going discovery of people I do not know who live in my neighborhood.  As you may recall, Faithful Reader, I have worked primarily out of our home for the last 3 and a half years.  On any given day, I will take two or three long walks with our Golden Doodle, Violet (my computer would not let me use any of my own pictures of her, but this photo from pinterest is strikingly close to what she looks like).

Previously, these walks have been completed almost exclusively without seeing anyone to speak to.  Over these past few days, that is no longer the case! Parents prevented from going to their workplaces are outside at times they never were before.  Many, like me, are on potty runs for their dogs.

The pastor in me tries to take these meetings as opportunities to share hope.  Having Violet along has certainly made conversations easy to start.  Almost everyone is taken by her soft coat, soulful eyes and goofy personality.  As we share info on our different pooches, the talk invariably comes around to the current circumstances that have led us to meet.

I am not now, never been, and probably never will be a very successful evangelist.  I don’t have the gift of gab, if you will, that allows words to smoothly and cohesively flow from my mouth.  No, my strength seems to be more in the walking out of my faith.  This, I have been told, is most evident in my peaceful demeanor.  “You are easy to talk to,” and, “thanks for listening” are things I hear quite often.

So it is with those gifts that I engage my new-found neighbors in conversation.  By asking what their ‘normal’ was before this all started, I can begin to get the sense of what is most troubling them in these days.  Invariably, they will then ask me the same question to which I reply that my routine is pretty much as it was.  I then offer to tell them about our home-based ministry and some of the care we bring to our community.  As I do, I extend the invitation to them as well by asking if there is a specific area of concern for which I can be praying for them.  I gladly tell them of the resources we have available that may be of some help.

I share this with you today as an encouragement to take the new opportunities that are presented to you through this radical shift in your day to day life.  I understand the fear and uncertainty you may be experiencing, but my encouragement is that you not let them dominate your life.  In the midst of being careful and making preparations for the days to come, please stay aware of the people who have now appeared on your radar.  Please don’t be afraid to lend a listening ear or offer to help if appropriate.

Together, we will get through this.  Just ask Violet, she has heard me encourage quite a few of this recently.

Blessings and thanks for taking the time to read this,

Pastor Chuck

 

Dogs or People?

 

I’m a dog person.  I mean, I really like dogs.  If I see you out with your canine, I will invariably ask if it’s alright if I pet him or her.  Almost always, the answer is yes.  That’s because, in my opinion, dog people understand one another.

I had yet another opportunity to meet a new to me dog the other day.  I saw Brutus, taking up most of the corner of a waiting room, sitting with his human mom.  Being a 165-pound Great Dane, you can see how he would take up space.  I asked and was given permission to pet the gentle giant.

As dog owners, our conversation went along predictable lines as we shared stories of our beloved pets habits and activities.  It was then the Brutus’ owner confided to me another common sentiment among those who love their dogs:  she liked dogs better than most people.

I responded by telling her I understood how she felt but that I, being in the ministry and all, had to make sure I put people ahead of our furry friends.  Whereas this usually changes the topic, this lady instead pressed me, “But don’t you sometimes like dogs better than people?”

I laughed off a response and then it was time for Brutus and his owner to go, leaving me to ponder her question about which I liked more.  Anyone who knows me, or is familiar with my Facebook page knows that I adore our Goldendoodle, Violet.

Image may contain: dog

 

In my eyes, she is the perfect dog: friendly to everyone with a ‘I want to please you’ style that is so endearing.  Smart and playful, Violet is loved deeply.

But the lady’s question lingered.  This usually means that something is going on in my brain or spirit that God wants to address.  It didn’t take long to come into focus.  For me, it’s not so much a question of liking one over the other.  The sticky point is how much patience I have with dog v. human.  Violet can have an accident or chew on another dish towel or eat the occasional jig-saw puzzle peace and I take it all in stride.  Her good points outweigh these minor inconveniences to such an extent that these bumps in the road hardly register with me.

If only I could so easily extend grace to the world of humans around me.  Personal slights or forgetting something important that I told you are nearly capital offences at times.  The list of ‘how could you’ can get quite long.  Not a ringing endorsement for a pastor, but it is an honest one.

Having identified an area that needed adjusting, God was just as quick to show me how to start.  Praying, as I like to do on my long afternoon walks with the above-pictured Violet, God spoke quietly to my spirit.  Basically, He reminded me that He loved me.  So much so that He gave His one and only Son to die for the forgiveness of sins, mine included.  His Spirit also reminded me that my very capacity to love comes from God and that I ought to access it more frequently.

Taking this to heart and putting into practice these last couple of days has been a joy.  Allowing God’s grace to flow through me to others has re-opened my eyes and heart.  These folks, all created by and loved as deeply by the same God who poured Himself out for me, deserve my patience and all the understanding I can muster.

Colossians 3:13 instructs me (and all of us) to: Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (NIV) I’ve been doing this all along with my four-legged friends, simply loving them for what they are.  Applying this same criteria to the bi-peds around me is helping me to see them more clearly and compassionately for who they are as well.

Next time I’m asked which I like better, I’ll have a clearer answer! It’s not an ‘either or’ but rather a ‘yes and’ that works the best!

How about you: Dogs or people? And cat lovers too!

Blessings and thanks for reading,

Pastor Chuck