Friday, February 20, 2015

My Old Man and his Walking Cane( as a Weapon)


Disclaimer: This story is a story very few know. It is a story I was embarrassed by. But now after losing my dad, and on the one year anniversary of the incident, I feel compelled to share it. Because it is important that as Christians we don’t just share our great moments of wise decision making, but we share our tremendously flawed moments also.  To relate we must be relatable, and to be relatable, we must be willing to share our gaffe’s. I am tremendously flawed, but because of Jesus and the Bible, we don’t have to be condemned for our mistakes.

To say my father and I had a certain level of comical dysfunction at times would be a fair deduction. Today I write about a situation that wasn’t funny whatsoever at the time, but a year later to the day, and with losing him in between, it now strikes me as an irreplaceably glorious memory.

On February 20, 2014 my dad was coming towards Syracuse for a medical appointment. We hadn’t seen each other in six months and we were going to meet for coffee. He called me to say that his car had broken down off the thruway, in the parking lot. When I arrived I jumped it and it started right up. As we were getting in the car to go get that coffee, a tow truck driver came up and asked what was going on. My dad explained that he was fine , his car just needed a jump and I gave it to him.  

The tow truck driver said something along the lines of “Oh good, glad your car started, but someone here owes me 60 bucks for the service call.” My dad explained that he hadn’t asked for a tow truck, just that a highway worker asked what was wrong and he had told him “I might need a tow, but my son is on his way to jump me.”

Little to my dad and I’s knowledge, the area off the thruway was contracted and was legally part of the thruway, so you were not allowed to jump someone in that lot. But that highway worker didn't explain that to him, instead called the contracted tow truck company, who came out to the lot.

It started as a pleasant conversation, but as my dad and the driver started slowly elevating their tone, I slowly backed away towards my car- with an eager ear, but a non willingness to be involved. Here is a loose transcript of how things went.

TTD (Tow truck driver)
D (Dad)
M: (Me)

TTD: Well, I’ll tell you what, I was told you asked for a tow, and here is your tow.
D: I never asked for a tow, I told him I was broken down and might need a tow. I didn’t ask him to send anyone.
TTD: Regardless, you are on thruway property and the fact your son jumped you means that both of you broke the law and both of you could be arrested. But someone is going to pay me 60 dollars here for my time, or the police are going to be involved. See the sign! (Points to small sign in the far corner of the lot)
D: Look at where that sign is!  I can’t see that far!! You are out of your mind, I’m not paying you anything.
TTD: Well, if you’re not going to pay me then your son better pay me or you both are going to jail.
M: Oh, HI. I am not involved in this, sorry.
TTD: Oh yes you are, the minute you illegally jumped him you became involved.
M: Oh.
D: Leave my son alone , this is between you and me. Let’s go Joe, sorry but you aren’t getting paid -you didn't do anything.
D: (Utters a various smattering of profanities)
TTD: I’m calling the police. ….“Yes sir we have 2 customers that are refusing to pay me for my work (D in background yelling “You didn’t do any work!”) Ya , let me give you their license plates in case they make a getaway
D: Let’s go Joe.
M: I can’t be a fugitive... I just can’t.

I now am standing in front of my license plate because in my mind this guy is a whack job trying to involve me just because he is being terrible. The driver approaches my car insisting I move out of the way so he can give the cop my license number and when he gets within arms reach of me, I gave him a “ Hey I need some space here Hoss” shove. It was like a shove you would give your little brother when both of you are fighting over the last ho-ho as children. It was non-threatening, and for all intensive purposes really wimpy. It is actually the only time I have laid hands on anyone in an uninvited manner other than my little brother and best friend Jim, when we were kids. Not even knowing an even less manly shove than I had just doled out  was possible, the driver gave me an even wimpier shove back- and that was it, that was the whole confrontation.


TTD: Officer this man just punched me in my face!!! He punched me square in ma face!!!!!!!

M: Oh come on are you serious?

TTD: I’m gonna go hide in my truck because I’m scared officer!!!

M: Tell him I gave you an ever so slight push away because you were in my personal space, please. Don’t lie.

RTTD: These 2 are lunatics officer

M: Huh?

The driver has now barricaded himself in his truck and my dad decided that with the push back at me, the driver had now wronged his son, and well, he wasn’t going to stand for that one iota. It is also important to note that my dad wasn't very agile at this point and had to walk with a cane. He hobbled over from his car to the truck drivers truck, approximately a 100 foot walk, and that is when his cane transformed into something else- a tool for banging on a window.

D: You come at my son? Why didn’t you come at me? Come on out and get some! (all the while banging the cane softly but with a stern message on the window)

Needless to say the driver stayed in his truck, my dad retreated, and I just stood in awe as the police arrived. Out of all of this, I was the only one charged with anything: “Second degree harassment.” Turns out if you touch someone, even with the most feeble and self defensive of touches, and even if they are invading your personal space to the point of smelling the Cheetos from their lunch on their breathe, if that person decides to press charges the police must press them. 
The driver backpedaled on his “he punched me in the face” story and admitted it was just a push. I sent an email to my brother and best friend Jim thanking them for never pressing charges for all the times I harmlessly pushed them over the years of our childhood. As I sat in the back of the cop car, the policeman assured me that this is by far the flimsiest second degree harassment request he has ever processed in his 15 years of work.

In the moment and following months afterwards, I was mad at my dad. Partly because he played into the moment and made it worse, and then I somehow got dragged into it. Partly because it reminded me of times over the years I wished he and I hadn’t gone this route of anger in our own arguments. And mostly because I now had to go home and explain to my wife why I got involved in an issue that didn’t involve me and now had to answer for it to the legal system. I wished he had just said something cute and whimsical  to the driver and paid him the 60 bucks.

I lied and told my dad it was dismissed, because I knew he would be mad if he knew I actually had to pay the tow truck driver back as part of the plea for him to dismiss the charge (and 300 in lawyer fees, 60 became 360 really quickly). I didn’t want him to get upset, his cane may not have been able to take another incident.

You know, it is funny how when you lose someone stories that beforehand were so negative, become one’s you look upon with a sudden rush of positive emotion. When I look back at that crazy day one year ago today, I see it in a different light now- And I chuckle.

My dad and I had so often argued with each other about so many things. But the last hearty argument we ever had wasn’t with each other. We were actually somehow on the same team in this one, pitted against a disgruntled tow truck driver. ( I later called the driver to ask for forgiveness for whatever part I played. I found myself in his neighborhood some months later and drove by his house to find beer bottles laced along the window sills of his kitchen window. I stopped, paused, realized my mishandling of the situation no matter who was wrong or right, and prayed for this man’s life. It was a moment of humility for how humanly stupid and selfish I am a lot of the time, and how I dropped the ball on a chance to possibly be better than that in front of a person who seemingly had his own struggles, just like I did)

As misguided and convoluted as it seemed at the time, the last time I saw my dad fighting with that feisty Italian fight that coursed through his veins for 67 years, he was fighting for my honor. Your fathers defense of you is  incomparable and pure even in the most impure and bizarre scenarios. There is NO ONE that looks out for you more than your parents.

The official police report read, “ Old man was banging his cane against my window daring me to come out.” I didn’t find it funny at all at the time, no less a souvenir to keep forever to remind me of my ever so unique relationship with my father, but today it is a piece of paper I embrace.

I laugh when I look at that report now with an introspective longing for just one more chance to see him even at seemingly our worst of moments. “Old man with a cane banging on my window”, means so much more to me now than what it says verbatim. To me , “Old man with a cane banging on my window”, now will always mean, “My amazing, unparalleled, and perfectly imperfect  father going to bat for me one last time.”.....

          That day,  I would have changed everything about that incident. Today??... I wouldn’t change a thing.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Tribute To My Father

I want to thank you on behalf of our whole family for coming here today to remember my dad.  I want to share a few thoughts and memories of dad.

Psalm 139: 13 -16 says

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.

He was born in 1947 to Rose and Joseph DiBella. The first 2 years of his life he was hidden from most of his family, and raised by his Godparents in an apartment above his parents. You see his parents hadn’t been married yet, and word was that Grandmas parents would kill her and Joseph if they found out, so my Grandma hid the pregnancy and checked into the hospital under an alias to give birth to my dad. My Grandma and Grandpa figured things out, determined to get things right and raise my dad, and were married.

It was time for my dads big reveal. I asked him last month how they presented a 2 year old as a new born baby, and he laughed and said hes not sure..and I asked if he knew how they told the family and he jokingly said that they just took the napkin off the top of me and said “Here he is!”

He grew up on Portland Ave and graduated from Franklin High School. He once told us a story about how one of his best friends was having a fling with Olivia Newton John back in the late 60’s, how she used to sneak into Rochester wearing a disguise and Dad and his girlfriend used to double date with them. He said they went karaoking one night and dad signed her up to sing, and when she found out it was him, she yelled at him " I'm going to kill you Rocky!"

He married my mom in 1977, and I was born in 1980 and Ashley in 1983. My first concrete memory of him was him holding and comforting me when we found out my Grandma died suddenly in 1984.

I remember in the winter of 1985, he and mom told Ashley and I that they had a big surprise for us and they were going to tell us after we picked mom up from work at city hall the next day. We were sure we were going to Disney world and were so excited. When we got home, dad told us the surprise was that we were having a baby. We cried tears of anguish and sorrow over it not being Disney World. Of course Justin ended up being a lot better than Disney world, but we didn’t know that at the time.

My dad always had a mustache as long as I had known him, and then one day in the late 80’s , it was suddenly gone without warning. I was terrified of him and his new look and wouldn’t let him touch me for probably a week. Back then it was creepy to NOT have a mustache.

My dad used to wake me up some mornings with a horrible, horrible bugle noise that he would do with his hands and mouth. He would do it over and over again, as loud as he could, until you woke up and got out of bed. He even gave me the bugle call, upon request, one last time last Tuesday prior to his death.

My dad was a great bowler and even got on that old Sunday morning show bowling for dollars, in the late 80’s. He also once saw a fire across the street from his job and ran across the street with a co worker. There was a little boy on a floor above. They were telling him to jump because it was the only way out. The boy was gun shy and hesitant , but dad and his co worker implored him to jump and the boy finally jumped and they were able to catch him, presumably saving him from who knows what kind of harm.. My sister even still has the newspaper article highlighting it.

My dad was a fantastic baseball player, golfer, and as I mentioned,bowler.. My uncle Chris  told me Friday that dad  was the best softball player he ever saw play, even to this day- famous for his catch and throw delivery while pitching.

Above all, Baseball helped form a special bond between my father and I. My dad loved baseball, and gave me my love for the New York Yankees. Dad rarely missed a Yankees game the last 10 years of his life.. My first memory of watching a baseball game was being 8 and due to the late start times I was only going to be able to stay up late for 1 world series game in the 1988 world series and I picked the Saturday night game 1. We watched the Kirk Gibson game on the couch together- just the 2 of us, probably one of the best baseball games of all time.

In 1989 , he promised me he’d take me to a Red Wings game the following Sunday. Problem is our car broke down that week and we didn’t have a ride. But dad made a promise and he was going to keep it. He asked our Landlord for a ride to Silver Stadium- we got in for free and sat in the box seats because dad always “knew a guy.” But we didn’t have a ride home. It was a day game, so we just started walking and hitchhiking..Well, dad “knew a guy” and he pulled over and brought us home after about 2 or 3 miles of walking. My dad wasn’t gonna let the details cause him to have to let me down that day, and Ill forever remember that special game together.

And I will never forget Dads first time at Yankee Stadium in July of 1995. I had already been there a few times, so I just wanted to soak in his face and reaction as we walked in. He was speechless and teary eyed. He said he couldn’t get rid of the goosebumps because of the history, and the beauty he was looking at. Remembering how joyful he was at seeing  a baseball stadium, makes me overjoyed to think of the feelings he had when he first saw heaven on Wednesday morning. What a privilege to  show him around Yankee Stadium that day, and  one day he will get to show me around heaven.

His Humor:

My brother once told me, “ Dad is the funniest guy Ive ever met.”It caught me off guard because I never thought of him as THAT funny. But the more I think about it now and talk to people, I would have to agree with Justin. His humor was often just a one liner, sometimes it would make you laugh and cringe at the same time at how off color it was. It was often on his analysis of something he just observed or went through. He often struggled not be funny or sarcastic, even when he shouldn’t be. 

We used to hang out with the Oliverio’s a lot and my dad used to always greet little kids from church by smiling and saying “ HEE-HEE”….All the Oliverio children knew my dad was the “HEE-HEE”guy..I remember one year he played Santa Clause for our church Christmas party. Little Sammy Oliviero, probably six years old, sat on his lap and instead of asking him what he wanted for Christmas, “Santa” said “ HEE-HEE Sammy!!” Sammy jumped off Santa’s lap and ran away half laughing and half crying. Dad just couldn’t resist sometimes.

Acts of Service:

The book the five love languages by Gary Chapman talks about how everyone shows love in different ways. The way my dad most showed love is by acts of service. Every single time I called him for a favor or with a problem, he would happily offer his help. He wasn’t always able to express his love with the proper words, but to him picking you up from the doctors, changing your oil, or driving you hours away to drop you off somewhere just to make sure you were safe were his nichiest ways of showing his kids that they were loved richly. 

His generosity was second to none. If dad was within 500 feet of you when a payment was due, your wallet was not allowed out of your pocket. At restaurants he would always pay, and when I told him I feel bad hes paying again and it was my turn, he would pacify me by saying “Just leave the tip, Joe- I've got the rest”

The Elephant in The Room:

The elephant in the room right now is that most of you know that my dad and I struggled relationally at many times during my childhood and adulthood, especially the last few years of his life.. There were times that we exchanged words that I cant repeat in church. Heck, I couldn’t repeat them within 100 miles of a church.

We went a year without speaking from May of 2012 to June of 2013, and then another 3 months from April of 14 to July of 14. His wife Kathy told me that she told him he was sometimes a lion and sometimes a lamb- and she would sometimes tell him, "Honey, I need more lamb and less Lion right now.”I felt like I had gotten the lion so many times, and that it would never change. I even told family members that I didn’t see a way that things could ever be fixed. But my prayers remained different from what my sensibility was telling me. 

I woke up many a night in a panic or a cold sweat, worried that that would be the day he might die and I'd never have peace with him on this earth. And then in July God revealed a plan that he had had in motion since the beginning of time. My dad came to me with humility, empathy, and sorrow. With a sincerity that my flesh so often told me was surely not possible, he told me he was so sorry for all that had happened. I was hesitant, but hopeful, and in the coming months we started talking more and more- And he was markedly different. 

He finally understood who God truly was, and I think he finally grasped how much Jesus loved him, no matter what had happened and no matter what would happen. His words were soft, his intent single-minded-- to love on his children with the days he had left as a father without any chains or motives other than to love.. I had always known he loved me, but in the last 6 months God did a work in him that allowed him to not only express it with acts of service, but with all of his being. The Lion was now The Lamb..

On December 14th, Dad found out he had stage 4 Lung Cancer. I was always a little worried once things started getting so good, that this may have been a sign of the end, Gods Final Gift to Rocky and to us. He told me he just wanted to make it through Christmas and he would be happy.

My dad loved to drive. He knew every highway, byway, side street, dead end road, and shortcut in the Greater Rochester Area..He had taxi roots, and he was the original GPS before their were GPS’s. On Christmas Eve , Missy and I were coming in to see him for a few hours. Due to no fault of Ashley's, she had only seen Dad once in the 15 months prior to that day. We were going to pick her up and bring her over to Dad and Kathy’s. At the last minute my moms computer died, and we bought her one on Craigslist for Christmas, which meant I had to meet up with the seller in Syracuse. I told Ashley I'm sorry but I wouldn’t have time because of this to pick her up and make it on time, but could we meet closer to dads house, and she said she would just drive over herself.. 

When Dad got wind of this he offered to pick her up and Ashley said okay and asked if he would like to see her house, because he hadn’t seen it yet. So on Christmas Eve, my dad drove from Irondequiot to Hilton to be with his daughter. Ashley showed him around her house as he cried, and then dad drove his beloved daughter back to his house to celebrate Christmas eve with her. It was the last ride he ever went for.

On Christmas Day, I was back in Syracuse. He texted me, “Good morning my God sent son. Merry Christmas 2 u and your beautiful wife. Rejoice in Jesus . What a day. Best Christmas in years. Thank you and Missy for making it a reality. We love you guys.” That text exemplified the full healing that had taken place in him. Even though his body was betraying him and beginning to shut down, his heart and soul were stronger than ever.

On the Saturday night after Christmas, we reconvened to go to dinner. Dad predicted to his step-son (and unbeknownst to us) that he would make it through the dinner , and then end up in the hospital. He had a heart attack the day after, spent 4 days in the hospital, went home for a week, and went to the hospital for the final time. 

On Tuesday morning, Dad told Kathy that he was going to die that day, and to call the kids to get there as soon as they can.  We spent the day with him , as special people to him stopped by to say goodbye.

Around 4pm, he had little left in him. He said it was time to go, and asked God to take him. I told him Justin was flying in as fast as he could from Indiana and he would be here in a few minutes, and he needed to wait. He agreed. I was lying to him, as Justin wouldn’t be able to get there for another 8 hours. If he had known he would have called me a “lawyer”. (that’s the way he pronounced “Liar”). 

As his body overwhelmed him over the next 8 hours, and he was ready to die, he kept saying I'm ready to be with God now and we all just kept telling him," a few more minutes and Justin will be here." We must have said a few more minutes a dozen times in that eight hours. 

Justin arrived and got time with dad. Justin played a video of his granddaughter Frances singing a special song for him, and everyone left around 130am to get a few hours of sleep.  I stayed behind and when I stepped out to get a cup of coffee, I came back to find he had passed. “ I just want to have my kids together in one place before I die” , he had told me days after his diagnosis.  Dad waited all day to see his family and a few friends, and when his final child had arrived and left, dad had been granted his final wish- and then he passed away.

Right before he died, after I left everyone in the parking garage, I started singing out loud "MY WAY" by Frank Sinatra. Dad loved Sinatra and loved that song. When he passed I looked out the window and said “ I know he is with you Lord, but how bout a sign for old times sake” (God has shown me so many signs and wonders through the years)..When I called Ashley, Nick and Missy back once he had passed, they got upstairs and told me that the Piano that played on its own in the lobby of the hospital was playing “My Way “ as they walked by it. Later, Justin, who hadn’t known I had been singing it or the other guys had heard it coming in, told me “ Hey , You're going to think this is cool, at the airport when I got in tonight, "My Way" was playing over the loud speaker”…. THE SIGN!

If you told me the story of my father and me would turn into one of my greatest life testimonies to show the reality of Gods existence and his love, I would have told you you were insane.  In the end, eternity is all that will matter. As morbid as it sounds,you will one day be gone from this earth, and no one will be left who knew you..Then what??   

We are saved by Grace, through Faith. Simple and no strings attached. Our rights and wrongs are not what count in the end, all Gods asks of you is faith in his son, Jesus. Even if you're not sure at first just by looking to your left or your right and seeing his works in the beauty that surrounds us, he will show himself real inside of your heart when you begin to seek him. Dad sought him in the end, really let him into his heart, and no matter what mistakes he made along the way, today he is made new...... He is made whole.

I've loved, I've laughed and cried
I've had my fill, my share of losing
And now as tears subside
I find it all so amusing
To think I did all that
And may I say not in a shy way
Oh no, oh no, not me
I did it my way”

Rocco Joseph DiBella, always did things his way. Sometimes it was a beautiful thing, and  sometimes it got him into trouble. But in the end, 'My Way' to my dad started meaning 'God's Way', and God orchestrated the last months of dad’s life in a way that could only be accredited to HIS way----- his perfect way.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelations 21:4

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Where I Am

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 : Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal

I am going to be utterly honest to start and I hope this doesn’t come across as ‘woe is me’ or a pity party, but here goes. It is hard to imagine what has happened to my body in the last 16 years. I just don’t get how it has managed to almost completely turn on me. Most of you know about the catastrophic digestive condition which has led me to intestinal surgery and possible permanent shut-down of my digestive system this Wednesday at the Cleveland Clinic. The surgery is to repair basically a poor performance by my surgeon in Rochester in 2002. What a lot of you don’t know is since I got diagnosed with colitis in 1997, my eyes, ears, lungs, voice, and nerves have also been significantly damaged and have YET(soon) to be repaired. Just recently, I have found myself unable to wear shoes without the bottom of my feet feeling like they have razor blades across the length and width of them due to new nerve damage from a med I took. I live with these reminders of my body’s shortcomings every minute of every day, as soon as I open my eyes in the morning.

I write about all that for a couple of reasons. I have sugarcoated a lot of what I go through because I don’t like to complain and don’t want pity, but for this blog it’s essential to be honest with you, my friends, about the reality of the suffering that has bestowed me to this point. And the reason I need you to realize the reality of it, is to realize the source of my day to day hope and ability to live a general life of joy and peace.

I also wanted to touch on the fact we are so often quick to feel like we have to be tough and gritty in front of people when inside we are plagued. The truth of the matter is on our own we are all weak and plagued. We are all dying- and there are no exceptions. I suppose a lot of people’s main goal is to live and die as comfortably as possible, while suffering as little as possible. That certainly is still my hope for myself in all actuality-but the end of this body and this life will come the same way for every human being who has ever walked the face of this earth.

If everything I wrote above sounds morbid, let me explain on the contrary. With the difficulties I have encountered I have gone from feeling cursed because of them to feeling blessed in spite of them; all the while being insatiably hungry to use them to help people who don’t know Jesus to eventually know Jesus. If I suffer for sufferings sake, I served no more purpose for the eternal kingdom of heaven than had I actually lived healthy for healthy’s sake.

What I could/should be:
 -Depressed at my physical situation at such a young age.
 -Bitter at the surgeon who built my system wrong in 2002 , causing 11 years of problems and causing me to have to have the same difficult surgery again this Wednesday.
- Bitter at God for my situation (Which I was for many years).
- Still at a poker table, drowning my conditional sorrows in temporary escape.

What I am:
-My quality of life health wise right now on a scale of 1-10 can best be defined as Grace.
- Hopeful that all these problems will be cured and healed, just like I was cured and healed of Crohn’s Disease in 2011.
- Crohn’s free
- Married to a person who epitomizes God’s love for me. The only person who I would ever want to walk with me through these circumstances on a daily basis, and a person who was made and molded to handle the difficulties of all of this with such  unwavering diligence. If you know her, you know this to be true: To know her is to love her.
 - PROMISED that even if these afflictions continue in this world, that one day I will have every aspect of my health back.
- While maybe not by earthly definition, blessed in every way.

What I want to come of all of this:
-The one’s I love most who don’t know the truth of The Bible and the absolute guaranteed salvation that is found in giving your life to Jesus Christ, to somehow accept him into their hearts through my story.

I remember saying to God years ago when I finally surrendered it all to him, that if just one person benefits from my story than I can accept the scenario my physical body is in.  Well, I have seen that already so I can’t go back to feeling cursed now; or ever again.

Last year on our wedding day, I had 6 full hours of digestive relief and pain-free living. From the time I got sick in October 1997 until today, August 17th 2013, I have never had that amount of consecutive relief. My previous record was about 4 hours, and my norm these days is about 30 minutes. That is obviously not a coincidence, but a definitive mercy from above. I don’t think that God gave me these afflictions- I think they are just a bi-product of a very imperfect world; but through my afflictions he has given me stories to convey that would have anyone who has heard them left with only the option-to either find me to be a liar who is making up one crazy coincidence or contrived story after another, or to find what I’m saying about God to be true.

Bottom line- I just want to influence people towards Jesus. And if I have to deal with 24 hour a day ailments of my most vital of organs to do that, who am I to demand complete health and normalcy? I’d love health and normalcy, but not if I were to lose focus of what’s eternally important because of it. There is no two ways about it, we are all going to spend eternity somewhere other than this earth.

 The thing with faith is you don’t have to be sure God is real to believe-but once you do believe I assure you God will show himself to be real. To give my take on a play off of a C.S Lewis thought, think of this: If we waited for absolute proof that things will bring us good before we elected to participate in them, we would die from a lack of sleep. See you can never know sleep is real and good until you partake in it. And even once you partake in it; it is not something you can tangibly prove is real because you never really see it. You just know it happened.  No matter who tells you about it, or preaches of its legitimacy, sleep can only be grasped once you attempt to get to know it. But so often unfortunately, when people talk of a God that they have experienced and seen to be true, people who haven’t seen it doubt it and cast it off without every looking into its credibility. How frustrating would it be if someone told you that you never slept because you can’t prove that it’s really sleeping you are doing? We never thought about doubting sleep before exploring its benefits, and that only brings us 8 hours of goodness and refreshment…But we quickly doubt the God of the Bible when the upside to him existing is much, much more than 8 hours of goodness and refreshment.

We live in a world where no individual thing can be put in front of our eyes without believing it was produced by an entity. If I put a couch in front of you and tried to convince you there wasn’t a grand designer of it, you would call me insane.  So that being the case, we are unwilling to except any one thing can just appear without origin, except for the world which holds everything?

I recently heard a story on the radio about a pastor who was trying to convince a non-believer of what he knew to be true of Jesus Christ. The non-believer had a refutation for each and every point the pastor tried to make and the pastor finally broke down in tears and said “Listen, I didn’t bring this up to start a back and forth argument or try to make you feel bad, I just so badly want you to know the God I know and the truth I know, because I love you and care about you.” Dejected, the pastor went home and the unbelieving man showed up at his door later that day. The pastor asked why he was there, and the man said he wanted to give his life to Jesus. The pastor looked at him quizzically, and said, “How did this happen? You had a counterpoint to every point I tried to make.” “I did have a counterpoint to everything you said”, the man said, “except when you tearfully told me you loved me and cared about me. I had no counter for that. I knew right then your belief in Jesus was genuine and legit.”

Listen, I write this because in a hundred years all that will matter is where we are, not where we are now, or where we have been. The Bible says that no one can enter the kingdom of heaven unless he has asked Jesus to live in his heart as his personal savior. Christians are not being judgmental or accusatory when telling people the essentiality of acceptance of Jesus- they are simply repeating the words Jesus himself spoke in a recorded book of history. The beauty of that is that it just takes belief and doesn’t require jumping through any hoops. In studying the history of world religions for my college class, I found that the only religion that has a God who lives, and a deity subject of a human on earth who never died was Bible believing Christianity. It is also the only faith that boasts of a salvation that requires only belief and acceptance in God, and not salvation through doing or being “good” or meeting a certain amount of self-action requirements. Who could every be truly “good” enough to satisfy a perfect God? Who would even want to try?

God has given us the ultimate gift; the ability to live in an imperfect place for a little while and experience good, bad, and everything in between- but with it the option (think about that, we have an option- which doubles as a duty to ourselves and the people whose lives we will touch with our legacy- which triples as the most logical life insurance policy one could ever sign up for) to go to a perfect place for all of time as the culmination of our imperfect journey.


I like to write. I believe it’s my best way of communicating my life’s stories.

I write because I have seen the goodness of the Lord, even amongst and probably most amongst the harshness of my physical difficulties.

I write because on Wednesday I will walk into a hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, trust a Christian surgeon named “Church”, whom I found through the lead singer of a Christian band who shares my same storing of being healed of an incurable disease, and I will voluntarily subject myself to an arduous surgery that I was only supposed to have to have once.

I write because I am excited and overjoyed with where he is taking me on this earth. If he is for me, nothing can be against me.

 I write because I can’t wait to wake up Wednesday after surgery and see my wife, and start our new life together; one which will allow me more time with her and less time with my bidet. =)

I write because I am not Benjamin Button , and neither are you. I understand better than most what its like to feel hopeless, and what its like to subsequently find the utmost hope.

And to steal a line from the pastor from the story above, I write because I just so badly want you to know the God that I know and the truth that I know, because I love you and care about your eternal future.

Here is a good article on what it is to become a Christian. It’s not a prayer ritual, but a simple belief. We are saved by Grace through Faith. Nothing more, nothing less. Good day, friends and family.

Addendum: As most of you know my surgery was good overall, with some pretty concerning complications( for 10 days), but I sit here today 3 weeks later doing really well. I am getting about 3 to 5 hours of  time in between using the bathroom, a far cry from my 30 to 45 minutes before the surgery.(and it will only get better). Somehow, some way (God), my breathing problems seem to be better since surgery and I have barely touched my Advair. Also, I had serious nerve issues in my nose and feet and I can tell you that my nose has barely itched or tingled since surgery and my feet have been really good too. I am still believing total healing there, but what a miracle to be feeling this much better in so many ways just 3 weeks after the surgery. I truly believe my whole body was being affected by my mangled and disturbed intestinal situation. I’m so lucky and blessed to have found someone to fix it. Thanks for reading everyone.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

'Key'note Geeker - A Blog About My Smidgens of O.C.D. and the Joys They Bring My Wife

My wife Melissa just recently bought a decoratory key chain holder for our keys. It has pretty flowers on it and it pretty much poo-poo's the notion that I as a male even live here. "So what! It's just a key holder," you say. "Whats your point weird-o?" Well, this key chain holder puts to bed an issue Missy and I  have had since we got married. Where the heck to set our keys??? Well, in actuality the real issue has been less her and our keys, and more where I want her to set her keys. Now that I mention it even further, the whole issue was just me being really annoying and silly.. Let me explain...

When I come home I set my keys in the same place every time. You see I have just a smattering of obsessive compulsive tendencies. For example, when watching a sporting event I almost always have to have a baseball in my hands. I have held some sort of ball or puck in my hands during important sporting events ever since I was about 10 years old. I toss it when nervous, I squeeze it when something good happens, or I throw it into the couch cushions as hard as I can when the national semifinal ends with the ball in Trevor Cooney's unpolished hands. I'm going on 23 years of this habit and I don't see it ending anytime soon, much to my wife's chagrin- especially when she thinks I'm coming in for a kiss but am actually reaching around her to grab my baseball out of the couch cushion. There are a few others that can be discussed at another time, but just know that I have a smattering of habitual tendencies that could (or undoubtedly are) considered weird.

So when I come home I set my keys straight ahead on Missy's Grandpas antique table which sits in what I consider the foyer of our apartment-although an imaginary foyer at that. It is important to me that the keys do not lay rest in a room or in an area designated for "living." They must go in the foyer!(imaginary foyer) Missy does not agree. When she comes in she will set her keys to her immediate left, on an end table in what I consider to the be living room. I HATE them there. She can put anything else on that table-a camera, a mug, nail polish, even a list of  tedious and gut wrenching chores for me to do and I am fine. But the keys? Nope.I just can't do it.

So for the 10 months we have been married, I will either come home and see the keys there in her special spot and move them to my own happy place, or we come home together and I intercept the keys and put them in my mindsets peaceful nook. I then dutifully and all so kindly ask her if she wouldn't mind from now on putting the keys in the imaginary foyer on the antique table, to which she even more kindly responds, "No thank you." This conversation has occurred probably 200 times in the past year. She has never once agreed to give into my smidgen of O.C.D, but to her credit she has never moved them back spitefully to her table after I put them on my table. In all this,one thing I have learned is I didn't marry a spineless woman- that's for sure.

Lo and behold, Miss Missy (as the kids in Sunday School call her) finally  got tired of Mr. Joe's (Sunday School name) civil key wars and bought the aforementioned key chain holder,  which serenely holds both sets of keys on it as I write.We have found a happy place for the keys, and for that we are both very happy.
(On a side note, I also hate having keys or anything more than whatever the weight of my current cell phone is in my pocket. They are too heavy and weigh me down. I remember a time when my dear friend Jim Carpenter disgustingly saw the size of my keyring and demanded I take keys that were not being used or hailed from an unknown origin,off my key chain. He and I spent a half hour that night picking keys off my ring. Anyways, there is a good story about not liking my keys on my person which I will share in another blog.)

Finally, this morning at 545 AM I went to grab my keys to go to work and couldn't find them. I didn't see them on my table and immediately thought I had left them in the door on the outside of our apartment, which I have done a handful of times before. Missy usually gives me a loving speech when that happens about how an intruder could come in and steal our ice cream as we sleep. So this morning I was thinking about how I couldn't believe I had left them in the door again and quickly prayed our ice cream was still in tact in the freezer.

But then I realized that the keys were not in the doorknob, but on our new key chain holder. I had an instant moment of contemplation and sorrow. I knew in that moment that now that we had a key chain holder, I would never have a chance to give my wife a break about where she puts her keys. Don't get me wrong, it was never a real debate or fight, but it was a chance to show selflessness in even the most petty of categories and I didn't do it. As mundane as it was, my wife wanted her keys one place and I always insisted they go another. It was an instant lesson as I looked at both sets of keys hanging from the wall- that the things I sometimes obsess about and deem important should never be more important than relating to and considering what's important to others.

I wondered how many times I had "moved the keys" on someone else in my life and missed a chance to show them that what was important was not where the keys were, but where they were as people. We waste so much time on "things" and "stuff,"making sure there is a place to safely put those things and a way to get that stuff, all the while forgetting that they are just inanimate objects with no value.

It's so easy to take people for granted and pick at things that mean nothing aside from the silly compulsions of your(my)own withering mind. But in reality, what should be easier than taking people for granted is not taking people for granted. The ones we love the most  have given us the most precious keys of all-the keys to their heart. And there is no good place to set those down.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Welcome Back

It has been a year since I wrote. I have recently felt like I should start writing again and have even more recently felt a constant tug to do so. See, I always loved writing but what stopped me is thinking that what I wanted to write wouldn’t come out right, or that no one would read it. At one point I actually convinced myself not to write because I had so much to write about, I was sure I wouldn’t write about the best thing of the bunch. Pretty lame, huh?

I was reminded of something I wrote a few Christmas Eve’s ago . I wrote about suffering and the hope that was born from it. After I wrote it I almost didn’t post it because it sounded too dreary and overemotional (guilty on the overemotional, per usual) at points, yet went ahead and posted it anyways. One anonymous person commented on it and thanked me and said it was written for him or her. I still don’t know who that person was or what it meant to them. I may never know... As I begin writing again so much has happened since the last time I wrote…

I married the closest thing to a perfect person this earth has ever encountered. I'm sure there are a lot of husbands out there reading this that would say the same thing about their respective wives. I know there are many of you reading this that would have a short list that looks like mine….
Most Perfect People in the World’s History 1) Jesus Christ (100 percent perfect) 2) My Wife (Somewhere just below 100 percent)……..And then we lucky ones step back and realize that that person isn’t anywhere near perfect in reality- Just perfect for us. Which matter-of-factly points back to the number 1 person on your list, the one who makes all good things possible in his perfect love.

I was also blessed that in the months before, during, and immediately after my aforementioned wedding, I had the greatest health relief of any time in the 16 years of the devastating digestive ailments that have plagued me. 

To sum it up, I rarely if ever go more than a waking hour without having to use the bathroom with painful urgency. Two hours usually has me blowing a kazoo and waving a foam finger that says “I am number 2’s Daddy!” Well, wouldn't you know that during my wedding reception I went from 5pm until 11pm without so much as a minimal urge to go to the bathroom. It had been years since feeling that relief in such duration… This was not a coincidence at all, because I know he is a God of love and he carried me for that evening with his grace.

I have been guilty in the past of “losing my audience” because my writings are too lengthy (See, ), so I will end it here…

I am a quiet guy in real life and truth be told, it is often easier to express myself on paper than it is audibly. That being said, I am going to start writing again regularly. My blog is only ranked 11,661,954th worldwide for blogs (I’m not sure out of how many), and is only worth 801 dollars and 11 cents according to urlm.or, and it is imperative that we boost it into the top 10 million and a net worth of over a “G-Unit.” 

But in all seriousness, next month I face a monster surgery head on, one that I went through already in 2002. I will write about that. I have a passion for people at times, but also a lack of the necessary passion for people at other times,because I can't seem to get out of the way of my own selfish interests or my own difficult circumstances..And I will write about that. And if you happen to die and I knew you well enough, I will probably write about your life  (whether you like it or not). Lastly, I have a passion for heaven and doing whatever I can to encourage people towards what I know is the way there- Not in a judgmental way, but the opposite of that. There is nothing less judgmental than wanting the people you know to know the truth of the paradise that awaits all who choose God. So many Christians get labeled as judgmental for entrusting and sharing the words of The Bible and what it says about heaven's pathway, when in reality it is as judgmental as telling someone who is starving to death that it would be a good idea to get some food as soon as possible.... And you better believe I am going to write about that.

 Because even if I’m the only one reading what I write blog after blog, month after month, I never know when that “anonymous” Christmas Eve reader is going to need to read something I write again. And for that reason alone, this is why I must write.

Monday, April 16, 2012

'I'm Taking My Talents To Cleveland'

I have wanted to write this blog for about a year and two months, but even when I received the good news then that the doctor’s all of a sudden couldn’t find Crohn’s Disease in my body, I wasn’t offered a sufficient remedy to the suffering I was going through. I guess I didn’t felt led to write, because sure it was great that my digestion was disease free, but no one could explain why I was still going to the bathroom every half an hour.

I don’t want to get too into the difficulties of my physical life the last 15 years. The people who have seen it and understand it the most are my mother and now my angel of a fiancĂ©. Most others just know the basics- that I go to the bathroom a lot. I guess I would best describe it as a non functioning digestive system and a chronic stomach bug.

But this is an article about hope. I have hope in recovering from this ailed digestion. My hope comes from Jesus, who in his time has provided me a route and a way to get better. I face major surgery but I face it with the hope that the rest of my life is ahead of me. And the rest of my life is going to be good. I know this for sure.

I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in 1997 and in 2002 I had my Large Intestine removed. The thing is I never got better after the surgeries like they told me I would. They later diagnosed me with Crohn’s Disease, a catastrophic diagnosis for a delicately rebuilt system. Medically I had the worst digestive condition and disease you could have.

About 2 years ago when I quit gambling I started to believe I was going to be healed and cure of this disease. Many people told me they believed it too. Mary Lou Reilly, one of the most spiritually in tune people I know, felt like God told her to tell me that he has already began healing me. In the midst of the storm I started to proclaim I was healed, as it is biblical to speak what is not yet as though it is.

The night before I went in for a colonoscopy last February, I was praying alone in my apartment when I felt God’s presence more than I have ever felt before. I felt him telling me that “tomorrow is the day, the day I have promised you, the day of your healing.”

I was overwhelmed in that moment and told Melissa that the doctor’s were going to look in tomorrow and find that there is no sign of Crohn’s disease. Mind you this made no sense because for 5 years I had been told unequivocally that it was Crohn’s by more than one doctor. Also, I was very sick that night- sicker than usual- thus why I was going into the doctor the next day.

But I just knew I was healed. I told the doctor before he looked in that he wouldn’t find any disease. When I woke up he asked me who told me I had Crohn’s. I told him a few different doctors had. He said he doesn’t understand the diagnosis because he doesn’t see any sign of it. I was not surprised because God had given me the peace the night before of knowing his promise was coming true that next day. I can’t explain it in words fully. It was just an amazing experience.

The problem however was that I was still not offered what I thought was a proper solution to why I was going to the bathroom every half hour or so. He told me it was scar tissue, and gave me a silver bullet dilator I was supposed to use to self medicate on a daily basis (It’s exactly what you think it is). I chose not to go this route. (No pun intended)

Another doctor later confirmed he didn’t see Crohn’s either, and wanted to blast some scar tissue and I had surgery for this in December. I only felt worse after. At this point I felt like God was making it clear that it was not disease or scarring. That the system was not built correctly and I needed to have it revamped.

So in January, feeling awful but knowing I was healed and cured of disease, I googled “Crohn’s testimony miracles.” I knew that there must have been other stories like mine and that I was not the first one God cured the incurable for. What came up was a link to a you tube video (short version: long version: with the lead singer of a Christian band called “Sonic Flood” speaking about his healing from Crohn’s. His name is Rick Heil.

His story was almost identical to mine. He got sick as a teen, had multiple surgeries, was clinically depressed, and was at the end the rope both mentally and physically when he decided to just trust Jesus no matter what happened.

He was suggested to go to Dr. Church at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland Ohio. He said he felt comfort in his last name. He found out Dr. Church was a Christian and he did a surgery on him. Later Dr. Church looked in and couldn’t find any sign of Crohn’s Disease.

When I watched this video I knew it was for me, and Dr. Church in Cleveland was where I was supposed to be. Over the last few months I have fought my HMO to approve my visit and they denied me, saying I could try some more doctors’ in New York. I was initially frustrated but I had made an appointment just in case I was approved. 4 days before my appointment I found out I was denied coverage.

I was going to call to cancel because I thought the visit would be too expensive to pay out of pocket.I felt God telling me to keep the appointment. It turns out that once I got there I found it was more affordable then I thought.

On Wednesday night, 2 days before the visit with Dr. Church, I was not feeling well and had a moment of being overwhelmed. I was driving home from Syracuse and asked God to please help me through the night. The moment I asked him for help I looked up and passed "Church Street."- Confirmation of what is to come.

This past Friday Melissa and I headed to Cleveland with faith that God was going to orchestrate the whole day to his will and to my benefit. It turns out her faith was stronger than mine… A wrinkle was thrown into the day when I immediately was extra sick when we left. I wanted to turn around and cancel because I knew it was going to be a long tough ride feeling the way I did. But my diligent, selectively and aggressively directive fiancĂ© told me that we were not turning around. She knew it was a spiritual battle that had to be won.

So we pressed on and went. It was a tough ride, having to stop every few minutes along the way. But here’s the thing-because I felt so sick I didn’t want to eat, and not eating would benefit me enormously later that day.

When we got there we waited 2 and half hours to see Dr. Church. When he walked in you could feel his humble nature immediately, and when he spoke it was only verified with his soft spoken New Zealand accent. I told him how I found him and that I was also a born again Christian.

I told him my situation and he listened intently. I told him I wouldn't be able to afford any surgery until after I get married and on my fiance's insurance in July. He decided to look in with a scope to see what was going on in my system. He did it without sedation, something that always has hurt me incredibly in the past. Somehow this time I didn't feel a thing.

It didn’t hurt at all. Missy and I had both prayed separately that it wouldn’t hurt and God answered that prayer. I had gone not planning on having a scope but prayed it would be an option. The x factor in all this was that I didn’t eat all day so he was able to see my intestine clearly.

His first words afterwards were “it is recoverable.” He explained that the pouch was built poorly. He said there is a twist that had developed up near where the small intestine meets the J-pouch, causing a narrowing of the junction, which is causing me all these problems. He also explained that the stem of the J did not stand up well, and that it just jutted out instead of folded up. He told me that the best bet is to go in and re-work the system in a major surgery.

After 10 years of searching and about 10 doctor’s, I had finally gotten an answer and a solution in just 10 minutes with Dr. Church.

He said that “You, I, and God are going to see that this gets fixed.” He also said, “You are going to be well again.” Both lines made me teary eyed on the spot.

I knew I was in the right place before I even saw this mans face. God told me and had set it up for me. But after speaking with him I knew that my life was never going to be the same. God had led me to a place and a surgeon that not only had a clue, but he also had rooted his clue in Jesus Christ. You could just tell in his voice that he knew, much like the situation with Rich Heil coming to him, that this was a divine meeting.

Non- Believers in Jesus might think that this is just another coincidence in my long line of crazy coincidences that I have written about in various blogs.However I know that once again I have been bestowed with the grace of the Lord.

So what awaits me is probable major surgery(I am thinking August 24th,revolved around a Yankee's visit to Cleveland, to make my families trip more favorable), but I am excited because I know I am at the exact place God wants me to be at. In the meantime I rejoice in knowing this particular suffering is closer to the end of its shelf life than it has ever been. I stand amazed at Jesus’ love for me, as well as his distinct realness.

The bible says to rejoice in your suffering because Christ has suffered first and it is good to be like Jesus. It also says that out of suffering will come perseverance and then character and then hope- and that hope never fails. I wouldn’t be surprised if the name of the nurse doing my surgery is indeed ‘Hope.’

I am thankful for this 2 year journey-first freed of gambling and then disease and also being given the gift of the greatest wife I could have ever asked for.

What’s really interesting is that I couldn’t have done this surgery until we got married because my insurance won’t cover it and hers will. Even if I had discovered Dr. Church earlier I wouldn’t have been able to pay for him. God’s timing is perfect. His grace is enough. His peace passes my understanding.

I write because I want to glorify God. I want non-Christians to understand that this is not religion I am experiencing-religion poisons and dictates a God who comes across as lifeless, dictating, and mundane. Religion has no living God, only figureheads who were human, died, and stayed dead.

But God is life. My blogs tell of a God who shows me he loves me so loudly and supernaturally, that I am either a chronic liar or Jesus is Lord. I hope this latest story helps confirm the realness of the need for Jesus in your lives. He is only a prayer away at all times. He wants to know you and he wants to spend forever with you. It is your choice. No HMO or disease can separate you from him, and no person or thing on this earth can replace him.

I am elated that my suffering has led me to this hope I have. But I would much rather my suffering result in new hope for someone who hasn’t accepted Jesus as their God. And if doubt starts to creep into your head about all this-about who God is; or even if God is..... Just remember my new surgeon’s name... And believe.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Letter to the Four Walls of my Church

A Letter to the Four Walls of my Church

By Joe DiBella



I am writing to let you know what you have meant to me and how deeply you have affected me over the past 25 years of our relationship. Although we have had our ups and downs over the years I realize you have always been a constant in my life, and the fluctuations in our relationship have been solely my responsibility. I wanted to write to you to sequentially thank you and point out all the nuances that I so greatly appreciate about yours and my relationship.


We first met in 1986 in Bushnell’s Basin at Vacation Bible School. I was only 7 years old and don’t remember too many specifics. You know how when you're young like that you normally only have a few freeze-frame memories? Think about how many days of your childhood were spent without a single elongated memory;the only things etched from the first 10 years being a handful of freeze-frames.

My earliest freeze-frame of you was seeing a young boy in a cast who had been in a very serious car accident. I don’t remember how many casts he had on but at the very least I remember one covering his arm. I remember the concern for him and for his mother who was also involved, and was fighting for her life.

Now 25 years later I play softball with that young boy on a team you sponsor. And the woman who was fighting for her life will be at my wedding in July. The young man throws like a girl now and I wonder if that’s because his arm never properly healed from the accident. But that’s another story for another time(just kidding). Anyways, I want to thank you for introducing me to them……


In 1989, you introduced me to a young kid who was about my age. At first he and I did not hit it off. Frankly, I don’t think he liked me. He was too caught up in solidifying his spot in the gang of 9 year old “cool” kids. But time after time you kept setting us up to talk and engage.

At some point I started whispering really funny things into his ear that he would repeat to the group that always would make them laugh. I was too timid to blurt out my jokes,and he of course would inaccurately get full credit for the laughs.(To his credit he was funny on his own also.)I think he liked me because he was able to capitalize on my shyness, and in turn seemed funnier to everyone than he actually was. We struck up a friendship and he blossomed into my best friend. Because of my relationship with him I chose to go to the same high school as him, where I met so many of my dearest friends and had so many of my fondest memories.

I ended up coaching basketball at the school after I graduated and had more irreplaceable memories with the kids I got to coach. I shudder to think of the good times I would have never known about without that high school, and it is all thanks to you setting me up with my best friend when I was 9. This July he will be one of the best men in my wedding.


I was 10 years old and this was the year that my dad wasn’t feeling well and wasn’t able to do all the things he wanted with me. I remember you introduced me to a man who took me out go-carting and to the monster truck show. He called himself my “big brother”, which was the namesake of the outreach program he had volunteered for. “Big Brother” was an understatement, as he could stow my 90 pound body away behind one of his leg calve muscles if he needed to hide me.

He even invited me over to watch the Bills and Giants play in the Superbowl. I was the only Giants fan amongst a sea of Bills fans. He was the biggest Bills fan I knew. He didn’t even mind when I ran around his house at 10pm screaming joyous exhortations after the Giants won. I’m so glad my dad got better and I was able to indulge in so many of those activities with him after all,but I will never forget this man’s kindness to me in such a difficult time of my childhood. I am happy to say that I now tower over him in stature. While he isn’t my “big brother” anymore, he will always be my brother.


I will always remember how much you looked out for my mother. You introduced her to so many mentors and friends along the way to help her in her walk with Christ. I remember one night when I was 11 years old our car battery was stolen from your parking lot during a meeting. (I remember we worried about stuff like this happening when you told us you were moving from Suburban Bushnell’s Basin where jaywalking was its most serious crime, to a troubled part of the inner-city in which murders sometimes occurred)

My mom and siblings and I were frazzled by the stealing of our battery and you sent someone to help us get home and make sure we were okay. Although I am not certain I am willing to bet you even bought us a new battery.

We were a little concerned at first that we were not safe going to your place anymore, but we remembered what you told us when you left the suburbs; that God is with us wherever we go; and that we are called to reach the ‘least of these’, and that included the poor and the needy; and that he will protect us.

You were right because 20 years later I think a stolen battery is the worst thing that has ever happened in your parking lot. So for the peace and tranquility you have brought my mother in so many situations, on top of the one mentioned above, I am eternally grateful to you. And for all the people you sent her way to befriend her, I want to thank you for introducing her to them.

1994 – What Seemed Like Forever

Ah, but times were not always so peachy keen were they? These were the years that I can not even keep track of the amount of times I loathed you. Yes, the teenage years. It was my formative years and I didn’t really want to deal with the hassle you sometimes presented with your existence. Sure I appreciated you for the Friday nights where you would provide Fizz soda, Pudgie’s Pizza, laughs, and most especially, flirting time with the young ladies. But other than that I didn’t really enjoy a lot you had to offer.

You always seemed to be waking me up way too early on weekends. And did you really have to start those meetings at 930am and have them carry on so often past the 1pm kick-off during football season? That just seemed like a bit much to me. And boy, did you send a bunch of unwanted ‘over-friendly Freddy’s and Franny's’ my way.

Everyone was always up in my face trying to hug me or ask how school was or find out how my acne treatment was coming along. And did I really need a kazoo?? I was 16 years old for crying out loud. Why did you always send over the kazoo lady??? The annoyances of being around you never seemed to end.

It just seemed like you were trying to get under my skin. This went on for what seemed like a lifetime and then something changed in me. All along it was my spirit and attitude that was causing me annoyance, not the people you put around me. Looking back I realize that those people cared about me because I meant so much to you. They thought of anyone who came to see you as their own family member, and showed interest in them as such. So I want to thank you for introducing me to them.


Right about when I started to reach my social comfort zone in life, I got very sick with a pooping disease. Oh,the irony! I was plagued with the most serious of digestive diseases, which hampered me in almost every aspect of life. There were nights I didn’t think I wanted to go on and nights I thought I wanted to go on but really thought my body was about to shut down and succumb.

But what I remember most about these years that felt so dark and lonely were that you always made sure I was taken care of. On my worst nights, you sent over some of your leaders to lay hands on me and pray for me. The phone calls to check up on my family and I were plentiful. Whenever I was well enough to attend your services, I was overwhelmed (in a good way) by the outpouring of interest in my condition. When I had surgery to remove my intestines, the first person who visited me when I awoke was your pastor.

Looking back, I can honestly say that besides my family, the thing that got me through those years of insufferable illness were you and the people who you sent my way. So I want to thank you for introducing me to them.


Okay, okay…I am ashamed to say that I went through another period where I wasn’t the biggest fan of yours. I can't blame youthful rebellion on this one. It was more adult rebellion I suppose.

See, you represented so much of the good that I wanted to see in myself, that when I thought of you or went to see you I would get upset with you because I was so far from what I knew I should be. Does that make sense? I don’t know why we run from good things. It’s kind of an oxymoron, isn’t it?

But run I did. I ran into the arms of the wrong settings and the wrong situations. I didn’t feel worthy of you. As I depicted above, you were so good to me on so many occasions, yet I still chose to have little to do with you. Sure, I would stop by and visit once in awhile just to say I did or to please my mom, but I didn’t have any interest in connecting with you. I want to apologize for that. Again, it was me and not you. Thank you for not being offended. How come you never seem to get offended??

1991-2010: The Years You Were a Failed Matchmaker

Yes, you spent 20 years trying to get me to fall in love with Ms. Right under your watch, and with all due respect you failed miserably. But what a funny, interesting journey you sent me on in the process. You introduced me to my first crush when I was 11 years old. I liked her for about 7 years and said about 7 words to her. You didn’t take your first failed matchmaker attempt as a sign to relent though, as you directly or indirectly tied me to a small handful of other relationships.

I can’t help but laugh when I realize that the only relationship I had that wasn't in part due to your scheming was the one with my future wife. While I appreciated your efforts, I eventually came to a point where my sole prerequisite for a woman was that she didn’t know you at all! I kid of course, but I thank you for your attempts and know that the journey that you led me on in this matter led me to the very good place I am in today. So thank you for lovingly introducing me to all the wrong girls over the last 20 years.

Present Day

Lastly, I want to thank you for your most recent meaning to me. I think we have been closer than we ever have these past few years. We have been through a lot you and I. We both changed our names over the years; me from ‘Joey’ to ‘Joe’, and you from ‘New Jerusalem’ to ‘Joy Community.’ Most importantly you were always willing to accept me no matter where I was in life or how I felt about you. Kindness was the most evident quality in you, and you displayed it glowingly.

So many people perceive what you represent wrongly, because so many people have twisted who you are. There is nothing religious or ritualistic about you at the core, but because of humans transforming you on the surface your true value has so often been convoluted. I mean anyone who read what I wrote about you above would be hard-pressed to call you routine or mundane.

So I must admit that it looks like I will be moving away from you in the next few months to be with my wife. I guess I won’t be seeing you as often, but I will look forward to reading your emails and such. Please do not take me off your happy birthday shout out lists or put me in parentheses in your directory (I know how you get).

But for now I am still here and want to thank you for all you have been to me. All you have been to my family;and all you have been to so many countless others. Like the God you represent, 'love' has proven to be what you set the foundation of your four walls on.

So lastly, I just want to thank you for introducing me to YOU.