Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The One About The Gambling Problem: One Year of Freedom

How it all began

6 years ago I fell for something. I was the last of my friends to get into it,and I was the only one to get entrenched by it. In 2004 the poker boom took off amidst an average nobody amateur poker player named Chris Moneymaker winning the World Series of Poker main event and 6 million dollars. Suddenly teenage boys and grown men everywhere were playing no limit Texas hold em' with their friends, thanks to the 'everyman' hitting it rich in Vegas. Sure poker had always been a staple in some way. You always see it being played in the old westerns and sitcoms spanning back to the 1950's. The game was usually five card stud back then. But with Moneymaker winning the title in 2004, no limit hold em took off due to the TV coverage,the Internet accessibility,and the casino prevalence.

I had a few friends who started playing friendly five dollar games on Friday nights at their houses. I never wanted to play because I didn't want to learn how. It seemed complicated and I thought I would just be donating five dollars to the cause. I finally learned that If I wanted to do something on weekends, I better join in.

The first time I played I didn't know what I was doing. I kept winning hands just playing stupid and getting lucky. I had a cheat sheet that showed me the ranks of the hands that I had to check almost every hand.

At some point in the next few months I started playing online and depositing money. It started as 20 bucks. I remember the first time I lost 50 dollars online I was devastated. I said I was not going to do it again but a few days later I put in another 50. Somewhere around the summer of 2005, I started turning a slight profit. I would cash out a couple hundred bucks and leave a few dollars in my account to try to build it up again. Over the course of the next few years, what started as twenty dollar games turned into 50,100,200,300,500,and 1000 respectfully.

I became obsessed with the game. It was a game of math and Psyche. I would study everything and anything  I could; On TV, in books, atonline forums. I was a student of the game in every measure. I would go to the casinos and everyone else at the table would be socializing and I would just be staring at them and listening. I never said a word. Any little tidbit I could pick up was going to mean profit. And every little moment I let my guard down to fraternize with my competitors could lead to hundreds or thousands of dollars lost.

By September of 2006 I was making enough money to only work part time. I worked two overnights a week and played poker as my main source of income. I kept strict records of wins and losses and paid my taxes. It was a business to me. Many days I would sit at my computer for 16 to 20 hours without even eating. I would go to bed and do it again the next day. I was ranked in the top half of the top one percent of all online players for short handed sit and go's in the world. I would pay 500 dollars, play one other guy who also put up 500, and play until one of us got all the chips and the thousand dollars. These games would take about 10 to 20 minutes. Since we were playing the highest stakes on the site at the time, people would "rail bird" our games and try to chat with us. I remember one person telling me that I was their hero and they had been watching me play for weeks. On one site,within their online community, I was very well known for dominating the 200 to 500 dollar heads up sit and go's.

But I was masking many things behind that computer screen. I was sick and very unhealthy. My mind was one tracked and I would often torture myself over decisions that cost me large sums of money. I was in fact, numb to money. I was numb to winning.

But you never,ever become numb to losing. When I lost it would feel like an avalanche pouring down on my head. The thrill of winning never compared to the pain of losing. The turn of one card would often decide thousand dollar pots. I believed I was trapped in the game because being sick and all, it seemed like the only way to make a legitimate living. Years went by of being anti-social, distant ,and addicted to a game that in my own mind validated my worth. I knew I was good at it. Others knew I was good at it. I was finding the answers to my worthiness through this game. Today I know who I am through God.

How it all ended

I started feeling God tug at my coattails about this when my girlfriend broke up with me because of the poker lifestyle, in February 2009. To this day I believe that relationship was sent as God's way of saving my life. It wasn't meant to last, but the lessons learned were meant to change eternity.

Over the course of the next few months, I battled to quit, but never achieved true victory. In July of 2009, I had an afternoon which went like this. Around noon I sat down at a table with 3000 dollars. By 3pm I had ran it up to over 14,000 dollars. By six pm, all 14,000 was gone. Between your lunch and your dinner, I had won and lost enough money to buy a brand new car. This was my tipping point. I knew I had to quit. And I knew God's grace was the only chance I had at achieving that goal. What I got a few months later was more then grace. It was a miracle.

The Miracle from Jesus

I was still gambling in September, when a friend of mine from work named Billy had became extremely distraught about a breakup between him and his longtime girlfriend. I remember he was very upset and one night was texting me that he didn't see any way out of the darkness. I felt God telling me to text him about God's love. It was very, very awkward because I had never spoken to him about God at all and I was coming out of left field with it. But I text him something along the lines of "There is hope with God" and he text me back " I can't see hope in anything right now, but thanks for trying." At least the ice had been broken  and God's hand had began writing the script that would save both me and Billy's lives.

A few weeks later was a night I will never forget. Things hadn't gotten any better for Billy. It was a Thursday night and my phone rang. It was Billy. I was gambling online and when I gambled online I rarely would pick up the phone. So I ignored the call and didn't think of it again..... Until the next day.

I got a phone call from another co-worker saying Billy was missing. To make a long story short, he ended up ingesting a massive amount of pills and alcohol that night in a suicide attempt. With the amount he took, for all intensive purposes, he should have died.

When I got wind of this I was shook to the core. A few weeks later when I saw him I asked him why he called me that night. We hadn't been particularly close at that point and for a few weeks I wondered If it was possible he was crying out for help to me for some reason. He told me that he didn't know why he had called me and that I was indeed the last person he thinks he tried to call. It bowled me over and instantly made complete and utter sense what God was doing.

He was using my gambling and the selfishness it had led to,to wake me up. I had laid the foundation in a struggling man's life of the love of God, and when the same man reached out to me only weeks later, I ignored him for poker. Sure I had no way of knowing that at the time. But God knew I wouldn't know until I needed to know. God knew exactly what he was doing moment by moment leading up to that night.

I confessed to Billy that I ignored his call that night because I was in a poker trance. I told him how guilty I feel and how guilty I would have felt had he died and I was the last person he had tried to, and unsuccessfully contact. As I apologized to him I knew what had to be done. A few days later I quit gambling.

And on the 40th day.....

When the previously mentioned ex girlfriend broke up with me she asked me if I would quit playing poker for 40 days and see what God would show me. I snickered at the notion when she told me this. But eight months later on the 40th day of not gambling there was a small electrical fire at the group home where me and Billy worked. When the smoke alarms went off one of the clients, who usually will get up and go on command, decided that she wanted to stay in bed. So she layed in bed as the fire was put out. The overnight was usually a one staff operation and had it been a bigger fire there would have been no way to get the client out with just one person. So management decided for the next month to have 2 staff on the overnights to carry her out in case of a fire. Why they did this only for a month and why not permanently I'll never know. Well actually yes I do know. It was all God.

During that month, Billy and I worked together many times on the overnight. Just me and him. We got time together to talk and God gave me words to say to him. He allowed me to tell him the way to heaven, which is acceptance of Jesus Christ as his saviour. I had been giving a laminated print out of the Roman's Road, from a Pastor that I sought out a few months before to help me stop gambling. The Roman's road is a point by point biblical reference of why we have fallen short of heaven without Jesus, and how simple the prayer is to gain eternal glory's access. One night on the overnight I gave Billy the print out and asked him if he was ready to pray Jesus into his heart and seal his destiny. He wasn't at that particular time but said he would take it home with him. I joked that If he didn't pray it soon I was going to be extremely mad at him. He joked back that it sounded like I might blow up his car.

The next day I woke up to the most significant text message I have ever received. It simply said " I prayed it. Don't blow up my car." The man who should have been dead without ever knowing God in September, was now alive and forever stamped in the book of life in November.

God's stories are perfect. This story is perfect. He needed my attention. He needed me to stop gambling because he had things he needed me to do. His timing was perfect. He wasn't going to let Billy die that night. He knew I wouldn't have been able to live with myself. And he knew Billy was meant to be a child of his. Only God can tie this type of story together. "Quit for 40 days and see what God will do." Satan is the only one snickering now.

Since he got saved Billy has been baptized and recently married the love of his life, whom he had been so broken hearted about losing last year. She is also a born again christian. Another example of God working. That relationship had to end temporarily, so that Billy and I could be saved.

The Sovereignty of December 1st

You may have figured out by now that these stories of quitting occurred between September and November and you may be wondering what makes December 1st the one year anniversary. Well I slipped up after 2 months and played once on December 1st, 2009, online. On that day I took my computer and plucked it out per say. I brought it to my sisters and told her I don't want a computer in my house anymore.

Last night on the eve of my one year anniversary I decided I wanted my computer back (without Internet), so I could type out my blogs and save them to flash drive. I was setting my computer up a little before midnight and it wouldn't work. So I pulled down an old shoebox from the top of my fridge to try to look for the re-boot disc. In a shoebox full of papers, the first thing  I saw and grabbed was a small envelope. I pulled out what was inside and it was a sheet of paper torn in 3 pieces. Those 3 pieces of paper were my certificate of water baptism at my church in 2008. It had my name on it and a seal of approval with the date and a scripture verse. It's funny because In the Romans Road it says that after you get saved you should do 2 things. 1) Tell a friend. 2) Get water baptized. Billy told me he was saved, and got water baptized a few months later..... All the while I had no recollection that I had destroyed my symbol of water baptism over a poker game.

I realized as I pulled out the 3 sheets of ripped paper that I had torn it off my wall and ripped it up after an online poker loss a year or two ago. I decided to tape it back together and as I finished taping it, it hit me. I grabbed my phone to look at the time and it read, December 1st,2010: 12:05am. The time between finding it and taping it back together took about 5 minutes.

At exactly midnight on the one year anniversary of obeying God and giving up gambling, the Lord helped me find the remnants of a night of gamblings angst; and put it back together. All while trying to hook up a computer that I yanked out as a symbol of hope a year ago. Three pieces of paper torn; The Father,The Son, and The Holy Spirit. I had ripped them apart and made something else my God. And now they hang on my wall as one again. I knew that was a gift from God in that moment. His way of saying "One year Joe. One year. Do you see now how much I love you? I couldn't even wait one minute past midnight to say Happy Birthday to you. I am so proud of you."  All I know is this; When God says I am proud of you so profoundly, it is a slice of heaven on earth.

For non-believers it is so easy to say that there is no proof of God and that they just can't wrap their heads around something that isn't tangible. I don't know why God has blessed me so much to ensure that I can't doubt his existence,but I am thankful. Some may think my stories and the stories above are coincidence. But knowing what God has done and how real he has shown himself to me causes me to implore any unsaved who are reading this to believe me. This is not coincidence. We are not coincidence. There are so many ways to die, but there is only one way to live after we die. Jesus is the only way to heaven. If you want to join me and Billy one day with the Lord, please pray this prayer. It's no strings attached, and it doesn't require an audience. It's not religion. Does the love I describe above sound like ritual or does it sound like love?

A year later I am a free man. I have seen 7 people come to Christ. I want 8. Satan tried to devour me through gambling and sickness. God had other plan's. Pray this prayer from the Roman's road and check out the link. I wouldn't want to have to blow up your car.....

I want to thank Jim Carpenter,Dan Wallace,my Sister,my Brother and my Mother for helping me thru the gambling years and believing I could do this the past year. I'll never forget non-chalantly showing off and blowing a hundred dollars on one spin of a roulette wheel when Jim came to visit me at the casino once and me saying " Ah well" and him quipping back, " Next time just hand it to me. My kids need clothes."

And all my mom's words of hope that I would quit one day, even as I was setting up her 600 dollar, 32 inch TV as her Christmas gift one year. I couldn't have gotten thru it without you five guys love. Here is that Roman's prayer..a link to a great song of hope and a picture of part of the taped together certificate from last night. God Bless.

"Dear God, I confess that I am a sinner, and I am sorry. I need

a Savior. I know I cannot save myself. I believe by faith that Jesus, your
Son, died on the cross to be my Savior. I believe He arose from the grave
to live as my Lord. I turn from my sin. I ask You, Lord Jesus, to forgive my
sin and come into my heart. I trust you as my Savior and receive you as
my Lord. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me."

Link to full Roman's Road page :

Link to a beautiful song of hope. I think the link only opens in full screen:

Taped together Scripture on certificate of water baptism:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Night I Turned Cliff Lee's Career Around and He Paid My Rent.

Through my 3 or 4 years of playing poker for a living I ran across a few professional and collegiate athletes at my table. Tim Connolly of the Buffalo Sabres once tried goofy talking me into making a bad raise into his preflop pocket kings. I once bluffed Fred Jackson, running back for the Buffalo Bills, out of a pot of about a thousand dollars. And Paul Harris once told me, as he played his hands without looking at his cards with no regard for money, that he was going to graduate from Syracuse because he promised his Grandma he would. A year later he was opting out of his senior year and entering the NBA draft. But one of the favorite stories of my days at a poker table, or any table for that matter,is the night I spent sitting next to Cliff Lee. While he was mired in obscurity in the minor leagues playing for Buffalo, the farm team of the Cleveland Indians, he would come to the casino and play cards on free nights. It was the summer of 2007, and little did I know I was playing cards and chit chatting with a man that less then 3 years later would one of the top 3 pitchers on earth.

Somewhere around 7pm that nite, a young ,athletic looking man sat down in the seat to my right. He wore a watch that was almost as big as a baseball. He started chatting it up with the table and somebody asked him what he did for a living. The man stated he played professional baseball. The same man asked what his name was. “Cliff Lee”, he said. Then came the sound of crickets, as noone had ever heard of him except me. A few seconds later I said , “ I know you! You were on my fantasy team last year. You stunk so much I had to release you .” Cliff Lee and the whole table laughed and Cliff declared, “Ya I still stink.”

As we continued to sit next to each other we started on a private conversation. I asked him what went wrong that he was pitching in the minors after a pretty good year in the majors a few years back. He told me that the problems started a few weeks back. He was the 4th or 5th starter on the Indians roster and was the starting pitcher on Sammy Sosa night in Texas. “ I hit Sammy Sosa in the head on Sammy Sosa night and he had to leave the game,” Lee non-chalantly explained to me. “What?”, I said. “Ya, then me and Victor Martinez (Indians all star catcher at the time), got into a fist fight in the dugout. He was mad and said I threw at him on purpose.” “Did you?”, I asked. “Ya he was crowding my plate so I nailed him.” I laughed as he told me this story straight faced. “So wait you hit Sosa on Sosa night and fought your catcher, and then got sent to the minors?”. “ Ya. But also I can’t get anyone out ,and Laffey (Indians 5th starter at the time) was pitching decent and not fighting his own catcher, so they sent me down.” The man was brutally honest about his short-comings the last few years on the mound. And every few minutes as we sat next to each other that night I turned to him laughing ,saying “Really man,,,... On Sammy Sosa Night?!!?”

Here is how one newspaper detailed the night Lee hit Sosa. Notice how Lee didn't admit he hit him on purpose. Maybe I am the only one he told the truth to?

"The argument escalated in the third inning when Lee hit Sammy Sosa in the head with a fastball. Sosa, honored before the game by a large delegation of family, friends and politicians from the Dominican Republic for hitting his 600th homer June 20, had to leave the game.

Lee said he had no intention of hitting Sosa, especially in the head. Martinez reportedly was upset for Lee's lack of remorse. He felt he should have at least come to the plate to see how Sosa was doing."

So as the night went on we kept talking. About his family and life on the road.  He told me how much he missed his kids and how hard it was to be away from them. Every few hands he stepped away from the table to use his cell phone.  I asked him why his watch was the size of a small country? He asked me If I knew anywhere good to eat in this casino. “The hot dogs are nasty, stay away from the hot dogs.That’s all I know” He thanked me for the advice.

At some point in the night I felt there was an opening to actually give him a little pep talk. The way he talked about his career that night was with a big question mark and a humility that bordered on giving off a vibe that he might be ready to call it quits. Between his being away from home and not being sure if he was ever going to get back to the big leagues, I found Cliff Lee at a poker table that night with an obvious amount of self doubt for himself. As we got talking I remember apologizing for releasing him from my fantasy team. He laughed and said “ I  would have released me too."

It was right around this point that I did indeed decide to give Cliff Lee a pep talk. I told him in so many terms, “ Listen, hang in there, You are a lefty,which is a valuable commodity. You are still young and you know you have great stuff. Just keep pitching hard and I know you will find yourself back in the show someday.” “Thanks man. I hope so.”

Three years later, Cliff Lee is not only back in the majors, but he has amassed the best postseason numbers to start a career of all time. Three years later Cliff Lee is arguably the best pitcher on the planet. Last night he became the 2nd postseason pitcher of all time to record 10 strikeouts in 3 postseason starts in the same season. He is 7 and 0 to start his playoff career with an Era in the low 1's. He is 55 and 25 since that night with an era in the low 3's.

That night I played a big hand one on one with Cliff Lee. I had pocket kings ( the 2nd best starting hand possible in poker),and he had a pair of sixes in the hole. We were isolated in the hand ,and on the flop came a 6, blank blank board. My kings looked good to me. He bet, I raised, he re-raised. I went into the think tank and after a few seconds decided my Kings might be good and I was going to put my last 3 or 4 hundred into the pot . (Really a bad read by me all things considered)

It was then that Cliff Lee did something I have never seen anyone do at a poker table before. He turned his sixes over and showed me what he had. (He had an unbeatable set of sixes.) He said to me “ Save your money kid , I got you crushed.” This minor league baseball pitcher decided to spare me a ton of money, in a kind act of humanity. I said “Thanks a lot Cliff Lee, you saved me a ton.” The whole table was stunned that he spared me. Cliff Lee just went on with his business. I wonder if he had mercy on me because he was flattered that not only did I know who he was ,but I believed in his future.

When he left the table around midnight he made a point to shake all ten people at the table’s hands. He made his way out , and I never saw him again. As I watched him ascend the next few years into one of the most savvy and talented pitchers in the major’s , I have always glowed at his successes as if he was a special friend of mine.

Did my pep talk that night turn around his floundering career and bring his wayward mind back to a place of hope and belief? I don’t think so. But your dog gone right until he refutes it, I am forever going to jokingly gloat that I turned Cliff Lee into the monster he is today. And through his selfless kindness in that one hand, I can also tell people “ Hey did I tell you about the time Cliff Lee paid my rent for me ? " 

Yankee fans everywhere can blame me for this today if they want to. And  they can also thank me in November when he puts on the pinstripes.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Pastor Albert Gerhardt

I recently took a course through my now former employer entitled, "Crucial Conversations." It was a class designed to get you ready for the important conversations that will arise in your day to day life. The most striking fact I recall from the 10 or so hours of this class was that 93 percent of what we take out of human interaction is not the actual conversational quotes. That means that only 7 percent of what we take away from an exchange, albeit social, casual, or professional, is the actual quotable dialogue. We remember tone, intent, body language,and unspoken vibe.

True to this statistic, my pastor from 1989 to 2004, Al Gerhardt, left his mark in my life mostly based on his actions and the way he carried himself. Probably the most prevalent quote I can recall of him is his enthusiastic "Hey Joe" when he saw me. I can't really reiterate all the profound or exact words of hope he spoke to me over the course of 15 years. I only recall bits and pieces. What I remember so clearly however is the lessons learned from observing his conduct, kindness, and intense love for Jesus Christ.

He was gentle with me at times and firm in tough love at other times. But the common denominator was his portrayal of Christ's love. I feel unworthy of even writing about him, as I know there are hundreds of others who were closer to him than me. The following are a few memories and thoughts from observation and direct contact with the man most of us so eloquently referred to as "Pastor Al."

My memory of Al Gerhardt passes through two different eras of my life, as well as two very different perspective's of him; One perspective falsely concocted and one dead on accurate. The first 10 years or so I knew him were based off of reverence that I doubled as intimidation. The last couple years were merely based from excitement and appreciation just knowing the man.

"Here He Comes. He Can See Right Through Me. I Better Go the Other Way."

As a young child and right through my teenage years, I was scared of him. It was a self created fear. He was the face of God in my life, and quite frankly I was not sure how I felt about God, or how God felt about me. I didn't fear Pastor Al because of anything he did or said, but I was intimidated by what he represented.

In Mitch Albom's "Have A Little Faith",Albom describes his childhood Rabbi as someone that was a figurehead that embedded fear and quivering inside of him. It was only later in his life that he got to know him as a man first and a Rabbi second.

I could relate to Albom's portrayal because that was much the same timeline I had with Pastor Al. I swore he must have been able to see all the sins I had committed when he looked at me. Of course my imagination was erroneous looking back now. But all I saw back then was God when I saw Al. It's funny because later in his life I still saw the exact same thing in him, only my emotion changed from fear to peace. I think I had trouble relating to him in my youth because of the following fact: If I hadn't made friends with God yet, how would I make friends with the human face of God in my life.

His First Gift to Me

Somewhere around 1990, I received my first gift from Pastor Al. It was in the form of a Christian sports magazine called "Sports Spectrum." He sent it in the mail to me knowing my love for sports as a 10 year old child. These magazines would come with stories of Christian athletes and their fierce faith. They spoke life into me at a very young age and commanded my attention because they were a gift from the most Godly man I knew. Often times the subject of the magazine surprised me, leaving me saying "He is a Christian?” about the athlete on the cover. Magazine after magazine came in every month, Pastor Al renewing my subscription every year.......for six years.

His Sunday Morning Ambiance

I remember on most Sunday mornings, shortly after worship would start, Al would stroll into the sanctuary with his Bible under his arm. Did he come in alone and late in hopes of making a symbolic grand entrance? Hardly. I remember hearing once that he usually would walk in late because he put so much stock in prayer that he would pray for the service in a back room until he heard the worship music begin.

I remember he would usually turn around at some point during worship to see who was in attendance. The look on his face as he scanned the room could best be described as auspicious. I would describe it as an appreciative and humbled awe at what the Lord had entrusted him with. He always let the Holy Spirit move in his services,but also was always sure to bring some sort of word from The Bible even during mornings of spirit led revival.

Studying the Man's Unspoken Nuances

When I was a teenager I loved watching him conduct himself.  I remember thinking to myself over the years, "Does his hair ever move?" and "What size shoes is that?"

 I spoke in church this past May about overcoming my addiction to poker. Before I went up I knew I wanted to somehow mention Pastor Al's name and give him props. So I decided I would play Al's " Your testimony is going too long, how can I tell you this without getting up and grabbing the microphone" card.

I remember Sunday mornings where people would go up to the altar and give testimony about what the Lord was doing in their life. Al would sometimes mention the importance of brevity, but a lot of times that notion fell on deaf ears. I always had a timer in my head as people shared and tried to guess when Al would start squirming. I was pretty good at hitting the nail on the head in this category. I never wanted it to come to that but once it did I couldn't help but laugh at his antics. He would uncross his leg and switch over to the other leg, look at his watch repeatedly, and do a fake cough routine. Anything to get the person's attention and let them know, “Hey I got a tee time at 2 o' clock." Sometimes the speaker would get the unspoken vibe and other times not. But I loved the fact he was so human and to me at least, so funny about it.

So in May, after about five minutes of giving my testimony I decided it was time to deliver the Pastor Al line. I said to the congregation of which maybe less then half actually had known him, “I have to wrap this up now. I can hear Pastor Al doing his fake cough in my mind." I loved the fact I could acknowledge the person who made it possible for everyone in that room to be there. I loved that I got to drop his name in front of a full room....I loved that people were thinking of him and laughing.

“I Have to Mow his Lawn? What if I Miss a Blade?"

In the summer of 1994, I was 14 years old and my family found itself living in the same apartment complex as Pastor Al. He occasionally would pick me up and take me to church on a Wednesday night for revival meetings. During the 6 years we lived in the same complex, I was often volunteered by my Mom to mow his lawn. He had a small yard and a manual, non-engined mower.

The job literally took me about 10 minutes to do. I remember on one particular hot day, looking over as I was rolling the mower and seeing him standing at the sliding glass door. In my mind I was panicked and sure he was scrutinizing my work. I probably started mowing nervously in crooked lines as he stood there. After a few seconds of watching, he opened the door and said to me, “Don’t forget to come in for iced tea when you're done."...... The face of God had spoken. And strangely enough, he was more concerned about my well-being then his grasses cosmetics.

July 31, 1996

I don't know how I remember the date, I just do. My best friend Jim Carpenter and I were known for our petty, girlish fights. We would argue about the dumbest things as if they were life or death, then not speak for awhile afterwards. During this particular time period we hadn't talked in the longest amount of time we had ever gone. My mom set us up to get us back together. He came over to my house on this summer day and asked me if I wanted to go golfing. We set out to Webster golf course to play a round.

I remember we were still angry at each other and were bickering quite a bit still.As we headed towards one particular hole we saw Pastor Al up ahead of us, pulling his clubs with a hand cart golfing alone.We debated for a few moments whether we should go up to him and converse. I remember thinking," If he asks us to join,we won't be able to curse after a bad shot the rest of the day; and worst of all Jim are I are going to have to pretend that we don't hate each other right now."

We decided to hurry along and catch up to him to say "hi". He asked us if we would like to join him and we did. It was not long, before Pastor Al was displeased with one of his shots and started talking to himself. - "Al, You have got to be kidding me. What were you thinking? You are playing terrible golf."

Throughout the day he berated himself as such after a 'bad' shot. Jim and I laughed about it afterwards because we were so worried about not being able to beat ourselves up while golfing with the pastor, and it turned out he did enough self-scolding for all three of us. He must have beaten us each by 20 strokes and also through pastoral osmosis, Jim and I were getting along great.

Always There at the Lowest Points

When I was 17 years old I became plagued with a difficult digestive disease that left me bed ridden many a time. Over the next 5 years my mom would call Pastor Al on my most dire nights to ask for prayer. He would often head right over to my house and pray with me. Sometimes he would come alone and other times he would bring the elders with him.

One time in particular I was more depressed than sick. He came over and sat with me one on one in the living room. I lived in the basement of my parents house and I remember being so sick and depressed that I wouldn't come up for days.

I remember when I came upstairs on this day that the sun piercing through the blinds had made my vision distorted. I must have not seen the sun in weeks. I slept during the day and stayed up all night. I remember before I could even adjust my eyes to the light Pastor Al was speaking life into me. I don't remember exact words but the gist was “Do you believe God has something better planned for you? Do you believe he is able to save you from death?"

I want to say that the man always knew exactly what to say, but the fact I don't have a lot of direct quotes on him specifically makes me more apt to say this; the man always knew how to love you.

Goodbye Intimidation

There was about a 5 year span where I was very sick, and it was only towards the end of my sickness that my childhood intimidation of him ceased.  I worked at a deli in Webster where he shopped and sadly enough, I remember sometimes I would see him coming around the bend and I would hide in the back room. I figured I had nothing good or Godly to report to him, so what would I talk about?

It was towards the end of that period of time that I stopped hiding in the back room and started embracing him. I recall on more than one occasion asking my boss if I could take my break and going up to the diner to have coffee with Al. The man I had so hastily and erroneously labeled as overwhelmingly intimidating,was suddenly my friend.

His Second Gift to Me

I ended up being hospitalized a few times and the first one to join me there after my immediate family was always Pastor Al.

In 2001 I had a bad reaction to a drug and had a temperature of over 107 degrees, ending up in the intensive care unit of Genesee Hospital. He came down to pray with me in the unit and the next Sunday I gave testimony of how God saved my life.

Al prayed for me after my testimony and I still have the audio tape, one that I played last week for the first time in many years in preparation for writing this piece. It was my first time hearing his voice in so long and  is my only documented audio of him.

He spoke words over me that 9 years later mean more than they ever have. He said “Joe, the Lord is asking you, do you love me? And you are saying 'Yes Lord, I love you.' And The Lord is saying to you “I love you Joe. Never have any doubt in your mind that I love you. I have always loved you. And I want to take you out of this place of sickness. But it's all contingent on you walking out this love relationship with me."

He went on to talk about how God promises to take me out of this wilderness of illness if I only will allow him to and trust him. As I listened to it recently I couldn't help but get teary-eyed. His voice was so gentle, and his passion so evident. It's fitting that the only documented audio I have of Pastor Al is him speaking in the role of Jesus.

His Third Gift to Me

Sometime during the years of illness, Pastor Al brought me a handkerchief. He told me that it was representative of the hem of Jesus’ garment as documented in the Bible. He said when I feel alone and overcome by illness I could hold onto it as if I was holding onto Jesus himself. As I write this, I am familiarizing myself with the story behind the garment in the Bible.

The story goes that a woman had had an issue of bleeding for 12 years. As the masses tried to get Jesus attention as he walked through the village, the woman reached out and touched the hem of his garment and was immediately healed. I am just realizing now that  it has been 12 plus years for me dealing with a disease whose first symptom was loss of blood. I only last week, not having yet familiarized myself with the story of the woman in the Bible, heard God tell me to proclaim that I am healed of all digestive disease.(Five months after I wrote this I was indeed healed of Crohn's Disease, as a doctor told me he couldn't find a trace of it every existing in my body. Hallelujah.)

 Looking back perhaps the handkerchief was a prophetic gift. I always held that handkerchief near and dear to my heart not only because it was a gift from Al, but it represented my hope in one day being healed. Sometime after he died I lost the handkerchief. I remember searching deep and wide for it many a time. To this day if I could find just one thing I ever lost it would be that handkerchief.

His Final Gift to Me

In June of 2004 Al Gerhardt passed away from complications of cancer. The sanctuary was so packed with people for his funeral that the church streamed the service on closed circuit television into another room in the church. As some of his grandson's carried out his casket, there was not a dry eye in the building.

A year or two after his death my mom had mentioned to his daughter, Joy, that I was having trouble seeing small print due to the years of steroid use affecting my vision. Joy asked her if I wanted a bible that had large print. It was a Bible Pastor Al had bought later in his life because of the larger print being easier to see. Joy gave my mom the Bible to give to me. I can't express my gratitude to be able to own one of the last Bibles that this ultimate man of God had owned.

In this Bible there is only one spot where he had hand written in it. It is written in pencil, with two verses in it at the bottom of Ephesians 2. Ephesians 2:8 and Isaiah 65:1, and they are as follows. Ephesians 2:8- "For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God."  Isaiah 65:1 - “I was sought by those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. I said 'Here I am, here I am,' to a nation that was not called by my name."

Both verses are representative of how unworthy we are of God and how his grace is so precious. How appropriate that in the last years of his life, in perhaps the last Bible he ever owned in perhaps the last markings he ever documented in a Bible, his notes were in regards to how humble we should feel to be receiving God's grace. It is so fitting because when I had finally got past my false image of intimidation, what I found most in Pastor Al was a humble and thankful Christian.

I mentioned earlier that he used to get antsy when testimonies would drag on Sunday mornings and joked about him being late for his tee time. I think its important to point out he wasn't trying to move things along for his own reasons, but he was just always cognizant of keeping things in the realm of the Holy Spirit’s flow for the service. As I mentioned above, he was humbled by what God had given him and always aware of God's presence.

In writing this, I was thinking about when we get to heaven and if we get to request to be able to see and spend time catching up with certain people that have had an impact on our lives on this earth. If this is how it happens I have a feeling Al Gerhardt doesn't get many periods up there where he is not "looked up." The people whose lives he had an impact on are countless,as is I am sure are the amount of people he led to Christ that want to thank him for the glory that has been revealed through his outreaching.

I know when I get there he will be on the top of my list of people to look up. What will I do when I see him?  Maybe just give him a gentle hug and a whisper of  "Thank you." I will try to keep it brief, but who am I kidding, no I wont.

I guess I'll find out quickly if there are wrist watches and fake coughs in heaven.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Finally A Funny One :How Not To Handle a Loaded Gun In Your Face: The Story of the Night I Got Robbed with Sawed Off Shotguns.

On June 19 1999, my beloved Buffalo Sabres lost game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals. They lost the series 4 games to 2 and were victims of a goal in the 3rd overtime of game 6 that shouldn't have been allowed due to an in the crease violation. Had the Sabres found a way to win that game I would have been watching a 7th and decisive game that Tuesday the 22nd. Instead I was at a park in Penfield, New York getting robbed at loaded gunpoint.

 Three of my friends ( Jim, Joe, and Josh) and I went to Linear Park about 9pm in the evening to hang out. We were there no longer then five minutes when a group of 4 guys came up to us pretending to want to fraternize. The introductory statement came in a bizarre request that I didn't understand-" Hey, you guys got any trees?" I found out later that trees was the cool way to ask if we had any marijuana cigarettes. One  friend picked up on the lingo quickly and proclaimed we were pot free on this night.

Well the boys were not happy that we weren't able to provide them with any of that "Kind Bud." So the next words out one of their mouths were "Well let's see what you DO have." Two of them pulled out shotguns and stuck them in my friend Joe and Josh's faces. Me and my best friend Jim were lucky enough to not have a shotgun in our faces. For the moment.

My friend Joe was a tough kid, who didn't put up with any nonsense. He was the type that if he wasn't on your side you better run fast and never look back. His first reaction to the shotgun in his face was to swat it out of his face. This didn't please the ringleader of the group,Michael P. Sheheen. He was running the show and he had 2 other Einstein's in charge of the shotgun's. When Joe swatted it,  Sheehan exhorted that this was " not a game" and told his cohort to "bust".

I was learning all kinds of new terms on this night. "Trees" meant weed,and apparently "bust" meant shoot the gun into the grass to show us it's loaded. When the kid tried to shoot the ground to show us the gun was packed, He couldn't get it to shoot. So Shaheen implored the other gun wielder to shoot his gun to show us it was loaded. Gunman number 2 failed just as miserably as gunman number one. Neither could figure out their guns. Apparently these hijackers didn't believe in dry runs.

At this time, I remember 2 thoughts came into my mind. One was that the gun's were indeed loaded. Two was that the guys holding them to our heads didn't know how to use them. I began to repent of my sins and prepared to see Jesus momentarily.

After a few minutes of trying to figure out how to use his loaded rifle on the grass,Shaheen told gunman number 2 to forget it and suggested that they just point them back at our heads so they could continue on with the robbery. This was the part where the gun now was pointed at my brain for the first time.

Joe had settled down a bit now that he saw that the guns were likely loaded and the gun toter's were more than likely idiots. So they proceeded to tell us to put all our money and belongings from our pocket's into one of their hat's. Between the four of us they got 48 bucks. When you count the overweight robber they left in the get away car due to his inability to run, there were five robbers. That's a whopping 9 dollars and 75 cents each. And to think, Mcdonald's was hiring.

 Well in all actuality the thieves would have gotten an extra 20 bucks and keys to a new car had my friends been honest victims............

Not to be outdone by Joe swatting a loaded rifle out of his face to try to salvage his 17 bucks, Jim and Josh decided to be cute during the string of events.

While the young men were trying to figure out how to use their guns, Jim knew that his money was soon to be at risk. He was a minimum wage "Yo-Yo" operator at Sea Breeze who's friends (me) regularly stiffed him on gas money. He decided it would be a good idea to preserve the larger bills and only give the robbers the 1's and 5's. He took the lone 20 dollar bill out of his pocket and inconspicuously stuck his 20 dollar bill down his backside and placed it on top of his posterior.

Not to be outdone, my friend Josh Demille decided when the gunmen asked for everything in his pocket that he was not giving up his car keys. Now don't get me wrong, I understand this to some degree- It was a new car and was pretty nifty looking. So afterwards when we asked Josh what he would have done if they demanded his car keys he said, " I would have let us all get shot before I gave up the keys to my new car." Brilliant. When we asked him how his dead, lifeless corpse would drive his car he had no answers but still insisted on principle he would have never given up his car keys.

After the robber's got our 48 dollars they ran off and what do ya know, Joe went after them on foot. When later questioned about his decision to chase loaded gunmen over 17 dollars, he stated " It's the principle of it. Nobody robs me."

Joe chased them across town by foot, then hopped into a  car that he stopped on 441 and told them to "Follow that car!",and finally by foot again. He swears that a bullet zoomed past his head at one point and the cops later did find a bullet in the a field. He actually called the cops as he chased the robbers and they ended up catching the thieves in a field in East Rochester.

The robbers all got sentenced to jail time. The ring leader got upwards of 20 years in prison. If not for Joe chasing them across town they probably would have gotten away with it because we couldn't see their faces in the dark and had no way of giving a proper identification.

Later in the night as we waited to be interviewed by police , three of us headed to Denny's to get some food. Where did we get the money to pay for it you ask? We had just been robbed and at the age of 18 didn't have credit cards. Well, Jim's refusal to abandon his 20 dollars paid dividends. Yes the backside 20 was put into circulation only hours after visiting Jim's inside back "pocket". That poor waitress never knew what hit her.

Life is funny. Had the Sabres not been cheated 3 nights before we wouldn't have been in that position. Had these robbers not robbed the one guy in Rochester that was willing to swat a gun out of his face and chase loaded gunmen across town on principle alone, they would have not ended up in jail.

I get flack from my 3 friends to this day for not doing anything exciting in that moment such as hiding a 20 dollar bill in my butt crack or swatting a loaded gun out of my face. I was the loser who stared at the ground in the face of a gun instead of trying to pull some against the grain theatric. 

But thanks to my irreplaceable friends, at the end of the night I was lucky enough to have a ride home in a shiny new red car, with a full belly and a story to tell. And in the end isn't every situation worth it if it results in having a good story to tell? As long as you live to tell about it.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Goal we strive for is described in this song. The prayer that gets us there is below it.

"God, I recognize that I have not lived my life for You up until now. I have been living for myself and that is wrong. I need You in my life; I want You in my life. I acknowledge the completed work of Your Son Jesus Christ in giving His life for me on the cross at Calvary, and I long to receive the forgiveness you have made freely available to me through this sacrifice. Come into my life now, Lord. Take up residence in my heart and be my king, my Lord, and my Savior. From this day forward, I will no longer be controlled by sin, or the desire to please myself, but I will follow You all the days of my life. Those days are in Your hands. I ask this in Jesus' precious and holy name. Amen

The "Oxymoronicness" of Defining "God is Good" in our own terms

For years I tried to define what "God is good" was supposed to mean. I remember being alone,sick,and depressed on many occasions and cursing him for ever making me. It was only when I was in agonizing pain I would cry out to him like he was my own hired hand. I can recount years in which I only looked to God if I was in actual physical pain. "Hey God, I have no use for you unless I'm desperately hurting and need some relief." And the funny thing was, he always answered.

I was in a place for a decade or so that I used God for my own benefit. Instead of having a relationship with him or letting him use me for eternal changes, I abused him as a lifeline.

One time in 2003, I ate popcorn and it got stuck in my digestive tract making a turn in the "J" portion of my "J pouch." It was the most agonizing pain I ever felt in my life and that's saying something for someone who had a stomach ache for almost 5 years straight. I was sprawled out on the hallway floor for the better part of an hour writhing in pain. Finally I heard the still small voice of the Lord say , " How about you ask me to help?". So I did. The pain left immediately...Immediately. I thanked God and forgot about him until I was in pain again.

I was defining "God is good" in my own terms. My definition was God is good when I need him or he is good when my life is "good." I was unable to see his constant willingness to be good because I had created a man made version of God. Talk about an oxymoron... "Hey God. Come and hang out on my terms, then go away until I need relief again. Thanks man. Well done Good and faithful God,enter into the joy of my human needs."

We get in trouble in life when we have flesh driven expectation of God. Why do so many people turn from God when a loved one dies, or a marriage fails, or we are wronged by a human in some form. Allot of times I think we forget that this is not heaven. If things went "perfectly good" on this earth, what would we have to look forward to in heaven?

Last year I got transferred from one job to another after reporting improprieties at a house I was working at . It felt wrong being transferred because I didn't do anything wrong. I asked God why this would happen when he knew I was right and management was wrong. I was trying to bargain with God about what was good and what was bad. "God, Did you get confused and think I was wrong? Did you forget that I was fighting for the least of these?" My mind was playing games on me about his goodness. I was mad at God for allowing this to happen. Another oxymoron minus the oxy.

In the next year I realized why God had me transferred. I made relationships with people at my new job that were fruitful and everlasting. I saw 3 people come to Christ at the new house. After the last person whom God set me up with to witness to had got saved,I got a new job. His timing is perfect. His work was done at this house...Oh wait, God knew what he was doing when I got wronged and transferred? Really?

God put these people in my life. Then in my heart. Then gave me the ability and timeliness to help show them his love. This never would have happened had "God is good" been defined by my logic. I would have wallowed in the previous house, not sowing any seeds.

God is good even when you are being wronged by the world? God is good even when today absolutely appears to suck? It's all in your perception. And for so many years I had deception in my perception.

When someone dies before their time, or even after their time,so often people get mad at God. We forget the fact that if we had a chance to ask our loved one if they would want to come back to earth they would laugh at you and say no way. We forget that 18 years old is no different to God then 90 years old. That the stories and trickle downs of lives lived, and their forthcoming eternal ramifications, transcends time.

"Time exists,but just on your wrist's,so don't panic." God wants us to know that this earth is not heaven and he is begging us to not try to define it as such. Imagine if "God is good" translated into our own ideal life on earth. We would get to heaven and feel ripped off and confused. "Wait, I got everything I wanted on earth,so how is heaven set apart?"

If there was no afterlife I could see how we could easily get angry at God for taking a loved one from us or allowing us to be sick. But talk about oxymoron again. Without an afterlife,there would be no God to get mad at.

I have talked to so many people who try to define "God is good" in their own terms and end up angry at him. I looked at one in the mirror for 15 years. It's one of Satan's greatest weapons; Confusing the human spirit into thinking that God might only be good some of the time,or even worse: That God isn't good at all. All the while letting it take place in our own convoluted man made dictionary. Last I checked, "Webster" or "Merriam" didn't rise from the dead on the third day.

I read recently that it is better to be healed then cured. In my new reality I am healed of all my ailments. I may not be cured yet. I may not be cured on this earth,but I am healed because my circumstance lulls in comparison to what God has done and what he will do. Would I take an instant cure to all my problems right now if it meant I was not healed? Never. By his stripes we are healed. I now know why that passage doesn't say "By his stripes we are cured." We must be healed first. And healing takes place in our perception. Our true cure comes when we get to heaven and see the beauty of the face of Jesus.

I know of so many tragedies that result in either turning on God or turning to God.One extreme or another. I believe the direction people choose is primarily based on who tries to define God's goodness and who accepts his goodness has a definition Webster's dictionary does not contain. The people who hold the most power for the eternal good of God's kingdom are the people who have suffered loss. There is power in the story of your suffering that people yearn to hear.

I know of a recent tragedy that has led countless souls to Christ. The person whose earthly life has been lost is happy in his arms. Because of it and the trickle down that God has allowed,many more will join him one day. Beauty for ashes. In God's time. Because time only exists in eternity.

I am thankful God allowed me to use God for so many years. I am thankful he let me yell at him and curse him. I was not struck down by lightning. I was not banished to hell. God is good even when I am not. I am thankful that he stuck with me when I wanted nothing to do with him.

So many people ask how a good God would allow such bad things to happen to us. They hem and haw and turn to the things of the world as God sits and waits in the same place he was when things were "good." He weeps at our confusion. He yearns for our return.

I leave you with this challenge. Don't define "God is good." I have been challenged in how I pray lately. I don't want to ask for things specifically because if its not in my best interest (And only God knows my best interest), and it doesn't happen because of it,Then it would be easy to get mad at the Lord.

I have learned to just pray for his will allot more lately then specific things that the human mind defines as "good." What more could you want then his will? A job? Health? Money? Don't be silly. Don't write your own definition.

In the end the only dictionary that will exist is a book of names..In it will be names of those who have chosen Jesus. You can put your name in it today. Because God is always good and your destiny is promised the moment you accept that as fact and ask Jesus into your life. Until you see him face to face in a place that neither oxymoron's or moron's exist, we can't define "good" by human standards. One day you will understand that he is and was good all along. I only hope you can make that day today.

Friday, August 20, 2010

in practice for my book of life's short storires im gonna start writing alot of short stuff ,feel free to delete yourself now.

My first memory in life is putting a spoon in the garbabe disposal when I was 3 years old. I can still remember the sound of the grinding metal, and the fear and embarassment it instilled in me. In the midst of my tears there was a voice of calm and love to comfort me. With a laundry basket in one hand and me in the other, My maternal Grandmother held me as I cried. She told me everything would be alright. I only have a few concrete memories of her, but still to this day I recall her as one of the most gentle and loving people I ever came in contact with. I hope one day I can comfort my Grandchildren with half the grace she did on this day in 1983.

the day i started measuring my thighs on graph paper.

Unlike most people who want to be skinny, I Loathed it. I used to tell my best friend that I desired to be so fat that they would have to weld two desks together in school for my lard butt to fit in. I was very skinny in my teenage years and I was self conscious about it. I took weight gainer formulas and didn't wear shorts once in public after the age of 13. I thought my legs were disgustingly skinny. And they likely were. I remember in 8th grade walking out to the field for gym in shorts and I swore I heard 2 girls snickering about how gross my skinny legs were. Well that was it for me. My legs disappeared for about 15 years. Now to make up for it I wear shorts in the winter. I love my legs now. How am I still single with these caliber of sexy legs only God knows. But I think to make clear my obsession as a child I'll leave you with this . I used to trace my thighs on graph paper from week to week to see if they were growing. I still have the outlines. They never got wider in those days. It was frustrating. It's amazing how your mind can play tricks on you as a teenager. It's part of the reason I want to speak at youth groups to tell kids the truth about themselves and not what their convuleted minds and peers say. I think my 'skinny legs' were the start of my loss of self esteem and the subsuquent health issues. I am pretty sure I was the only one ever to measure their legs on graph paper in hopes of becoming fat though. And being unique is always fun. God bless.

Friday, August 13, 2010

I apparently am the main suspect in the theft of a laptop computer,,and God is still good.

It's funny because I have been working on an article about the potential eternal ramifications of trying to define the term " God is good." Yesterday, I also started writing about the only time I was victim of a robbery. Then today the 2 subjects assimiliated into a real life scenario in my life. I am for all intensive purposes the main suspect in a theft of a developmentally disabled man's computer. And in all honesty, if I was doing the investigation I would think I was guilty. I even told the police investigator such. Allow me to explain.

I work for Arc of Monroe County. It's an agency that supports the developmentally handicapped. It's my last week of work there as I got a job with New York State doing the same thing.

In May I had to approve my timecard electronically so I stopped by an Arc house I have never been to before. It was the closest house to my apartment so that's why I went to that one to do it. I spent about 30 second there and left.

In June I picked up some overtime in that very same house. My first shift there was a Sunday. At the end of my shift I picked up a man from his mom's house, dropped him off back at the group home,and went home.

Turns out that that weekend that same man's 800 dollar laptop was stolen out of his room. He uses the laptop to communicate as he is inaudible.

I was called down to work a few weeks ago to answer questions about this theft. I told them I don't know anything about it and didn't think about it again until today.

Today I was called down to be interviewed by a person working in between the Arc and the Police. He is working for both and is deciding whether or not to press charges.

He told me that the man from the group home has implemented that I was the one who stole the computer. This man allegedly told police the following " In May, A good friend came into my room to use my bathroom because his stomach hurt,and I saw him staring at my computer. His name was Joe and he came back in June and stole my computer. But he is a good friend."

This guy doesn't speak audibly. He also has no clue what my name is as I only worked with him for about an hour total in the 3 shifts I worked at this house. So he typed all this information out on a computer apparently?

So knowing that I didn't steal the computer and that God is in control, I decided to tell this go between investigator that it looks really bad for me and I would think I did it to if I was investigating this case.

Here are some things I told him that make me look really bad here.

-----" It was my first time working in the house so of course I look like the bad apple who came in and stole it."

----- " It's funny he said I came into his room with stomach problems because I have a bowel disease."

------ " I don't even own a computer at home because I got rid of it when I quit gambling" Hahaha. ( Hello , gambler who has no money needs a computer to gamble so he steals one from work?"

------ " I look really guilty here, this is a perfect way to end my 7 years at the Arc"

Here are some of the things I said that make me look innocent:

----- " Do you think I'm enough of an idiot to steal a computer the first time I work somewhere?"

------ " Don't you think whoever stole it did so on the first day a new staff worked there to make it look like the new staff? (The 'Commish' would be proud of me on this one)

------ " How the heck does this man implicate me when he doesn't even know my name? Somebody fed him this information"

------ " God is in control."

I proceeded to tell him about my past and how I was sick and made a living gambling. Sure it looks bad for me in the cut and dry, but I try not to live in the cut and dry anymore. I told him since I quit gambling I have seen people get saved. It was funny. I basically was incriminating myself on purpose by telling the truth about things, and then implementing God's will above all else. Ah my life is very interesting indeeed. Who says "normal" is where it's at?

Basically I look guilty, and I don't care. God is in control. Even if I end up being charged with something there is a reason. Maybe there is someone who's path I need to come across because of this. I have such apathy for life without God that I actually am excited a little bit that I'm so obviously the lead suspect in a petty larceny case. Hahhaha.Who cares what happens if it's in his hands. "Meaningless,utterly meaningless. Everything under the sun is meaningless without God"

He said to call him in 2 weeks because he is on vacation. He said there is a 50/ 50 chance they will ask me to do a lie detector test.

So I will be in limbo about this for the next month or so. I told him I start with the State In 2 weeks and really hope this doesn't interfere with my job. He made sure to point out I am not being charged or suspected. But come on , it looks like I did it. And I told him so. (haha)

I know God has his hand on my life. I know I'm protected by his blood that was shed. I know I didn't steal the computer. It feels like a type of setup because I did indeed stop in the house in May to punch my time in and I do have bowel issues. So the client's story seems to add up in a very eerie way. Conceievably I could have went into his room in May to use his bathroom. It just boggles my mind at this point to think how bad this looks for me.

Maybe I'll go to jail. . Maybe in Jail I'll fall in love with a female prison guard and get married and serve gruel sandwiches at my wedding reception. Maybe in jail I'll proclaim my innocence over an in house double feature movie of "The Fugitive" and " Shawshank Redemption." Maybe in jail God will save a soul.

Of course I'm kidding about jail. I know It's not going to come to that. But my therapy for the moment on this issue, is alot of trust in God and a little blogging.

Until this is resolved I'm just going to procaim to all that will listen that the one armed man did it. God is good all the time. I'm just learning not to define "Good."

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Introspection on Inception,New Job,And Another God Sent Sign.

---- My thoughts on the movie inception. It was a classic mind screwing ,which has been done before many times. It's concept was fascinating and the the fact they made it the way they did was pure revenue genious. Basically you have to see it twice to really grasp it, and if you liked it in any way shape or form,(which seems to be everyone), not only do you have to see it twice to get it,,you want to see it twice.. So kudos from a bottom line standpoint to the creators..

----- What I really got out of the movie was my mind started working on strange levels during it. I actually came up with idea's for blog's and was enlightened by some other idea's in my life too while watching it.

I lost track of what was going on a few times not only becasue it was confusing even if you are focusing, but because my mind was in overdrive about other things. One thing I took away from it was all the events and thoughts in our lives that involve three levels..

I'm gonna try to start writing an invividual blog for things such as love, self consciousness, poker, heaven, and bowel movements; and what I believe about the leveling's involved in each of those.

One direct thought that came to mind during the move was this : YOU CREATE YOUR OWN REALITY, BUT SOCIETY MASKS IT FOR YOU IF YOU ALLOW THEM TO. I want to start writing in a way where I could care less what people thought of me. Maybe I will sound " weird" or " too open" , or " drunk on the kool-aid " or "jaded" ,,but if you think I am those things,its only because you are trying to define my reality, which is a societal curse.

If everyone walked around naked except for me ,you would think I was weird for wearing clothes. When we see someone talking to themselves, we think they are weird. What if we are weird for not talking to ourselves? ...ha..See this movie leveled me.. Just as long as I stay out of "limbo."(see the movie)

----- I can pinpoint one moment in my life where I experienced a dream that was leveled as such that when I woke up I couldn't grasp whether it was real or not.

About 8 years ago, I woke up from a dream where I commited a crime. I woke up almost sure it was real and was worried I would get caught. I kept trying to figure out if it was real or not and couldn't grasp it. Then I actually believed that I had spent months thinking it might be real, when in reality the dream just happened. It still is fascinating to think about. That's the only time I had an "inception" moment.


A Year and a half ago I was terminated(ha) out of a relationship solely due to the fact I was blinded by my own circumstance. Naturally the woman wanted me to work at gaining a career. I was so warped by the lies of my own circumstantial insuffiency that I continued making a living playing cards, because I thought my illnesses and physical maladies would make it impossible to have a full time career.

Upon the defunctment (Ha) of this relationship, I told my lovely mother that I didn't know how I could work full time gainfully the way I was feeling. She told me that she has a friend who happens to live on my street, that works for New York State and makes a decent living. She did the same thing I did at Arc ,but only with the state.(working with developmentally disabled)..

In February 2009 I applied to take the state exam. In June 2010 my name came up to take the test. Last week I got offered the job, working Wednesday thru Sunday overnights. I had to decide by last Friday. Thursday night I was telling my mom I didn't know whether to take it or not. The hours were awful and I hate change, amongst other up's and downs of taking it or leaving it.

I told her that it's frustrating because God knows exactly what he wants me to do . He wants me to say yes or no. There is no in between. One choice is part of his plan for my life. The other was missing his boat. I wanted to know which was right. I wanted him to make it clear. She prayed with me before I went home that night.

My other job has been awful lately. I am being mistreated by a manager who for lack of a better way of explaining it.. Is not even worthy of managing an empty petri dish. Also I felt led to leave because the last person God put on my heart to try to get "saved" , got saved 2 weeks ago. ( details in a forthcoming blog).

I went home Thursday night and decided to call the house to talk to a staff, just to see what the house and job was like. The staff I spoke to was very kind and friendly. As I got to talking to the lady she mentioned she lived on Smith street in Webster. She actually lives on my street , directly across the street. Turns out the lady who told my mom about the job years ago, that caused my mom to recollect about it in my time of suffering, was actually the last line of defense between me and taking or leaving the job.

She spoke with me for 2 hours about every nuance of the house and job. She told me it was the best house in the area in terms of lack of drama and team work amongst staff. I told her how amazing it was that of all people I happened to call and talk to her...My neighbor..

This was the sign that I needed from God. No way was THAT a coincidence. It was a full circle and symbolic sign . Much like the one about the warts. He allowed my mom to plant this idea in my head at my weakest moment, knowing that years later it was going to be what was best for me when my 'deception in my perception' syndrome was lifted. The inception of the idea came from the same lady that I 'randomly' called to get information about what I should do, the night before I had to decide.

I think its amazing he sculpts things out so meticulously like this. Maybe I'm taking this job to end up hating it and lead to another purpose. That's the concept of the danger of self defining "God is Good" , that I will discuss in another write up. I will call it " God is good; But don't try to define "Good" or you might end up mistakingly thinking he is a Punk. " But for now , God has made it obvious he has his hand in this job, and I know he will bless it for as long as he wants me there.

Thanks for your time

SONG: Great song by Jeremy Camp... These blogs I believe are a labor of love. I look forward to the day that someone reads this and decides to pray the salvation prayer .It's going to happen one day, whether it be today or years from now. It will all be worth it then,and is really the most important purpose of all this .(with the 2nd purpose being my own selfish therapuetic quenchings) In case that day is today, here is the salvation prayer if you are ready to accept Christ into your life as your God.

Dear Lord, I admit that I am a sinner. I have done many things that don’t please you. I have lived my life for myself. I am sorry and I repent. I ask you to forgive me. I ask you to come into my heart and life as my Lord and saviour. I believe that you died on the cross for me, to save me. You did what I could not do for myself. I come to you now and ask you to take control of my life, I give it to you. Help me to live every day in a way that pleases you. I love you, Lord, and I thank you that I will spend all eternity with you.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

i have mad writer's block yo

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Miracle From God

On March 5th 2009 at 930pm I was taken to a Godly Universe for about one minute. It was auditory and gravitational ,and I knew it was God blessing me with his presence. It was an hour before I was to start my first full time shift in 5 years. Also having done so after devoting myself to quitting poker and working full time..

The first human contact I had after this out of body visit from the Lord was with a co-worker. I will call Mike. I told Mike about my experience and he asked me to pray for his brother ,Kami. He told me Kami had not left the house in years due to schizophrenia. Not even his room,other then to use the bathroom or go to the therapist .I prayed for him that weekend and when I saw him that following Monday night he told me that whatever “crazy shit” I was doing worked,and to keep doing it. He said that Kami came out of his room over the weekend and asked to watch television and eat cereal. He said this was a miracle in and of itself.

Fast Forward 16 months to last Friday. I had talked to Mike the past 16 months and Kami had not had any more breakthrough since that day last March. He was back in his room and not coming out. On the day a month ago that my original wart of over 5 years disappeared( read previous blog entitled "the one about the wart") after I prayed in faith for them to go, I got up and started praying for other miracles. One of which was Kami to not only get out of bed,but to actually leave the house.

Last Friday I took a resident out from my old house that Mike works at . I was leaving and I saw Mike on the phone. I waved to him and got in my car. God said “go back”. So I waited for him to get off the phone and went to talk to him.

The first thing he said to me was that The Lord had helped him with a issue he was having. He said it was only by the Grace of Jesus that he got thru what he was going thru. This is the first time I remember Mike initiating a conversation about God.

I then asked him how his brother was. He told me that about a month ago Kami came out of his room and asked to go to Wal-mart. He actually went out to Wal-mart for awhile and came back to the house after a few hours out. I jokingly yelled at him for not calling me the moment this happened. I asked Mike when was the last time Kami left the house like this and he said it had been at least 5 years.

In awe of God and the situation I told Mike the wart story. I told him that about a month ago I prayed that Kami would leave the house that very day that my wart disappeared. I believe that it was likely the same day I prayed this that Kami left the house. There is no way of knowing for sure but we both agreed it was about a month ago for both incidents. He was so happy and impressed by God and what he did for his brother, and for himself as well.

Mike says he is a Christian but next time I see him I’m going to ask my new favorite question for Christians . “Can you pinpoint the exact moment you prayed for Christ’s salvation?” I will write a blog in more detail soon about the misnomer that people have of their own salvation. I believe a lot of “Christians “ are walking around not even knowing that they may have never prayed the pivotal prayer. I believe some are deceived by assumption of an entry point of salvation, whether it be because their parents were christians and they grew up in the church, or for other reasons.

Anyways, it was no coincidence that the assumed same day that God made my huge wart of 5 plus years disintegrate without a trace of its existence ,he also helped a man who hadn’t left the house in 5 plus years go to Wal-mart.

God is real. And he wants to give you stories to share of his realness.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Shame On You Lebron

Say It Ain’t So Lebron
By Joe DiBella

You might find it funny to learn that I have a history of yelling at my television set. This had been a pastime of mine for awhile, and it always involves sports. Sometimes its yelps of joy and excitement. Sometimes screams of pain and anguish. I’m pretty mild mannered in real life. I deliver most of my conversation with a monotone, drab, and dry status. In my recent attempt at not being overly excitable at sporting events happenings, I have tried to yell at my television set less. I was doing well until last night.

When Lebron James looked at Jim Gray and told him he was taking his talents elsewhere, (Who says that anyways) I had a mild set back in my self control. I jumped off my couch and shouted “A-hole” at my television like I had just found out on ‘ Jerry Springer’ that I was not the real father. Yes, I said the full expletive. No, I didn’t abbreviate it. What brought out this emotion in me so impulsively was probably the fact you can let out a improper word faster then you can produce a tear. I needed to let loose some immediate response to this event that was a travesty on so many levels. Thursday night Lebron James became the first athlete in sports history to take less money, but still sell out.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are not my favorite team. They are second. I am a Boston Celtics fan. I admit though I was rooting for Cleveland this year to beat Boston in the second round of the playoffs. See as I get older I am more of a sports fan. I look for the “Let’s see the feel good story prevail”, the “Let’s see a tortured city finally win”, and the “ Wow, this guy is special and I think I want to watch him play more then I want my favorite team to play", angles. I like sports. The bravado of the moment. The enjoyment of the spine tingling images. The resurrection of human spirit thru their team’s successes. They are all so captivating to me.

I have watched my teams win major titles in every sport but hockey. I love the feeling of “feeling good” while watching a game or a march to a title. I look for that feeling. I was chasing that feeling for the city of Cleveland thru their basketball team. A city that hasn’t seen a pro sports championship since 1964. And I was watching them be led by that “Wow” player. For the past 7 years, The Cleveland Cavaliers and Lebron James punched all those tickets I yearn for. Then Thursday night came.

One reason Lebron leaving Cleveland upsets me so greatly is that he was my favorite player in the N.B.A. since Michael Jordan. I don’t like Kobe. I have never been able to watch him play and enjoy myself, or appreciate what I was watching. I didn’t care how good he was or that he did things no one else did. I had no interest in him. I’m not sure why. Lebron was different. I loved watching him play. I loved watching him warm up. Heck I loved watching him tie his shoes. I can’t describe any reason why, other then he reminded me of Jordan. And Jordan reminded me of the sacredness of my childhood. It wasn’t a choice to let Lebron affect me the way he did. It just happened. And I loved it because I never thought I would feel remotely about watching a player the same way I did about watching Michael Jordan.

Lebron has made a big mistake. He turned his back on people. Human beings. When it boils down to it, everything’s about people. And preferably people other then yourself. I don’t blame him completely. We have made sports about championships. We have made it about a 2 or 3 day stretch of glory where you hold a trophy in your hand, pour champagne on your teammates, and parade thru the city streets with confetti falling on your head. Not to mention the bragging rights that go along with it.

Whereas championships have been made important in all sports, they have been made most important in professional basketball. The reason they have been made that important in basketball is because of this: SUPERSTARS WIN CHAMPIONSHIPS IN BASKETBALL. It goes hand in hand. There are very few exceptions to that rule. Quick, name me the greatest basketball players to never win a title. You would probably spit out names like Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, and John Stockton. After that you would have to start naming second level players. If you take the bevy of all time greats in the National Basketball Association; Jordan, Bird, Thomas, Bryant (not jelly-bean), Magic, Kareem, Dr. J, Duncan, Russell, Chamberlain, And West; all have won world championships. Most of them have won more then one. Would they still be mentioned in this immortal realm if they hadn’t won any titles? It’s important to Lebron to win it all, because society and history tells us that’s what defines greatness.

I can’t blame him for wanting it. But I can blame him for creating such a pinch in his mind, that he had to bolt at the age of 25 to chase a title that didn’t need to be chased in this way at this time. He chased it at age 25, gave up about 25 million to do so, and all this at an age 3 years younger then Jordan’s first title was won. This was a move of a 30 something, desperate basketball player. This was not a move for a one of a kind player whom was just hitting his mid twenties.

Yes all of the above names won a title. But none of them did it this way. Lebron covets a title so badly that he compromised his legacy. Not only compromising it, but perhaps flip flopping it altogether.

There are four main parts for attaining a legacy in sports. 1) What you did. 2) How you did it. 3) How you acted while it was happening. 4) Who you did it for. Lebron has in one moment changed all 4 of those components of his legacy. And not for the better.

Sure part of building a “legacy” is winning titles. But he may have negated the “title” part of his legacy (if he even win’s one), by compromising the integrity of his pursuit. No one likes to watch people take the most direct route to greatness. That’s why we always get annoyed with the celebrities who fall face first into riches via their parent’s successes. I doubt anyone has ever said, “ Good for her. Paris Hilton really earned all that she has.”

Another part of the automatic taint on his legacy is that he went from Cleveland to Miami of all places. If he had won a title in Cleveland he would be rarified and canonized for all of time. Heck even if he just played his career out and didn't win one he would always be beloved in Ohio. But a title would mean the world to the people of the city. Some would say they could even die in peace afterwards(ask a red sox fan). If he wins a title in Miami, the most sterile,fair weather fanned sports city in America, it will only scratch a surface level in terms of appreciation. You don’t hear of a lot of starved for success, die-hard Miami Heat fans. You don’t hear of them because they don’t exist.

He also may have negated the “Alpha dog”,cutting edge part of his legacy. Mooching onto a team with another mega superstar doesn’t exactly scream, “Hey I’m the man and I want to win a title the right way: Built Around me, carried by me, delivered by me”, does it? The end doesn’t always justify the means.

So touching on the four “legacy” questions as of today, July 11th, 2010, Miami Heat forward Lebron James resume’ looks like this: You went to someone else’s team(Wade) , in a self produced one hour special, stabbing your hometown in the back, and you still haven’t won a thing. How’s that for a legacy thus far? Good thing your numbers are off the charts because it’s the only redeemable factor into your legacy as of now. And as I mentioned before, I don’t think he can improve his legacy in Miami no matter what he does, as long as its along side Wade. Actually, On the contrary.

What did Lebron leave in the embers and ashes with his decision? A city that is emotionally and soon to be financially devastated. My two most gripping and heart wrenching images of these past few days were these: One was watching the one clip where Lebron is throwing the powder up in the air, and every Cav’s fan in the front level seats mimicking it with him. When I saw that particular clip, it broke my heart. That wasn’t about basketball. That was about a city in love, for better or worse, with a hometown son that made them all glow with pride.

The other image was that of city employee’s taking down his billboard. The billboard was of James’ outstretched arms with the words,”We are all witnesses.” It covered a gigantic wall from top to bottom just outside the arena. It was a larger then life image, which permeated the city’s facade. It was a staple of hope and admiration. When I saw it in person 3 years ago, it gave me goose bumps. And there it was being taken down and discarded of like old love letters left behind from a jilted relationship.

Michael Jordan came out the other day and said he couldn’t believe Lebron did what he did. Even Charles Barkley, one of the most esteemed names without a title ring, said he would never do what James’ did at his age. Barkley said he would want to be “the man” in pursing a ring and would want to do it the right way.

When arguably the greatest to ever live and the greatest to never win a title don’t like what you have done, there is a major fundamental problem with your ‘decision.’ If I could re-write the old adage of you must win titles to be immortalized in basketball, I think I would write it like this after Thursday night. It’s important to win championships to be immortal in this league, but you can’t chase titles with reckless disregard for everything inside of you and around you. If that’s going to be the case, you’re better off with no rings.

But he can’t be completely to blame. We (society and media) all have told him that winning is everything. We have told him that he can’t be the greatest without putting multiple rings on his finger. We have all told him with his virtuoso talents he must produce titles. Indirectly we convinced him he had to panic and bolt for the greenest pastures possible. We have to take our fair share of the responsibilities for the most transcendent and gifted player of this generation to act like this. To taint his legacy forever without ever having stepped foot on the court.

That being said, I’m not sure Lebron realizes what he has done. I thought he was a student of the history of the game. But maybe that was an aberration he created to come off more like Jordan. Because being a student of the games history himself, Michael Jordan wouldn’t play sidekick to God himself, no less Dwayne Wade. Jordan understood what had to be done,and how it needed to be done also.

Here is another thing we forget in all this. As we know him, us as fans have just lost one of the most exciting players to ever lace up the shoes. He can’t be the spectacular, be all,end all, In Miami. Not with the 3rd best player in the world playing next to him. Lebron just made a conscientious decision to not be the man anymore. Maybe it was a cop out. Maybe he never asked for sole propriety of the burden of carrying a franchise on his shoulders. But he made a decision to deny us of his full talents in the prime of his career. He robbed a city and a nation of his full capacities.

I have heard a few people say he is just going to transist into a Magic Johnson type player now. But Magic created the Magic brand. He was original. Magic was still the man on those Lakers’ teams. He never would have walked into someone else’s brand in any way, no less reinvented himself to boot.

The Bottom line is Lebron James was too good to jump into a dream team scenario. He was too special to be this guy, at this time, on this team. We were not talking about just another superstar ballplayer. We were talking about a transcendent player that no one has ever seen the likes of before. He didn’t need to panic at age 25. He didn’t have to betray himself, the game, or his home. But he did.

Some may say,” Well he took less money. How noble of him." Yes he left about 25 million on the table after the 6 year sign and trade deal. To me though, leaving the money almost represents the opposite of what some people are saying about it. It makes him look even worse I think. Essentially he said to Cleveland, “I’m so enamored with the most automatic route to titles that I’m even going to turn my back on you folks. And I’m going to leave your cash behind as an extra slap in the face.”

Clevelander’s don’t even have the solace in being able to say “Well we couldn’t pay him”. They have to sit around with a new complexity now. One which mirrors, “The fumble”, “The drive” ,”Jose Mesa”, “The shot”, and “Art Modell.” Their “Good Son” left 25 million on the table and abandoned them. It’s unprecedented. Lebron James’ somehow managed to sell out while taking less money. That might be the only transcendent thing that we remember him by now.

In my 9 years of watching Lebron in high school and the pro’s, I have loved watching and talking about him to people. He made me overjoyed to watch and speak about. I called him “he” to people. “Did you see what ‘he’ did last night?” “ ‘He’ is just unbelievable.” When I wasn’t calling him “he”, I always addressed him simply as “Lebron.” When you feel compelled to call someone you have never met exclusively by their first name, you know that that player has arrived into your sports life as someone special. I can count only one other player I ever addressed by their first name exclusively: Michael. In the past three days I have not called him Lebron once.

Three days ago Lebron James was so authentic and so valuable to my sports passions that I lumped him into a category with only Michael Jordan. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t comparing him to Michael. I just was happy to have found someone that reminded me of watching him. Now with one one hour egomaniacal special, and one sentence proclaiming his “talents” were jumping to the mother ship, Michael stands alone once again.

Maybe this was how it was supposed to be. Maybe you’re never supposed to go looking for your childhood heroes in a different form later on. Maybe I owe him a thank you for what he did on Thursday night. For stripping away “Lebron”, and leaving behind only “Michael.” So here it is. Thank you Mr. James.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The One About My Wart.

I think its funny that God has taken someone such as myself that used to be so worried about self consciousness and allowed me to talk so openly about such things as bowels and now warts. I really appreciate God's sense of humor in my life. Alot of people with Bowel disease don't even tell people about it because its embarassing. The way I look at it ,you all crap. So I do so 8 to 10 times more than you. What's the big deal?

I used to be so paranoid about every little thing about me. Basically,what people thought of me. I didn't wear shorts for about 10 years because I believed my legs were too skinny to display. Satan tried to attack me in every way fathomable in terms of lack of self worth. I'm seeing now God's humor and plan was so much cooler then my own insecure dillusions. And maybe they weren't even dillusions. Maybe people did have negative things to say about me . Who cares. My friend Dave told me not too long ago one of the most poignant things I have ever heard. I told him I was always worried about pleasing people,doing and saying the "right" things. He said, "It's none of your business if people like you." I try to live by that mantra now. Not with a lack of self awareness,but with a comfort level that if I like myself and allow God to work in my character,the rest will fall into place.

God has taken me so far. Before I got bowel disease I was the most shy person I knew. I would go to teachers in High school and ask to be opted out of oral presentations. If they wouldn't let me , I would often just stay home faking illness that day. I remember the times I did speak in front of class I would stutter and couldn't even get words out. I started to become more secure my Junior and Senior year, but was still very shy in many regards.

When I was asked to coach basketball after I graduated, I said no because I couldn't fathom speaking in front of people consistently. God had other plans and long story short I was led to change my mind, and coach. Thank God I did. Those 8 years taught me so much and brought so many memories to me. Now public speech is one of my favorite things to do when I'm well prepared and passionate about what I'm speaking about.

I could have easily looked at what's happened to me since October 20th,1997 as a bad joke. It was right around the time in my life that I was finally fitting in socially that a pooping disease struck. A freaking pooping disease!!?? Really though? How awful right? I will write in the future about my journey down the road of 50,000 plus bowel movements since 1997. To put that in persepective,you have had about 4700 in that same time.

How funny though when you think about it. The paranoid self conscious kid was forced to deal with bowel disease,going bald at 21 because of medication, having to wear glasses again due to vision breakdown from disease and medication, and the topic of today's blog, warts on my fingers. I believe you have to talk about what embarasses you to make it feasably livable.

Truth be told, I believe "warts" are only so "gross" because the word "wart" is just so unflattering and grotesque sounding. What if we called it " Treading Water in the Ocean", or "Kissing in the Rain?" I bet people wouldn't be as grossed out by them. But the word wart creates its own stigma,and let's be honest,they aren't the prettiest things anyways. But the word itself wreaks more havoc on the immunovirus's attrocity then realistically necessary.

So all that being said, I'm gonna talk about my finger warts. Crohn's disease is basically an idiotic immune system fighting good organs,thinking it's fighting bad bacteria off. Well, from my confused immune system came a immunovirus in the form of one small wart. The first one formed about 5 years ago on my index finger above my knuckle. It started small and I never treated it for years. Eventually a bunch started forming. The original had recently in the last year become so raised,ugly,and big that i covered it with either bandaides,duct tape, or sports tape everytime I went out .

Well......I got really frustrated last week with them. I have tried alot of things to no avail. Freezing ,burning, using salcyllic acid,and cutting them off,among other things. Some of them went away,but then others word form . This original beast of a wart wouldn't budge. So the last few months I havent done much with them out of frustration,and the fact treating them hurts like the dickens (Ha)... so........

2 Saturdays ago I was annoyed, and prayed. I remember praying not in request, but in a way that I truly believed it was already done. I prayed for God to take away my warts,and actually in a moment of complete solace believed it to be fact as I prayed it. It's not easy achieving this level of prayer and it caught me off guard. The 'no doubt prayer' is a challenge because your mind can not fathom God's power with its wordly capacity. The mind is trained to worry,and doubt,and hem,and haw. Really though : Try going thru a day only thinking about God. Just keep saying his name over and over and not allowing yourself to think of one other thing, and see how long you can do this for. I think I did it for 45 seconds once before I started to think about an organic peanut butter sandwich and to worry about my lack of tennis skills. It's really hard. So when I prayed this prayer with unwavering faith ,I was ecstatic that it actually happened.......... And what happened next????????????

Monday morning I woke up and looked down at my finger and the "originator" had disappeared. Now for this to happen without treatment ,after five years of making itself at home on my finger,was so incredible that I jumped up looking for it. I searched my couch (I sleep on my couch because it's more comfortable then any of your beds are), deep and wide. The wart was not there. Now at risk of sounding like David Karesh to any of you non believers out there, I have to say this as truth : God zapped my wart and buried it as I slept, 2 days after praying a prayer in the rarified air of total faith. I look at it now and can't even see the root. There is even an indentation going inward. So it went from outward, awkward, ugly looking wart to inward skin that is a little red and healing,with no signs of any root or substance. Huh? God. Does. Miracles. In . His .Time. And. Within. His. Greater.Plan. ....... Pass me the kool-aid..

To me this was symbolic of something much more. My body has failed me . God knows it. God didn't do it,But God is fully aware of what I am going thru. He doesn't care if i die with a thousand warts on my finger though. My life is pointless if I don't see him and share what I see in him. I think its so cool that he took the original wart and not another one . By the way the others appear to be slowing fading too. But the fact he took the original is just confirmation of his true grace in my life . The years the locusts have stolen are going to be restored. He doesn't want to heal me without fixing the root of all the problems because what good am I if the body is well but the spirit is still rooted in discourse?..It starts with fixing the source of the slow fade.,the first wart if you will. You don't start assembling something in the middle of the directions. You start at one. So symbolically taking the mother wart away overnight after 5 plus years means so much more then the absence of this ugly sucker. Thank You Lord..More please........

Song Link : This song by Newsboys does and will always move me. It's the song that was playing when I got in my car a year and a half ago after My co-worker told me thanks to me praying for his brother ( well he said " keep up that crazy Sh&#!",but you get the point,) ..but after praying for his brother he told me that whatever "crazy Sh*&" I did caused his schizophrenic brother to walk out of his room after 6 months of not leaving it except to use the bathroom, and to come into the living room to watch tv and talk. And he had only told me about his brother because I had told him about my "visitation " from God that night. Another story for another time. But basically this song represents me realizing God was doing miracles and wanted to use me to show others how amazing he really was..This song moves me everytime I hear it,because of what it represented in my life that day in March of 2009,and what it means in the eternal echoing's as well. Read the words as it plays...So powerful......Enjoy,and may your warts be like a kiss in the rain from now on.