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, June 23, 2018

Phone Menus


          Isn't it "fun" when you are trying to reach somebody on the phone and you first get a whole menu of options which you must listen to so that you can eventually navigate to the person you need to talk to?  Often it can become an Anxiety Hotline, especially if you are in a hurry.
          And often one of the biggest challenges is trying to find a way to actually talk to a real person about your problem.  Then when you finally find the right way to get to a real person you often end up with a message that says "I am out of my office. Please leave your number and I will get back to you as soon as I can" (maybe when they get back from vacation).
         Well for those of us who get bothered by these phone menus, recently I came upon the choices for a real Anxiety Hotline.  How would you like to be greeted by the following choices?
          If you are obsessive-compulsive, press 1 repeatedly.
          If you are co-dependent, please ask somebody to press 2 for you.
          If you have multiple personalities, press 3, 4, 5, and 6.
          If you are paranoid, we know who you are and what you want.  Stay on the line so that we can trace your call.
          If you are delusional, press 7 so that your call can be transferred to the mother ship.
          If you are schizophrenic, listen carefully and a small voice will tell you which number to press.
          If you are manic-depressive, it doesn't matter which number you press, no one will answer.
          If you are dyslexic, press 969696969696969.
          If you have a nervous disorder, please fidget with the hash key until a representative comes on line.
          If you have amnesia, press 8, and state your name, address, phone number, date of birth, social security number, and your mother's maiden name.
          If you have post-traumatic stress disorder, slowly and carefully press 000.
          If you have bi-polar disorder, please leave a message after the beep or before the beep. Or after the beep.  Please wait for the beep.
          If you have short-term memory loss, press 9.  If you have short-term memory loss, press 9.  If you have short-term memory loss, press 9.
          If you have low esteem, please hang up.  All of our operators are too busy to talk to you.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

A Special Man


          Every Father's Day I especially think of my dad and what he meant to me.  He loved the Lord and devoted his life to serving Him.   He knew  how to trust the Lord when facing adversity.  My father knew how to work hard.  He was very wise. He loved his family.   He was a very special man.  I just wish that I could be half the father that he was to me.

          It would take pages for me to write about all that he taught me and what I observed while he was living.  But one thing that always impressed me was how he knew that all that he had was really the Lords.
          Dad didn't have a car until I was in first grade.  But when he finally had one, it was dedicated to the Lord.  For years every Sunday he picked up folks to take to church, even when it meant going way out of his way.  We picked up kids, or more often adults, who needed a ride.  One of those that he often picked up was an overweight lady - probably over 300 pounds - who had to be very hard on the springs of his car.  But dad never complained as we transported her to church.
          Dad was extremely influential in the founding of our church in Lancaster.  He worked with the denomination to get it started.  He helped the builders and spent hours doing things like painting the walls of the new building. and pouring cement walks.  He served as a teacher, an elder, delegate and financial treasurer for decades.  One thing that I learned later in life, that nobody else knew, was though he had little money, when our struggling church couldn't pay all of its bills, dad quietly gave enough to pay them.  Often he bailed out our church and nobody ever knew it.  He showed that all that he had - his, time, money and possessions - belonged to the Lord.
          Dad spent hours behind the scenes doing work for our church, our denomination, CBMC, Berean Bible School, Calvary Homes and Lancaster Christian School.  He was faithful in doing this work and spent many hours serving .  Actually, just hours before he died, he even completed reports for the denomination's Board of Directors which was meeting the morning of his death.  I found the reports ready to go and actually delivered them for him.
          In 1969 when our denomination closed our sister church in Millersville and could not find a buyer for the property, dad bought it.  He sold us what had been the parsonage.  Later he rented the basement church structure to a variety of groups and probably lost money on that.  Finally he was able to sell it to the local Lions Club.  But he still had about two acres of the land that would be too expensive for him to develop.  For many years we and a neighboring farmer grew things there.  I don't think he ever charged the farmer for using it.  So for years the land sat there with no prospects to sell or develop it.  And he still had to pay the taxes every year.
          Then suddenly a developer purchased some adjoining land and offered to buy dad's land,  In the Lord's perfect timing, this was the same time when our church was purchasing another property for our new church.  Dad was able to work out a deal to give his land to our church who then was able to sell it to the developer.  So this land which once belonged to our denomination provided a considerable gift to help get out new church started. Neither he nor I received anything from this sale, but dad was thrilled with the knowledge that after many years this "investment " could return to the Lord's work.
          Dad also taught me the importance of being faithful in attending the Lord's house.  Whenever the doors of the church were open, we were there.  I still remember when I was on little league baseball and football teams dad would pull up at 7 pm and I had to leave with my family to attend prayer meeting.  I now realize that dad knew that I would never be a star player, but he did know that I could become a man of God.  And today I thank him for doing that.
          But I guess one of the biggest lessons I learned from dad came with his experience at RCA.  He worked there for many years.  As a manager he was going through a process of laying off people in his department.  This was hard for him to do.  And after completing that process, when he walked in one Friday he was told that his job also was being eliminated.  He had to pack his possessions and immediately leave the plant.  While this was very hard on my mother, dad accepted it as the Lord's will.  He never complained but went about finding other jobs.  He did things like substitute in schools, complete income tax forms for people and a variety of other things.  He never missed a day of work.  Finally the Lord opened up a job as plant manager for the Osteopathic  Hospital.  Dad trusted the Lord and the Lord never failed him.  What a testimony that was for me.
          I could write much more about dad and his walk with the Lord throughout his life.  I was blest to have such a godly father who was a real example to me.  And I still miss him.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Thinking of Retiring?


          Are you looking forward to retirement?  Well some folks never retire.  General Douglas MacArthur understood this when he famously stated, "Old soldiers never die, they just fade away."  That might be true for five-star generals, but here are some things that happen to others as they age.

* Golfers never retire, they just lose their drive.

* Lumberjacks never retire, they just pine away.
* Accountants never retire, they just lose their balance.
* Bank managers never retire, they just lose interest.
* Vehicle mechanics never retire, they re-tire every day.
* Roofers never retire, they just wipe the slate clean.
* Engineers never retire, they just lose their bearings.
* Beekeepers never retire, they just buzz off.
* Musicians never retire, they just decompose.
* Farmers never retire, they just go to seed.
* Watchmakers never retire, they just wind down.
* Academics never retire, they just lose their faculties.
* Painters never retire, they just put a gloss on it.
* Tree surgeons never retire, they just branch out.
* Old librarians never die, they just check out, become overdue, and lose their circulation.
* Old crossword puzzlers never die, they just go across and -- hopefully -- up.
* Old milkmaids never die, they just kick the bucket and lose their whey.
* Old plumbers never die, they just get out of sink and go down the drain.
* Old teachers never die, they just grade away and lose their principals, their faculties, and their class.
* Old math professors never die, they just go off on a tangent.
* Old mimes never die, they're just never heard from again.
* Old housemaids never die, they just return to dust.

(From "The Gift of Age" (c)2010 by Richard Lederer)

So what about you?  Why not leave me a comment to tell me what happens to those in your line of work?

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Change



        I grew up in the 50's, graduating from high school in 1959.  Those were good years and I have many great memories. But change happens and things have really changed since then.  Things that we never would have predicted or believed have happened and sometimes we forget all that has changed.  Well here are several comments that could have been made in the 50's.  Enjoy how things have changed.


          "If they raise the minimum wage to $1, nobody will be able to hire outside help at the store."          "Who would have thought gas would someday cost 50 cents a gallon."
          "Pretty soon you won't be able to buy a good 10 cent cigar."
          "Did you see where some baseball player just signed a contract for $75,000 a year just to play ball? It wouldn't surprise me if someday they'll be making more than the president."
          "Do you suppose television will ever reach our part of the country?"
          "I never thought I'd see the day when all our kitchen appliances would be electric. They are even making electric typewriters now."
          "It's too bad things are so tough nowadays. I see where a few married women are having to work to make ends meet."
          "Did you know the new church in town is allowing women to wear slacks to their service?"
          "Next thing you know is, the government will start paying us not to grow crops."
          "There is no sense going to Philadelphia or New York anymore for a weekend, It costs nearly $15 a night to stay in a hotel."
          "No one can afford to be sick any more, $35 a day in the hospital is too rich for my blood."
          "If a few idiots want to risk their necks flying across the country that's fine, but nothing will ever replace trains."
          "I don't know about you but if they raise the price of coffee to 15 cents, I'll just have to drink mine at home."
          "If they think I'll pay 50 cents for a hair cut, forget it. I'll have my wife learn to cut hair."
          "We won't be going out much any more. Our baby sitter informed us she wants 50 cents an hour. Kids think money grows on trees."

         Interesting.  Now I wonder what comments we are making now that we will laugh at  60 years from today.  What do you think?

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Time


          Time - something that we all wish that we had more of ... something that passes too quickly the older we get.  If you are like me, you often reflect upon the past and wonder where all the years have gone.  I look at my boys and my grandchildren and wonder how they can really be that old.  And how can I really be this old?  My how time flies!
         William Penn is said to have remarked, "Time is what we want most, but what we use worst."  Benjamin Franklin said, " Lost time is never found again."  Then it was Dr. Seuss who remarked, "How did it get so late so soon? It's night before it's afternoon.  December is here before it's June.  My goodness how the time has flewn.  How did it get so late so soon?"
        A Denis Waitley said, "Time is an equal opportunity employer.  Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes every day.  Rich people can't buy more hours.  Scientists can't invent new minutes.  And you can't save time to spend it another day.  Even so, time is amazingly fair and forgiving.  No matter how much time you've wasted in the past, you still have an entire tomorrow."  And Tom Bennett has added, "Don't waste time in anger, regrets, worries and grudges.  Life is too short to be unhappy."
         Recently I was going through some items from by Grandpa Wolf's time as a pastor.  I came upon an old copy of "The Evangel", a monthly publication that he produced when he was pastor at the Emmanuel Bible Fellowship Church in Sunbury.  This one was dated February, 1965.  The front page included the poem "There's Time" by a Priscilla Leonard.


Life is never so short
But there's time for a song
To hearten the hours
As they hurry along:
Through the dark and the day
Its brave music can rise,
No matter how swiftly
Each winged second flies.

Life is never so short
But there's time for a deed
Of courtesy gentle
Of kindness in need:
Along the thronged highway
Where multitudes press
Each moment brings chances
To help and to bless.

Life is never so short
But there's time for a word
Of trust and of courage
Faint hearts to upgird;
Through the rush of the mart,
Through the din of the fray,
Hope finds ever its moment,
Faith conquers its way.


          So take some time in your day today to enjoy a good song, to do a good deed for somebody and to do something to encourage a "faint heart".  What a good use of our time that would be.

         A Michael Phillips has said, "The best things are never arrived at in haste.  God is not in a hurry.  His plans are never rushed."    Those thoughts remind me of one of my favorite choruses.  Meditate on these words.
1.   In His time, in His time,
He makes all things beautiful in His time.
Lord please show me every day
As You're teaching me Your way
That You do just what You say
In Your time.


2.   In Your time, in Your time,
You make all things beautiful in Your time.
Lord my life to You I bring 
May each song I have to sing
Be to you a lovely thing 
In Your time.

You can listen to this chorus here.    LISTEN

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Fwd: Things Only A Mom Could Teach



          I know the official Mother's Day is now over for another year, but I thought you might enjoy some of the memories that most of us have about our mothers.  Actually, everyday should be Mother's Day so I guess this blog is still appropriate. So here are some things our mothers taught us.

*     My Mother taught me about ANTICIPATION: "Just wait until your father gets home."
*     My Mother taught me about RECEIVING:. "You are going to get it when we get home!"
*    My Mother taught me to MEET A CHALLENGE:   "What were you thinking? Answer me when I talk to you ... Don't talk back to me!"
*    My Mother taught me LOGIC:  "Because I said so, that's why."  and also  "If you fall out of that swing and break your neck, you're not going to the store with me."
*    My Mother taught me MEDICAL SCIENCE:   "If you don't stop crossing your eyes, they are going to freeze that way."
*    My Mother taught me to THINK AHEAD:  "If you don't pass your spelling test, you'll never get a good job."
*    My Mother taught me ESP:   "Put your sweater on; don't you think I know when you're cold?"
*    My Mother taught me HUMOR:   "When that lawn mower cuts off your toes, don't come running to me."
*    My Mother taught me how to BECOME AN ADULT:   "If you don't eat your vegetables, you'll never grow up."
*    My Mother taught me about GENETICS:    "You're just like your father."
*    My Mother taught me about my ROOTS:   "Do you think you were born in a barn?"
*    My Mother taught me about WISDOM OF AGE:   "When you get to be my age, you will understand."
*    My Mother taught me about JUSTICE:   "One day you'll have kids, and I hope they turn out just like you. Then you'll see what it's like."
*    My mother taught me RELIGION: "You better pray that will come out of the carpet."
*    My mother taught me about TIME TRAVEL:  "If you don't straighten up, I'm going to knock you into the middle of next week!"
*    My mother taught me FORESIGHT:  "Make sure you wear clean underwear, in case you're in an accident."
*    My mother taught me IRONY:  "Keep crying and I'll *give* you something to cry about."
*    My mother taught me about the science of OSMOSIS:    "Shut your mouth and eat your supper!"
*    My mother taught me about CONTORTIONISM:   "Will you *look* at the dirt on the back of your neck!"
*    My mother taught me about STAMINA:  "You'll sit there until all that spinach is finished."
*    My mother taught me about WEATHER:   "It looks as if a tornado swept through your room."
*    My mother taught me how to solve PHYSICS PROBLEMS:   "If I yelled because I saw a meteor coming toward you, would you listen then?"
*    My mother taught me about HYPOCRISY:  "If I've told you once, I've told you a million times: Don't Exaggerate!!!"
*    My mother taught me THE CIRCLE OF LIFE:   "I brought you into this world, and I can take you out."
*    My mother taught me about BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION:    "Stop acting like your father!"
*    My mother taught me about ENVY:   "There are millions of less fortunate children in this world who don't have wonderful parents like you do!"

          Thank you mother for all the valuable lessons you taught us!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

My Regrets


          Mothers need to be celebrated!  So, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed May 9, 1914, as the first Mother's Day. He asked Americans on that day to give a public "thank you" to their mothers and all mothers.  However, some say that the first Mother's Day in America was actually established by Anna Jarvis and was celebrated at St. Andrew's Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia, on May 10, 1908.

         No matter when the first celebration actually was, possibly thanks to Hallmark and other card companies, it has continued and really grown in popularity.  Today thousands celebrate by sending cards or flowers, taking their mothers out to eat, visiting with them or at least calling them.
          Now I have very few regrets in life, but one is that I should have done much more for my mother, not only on Mother's Day, but throughout her life.  Now that I am older I am beginning to realize how much visits from family members really mean to an aging parent. Visits mean so much more than even gifts or going our to eat.  There is nothing better to a parent than spending time with their children. I should have done so much more when I could have.
          In our family we never really celebrated special days, except maybe Christmas.  Others have big birthday parties and special days have special elaborate celebrations.  But that isn't the way we were raised.  But I know now that tradition isn't a good excuse.
           Unfortunately, some of us learn those lessons too late in life when things can no longer be changed.  I loved my mother.  I couldn't have asked for a better one.  I miss talking to her.  I would love to be able to tell her once again that I love her.
          Fortunately, the Lord prompted all of us to visit her the night before she unexpectedly was killed in an auto accident.  That was unusual and I thank the Lord that He prompted all of us to do that.  That is a time that I will never forget and I would have felt horrible if I had been too busy to be there.
          My mother lived a very challenging life.  As a youngster she lived through the Depression and her family had very little in the way of material goods.  Then she and my father lived through World War II and the postwar era when jobs were very limited.  For years they lived without an automobile.  They always had large gardens in order to feed us. They made nine different moves until dad was finally able to get a full-time job in Lancaster where he then worked for 25 years.  All those moves must have been very hard for her.  But I never heard her complain about it.
          Those days were challenging.  I remember how excited we would be as kids when mother would have an extra quarter and allow us to purchase a bottle of soda as a treat for the family.
          My mother had the gift of hospitality and we often had visiting missionaries and students staying with us.  She was very active in serving the Lord, teaching Good News Clubs in our homes and teaching Sunday School classes.  Her love for the Lord was a major influence in my life.
          Most people don't know that in her latter years she had many difficult physical problems and despite many visits to specialists and many tests, nobody was able to diagnose her problems or give her any relief from her pain.  I hate to admit this, but at times I began to think that much of this was just in her mind.  But now I have become my mother and am having the same discouraging problems.  Oh how wrong I was to think this about her.  But maybe my family now thinks the same about me.
          Now I still miss her and wish that once again I could call or visit her.  I miss knowing that she was praying for me.  I miss knowing that she loved me and was proud of things that I was able to do.  I miss being able to share with her my joys, my fears and my sorrows.  I wish that I had been a better son.
          If your parents are still alive, please make sure that one day you don't have similar regrets.  The greatest gift that you can give them is you.  Do that now while you still can.  Those times pass too quickly.  Here today, gone tomorrow!

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Tombstones


          Sometimes it can be interesting to walk through a cemetery and read the tombstones.  Growing up I lived a block away from the Moravian Cemetery in Lititz.  There I used to enjoy reading the tombstones which date back to before the Revolutionary War.  The cemetery also contains the tombstones of many of the former citizens and families that I knew growing up in Lititz. And my parents are now buried there.  
          One summer while I was in college I worked digging graves in a cemetery in Sunbury where my in-laws are now buried. There I recognized the graves of many of the former members of the church that I attended and often had heard many of the "old-timers" talk about. 
          But, I must admit that I never have come upon tombstones as crazy as these.


Harry Edsel Smith of Albany, New York: 
Born 1903-Died 1942 Looked up the elevator shaft to see if the car was on the way down. It was.

In a Thurmont, Maryland, cemetery: 
Here lies an Atheist 
All dressed up And no place to go.

In a London, England cemetery: 
Here lies Ann Mann, 
Who lived an old maid 
But died an old Mann. 
Dec.  8, 1767

In a Ribbesford, England, cemetery: 
Anna Wallace: 
The children of Israel wanted bread, 
And the Lord sent them manna. 
Old clerk Wallace wanted a wife, 
And the Devil sent him Anna.

In a Ruidoso, New Mexico, cemetery: 
Here lies Johnny Yeast. 
Pardon me For not rising.

In a Uniontown, Pennsylvania, cemetery: 
Here lies the body of Jonathan Blake. 
Stepped on the gas 
Instead of the brake.

In a Silver City, Nevada, cemetery: 
Here lays The Kid. 
We planted him raw. 
He was quick on the trigger 
But slow on the draw.

A lawyer's epitaph in England: 
Sir John Strange. 
Here lies an honest lawyer, 
And that is Strange.

John Penny's epitaph in the Wimborne, England, cemetery: 
Reader, if cash thou art In want of any, 
Dig 6 feet deep; 
And thou wilt find a Penny.

In a cemetery in Hartscombe, England: 
On the 22nd of June, 
Jonathan Fiddle Went out of tune.

Anna Hopewell's grave in Enosburg Falls,Vermont:
Here lies the body of our Anna - 
Done to death by a banana. 
It wasn't the fruit that laid her low, 
But the skin of the thing that made her go.

On a grave from the 1880s in Nantucket, Massachusetts: 
Under the sod and under the trees, 
Lies the body of Jonathan Pease. 
He is not here, there's only the pod. 
Pease shelled out and went to God.

In a cemetery in England:
Remember man, as you walk by, 
As you are now, so once was I. 
As I am now, you soon will be. 
Prepare yourself and follow me.

To which someone replied by writing on the tombstone:
To follow you I'll not consent 
Until I know which way you went

From Boot Hill, in Tombstone, Arizona: 
Here lies Lester Moore 
One slug from a 44 
No Les 
No More

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Hymns #2


         Last week I presented a blog which provided one man's opinion of what we lost when we lost hymns.  This week I want to share the other side, by the same blogger, what we've gained when we lost our hymns.  This was written by Tim Challies on April 18, 2017.

         A few weeks ago I wrote an article titled What We Lost When We Lost Our Hymnals and was rather surprised to see 300,000 people stop by to read it! I meant to point out that there are consequences in shifting from one medium to another - in this case, shifting from hymnals to PowerPoint projection. (I use "PowerPoint" to stand in for all forms of projection.) It is true of every new technology that it brings benefits and drawbacks. Neither hymnals nor PowerPoint are exempt from the rule.
          Where that article focused on what we lost when we shifted from hymnals to projection, today I want to focus on what we gained. When our churches turned away from hymnals to instead sing lyrics projected on a screen, here is some of what we gained.
          We gained immediacy. Not all of the good songs are old songs. In fact, today we are seeing a great resurgence in hymnody that has generated many wonderful new songs. There are some that are almost too good not to sing. Yet hymnals made us wait years or even decades before we could add them to our services. "In Christ Alone" became a modern day staple in part because PowerPoint made it so easy to add it to our services. Other songs like "He Will Hold Me Fast" or "Before the Throne of God Above" are worthy of singing and of standing the test of time, but can only easily be sung by churches that are not reliant on hymnals. PowerPoint projection reduces the lag between great new songs and updated hymnals.
         We gained posture. Hymnals forced us into a particular physical posture. We had to hold the hymnal in one hand (or even in both hands) and look down at the words. Thus hymnal posture was stiff and fixed. PowerPoint projects words onto an elevated screen and asks us to hold nothing in our hands. Thus PowerPoint posture is open and free which may be a superior posture for worship, and especially for worship that is physically expressively - something the Bible seems to allow or even advocate. It is difficult to raise your hands in worship while clutching a three-pound, five-hundred-page hymnal. It is even more difficult to clap your hands.
         We gained variety. There is undoubtedly a hazy line between a hymn and a chorus. "The Gospel Song" is probably not the kind of song that would make it into many hymnals, yet it has sound lyrics and can be a sweet addition to worship. There are many other choruses that do not fit the "hymnal mold" even though they are biblical, purposeful, and singable. To a significant degree, hymnals promoted certain kinds of songs while holding off others. Yet the Bible gives us freedom to worship in "songs, hymns, and spiritual songs", to praise God in every variety of song. PowerPoint helps us do this.
         We gained portability. In many places in the world church buildings are forbidden, rare, or unreasonably expensive. That is exactly the case here in Toronto where most new congregations have to rent space in schools, libraries, or community centers. Transporting several hundred hymnals to a building is difficult when compared to simply transporting a laptop and projector. There is a convenience and portability to PowerPoint that is missing in hymnals. Not only that, but the cost is lower. Two hundred and fifty hymnals will cost around $6,000; a laptop and projector can be had for a fraction of that.
         We gained spontaneity. PowerPoint allows a kind of spontaneity that may not be present when relying on hymnals. At a recent engagement I quoted a song's lyrics in my sermon, and with a click or two, the worship leader was able to immediately add it as the song of response. This would not have been possible if that church had used hymnals (unless, of course, that song had been in the hymnal).
         We gained service. Our hymnals reflect a vetting process where hundreds of thousands of hymns were whittled down to just a few hundred. This happened by generations of Christians fumbling their way through awful hymns so they could, over time, settle on the few excellent ones. Remember, we honor Charles Wesley for the ten or twenty of his hymns we continue to sing today, and gladly forget the other 5,980. We have the opportunity to serve future generations by singing a variety of today's songs and, as we do so, filtering the good from the bad and the best from the rest.
         The reality is that neither hymnals nor PowerPoint are entirely good or entirely bad. Both have benefits and both have drawbacks (which is what we should expect for any technology or innovation that exists in a sinful world). What is important is that we properly weigh and assess both in the light of our context and decide which will best serve our local church.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Hymns #1


          Probably the biggest church controversy in recent years is the battle between those who love hymns and those who love worship choruses.   And sometimes this has even become nasty.  People have left their churches over these differences.  There are strong opinions on both sides.

          Now I do not frequently use blogs written by others, but a recent posting on Facebook took me to blogs by Tim Challies.  He has written two very interesting blogs on what we have lost and what we have gained when we "lost" our hymns.  Unfortunately the posting in Facebook only showed the one side, what we have lost.
         So I have decided to reproduce both of his blogs.  This week we will look at what he thinks we have lost.  Next week we'll look at what he thinks we have gained.  Then you can either keep or change your opinion.  I'm not going to express mine.
         Here is what Challies wrote on March 29, 2017.

         I don't think we should go back to using hymnals. But I do think there's value in considering what we lost when, over the course of a relatively short period of time, we gave up hymnals for PowerPoint projection. Not all of us, mind you, but most of us. It's worth considering because it helpfully shows what we stand to lose when we switch from one media to another, and especially when we do so quickly and without due consideration.
         If we were to go back in time twenty or thirty years, we would find that most churches had hymnals. They had hymnals because it was the best way of providing each member of the congregation with a copy of the songs. You'd hear it in every church: "Take out your hymnal and turn to hymn 154 …" And then hymnals went the way of the dodo and we began to look instead to words projected on a screen. Here is some of what we lost along the way.
         We lost an established body of songs. Hymnals communicated that a church had an established collection of songs. This, in turn, communicated that its songs were vetted carefully and added to its repertoire only after careful consideration. After all, great songs are not written every day and their worth is proven only over time. Therefore, new hymns would be chosen carefully and added to new editions of the hymnal only occasionally. Churches would update their hymnals, and, therefore, their established body of songs, only once every ten or fifteen years.
         We lost a deep knowledge of our songs. When we removed the hymnal, we gained the ability to add new songs to our repertoire whenever we encounter one we deem worthy. And we do - we add new songs all the time. As we add new songs with greater regularity, we sing old songs with less frequency. This reduces our familiarity with our songs so that today we have far fewer of them fixed in our minds and hearts. Few congregations could sing even the greatest hymns without that PowerPoint screen.
         We lost the ability to do harmonies. Hymnody grew up at a time when instrumentation took a back seat to the voice. Hymns were most often written so they could be sung a cappella or with minimal instrumentation. For that reason, hymnals almost invariably included the music for both melody and harmonies and congregations learned to sing the parts. The loss of the hymnal and the associated rise of the worship band has reduced our ability to harmonize and, in that way, to sing to the fullest of our abilities.
         It often seems like all we want from the congregation is their enthusiasm.  We lost the ability to sing skillfully. As congregations have lost their knowledge of their songs, they have lost the ability to sing them well. We tend to compensate for our poorly - sung songs by cranking up the volume of the musical accompaniment. The loss of the voice has given rise to the gain of the amplifier. This leads to our music being dominated by a few instrumentalists and perhaps a pair of miked - up vocalists while the larger congregation plays only a meager role. In fact, it often seems like all we want from the congregation is their enthusiasm.
         We lost the ability to have the songs in our homes. Hymnals usually lived at the church, resting from Monday to Saturday in the little pockets on the back of the pews. But people also bought their own and took them home so the family could have that established body of songs there as well. Families would often sing together as part of their family worship. It is easy to imagine a family singing "It Is Well With My Soul" after eating dinner together, but almost impossible to imagine them singing, "Oceans."
         It is probably too late to go back to the hymnal. I am not at all convinced we ought to. But it is still worth considering what we lost along the way and how congregational singing has been utterly transformed by what may appear to have been a simple and practical switch in the media. That little change from book to screen changed nearly everything.

          Now to hear the other side, come back next week.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

An Extravagant Lover


         At times I come upon blogs written by others that have encouraged me or state things in better ways than I can.  I feel that some of those are worth sharing with you.  One of those, "God Is An Extravagant Lover in Your Suffering" was written by a Rick Thomas.
         When I am going through difficult times I must often remind myself of Ephesians 2:10. "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."   That verse compliments what Rick has said below.


          I need to know that my frustrated hopes and dreams do not mean that God is not in my story. Contrary to my "man-centered thinking," the good Lord is choosing to write a story that is different from the one I expected.
          If God is with you, which He is, you must understand that He is doing good things for you. Though you may not perceive His mysterious will for your life (Deuteronomy 29:29; Isaiah 55:8-9), what He is choosing to write for you will turn out for your good (Romans 8:28), His fame, and the benefit of many people. The Lord's will for you is not about knowing all the facts, but about trusting the Author of those facts.
         There are times in your life that are excruciatingly painful, and there is nothing you can do to alleviate the suffering. You cannot pray it away, manipulate it away, or wish it away. A positive mental attitude will only last a day or two, but you soon return to the pit of sorrow and anguish.
         It is in those moments that the reality of "life gone bad" settles deep into your soul, and the current circumstances begin to define who you are. It is in those moments when you need a significant realignment of the soul.
         Though the fog is not lifting and there is no anticipation it will ever rise above the trouble in your life, you must rest in the assurance that God has not abandoned you. God is working His plans into your life.
        Your journey can go no other way than the way He has predetermined for you. It is the Lord who orders your steps (Proverbs 16:9). Before you ever entered into your suffering, God was there (Jeremiah 1:5; Ephesians 1:3-10). He was working, planning, strategizing, and implementing things in such a way that would forever change you.
         He is not doing this because He is harsh, distant, or uncaring. He is doing this precisely because He is kind, with you, and loves you. The Lord's love is more extravagant than you could ever imagine. When Job reflected upon these profound things, it caused a long reflective pause.
         "But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back? What he desires, that he does. For he will complete what he appoints for me, and many such things are in his mind. Therefore I am terrified at his presence; when I consider, I am in dread of him. God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me, yet I am not silenced because of the darkness, nor because thick darkness covers my face."– Job 23:13-17
          God is in your darkness, which removes the terror. Talk to Him today, even if it is only a faint heart cry. Bear your soul to your heavenly Father. Live in the truth that He is finishing what He began in you (Philippians 1:6). God is an extravagant lover in your suffering.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

How Are You?


          One of my pet peeves is the greeting, "how are you?"  It bothers me because probably 95% of those who ask the question, usually in passing, don't really want to know.  And generally I don't want to answer them anyway.           
         During the past couple of years the Lord has given me numerous physical challenges and I don't really want to talk about them to most people.  Not only does it take too much time to give a true answer, but it makes me sound like a complainer.  And who wants to talk to a complainer?  I know I don't.  So when they stick around for a reply I generally say "I''m hanging in there", and that seems to be enough.  In fact many just answer, "Good", even though that isn't really what I meant.  And the conversation is ended.
          But I am finding that I am not the only one who feels that way.  I recently came upon a response written by a Rev. James L. Snyder.  I thought I would share his comments from his article "How am I?  Let me Tell You!"  So enjoy!  (That comment also bothers me when a waitress says that.)
          An interesting aspect to people is their proclivity toward hypocrisy. By that I mean we say one thing but we really do not mean it or it does not really apply to us personally.
          I was complaining about this to the Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage this past week.  "Why is it," I said most curiously, "people really don't mean what they say?"  She responded by saying, "I always mean what I say."   Being the kind of husband that I am, I refused to contradict her reply. Therefore, I am not referring to her in these comments. People just don't say what they mean.
         For the past month, I've been having issues with shingles and nerve pain all the way down my right arm. It's very painful and I hope it goes away soon. Let it be clear that pain and me are not friends. The sooner the pain leaves, the better it's going to be for me.
         But I digress. My condition has been a very clear focus of my life these days. After all, it's my pain that I have to live with every day.   It happened just the other day when somebody that I was passing on my way into Publix said to me, "Hi, how you doing?" Well, I thought to myself, he asked, so I begin to tell him about my condition and all of the aspects associated with it. Within a few moments I could tell he was not very much interested in how I was doing.  I continued with all of the details and then he suddenly looked at his watch and said, "That's interesting, but I am late for an appointment and I have to leave right now."
         Well, okay, but after all, he asked the question I didn't. If he wasn't interested in how I was doing, why did he ask?   See how people say things they don't really mean?  This happened to me several times with people I had never met before. They asked the question about how I was doing, and when I began telling them how I was doing, they had no real interest in how I was doing.  That rather frustrated me. How I was doing was a very important aspect of my life and sharing my pain was someone else was something I wanted to do. However, nobody was interested in my pain.
         It brought me down to a point of discouragement. I had to stay home for several days because of the condition I was in. I could not drive and so I stayed home. Then something different opened up for me.  As I was sitting there, reveling in my displeasure and discomfort the telephone rang.  I answered the phone and it was somebody trying to sell me something. They began by saying, "Hello, how are you doing today?"
         That is all I needed to hear. I began to tell him exactly how I was doing with all of the pain and discomfort I was experiencing. I went on and on even though several times he tried to interrupt my little speech. He asked and so I was telling.   Three minutes into my little speech, I heard the telephone go "click" and there was nobody on the other end of the line. I sat back in my chair and smiled rather deeply. Why did this person asked me how I was doing if he wasn't interested in it?
         It was quite an afternoon, I'll tell you that. I don't know if the word got out that I was sick and at home, but the phone rang constantly all afternoon. Everybody asked me, "Hello, how are you doing?" And, I told them how I was.   All that afternoon I dominated the conversation of every telephone solicitor that called. I never allowed them to get a word in edge wise because they asked me how I was doing and I was going to tell them.
         My wife came home from the office and saw me smiling.  "What in the world," she said as she walked towards me, "are you all smiling about?"   "All afternoon," I explained to her, "people were calling me asking me how I was. And so I spent all afternoon telling these people exactly how I was." I then chuckled. She just looked at me and then broke out laughing herself. I found out the telemarketers are not really interested in "How you are." All they're interested in is selling something I really don't need. But I enjoyed the day telling them how I was doing.
           That's the way it is with most people today. They say one thing but they really do not mean it. They do not want to know how I am doing. It is just something they politely say when they do not know what else to say.
         David understood this when he wrote, "They speak vanity every one with his neighbor: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak" (Psalm 12:2).  How often does this happen in our daily life.  Then David said this about himself, "My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding" (Psalm 49:3).
          As I was sitting in my chair nursing my pain, I came to at least one conclusion. I am not going to ask people how they are unless I really want to know how they are.

          Thank you Rev. Snyder for sharing my thoughts.
          So how are you today?

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Kitchen Memories


          Sometimes childhood memories from many years ago suddenly come back to me.  Such was the case when we recently completed a jigsaw puzzle of an old kitchen.  While it wasn't really the same, it brought back many good memories of my Mammy Wise and her kitchen which seemed to be the center of all activity in their home. Mammy and Pappy Wise lived on Tenth Street in Sunbury for many years.  Pappy was an excellent carpenter and spent much of his life building caskets at a local company.  Everyday he walked to and from work, mostly along a railroad known as the Horn Railroad.  Today that railroad is gone - a victim of "modernization". He always had a large garden to help feed the family.  Mammy was a housewife and an amazing baker - more about that later.
          My grandparents had very little in the way of earthly items but they had a loving family and their house was always full of family and visitors.  We kids used to enjoy the front porch which had a swing.  We would swing for hours and watch the traffic and people go by.  Sometimes we would swing too wildly and hit the house and that usually brought us reprimands from the adults.
          On the main floor of their house there were two "living rooms", the kitchen and a pantry.  The middle room contained a large coal stove which was used to heat the entire house.  Floor registers allowed the heat to go to the upper floor and bathroom.  That always bothered me because the register in the bathroom was right next to the toilet and you could hear all the conversations going on in the kitchen.  And, most likely in the kitchen you could also hear many of the noises from the bathroom.
          Upstairs there were three bedrooms and my brother and I always had to share the back one which was also over the kitchen.  I never liked this because there wasn't a register opening in this room and it got very cold in the winter.  Also, the room had the door to the stairs which led to the attic.  And there were times that we could be in bed and hear the mice or rats running in the attic.  I didn't have many good nights of sleep in that bedroom.
          The basement also was known for having rats and mice.  The coal bin was there. with steep steps which must have been a challenge to climb when regularly bringing up the coal for the stoves.  I don't know if they had water problems down there, but there were wooden walkways over the dirt floor which led to shelves for canned goods and some of Pappy's equipment.  I didn't spend much time down there.
          On the small back porch they kept the wringer washer and there were many mornings when we stayed there that I would get up and the women were doing the wash.  Mammy also usually had sweet peas or morning glories growing on strings on the one side of the porch.
         But, as mentioned before, there was the kitchen.  The stove was also a coal stove on which she did all of her cooking and baking.  And it was always in use.  Mammy was an amazing baker and she always had loads of cookies and pies to offer all her visitors.  Maybe that is why so many came - all the time.  We would sit around the kitchen table and enjoy her large sugar and molasses cookies.  The adults usually had a cup of coffee to dip their cookies.  Then there were the pies - apple, cherry, peach, mince meat, montgomery and a favorite of mine - raspberry-peach.  And you had to visit at Easter when Mammy made her famous easter eggs.  They were huge - maybe even four inches long - coconut, peanut butter, cherry, cream.  Today they would cost a small fortune to make or to even buy.
          And while we would chow down - maybe for hours - the adults would sit and talk and share stories.  That is a tradition that we seem to have lost today.  Nobody seems to just drop in anymore to enjoy sharing stories, friendship, and even some food.  Our lives are now too structured, too full and too busy.  I think we have really lost something with our modern conveniences and busy schedules. Those times provided some of my best memories that came back to me while we completed the puzzle. I miss those special times and family members and wish that I could now hear more of the stories from those generations which are now gone forever.
          Maybe we need to bring back the kitchen coal stove.