Welcome to my blog, or should I say to the ramblings of an old man. I doubt that my ramblings are of much value, but at least I have an opportunity to share them.  So, please be kind and humor me. If nothing else of value stands out in these thoughts, I hope that you at least sense the value I place on a daily walk with the Lord.  That walk is what has provided me with motivation and a sense of purpose throughout my lifetime.  My prayer is that you, too, are experiencing this direction and joy in daily living which is available to everyone who puts his trust in Christ.  So, thanks again for joining me.  Please don't go without leaving some comments here so I can get to know you better as our paths intersect today in this blog.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

To The Beach


          It certainly was needed and, although it was only for three days, we needed a brief break and a short vacation.  Due to continuing physical problems, numerous doctor tests and appointments, and many church commitments, we have been unable to get away, even for a few days, for over two years.  The last time we took a "real non-working" vacation was almost two years ago and it lasted about 15 hours since Dianne was hit with shingles just after we arrived.  She still suffers from that condition.  We had to go right back home to see the doctor.  Oh yes, a week later I had my second back surgery which was not very successful.

          Several times since that "memorable vacation" we tried to schedule another getaway, but each time we had to cancel at the last minute because of physical problems.  And a planned trip to Texas was also called off because of our problems, even though we lost the cost of our airfare and conference registration.
          Unless we are visiting relatives, such as in Wisconsin, or attending a conference, as we had hoped to in Texas, my idea of a vacation is to rest.  I realize that most of our friends and blog readers would prefer much more activity, but at this point in life that is not what we want or need.
          Since I retired, our preference for a brief getaway has been to go to Ocean City, Maryland, for a few days and stay in the Courtyard by Marriott on the boardwalk.  Now it is rather expensive so we can only go off season. But then it is more economical and usually not crowded. We get a room on the third floor with a balcony which overlooks the boardwalk, beach and ocean.  We love it.  Now this might surprise you, but we don't even touch the beach or go to the ocean.  Recently we haven't even walked the boardwalk due to our problems with walking.  We don't go to expensive restaurants since our budget doesn't permit it and most are closed off season anyway.  Our favorite restaurant, Chick-fil-A, is close and open weekdays and gets most of our business.
          On our recent trip I did what I love to do.  I sat on the balcony, watched the folks pass by on the boardwalk, read, slept and enjoyed watching the ocean waves.  I also did some meditating and talking with the Lord.  That was my type of vacation.
          I really enjoyed watching the people.  All types were there - young, old, in between, skinny, fat, skateboarders, runners, bikes of all types, handicapped scooters, folks with canes, school groups. fishermen, deaf folks, and those of many different cultures and nationalities.  It was fascinating just to watch them.
          It seemed that the majority of the teens and 20's were carrying their smart phones with them and were texting as they walked.  Now, probably because I am old, I don't understand that.  We don't have a smart phone and don't text because we can't afford it. But if we did, why would I want to spend every moment of my vacation talking or texting?  How is that relaxing? Now I understand how a cell phone is good to have if an emergency would develop, but to spend all your time texting doesn't make sense.  You miss all the beauty of God's creation in the surf and beach and sky.
         But I had another observation as I watched folks pass.  I couldn't help but wonder how many knew the Lord.  I thought of the many people groups represented and the need to share the Gospel with them.  The first line of the song "People Need the Lord" kept going through my mind - "Every day they pass me by, I can see it in their eyes. Empty people filled with care, headed who knows where. On they go through private pain, living fear to fear. Laughter hides their silent cries, only Jesus hears."  Sadly, how true.  I also thought of the children's song we used to sing, "Jesus Loves the Little Children" and "Jesus Died for all the Children".  I guess those words are no longer "politically correct" because of the colors mentioned.  But that doesn't change the truth and need of the words. So many people from all over the world, enjoying the beach now but probably headed for hell without the Lord.
         But the best part of this brief vacation was the time spent enjoying the beauty of God's creation and spending time with Him.  The beauty is incredible and His presence is amazing.  The weather was outstanding.  The waves were relaxing to watch.  The sunsets were spectacular with various shades of purple, pink and blue.  I don't know anything about ocean currents, but I couldn't help wonder how many miles the water traveled and how many countries these waves may have touched over the years. It is hard to even visualize how vast the ocean really is.  And as I watched and marveled and meditated another children's song kept going though my mind.
        Wide, wide as the ocean, high as the Heaven above.
        Deep, deep as the deepest sea, is my Savior's love.
        I, though so unworthy, still am a child of His care.
        For His Word teaches me that His love reaches me everywhere.
Thank you Lord not only for your beautiful creation but even more for your love which reached out to me even when I was unworthy.  And thank you that your love can reach one everywhere - even those who passed by me on the boardwalk during these days. May many come to know You and experience the new life which only You can give.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Happy Mother's Day


          Tomorrow we will celebrate Mother's Day and I really wish that I could call or visit my mother once again.  But over two decades ago the Lord saw fit to take her home with Him and she is enjoying His presence today.  And I would not want to take her away from that.  Unfortunately, for some sad reason, we often fail to fully honor our mother on this special day until after she is no longer with us.   Then we wish we had done so or could do it again.

          The lord blessed me with a special mother.  She loved and faithfully served the Lord.  She led her children to Him.  She loved her husband and her family.  She provided a special home for us even when facing tough days of real challenge.  She had the gift of hospitality and was a special friend and help to so many people.
          As a child I didn't really understand the difficult times and challenges she faced nor the sacrifices she made for her family.  But they were many.  Married during the difficult years of World War 2, she moved nine times in the first 12 years of being married.  And for most of those years they didn't even have a car and had to depend upon the bus and friends to get around.  But somehow they did.  And, of course, we never missed church.
          Like so many families in those war years, she had to use an ice box for refrigeration until my brother was born in 1945.  At that time we lived in New Cumberland and appliances were scarce.  But a local dealer was able to get a refrigerator and because my father was a school teacher and they just had a baby, the dealer chose to give my parents the opportunity to purchase it.  That may have been the first luxury she ever had.
          There were numerous situations involving mother that I will never forget.  She never liked to drive the car, although she had her license so that she could drive in emergencies.  One of those came when our dog got sick and had to go to the vet.  Dad was teaching that night so she had to drive.  While trying to turn around she bumped into a fire hydrant.   When I opened the door our dog jumped out and we had to spend quite a bit of time trying to catch the frightened pup.  It wasn't funny then, but we often laughed about it later.
          Mother was always involved with Child Evangelism Fellowship and for many years we would have a Good News Club weekly in our basement.  She and I both did the teaching.  But one night she and a friend decided to go to the CEF training session which was held in downtown Lancaster.  Unfortunately they got mixed up and ended up in the middle of a meeting of the Water Street Rescue Mission which was being held for the homeless and those with bad habits.  Most of them were men.  While it was probably very frightening at the time, we enjoyed laughs about this experience for many years.
          Since we were charter members of our church which we helped start in 1950, my mother had ample opportunity to use her gift of hospitality.  For many years we always hosted all the visiting missionaries and speakers.  When our church first started we housed the young men from Berean Bible School who came for the summer to support the beginning ministry.  We provided housing and my mother provided great meals for all.  It was lots of work for her, but she enjoyed it, and it provided a great spiritual experience for her children.
         Mother was a great cook.  We couldn't afford to go to diners and there were very few fast food locations when I was growing up.  So holiday meals, Sunday meals and birthday meals were always special times.  For birthdays she made special layer cakes that were filled with our favorite fillings (mine was apricot) and iced with whipped cream. No wonder I have always had trouble with my weight.  But our favorite treat was her macaroni salad which she always made without a written recipe.  Unfortunately, despite many tries by many family members, nobody has ever been able to recreate that special dish.  Oh how I miss that!  In their senior years my parents actually added a large room to their house and purchased a large expanding table so that they could regularly host the entire family - three generations - for meals.  Special memories!
          Mother loved children and she loved to care for the elderly at the county home. Folks there loved her because of her caring spirit.  She also loved to listen to the children in Awana and, after her death, many of the children were heart broken because they had loved to come to her. They really missed her and many tears were shed.  She touched many lives as shown by the huge turnout for her funeral and family visitation.
          There is so much that I could share about her and I thank the Lord for her life and that she was my mother.  One of the things that I treasure most was that on her last birthday all of my family were able to visit with her and spend quality time sharing.  That was really a little unusual on her birthday.  And little did we realize then that the very next day she would be taken home to heaven immediately following an automobile accident.  A young teenager failed to observe a stop sign and broadsided my parent's car on my mother's side.
          That event is still hard to think about.  It was very hard for my father who then lived without his loving wife for many years.  But looking back, I thank the Lord that mother was spared all the pain that often goes with seniors, including things like loss of memory, nursing homes, hospitalizations, etc.  God gave me a special mother.  Happy Mother's Day, mom.
         P.S. - If your mother or mother-in-law is still alive, don't you dare fail to call or visit her tomorrow and spend some quality time with her.  You never know when it will be your last chance to do so.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Was It My "Fault"?


          Did I really cause the earthquake that we had in our area on Sunday, April 23?  It felt like our house lifted up or that it was hit by a big truck.  I understand that some folks in the area thought that North Korea had bombed us. But, thankfully, not this time.  However earthquakes are not uncommon in our area which does have a few faults.  We have experienced about a half dozen in the years that we have lived here.

          Actually, I didn't even feel this one, but my wife did.  I was on my riding mower, feeling a little guilty for cutting grass on a Sunday.  Because of the rainy weather I really had no choice but to do it on a Sunday, which is something I always try to avoid.  So was this God's way of reprimanding me for working on a Sunday?
          I've only done this once before on a Sunday.  That time we were leaving for vacation and it had to be done.  And a few weeks later a man who attends our church told me that he saw me doing it, on Sunday.  I guess I was providing a poor example to him.
          Now for most people, including Christians, there is nothing at all wrong with what I had done.  To most, Sunday is just another day in the week, one to get caught up in your work.  Times have really changed.
          The scripture reminds us, "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Exodus 20:8).  After the Resurrection of Jesus, Sunday was held sacred as the Lord's day in remembrance of His Resurrection on that day (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2). From that time on, His followers observed the first day of the week as their Sabbath. In both cases there were six days of labor and one for rest and devotion.
          In 1682, Pennsylvania put it's first blue law in place, shortly after its founding as a colony by William Penn.  Blue laws, known also as Sunday laws, were laws designed to restrict or ban some or all Sunday activities for religious standards, particularly the observance of a day of worship or rest. The Pennsylvania Blue Law read: "Whoever does or performs any worldly employment or business whatsoever on the Lord's day, commonly called Sunday, works of necessity and charity only exempted, or uses or practices any game, hunting, shooting, sport or diversion whatsoever on the same day not authorized by law" is considered to be a law breaker".
          Now most of you younger readers probably did not know that such laws even existed.  In 1978, The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled blue laws were unconstitutional.  And, as a result grocery stores and malls then opened their doors on Sunday to increase their profits, and Sundays were never the same again.  And then in  2003 Pennsylvania ended its ban on alcohol sales on Sundays.
           Now before these laws were changed, most Christians tried to observe Sunday as a day of rest and not work.  Growing up we spent our Sundays going to church - morning and evening - visiting friends and relatives and taking naps. Later I guess we began to act like hypocrites.  Those who could afford it went out for dinner, allowing others to work to serve them.  On television we watched athletes labor, playing baseball and football in particular. But "real" Christians still avoided work on Sunday, at least where they could be seen by others.
          I must admit that over the years my Sunday activities have changed as well.  We now only go to church in the mornings because we no longer have an evening service.  We generally go to a fast food location for lunch, allowing their workers to work and earn some money.  A few times we have even gone to the mall, but only for very necessary items.  And we seldom visit anybody anymore on a Sunday because everyone is too busy.  But I still enjoy a good nap ... and watching sports on television.
          However, while my Sunday activities have changed a little, I must admit that I still am very hesitant to do more on Sundays and I feel a little guilty when I do give in to another activity.  But that is probably due to my age and background, rather than me being more "spiritual" than others.
          Now did my grass cutting cause the earthquake?  I don't think so.  But, just in case, maybe I should give out an advance warning in case I ever must do it again on a Sunday.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Prayer Distractions


          As I was recently reviewing the Easter story I came upon the familiar story in Mark 14:32-40 where Jesus leaves His disciples while He goes to pray in Gethsemane.  Here is the passage from the Message. 
          "Then they came to a place which was named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, "Sit here while I pray." And He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch."  He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will."  Then He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, "Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour?  Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." Again He went away and prayed, and spoke the same words. And when He returned, He found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him."
          Now I think that over the years I have often asked myself how the disciples could have fallen asleep while Jesus prayed. Now I know they were probably exhausted and needed sleep.  The human body does have its limits.  But they were on the verge of being part of the most important event in history.  And more than that, they were with Jesus, God's Son.  Don't you think that you would be extra alert and observant?  You wouldn't want to miss a minute of what was happening.  But I guess that I have always been amazed at their reactions - especially when they fell asleep the second time.  I have always blamed them for carelessly using their precious time with Him.
         But now I have a different viewpoint.  I realize that I am no different than they were.  I am just as guilty.  I have also failed ... many, many times.
          First of all I can come into His presence at any moment and I am actually in the presence of God.  How amazing and special.  I recall that in 1984 when I went to meet President Reagan on the White House Lawn that it took me weeks get prepared for this event.  And then there were also so many security approvals that had to be done days in advance, as well as on the day of the visit.  It was not easy to get to meet and talk to the most powerful man on the earth.
          But what an amazing thing that we can come to the Creator of the universe at any moment and in any location.  And through His death and resurrection we have all the approvals we will ever need to have immediate access to Him, at any hour of the day or night
          Then, however, comes my problem - like that of His disciples.  I am ushered into His presence and begin to praise Him and thank Him.  Then I begin to ask for things and before I know it my mind has gone elsewhere or I have fallen asleep.  It is so embarrassing and it happens over and over, no how often I try to avoid it.  I might as well have been part of the group of disciples that night. We are no different.  And,  we may have even snored together.
          But I have a feeling that I am not the only one who deals with this sad and difficult problem.  Years ago I heard the well known pastor, Oswald Smith, share that he too had the same problem.  The only way he had found to overcome this was to walk and pray out loud.  At times this has also worked for me.  But it isn't always convenient to do this.  I've also found that having a written prayer list or journal helps as well, although using that is not always very spontaneous. When I pray I try to concentrate on who I am talking to, but I admit that I still often struggle with the battle of the mind and tiredness.  And I hate to admit this to others, although God does know all about my shortcomings.
          One of my favorite newer songs that, unfortunately, I seldom hear being sung anymore, reminds me of where I am when I pray, who I am talking to, my desire when I pray, and what I want to experience in my prayer life. Maybe I need to sing this more often as I prepare to meet with Him in prayer.   Meditate upon these words today.

Down at Your feet, Oh Lord
Is the most high place
In Your presence, Lord
I seek Your face, I seek your face
There is no higher calling no greater honor
Than to bow and kneel before Your throne
I'm amazed at Your glory, embraced by Your mercy
Oh Lord, I live to worship You

If you don't know this chorus or if you want to use it to supplement or introduce your prayer time, here is a link to it.      PRAYER

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Change


          One of the major news stories over the past several weeks has been the failed attempt to approve a new national plan to replace Obamacare.  No matter what you think about this process, all of us are caught up one way or another in the many problems associated with healthcare.  For many it is a very expensive journey.  For some it has been a growing problem of finding doctors and enduring long waits for appointments.

          Unfortunately, in the past two years I've had more experience with these problems than I ever dreamed that I would.  In the first three months of 2017 alone I had 16 doctor appointments, four dentist appointments, a visit to the ER, a Spect Bone Scan, a cat scan, and numerous blood tests, treatments, and trips to the pharmacy.  And without answers, there are many more of these to come.
          Recently my wife and I discussed the many changes that we have seen in health care over seven decades.  Now I don't recall much about going to the doctor until I was probably about seven.  I do know that when I was four I had my tonsils out - in a doctor's office - in Bethlehem.  All that I remember about that was the terrible smell of the either and at times I wish I could forget that. Now I can't imagine any doctor today who would do that surgery in his office.  And why in Bethlehem?  I really don't know - maybe the doctor went to the church where my grandfather was pastor.  I wish that I would have asked my parents more about that experience.
          I do know that back then doctors did make house calls.  I can remember the doctor coming to visit my sister when we lived in Lititz.  My wife recalls many doctor home visits after she broke her leg in Elizabethtown.  Today the closest thing to a home visit might be a telephone call or a contact through their portal.  However, one doctor told me that he doesn't like to do this because he doesn't get paid for such a service. 
          Of course, today there are urgent care facilities and emergency rooms.  I've never yet used the urgent care places but if you go to the ER, be prepared to spend hours there.
          And speaking of hours, one of the memories we have is usually waiting many hours in the doctor's waiting room just to see the doctor.  It wasn't until we began to go to Dr. Bryson, in 1963, that we saw a doctor who had appointments.  Prior to that you just went to his office, signed a list, and then waited for your turn.  Sometimes that meant hours of waiting and that was terrible when you were really ill or had a sick child.  Now you need an appointment  and sometimes you still sit and wait to be seen.  Fortunately there are some who do run on time.  But sometimes just getting an appointment can be an adventure.  I have often had to wait several months to see a specialist.
          And specialists are also something that has changed.  In our younger days the family doctor seemed to care for most of our needs.  I guess there were specialists, I just don't recall ever needing them. Now there are specialists for almost everything.  In fact, between my wife and I, there are currently 15 different specialists who care for our various needs.  And in some specialty areas there aren't enough of them which means you wait even longer to get an appointment.
         Specialists are also causing another problem.  They make more money than family doctors, so fewer medical students are going into family medicine.  As a result there is a growing shortage of family doctors and as older ones begin to retire there are not replacements available to hire.  The practice that we go to has three experienced good doctors retiring.
          HIPPA has also created changes.  Gone are the days when doctors could freely share information with family members.  If parents don't list their children on the HIPPA policy form with each doctor, the children will not be given vital information about their parents when they may need it.  This could create a serious problem.  Of course that does eliminate some of the unfortunate things that happened before HIPPA.  Actually, our doctor informed my father-in-law that my wife was pregnant before he told us.  That is how we learned about it.
          With the electronic age, portals have become required and I like that.  We can now review test results and vitals, keep track of appointments, review reports of our visits and recommendations, and even communicate with our doctors through these portals.  However, because of the lack of standardization, I presently have five portals and my wife has four.
          Well times are changing and who knows what changes we'll see in the next decade. Actually we just heard that our family practice has been bought out by a large area hospital.  That will create additional changes, including a few of our best family doctors deciding to retire early. I imagine we will see more family practices bought out by the hospitals, more specialists, more use of technology, longer waits for appointments and treatment, more retirements of experienced doctors, more paperwork and regulations for offices and, of course, higher costs for us.  The day of the family doctor who knew all about you and your family, provided care and medicine from his office or a home visit, and gave individual attention to your needs, is gone.  We really are becoming just numbers in an expanding complex of medical "care".
          But what can one do or say.  We need the medical profession and just have to adjust to the changes.  And we need to remember that no matter what really happens with the profession, our final care is really in the hands of the Great Physician.  And He does care for us.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

One Solitary Life




He was born in an obscure village, 

The child of a peasant woman. 

He grew up in another obscure village 
Where He worked in a carpenter shop, 
Until He was thirty when public opinion turned against Him.

He never wrote a book. 
He never held an office.
He never went to college. 
He never visited a big city. 
He never travelled more than two hundred miles 
From the place where He was born. 
He did none of the things 
Usually associated with greatness. 
He had no credentials but himself.

He was only thirty three.

His friends ran away. 
One of them denied him. 
He was turned over to his enemies 
And went through the mockery of a trial. 
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. 
While dying, His executioners gambled for His clothing, 
The only property He had on earth. 

When He was dead 
He was laid in a borrowed grave 
Through the pity of a friend. 

Nineteen centuries have come and gone 
And today Jesus is the central figure of the human race 
And the leader of mankind's progress. 
All the armies that have ever marched, 
All the navies that have ever sailed, 
All the parliaments that have ever sat, 
All the kings that ever reigned put together, 
Have not affected the life of mankind on earth 
As powerfully as that one solitary life. 

Dr James Allan Francis © 1926.

May you and your family have a glorious Easter season as you contemplate the price that was paid for us on the first Good Friday, the joy and victory that was provided for us on that first Easter Day, and the glorious hope that we have for the future because of what Jesus Christ has done for us.  
He is risen!


Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Grand Prix


          On April 19 we will hold our annual Awana Grand Prix in which our clubbers make cars from blocks of wood.  They then enter them for design trophies and also race them on our large aluminum track for speed trophies.  It is an exciting night and our final big night of the season.  The Grand Prix is very much like the Pinewood Derby that scouts feature.
          Now one of our rules is that while a parent or friend may help the clubber build the car, the clubber must do at least 50% of the work.  But this rule is hard to enforce and we must hope that it is honored.  And when you see some of the cars you unfortunately get a very strong feeling that it isn't always observed.  And that is so sad and disappointing, but there really isn't anyway to disqualify a person when they claim they followed the rule.
         With that problem in mind, I recently came upon a story about a similar situation in a Pinewood Derby.  Now I have no idea if it really is true, but it is interesting, especially for anyone involved in Awana.  It was written by a Peggy Porter.  Here it is with the title "Simple Prayer".
          My son Gilbert was eight years old and had been in Cub Scouts only a short time.  During one of his meetings he was handed a sheet of paper, a block of wood and four tires and told to return home and give all to his "dad".  That was not an easy task for Gilbert to do.  Dad was not receptive to doing things with his son.  But Gilbert tried.  Dad read the paper and scoffed at the idea of making a pinewood derby car with his young, eager son.  The block of wood remained untouched as the weeks passed.
         Finally, as his mom, I stepped in to see if I could figure this all out.  The project began.  Having no carpentry skills, I decided it would be best if I simply read the directions and let Gilbert do the work.  And he did.  I read aloud the measurements, and the rules of what we could do and what we couldn't do.   Within days his block of wood was turning into a pinewood derby car.  It was a little lopsided, but looking great (at least through the eyes of a mom).  Gilbert had not seen any of the other kids cars and was feeling pretty proud of his "Blue Lightning"  - the pride that comes with knowing you did something on your own.
         Then the big night came.  With his blue pinewood derby in his hand and pride in his heart we headed to the big race.  Once there my little one's pride turned to humility.  Gilbert's car was obviously the only car made entirely on his own.  All the other cars were a father-son partnership, with cool paint jobs and sleek body styles made for speed.   A few of the boys giggled as they looked at Gilbert's, lopsided, wobbly, unattractive vehicle.  To add to the humility, Gilbert was the only boy without a man at his side.  A couple of the boys who were from single parent homes at least had an uncle or grandfather by their side. Gilbert had "mom."
         As the race began it was done in elimination fashion.  You kept racing as long as you were the winner.  One by one the cars raced down the finely sanded ramp.  Finally it was between Gilbert and the sleekest, fastest looking car there.   As the last race was about to begin, my wide eyed, shy eight year old asked if they could stop the race for a minute, because he wanted to pray.  The race stopped. Gilbert hit his knees clutching his funny looking block of wood between his hands.  With a wrinkled brow he set to converse with his Father.  He prayed in earnest for a very long minute and a half. Then he stood, smile on his face and announced, "Okay, I am ready."
          As the crowd cheered, a other boy named Tommy stood with his father as their car sped down the ramp.  Gilbert stood with his Father in his heart and watched his block of wood wobble down the ramp with surprisingly great speed and rush over the finish line a fraction of a second before Tommy's car.  Gilbert leaped into the air with a loud "Thank you" as the crowd roared in approval.  The Scout Master came up to Gilbert with microphone in hand and asked the obvious question, "So you prayed to win, huh, Gilbert?" To which my young son answered, "Oh, no sir.  That wouldn't be fair to ask God to help you beat someone else.  I just asked Him to make it so I don't cry when I lose."
         Children seem to have a wisdom far beyond us.  Gilbert didn't ask God to win the race, he didn't ask God to fix the outcome, Gilbert asked God to give him strength in the outcome.  When Gilbert first saw the other cars he didn't cry out to God, "No fair, they had a fathers help".  No, he went to his Father for strength.  Perhaps we spend too much of our prayer time asking God to rig the race, to make us number one, or too much time asking God to remove us from the struggle, when we should be seeking God's strength to get through the struggle.  "I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:13
         Gilbert's simple prayer spoke volumes to those present that night. He never doubted that God would indeed answer his request.  He didn't pray to win and thus hurt someone else. He prayed that God supply the grace to lose with dignity.  Gilbert, by his stopping the race to speak to his Father, also showed the crowd that he wasn't there without a "dad", but that His Father was most definitely there with him.
          Yes, Gilbert walked away a winner that night, with his Father at his side.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Could of ... should of


          I am so thankful that as I look back over my life that I don't have any serious regrets.  Through God's grace, His provision and His faithfulness, I have experienced His blessing and guidance over the years.  He has provided all that I have needed and even more.  I have had a good life.

          But I wanted to clarify that fact before I share today's blog. As probably is the case with each of us, there are some things that I could have done better or at least differently.  But please understand, I am not complaining.  
          For example, I wish that I had done more to thank my parents for all the sacrifices they made to provide for me.  They lived through very difficult times and circumstances when I was growing up, and now, after raising my sons, I realize more than ever what they did for me.  Hopefully I treated them with love and respect, but I wish now that I could thank them even more.
         I also wish that I had visited them and my in-laws more often as they grew older.  I now realize how older parents value visits from their children and grandchildren. They make our day and we look forward to them. After the deaths of my mother and mother-in-law, we tried to visit our dads regularly.  But we could have and should have done more.
         I wish that I had spent more time with my brother during his 15 year battle with cancer.  He endured so much pain but yet he was always so positive and caring for others.  His Christian life put mine to shame.  I guess I never thought that the Lord would take him home at such a young age and now I wish that I could talk to him again.  He always encouraged me.
           I wish that I could thank my seventh and eighth grade English teacher, Miss Enck, for all that she taught me about English and writing.  You never dared to go to her class unprepared.  She was tough, but fair and she had high expectations. I learned more from her in two years than from all my other English teachers combined.  But I never thanked her.
          I also wish that I could thank my college math prof, Dr. Robinson.  Not only did he teach me to enjoy math, but he encouraged me to become a teacher and his advice helped me enter a 39 year teaching career that I thoroughly enjoyed.
         I wish that I had taken Spanish.  Instead I spent years "learning" Latin, French and German and today I can only remember a phrase or two from those languages.  That was wasted time.  If I had learned Spanish I could communicate with so many folks who now are part of our community.  That would have been much more practical.
         I also wish that I had continued my piano and trombone lessons so that I could play those now that I have time to do so in my retirement years.  But we never owned a good piano when I was growing up and it wasn't much fun to play the old one that was in our basement.  I did play the trombone in the high school band for six years but didn't have much incentive to play it after graduation.  Then I gave it to my grandson.  Now I think I might enjoy it once again, but probably no longer have enough "wind" to do so.  I also wish that I had learned to play the cello and baritone.
         I wish that I had spent more time talking to my parents, grandparents and other relatives about their lives and especially their childhood days.  The history and their experiences are now of real interest to me, but most of these details are now lost and gone for good.
          I wish that my parents would have had enough money to have my buck teeth straightened.  My problem isn't obvious to many, but I have a terrible time biting some things, like onions, and at times that can be embarrassing.  I could have had it taken care of when I was an adult, but then I had sons who needed to have their teeth taken care of and that was a greater need.
        And I wish that I had spent more time with them when they were growing up.  It is amazing how time flies and those years are gone so quickly.  I spent many hours working extra jobs to pay our bills, but that took time away from them. Maybe I should have done more with them.
          I wish that I still had my extensive baseball card collection which now would be very valuable. I had all sorts of complete sets spanning many years and many types.  I was a serious collector growing up.  Unfortunately, it all "disappeared" from my parent's attic and is now only a memory.
          I wish that I had more knowledge and training in computers.  I also wish that I had had access to all the technology that is now available when I was teaching.  As a teacher I was able to keep up with things and was one of the first to use graphing calculators in my classes.  I also purchased and established the first computer lab in Lancaster County.  But then I was able to attend and even lead training and inservice sessions which are no longer available to me.  Losing that access for 15 years is like a lifetime with technology. And the recent explosion of technology makes it very difficult for a "senior mind" like mine to keep up with technology without help, money and access.
          And finally, I wish that I had listened to my dad over 40 years ago when he told me that one day I would regret planting all the pine trees and bushes that I did when we bought our house with its "bare" yard.  Then we planted dozens of little seedlings which we purchased for just ten cents.  Today many of these "seedlings" are now well over 60 feet tall and have already cost us thousands of dollars to have them trimmed or removed.  Dad was right.
          I guess we all could say ... could of, should of ... about many things in our lives. But I'm not complaining.  God has been so good.  I have had a good life and I thank Him for my many, many blessings.  Have a good week!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Matthew 22: 8-11


          It is always so interesting to see how scripture, though written centuries ago, is so relevant to situations today.  And when reading passages you've read many times before, the Holy Spirit points out a truth that is relevant to a current issue you are facing.  Once again, recently, this was the case for me as my daily reading was Matthew 22: 8 - 14
          8 "Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.' 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.  11 "But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, 'How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?' The man was speechless.  13 "Then the king told the attendants, 'Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'   14 "For many are invited, but few are chosen."
          To me this parable is a reminder that not every person who claims to be a Christian really is one.  They may act like they are, use religious vocabulary, and fool many believers, but they will not enter heaven's gates because they haven't been born by the Spirit.
          Have you ever wondered how many of the people who sit in your worship services are really born again?  What about the members of your praise team, your ushers, your church employees and maybe even your deacons and elders?  Being a church attender or leader does not mean that you are a born again member of the real church.  People attend church for many reasons.  They like the music, they enjoy the people, it makes them feel good, it sets a good example to others, they enjoy the atmosphere.  And they may pick up the vocabulary and even use it.   But they may not have the "wedding clothes".  And their destination is hell, a topic we don't talk much about today.  They will be eternally "speechless" and "in darkness" with "weeping and gnashing of teeth".  So very sad.
          This scripture and reminder hit home for me as I thought about the many experiences that I had during the recent rugged presidential election.  A number of my Facebook friends, including some who grew up in evangelical churches, continued to post articles from liberal bloggers which condemned statements supposedly made by so called born again people.  Many of these statements were really off base and based on these the bloggers ripped evangelicals.  The statements certainly didn't show any evidence of coming from actual true believers, even though they may have called themselves "Christian".  As a result, these liberal bloggers, part of the "Not My President" movement, also became members of the "Not My Jesus" movement.  And their conclusions, based on these sad statements,  condemned all Christians and evangelical churches.  They wrongly assumed that these "spokesmen" represented true believers, which they didn't.  And I must admit, at times their wrong conclusions really hurt.
          Unfortunately, today it is easy to call yourself a Christian and speak as though you are one.  After all, if you are a conservative and live in America, you must be a Christian. I guess that is what the term Christian has come to mean in today's society.  And people incorrectly believe what is being said as being representative of all true believers, what they stand for, and for what the Bible says.  As we approach the end times, this will become a much bigger problem as deception increases and more discernment is needed.
          Now as I read those stinging Facebook postings, my natural desire was to post replies and try to defend the true Christian faith.  But I chose not to fight that battle in the heat of the presidential election when opinions were so strong and alternative viewpoints, which often included the truth, were interpreted as being offensive and usually not even considered.  However, I would have liked to ask some of my friends how they could have grown up in a solid evangelical church and now accept these claims as coming from true believers.  Of course, this passage from Matthew 22 probably answers that question.
          I imagine that one day when we are in heaven we may be amazed at who is there and who isn't.  Calling yourself a Christian and "playing" the game doesn't make you born again.  Jesus is the only way to heaven.  And only the Lord knows our heart.
         So I will continue to pray for these friends as well as for the people who serve me at church or sit around me during worship services.  Only the Lord knows their hearts and whether they are part of the true Church. My prayer is that if they aren't, that they will make that decision before it is too late.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

March 18, 1958 - 59 Years Ago



My home - March, 1958
        It was Saturday, March 18, 1958 - 59 years ago today.  I was excited because my high school choir director was taking me and a classmate of mine to Harrisburg to hear the concert of the district high school choir.  At that time beither of us knew that the following year, our senior year,  both of us would audition and be named to the choir.
         What we also didn't know was that an unexpected snow storm was about to hit.  The morning weather forecast made no mention of snow, except for the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal which did call for a few snow flurries.  But by late afternoon a light rain began to change into big wet snowflakes.  I don't recall these huge flakes, but one report said that some of them were two inches in diameter.  And the snow fell for over 28 hours and had a huge impact on the region. While only 13" of heavy wet snow accumulated in Lancaster city, 2 to 3 feet of snow fell across the higher terrain of northern and eastern Lancaster county, including Lititz. About 30" fell in the Ephrata/Adamstown area and an astounding 50" was measured at the Morgantown exchange of the PA Turnpike.
          In Harrisburg we first stopped for a brief visit with our choir director's mother and then we headed for the concert.  When the concert ended we were surprised to find that several inches of snow had fallen and we began our trip home to Lititz through heavy snow.  I don't remember how long that trip took, but it was memorable.  Numerous times we had to push our car as well as cars that were stuck on the highway blocking our way.  At times the highway was impossible to see.  But thankfully some how we finally got home.  It was a scary trip that I will never forget.  Later, after becoming a teacher myself, I began to realize what a difficult experience it must have been for our director to transport two of his students through that dangerous experience that night.  I hope that I thanked him.
          But that wasn't the end of the experience.  Under the weight of the wet snow, it didn't take long for trees to start snapping. Wide spread power outages took many days to restore and even the PA Turnpike was closed for a number of days. Drivers were stranded on the Turnpike. Even the trains of the Pennsylvania Railroad capitulated that last full day of winter. There was no service at all between New York and Washington after a power failure at Havre de Grace. Six passenger trains were stranded there.
          By March 20, the newspaper was calling it a "sneak storm" that left 75,000 homes without electricity, with "no estimate of restoration."  Meteorologists now suspect that this storm was a powerful "nor'easter" that blew up the Atlantic coast.  Milder temperatures at the shoreline meant that larger accumulations came inland.  Philadelphia and New York City each got 11 inches.
          The storm cut off all access to Lititz for over a week.  Huge drifts closed the Lititz Pike (Route 501) and all the smaller roads into town.  There were pictures of drifts as high as the telephone poles near the Lititz Airport. Half of Lititz lost electricity.  Fortunately our half of town retained power.  My friend actually stayed at our house for several days because his parents had no power or heat at their home. Shrinking supplies of necessities also created a problem for borough residents.  Several days later, a train was finally able to get through the drifts to deliver bread, eggs and milk to the residents.
          As I recall this experience, I can't help but be thankful for the Lord's protection, especially on that dangerous trip home.  
          But I also recall how times have changed things.  Today we have instant weather updates available on television, radio, smartphones and the internet.  None of that existed in 1958.  And today we have huge modern plows and blowers to open the highways and we have workers trained to deal with these situations.  But, unfortunately, drifting and loss of electricity are still dangers to deal with.
         And so when people think winter is over when we hit March, my wife and I often reply, "We remember 1958", and we do!
          As I was doing some research for this blog I came upon an interesting video of the "Storm of 1958".  Here is a link in case you are interested.   1958.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

To Go Or Not To Go?


          There are some difficult decisions that we must suddenly make during our lives.  One that I have had to make several times is should I go to the emergency room for a health concern.  I faced this again a few days ago when a new physical problem was creating pain. I considered going to our family practice where I would be seen in a very short time.  But I knew that with the problem I had that they would no doubt send me some place for additional tests.  Then I would need to wait a day or two for the diagnosis and any needed treatment.
         On the other hand, while it would take much more time, going to the ER would provide the needed tests and diagnosis and, if even needed, admittance to the hospital.  So, very reluctantly we headed to the hospital's ER.
          Well the first problem developed when there were no parking spaces left for ER patients - all were taken.  So we were sent to the main parking garage where we had to wind our way to the roof - level 5 - to find one of the few remaining open spaces.  That parking was on the opposite side of the hospital from where the ER was located.  So we had to go down to the basement and walk through the entire hospital to get to the ER.  Parking and walking time - 30 minutes.  I'm glad I wasn't having a heart problem.  Oh yes, three other groups of patients that were headed to the ER parked with us, but they were able to walk faster and checked in minutes before us.  That meant we were now four slots behind the others who were waiting to be seen.
          We checked in and were surprised and encouraged at how empty the waiting room was at that time.  Then we sat and waited for another 20 minutes until we were called to have my blood pressure checked and my medicine list updated.  Then back to the waiting room, this time to sit for 25 more minutes before having some blood and urine tests done.  Then back again for another 50 minute wait until they came to take me back to wait for a doctor.
          As they pushed me back to a room, we were shocked at how full they really were. People were not only in the rooms but in the hallways.  I guess this is why we had to wait so long.  Fortunately, I was at least given a room where we had some privacy.  There a nurse helped me settle in and hooked me up to monitors.  We waited awhile for a doctor to appear and when he did, he reviewed what  my tests had showed, asked a number of questions, shared what he thought they would do (much of which for some reason didn't happen), and then he left.  I would see him briefly one more time before we were discharged.
          As a diabetic who hadn't eaten since breakfast, I asked three different folks to check on my sugar, but to the best of my knowledge none of them did.  One nurse said she could get something for me to eat or drink, but she never did.  When I finally got home I found that my count was very low and I needed something immediately to eat.
          I was expecting, and maybe even hoping for, more tests.  But based on what they saw on my blood and urine tests, they diagnosed a very severe urinary tract infection and gave me an IV of an antibiotic.  Ironically, seven days earlier I had a urine test to check for an infection at my family doctor's practice, and they saw no signs of an infection.  However, the ER also did find some signs of other potentially serious problems and asked that my family doctor follow up on these. 
          So about six hours after leaving our house, we arrived back home - still with pain and discomfort - but with some meds to try and deal with the infection while they waited for the results of a culture which had to be sent away to be examined.  Incidentally, the ER called me Saturday evening to tell me that the culture indicated that I was given the wrong medicine.  I was able to find a pharmacy Sunday morning where I could obtain and begin a different med.
          Now I never know when to go to the ER with a problem.  You need to expect spending a big portion of your time there just waiting and today they were apparently very busy.  Normally parking isn't such a horrendous problem.  Most of the people there were kind and caring. However, the girl who took my blood did a very poor job and I don't usually mind having that done. Now would I have gotten the same diagnosis and meds if I had saved five hours by going to my family doctor?  Probably, except for the IV.  Oh well, I didn't have any serious plans for the day and it gave me another memory as well as something to write about.
          The way these past two years have gone for me physically, I am beginning to realize that the Lord must have many more lessons for me to learn before He calls me home.  So I guess I need to be more patient and be a better student in His schoolhouse.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Do We Believe?


          In a small Midwestern conservative town, a business owner began to construct a building for a new bar. A local fundamental church started a campaign to block the bar from opening with petitions and prayers. Work progressed, however, right up until the week before opening, when a lightning strike hit the bar and it burned to the ground.
          The church folks were rather smug in their outlook after that, until the bar owner sued the church on the grounds that the church was ultimately responsible for the demise of his building, either through direct or indirect actions or means.
          In its reply to the court, the church vehemently denied all responsibility or any connection to the building's demise.
          As the case made its way into court, the judge looked over the paperwork at the hearing and commented, "I don't know how I'm going to decide this, but as it appears from the paperwork, we have a bar owner who believes in the power of prayer, and an entire church congregation that doesn't!"
          While this story is most likely fiction, it does remind me of a similar true story shared in the book of Acts.  Peter was in prison and the believers were gathered in a home praying earnestly for his release.   And God did a miracle and sent an angel to wake him from sleep and release him from prison.  Peter didn't even really understand what had happened until he felt the cold night air on his face.  It was a miracle, an answer to prayer.
          When the angel left, Peter headed to the house of Mary, the mother of John, where many people were gathered praying.  He knocked at the outer gate and the servant girl, Rhoda came to answer the knock.  When she recognized Peter's voice she was so overjoyed that she forgot to open the gate, leaving Peter standing outside.  She ran to the folks inside and called out that Peter was standing at the gate.  But the folks told her that she was out of her mind and that it must be an angel.  But Peter kept knocking and the Bible says that when they opened the door and saw him - they were amazed!
         It is interesting how these folks were praying for a miracle and Peter's release, but when God answered they were amazed and at first didn't even want to accept the answer to their prayers.
          But are we really any different than these folks?   How often do we pray and not really expect an answer?  Are we amazed when God answers?   I must say at times I am just as guilty as these folks were.  
          And probably I am not the only one that is guilty.  I think that one of the biggest failings of the church today is that we do not exercise the power of prayer despite the many promises given to us about prayer.  Few today are real prayer warriors.
          Not only is prayer no longer an important part of our services, but even today's church music seldom mentions prayer.  There are so many great hymns that we once sang that reminded us of the power of prayer and the importance of it in our spiritual lives.  I close with the words of one of these great hymns that I have not heard sung in years.

1.     Fear not, little flock, from the cross to the throne,
From death into life He went for His own;
All power in earth, all power above,
Is given to Him for the flock of His love.
Refrain:
Only believe, only believe;
All things are possible, only believe;
Only believe, only believe;
All things are possible, only believe.

2.     Fear not, little flock, He goeth ahead,
Your Shepherd selecteth the path you must tread;
The waters of Marah He'll sweeten for thee,
He drank all the bitter in Gethsemane.
Refrain

3.     Fear not, little flock, whatever your lot,
He enters all rooms, "the doors being shut,"
He never forsakes; He never is gone,
So count on His presence in darkness and dawn.
Refrain

So how is your prayer life?   How is your faith?

Saturday, February 25, 2017

It's So Much Fun ... I Guess!


          Slide rules, logarithms, party lines, maps, AM radio ... that was the "technology" of my childhood.  Today most folks don't even know what those things were, except maybe AM radio.  But how things have changed in my lifetime.  Today almost everyone uses computers, smart phones, ipads, bluetooth, apps, texting, GPS's, Netflex and much technology that I don't even understand ... or need or want.         
          Now I am still in the early technology phase - computers, cell phones, e-mails.  I don't have a smart phone, as much as it might be convenient to have one.  Living on a fixed retirement income I simply can't afford one in my budget, although someday I may be forced to give something up - like food - to get one.  My cell phone at $30 a month is presently sufficient. However, It does bother me that folks today are so addicted to texting and playing games on their phones. The phones control their lives.  And I really do get upset when I see people chatting and texting while driving.  That is not only very inconsiderate, but actually very dangerous.
          Now I do spend much time on the internet and using e-mail.  Both are real timesavers for me.  And, as I found out the last few weeks, my life is really tied into my computer.  I use it for all my records, my finances and much of my purchasing.  I also use it for church and Awana records and information.  It contains my mailing lists.  I use it to do my taxes. I operate a website and two blogs. I am amazed at how much of my life is contained on my harddrive.  This became very evident to me the last few weeks.
         For a few months I have been having a problem with occasional crashing of my computer.  But every time it happened, I was able to get right back on again - Inconvenient, but nothing lost.  I went to the Apple Genius Bar at Park City for help.  In the past they have been very helpful with problems, but this time the technician didn't even want to run any tests. He just wanted me to buy a new computer.  But a new computer would create a real problem because of the expensive software that I use that would not work on the newer operating systems.  I talked to a few other people about the problem but didn't receive any solutions, so I just lived with the crashes.
         Then, several weeks ago it died - really died.  And I was in trouble.  I went back to Apple and this time a technician was very helpful. He ran some tests that should have been done by them before and said that I needed a new logic board.  And then he told me that they no longer make them so Apple couldn't help me.  But he did suggest a company near Mt. Joy that specialized in difficult computer problems.
         I headed right to their office and they agreed for about $80 to take it and run more tests.  The next day they called and told me that they couldn't fix it but that they could send it to a company in New York that often can rebuild internal parts.  $ $ $  Because I was now becoming desperate, I agreed.  I did have back-ups, but no computer to guarantee that I could even use them.  However, after much work and prayer, I was able to save most of my back-ups to my wife's computer.  So not all was lost. That was a major relief.
         Almost two weeks later my computer came back but the company in Mt. Joy called to tell me that I also needed a new harddrive.  $ $ $ $  But what could I do?  I needed the computer.  A day later I picked it up and took it home to restore my files.  But the computer wouldn't accept my data.  So back to Mt. Joy, agreeing to pay them to do it.   $ $  The next day I picked it up - it was working - took it home and once again it crashed.  Back to the company again and they tried to restore it.  This time they found that some of the data was corrupted but they couldn't find which files were corrupted and that prevented loading my back-ups.  We were stumped again.  Then that night I came up with the idea - actually the Lord answered my prayer - that maybe they could use my wife's hard drive and copy it to my computer.  They agreed - they did it - it worked.  And I am now using it to write this blog, update all my files and begin to file my income tax.
          Computers are great - when they work.  But remember to always back up your data - that is the only chance you have to "get your life back" when your computer crashes.  And pray that your back-ups don't get corrupted.
          I won't take time to share the other events of this week .. three root canals ... a new pump for our well ... several doctor visits.  After all, it is only money, and God is good, all the time. He has provided all that we need.  Now if I only owned an iPhone, I could text that to everyone!