Want it done? Give it to the busy one.

In truth, I wasn’t asked to do it. I took it upon myself, unasked, and I don’t think it would be completely accurate to say that I was all that busy when I started it. However, when I contemplate the number of social media elements that I’ve been attempting to maintain of late, along with in-person pro-social activities, it would be fair to describe me as busy now.

My wife and I have two sons. The older boy is fifteen. He has a learning disability which makes information-processing difficult for him, but aside from that, he possesses a wonderful personality, a fantastic smile, and a charming sense of humor. The younger boy is thirteen. He has no learning disability. He also possesses a wonderful personality that he often hides under the guise of early teen crudites…ooops. I mean, crudity. He has a wonderful smile and laugh, though he hates to let those show more than necessary. He’s taller than his older brother, so he’s often mistaken as the older one.

Both of our boys love baseball. The younger has been playing it since Tee-Ball was available through town rec league. He goes to clinics, plays regular Little League, and plays fall leagues and indoor leagues–whatever we can afford and he can. He was able to play at Maine’s iconic “Little Fenway” and “Little Wrigley” fields last fall in a special league that existed for that purpose.

The older boy has played a lot of solo wiffleball in the yard, including his own play-by-play announcing for his games. With the use of a pitch-back device in the field by the house, both boys have been able to practice their throws, pitches, and batting over the years. They’ve also taken advantage of the falling crabapples from our tree in the yard, hitting the fruit in lieu of plastic balls, since they don’t have to retrieve the small apples.

In spring 2021, our younger son played Junior (Little) League baseball as part of a three-town team. One field they used was Mansfield Stadium in Bangor, built nearly two decades ago by Stephen King and named in honor of a young man with a disability. From 2002 to 2016 the stadium was used as the home of the Senior Little League World Series (15 & 16 year-olds). In 2009, current Boston Red Sox All-Star Shortstop Xander Bogaerts played at Mansfield with his home team of Aruba! Other MLB players, such as Kolten Wong and Kenley Jansen, played there, too. (You can learn all about the stadium here: http://mansfieldstadium.com/content/5001/about-the-stadium)

Our older boy watched the games at Mansfield and expressed his longing to play there, too. His dream came true when the Bangor Alternative Baseball Organization came into existence in September 2021 (www.bangoralternativebaseball.com). When that team began, though, all involved had to rely on the coaches to communicate with us on every little piece of information; we had no central site to be in touch with each other. That’s when I took it upon myself to become busier than I was.

One week, I created http://www.facebook.com/BangorAlternativeBaseball. A week or two later, I added http://www.bangoralternativebaseball.com. Part of the website is writing blog posts. Part of the FB page is maintaining communications, inviting “likers” of posts to follow the page, and checking for messages. On top of that, I don’t want to forget this blog, because this is where I can say what’s on my mind for me. Beyond this, I have a story I’m writing, and I want to get it out of rut it’s been stuck in for the last two weeks.

A benefit of the baseball team pages is that this season will end soon, so the regular maintenance should ease up just a bit. We had a big event last weekend that consumed a lot of time, effort, and energy. It was wonderful, and we’re very pleased with the results. Still, this ‘busy’ guy is happy to step back, breathe deeply, and set down the boxes he’s carrying for a time.

Endorphins are released when we do things we enjoy, accomplish goals we’ve been reaching for, and find satisfaction in what we do. All of these are true for me in helping my kids in baseball and in life, but I’m glad for the time to live for my wife and me, too. I’ve lost 42 pounds since May 23 this year, and I’ll keep on that journey, as well. May the Lord prosper you, dear readers. I’ll catch you on the next post.

Sometimes…

What comes to your mind when you see the word “sometimes”? How about when you see or hear the phrase, “sometimes I feel”? How would you finish that phrase?

“like I’m in over my head”?

“like the world is coming to an end”?

“like I could fly”?

“like dancing”?

“like knocking someone’s teeth out”?

“like a motherless child”?

“like nothing could stop me”?

I’m curious to know, sometimes.

It’s not just about weight

Living as you should is not just about physical health.

Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through Me.”

I say I believe that, but does my life demonstrate that? I say that I am completely and utterly lost without Jesus in my life, but does my life show that? Do my daily choices of how I spend my time, my money, my attention, my entertainment, my work, my love, my private thoughts, my social media, my driving, my family interactions, and everything else I do actually make a liar out of me?

It’s easy enough to say I believe, but living it? If I’m not living it, do I actually believe it? And if I don’t actually believe it, what’s the point in saying I believe it?

Well, I do believe it. Therefore, I must live it.

I stumbled across this today

It’s been almost a year since I wrote this, and I stumbled across it today as I looked for something else. Isn’t that the way it usually works?

On November 9, 2020, I wrote a post called, “The Wheelbarrow,” as part of an unnumbered series I referred to as “Lessons from My Father.” As I was looking for an unrelated document on my work laptop this morning–and still haven’t found–I stumbled across “The Wheelbarrow.” I looked at it, and realized that it needed some fine-tuning and some updating.

I was deeply into the update that occurs at the end, in the “P.S.,” when a colleague stopped by. He’s a fellow Christian, and the moment he asked me if I was ‘okay,’ I wasn’t. I became emotional, couldn’t speak for about 30 seconds, and finally squeaked out what was going on. He came around my desk, reached out, and gave me a squeeze around the shoulders. “I know it’s Covid-time, but sometimes you just need a hug.”

“I don’t care about Covid,” I replied. “Thanks. I needed that.” I told him about the little essay, and then I read it to him. He fully understood why I’d been emotional moments before. If you’ve read this far, then I’ll reward you by posting it here, with fine-tune-ments (not a word) and updates (a word).

Thanks again for reading.

Lessons from My Father: The Wheelbarrow

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”

Dad quoted this verse from First Corinthians 13 to me more than a decade ago when I commented on not minding haying anymore, but these words from verse eleven came back to me this morning as I remembered the wheelbarrow he made.

On my drive to work today, I passed a driveway that had a large handcart at the mouth of it, piled high with bags of trash. The cart had fat, rubber tires, and I imagined it could be pushed as easily over soft ground as on the pavement. Instantly, images of Dad’s wheelbarrow flashed into my head, and shame filled my heart.

“When I was a child…I reasoned like a child.” I recall that I complained excessively as a child, especially about physical labors required of me. They were not harsh measures, just everyday expectations of a growing boy, such as splitting and stacking firewood, mowing the lawn, gathering maple sap, and haying. One result of my plaintive pleas was that Dad made a wheelbarrow to ease the movement of the fruits of my labors. It was truly impressive, and I should have been grateful, but I wasn’t. Instead, I complained even more, because it didn’t have a fat, rubber tire. It had a flat-iron wheel that ran well on hard surfaces but became hopelessly mired on soft ones. Rather than showing gratitude to Dad for his creativity and love, I whined even more that it wasn’t enough. In an instant this morning, all these images and thoughts rushed through me, with shame following like a tidal wave.

In truth, with just a little more effort on my part, that wheelbarrow would have pushed through any mud, or I could have found better paths for it, but in my slothful childishness, it was easier to grumble than to be grateful. Forty years later, I remember with sorrow the sins of my youth. My Father graced me with his gifts, and I responded with ingratitude.

Is that not the way of life? As Dad pointed out, First Corinthians 13 is more famously known for its description of what Love is and is not. Yet, verse 11 is poignant because it challenges us to grow up; not to remain in the “baby Christian” stage of life—always requiring the milk of basic teachings—but to chew on the meat of God’s Word, meditating on it for daily life.

Wrestle with sin! Recognize the Holy Spirit’s power to overcome ingratitude in us and make us thankful people—thankful to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for new life in Jesus that reconciles us to God and to one another. First John 1:9 is that wonderful promise: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Dad, I’m sorry that I was such a complaining, ungrateful child. Thank you for loving me, anyway. Please forgive me. I love you!

Humbly yours,

Bill

P.S. I told this to Dad a few weeks after writing it. He didn’t recall it, but he did forgive me for my childhood ingratitude. Although I spoke with him on the phone a few times after that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was the last time I saw him in this life. He went to be with the Lord in April 2021. No earthly dad can be perfect, but I’m so thankful for the one I had, Paul S. MacDonald.  

He became angry; it shocked me

When my wife and I left Japan for the last time in the spring of 2000, we were looking ahead to a move (home for me) to Maine in early May, where I was scheduled to take up the responsibility of headmaster of a preK-8th grade Christian school that my parents had helped start, and that I had attended for middle school. My degree in education was for teaching high school history, but given my knowledge of the school’s raison d’etre and mission, the board of directors had decided that I would be a good fit for the job of administrator. It was intended to be a mutual growing experience, and we were excited at the prospect.

Before taking up the new position, however, we decided to make a trip to visit some of the churches that had supported us on the mission field and give reports to them of the work of the denominational mission group. We also designed the excursion to take us to see various friends in the vicinities of our destinations. I was eager to visit my alma mater, Covenant College, and when we got there, I especially wanted to talk to Dr. Donovan Graham, one of my education professors. I couldn’t wait to tell him about my new job!

As Dr. Graham’s student several years earlier, I had spoken of this little school, and its vital role in my life. I told him how my mother had taught there, laboring even right up till she was hospitalized a few months before succumbing to cancer. How beloved she was in the school family and that my sister was on the board of directors, and that I was so eager to begin working there if ever given the chance. When I finally tracked him down that spring day in 2000, his reaction was not what I expected.

“What kind of salary are they offering you?” When I told him, he said, “And the two of you can live off that?” My wife and I looked at each other. We believed it was enough.

“What kind of benefits package comes with it?” he demanded.

“Benefits?” I replied. “Uh..”

Dr. Graham became angry. “Don’t take the job! Tell them they must give you health insurance or no deal!”

I’d never heard him so angry in my life, and I was shocked. “They, uh, they said they’d work on offering that..” I didn’t get to finish.

He waved his hand, as if to dismiss me. “They’ll never do it! They’ll want to, Bill, but they’ll never get around to it. You must make it a priority now, or they never will. I’m sorry, but I cannot be happy for you if you take this job as it is presently offered to you.”

In God’s kind providence, we made it through ten years at that school, and I have been at another employer for ten years since then, one with full medical benefits, a retirement pension, vision, dental, and life insurance. That medical benefit came in very handy in 2019 when my wife suffered a debilitating illness. We experienced a significant loss of income, but small medical bills. Had I still been working at the Christian school, it would have bankrupted us. It made me understand Dr. Graham’s anger from nearly 20 years before.

He was right, of course. The Christian school never did offer health insurance when I worked there. They helped pay a few bills for doctor visits, but it was no replacement for insurance. That, combined with the stress I experienced in the workplace, left me with clinical depression and anxiety, which were diagnosed four years after I left employment with them, but the symptoms of which were clearly evident while their employee. Successful treatment could have significantly impacted my job performance much sooner, but without health insurance, I had no way to pay to find out.

Mercifully, I got help. Mercifully, I moved on to a job that is a better fit for my skills, values, and abilities. Mercifully, Dr. Graham forgave me for choosing the work I did, because he was, ultimately, proud of what this student of his was able to accomplish in the lives of others, and I honor him for what he taught me. To God be the glory. I think Dr. Graham would agree with me on that.

Live as you should and others may follow, Part 2

When I wrote my first such post, it was about my weight loss program, and I’m glad that others have followed my example in that regard. However, there is another element in my life that other people have followed that I find far more gratifying, though I can take no credit for it whatsoever. It is the work of God’s grace in my life, as he burns the dross from my heart and molds me to make me more like his Son, Jesus.

I am always a work in progress. I love the Lord, but in my weakness I fall short of the righteousness in which I am called to live, so it is only by the grace and mercy of God that I show his love in my life as I should. To his credit, he is faithful to keep me in his hands, and to teach me by the Holy Spirit how I should live my life day by day. As I do that, people see his work in me and ask me the reason for the hope in my life. I tell them, “Jesus.” Some of them don’t want to hear more, but others ask more questions.

If, by God’s grace, I live as I should, others may follow. To God be the glory.

It’s what Christian people do after grief.

“What a happy reunion picture! It’s what Christian people do after terrible grief. We wash our faces. Give thanks. Laugh, smile, and eat together.” ~Steve Lawton

Steve Lawton is a friend I’ve known for more than thirty years. I got to know him through my sister Judi. Steve and his wife came to Maine the summer after my mother died, and they brought Christian charity into my life in wonderful ways I never imagined possible. In the decades since then, they have taught me the reality to Steve’s post that I’ve quoted here.

May 18, 2021

That was the date that I wrote those first two paragraphs. We had just held the memorial service for my dad, and I had shared pictures from the day on my social media pages. I may have commented that it seemed odd to be smiling so much at such a time as that, but whatever the case, Steve made the point of reminding me that for Christians, death is not the end of our relationships with one another. It is a pause, for we will see each other again in heaven. In the meantime, we meet to give God glory for the live that was lived in obedience to him, delighting to do God’s will, and we rejoice in the hope of eternity.

Ugh. I don’t even want to think about this right now.

I blew air out of my mouth and into my face mask as I said the words that are the title of this post moments ago. I was reading an email on my personal account. Another bill to pay. Do nothing, and minimum payment will be made. Proactively respond, and pay down some of the principal, too. “Ugh. I don’t even want to think about this right now.”

How many times a day do I say or think that? How about you? What small (or large) decisions do we procrastinate on that could set repercussions for our lives long into the future?

What to say when God lets evil rear its head?

A blogger I follow is rightly angered by the revelation of more than 215,000 sexual abuse cases that recently came to light within the Roman Catholic Church, in addition to the countless situations that have darkened the news for more than a decade already. The writer railed against “an impotent and evil god” and questioned the existence of God. I disagree with the writer’s conclusion, and in my final paragraph below, I addressed some of the objections raised by that writer.

It is not a new idea that God somehow is responsible for the evil of humankind and should stop it every time it rears its ugly head, even though we become less certain of that idea the moment we find out that God’s view of human wickedness and our view of it are not necessarily equal.

According to the Ten Commandments as viewed in the Old and New Testaments, the expectations and standards of God are not just outward appearances of obedience, but inward, too. It’s not enough that we refrain from physical adultery; we must not engage in mental voyeurism, either. Lusting for someone we aren’t married to is equated by Jesus to marital infidelity. It’s not enough that we refrain our hands from murder; we must not hate someone in our hearts. Malice and hate are equated by Jesus to murder. And so it goes, one by one, through the commands of God for people to obey him, to be perfect as he is perfect, so that when we try to hold God accountable for the evil others commit, we find that we are equally as fallen as they, even if our hands have not committed the same actions theirs have. Our hearts have undoubtedly betrayed morality just as egregiously at one time or another. Simply put, we don’t have a leg to stand on in order to judge God.

Based on a quote at the top of this other blogger’s page, I wrote the following two paragraphs:

I like your quote about life being unfair vs. fair, because of what would await us if we got all that we deserved if life were fair. That’s the crux of our complaint against the wickedness of the predator in your post: when will he get his just desserts? Why didn’t God stop him from committing such evil? But if God were fair, he would have wiped every one of us off the face of the earth millennia ago. He’s not fair. He’s just. He’s self-sufficiently holy and righteous to a standard we can’t attain, yet we judge him by our pathetic standards? We, who claim to have morals but deny the only moral being in the universe. Once we have rejected the truth of God, we lose our claims to moral high ground completely, for we are only on slippery slopes, comparatively better than one another, while utterly falling short of God’s glory.

Humankind is free to pursue what it will. The ones that are bent on evil will pursue it. The ones that are freed from that pursuit to pursue God will pursue God. Anyone that does evil and claims to know God is a liar. Anyone that does evil and claims to be acting on command of God is a liar. Anyone that acts contrary to the revealed word of God but claims to love God is a liar and the truth is not in him/her. Neither Protestant nor Catholic can claim Christ and live like the devil without being a liar. The abuse of children by priests or pastors or by anyone else–or of anyone else–is evil, and they earn their condemnation. Anyone else that refuses to bow to the lordship of Jesus Christ for any other reason also earns their condemnation. That’s another ‘not-so-polite-dinner-conversation’ topic. It is only by the grace and mercy of an omnipotent and good God that we escape such condemnation.

Live as you should and others may follow


Whether in the workplace or in everyday life, our best advertisement for what we value is how we live. Like countless others, I’ve struggled with obesity for decades, and I’ve tried one diet after another in vain attempts to get control of my weight. When my father died in April, I ordered a new dress shirt and pants to wear for the service that was scheduled for mid-May. When they arrived, the pants fit just fine. I assumed the shirt would be okay, too, since I had ordered the “right” size. On the day of the service, I put the shirt on, and as I buttoned it up, I knew I was in trouble. The two buttons over the largest part of my gut barely closed the shirt. I did the ‘sit down’ test; the shirt immediately gapped between those two buttons. In frustration and disgust, I took off the new shirt and put on a polo shirt, instead. I was too fat.

Dad had been after me to lose weight for years. I’m 51. When he was 51, he weighed about 350. At the time of his death, he weighed a LOT less than that because he’d gotten serious about his health many years ago. I, on the other hand, weighed 333 when he died. About a week after his funeral was my 23rd wedding anniversary. I woke up very early to take the dog out for his morning business. After that and feeding him, I sat down in my easy chair and contemplated life. I was sick of being morbidly obese; sick of how I felt, sick of how I looked, sick of having no energy, sick of everything related to it. I had tried every reasonable diet. I lost the weight and it came back. I weighed too much to exercise. I needed to change, permanently. What should I do?

Because of the example of a friend, I tried Noom. I had reached the end of my rope, and his example provided me the courage to try a program I never would have considered otherwise. I joined the Noom Cognitive Behavior Intervention for Food and Physical Activity, and I haven’t looked back.

Since beginning my journey, I’ve made my social media friends my accountability group, posting monthly progress reports. These folks have been the source of unbelievable encouragement, and some have shared their experiences with Noom, too. Others have decided to follow my example and become more health-conscious.

At no point in time have I said, “You should do this, too,” or “You should try Noom.” It’s not my place to do that! This is about my journey. I have been overweight all of my adult life, and I’m tired of it. I want to be healthier. I want to be more alert. I want to work and live longer. Losing weight and being physically fit will reduce stress in my life and on the job. I’ve been losing weight and walking more, and as a result, I’m beginning to have more energy for life. I have a long way to go to reach my ultimate goal, but now I know that I can get there.

This is life. And this is leading by example.

And oh, yeah. I’ve lost 33 pounds in three-and-a-half months through permanent changes to eating and physical activity habits.

#leadership #mentalhealth #job #wellness #Noom