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 24, 2017

Round And Round And Round

        Growing up as a teenager one of my favorite secular songs was "Round and Round", sung by Perry Como.  That was back when love songs were sensible, clean, and easy to sing, unlike today's music.  Now I will admit that like many things from years ago, I had forgotten most of the words until I did a search for them. But what I did remember were phrases like "find a wheel and it goes round, round, round" and "your head goes spinning round, round, round 'cause you've found what you've been dreamin' of."
          Now it is strange how these words have come back to me in recent weeks as I've suffered from a severe case of Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, or BPPV, which landed me in the hospital for four days and complicated my life.  My head had been "spinning round, round, round" but not because I've found what I've been dreaming of.  Such a dream would be more like a nightmare.
          On our 55th wedding anniversary, Friday, June 2, we led a hymn sing at Pinebrook.  To cut down on travel we stayed two nights at a motel in Bethlehem.  The Lord answered prayer and the sing went very well. Friday was a great day.
          But on Saturday morning, when I woke up, I found the room exploding.  When I tried to get up everything was rocking like a tornado.  I was worried that I was going to end up in a hospital in that area, maybe with a stroke.  But I was able to get stable and I told Dianne that we had to get home as quickly as possible.  In about five minutes we packed, loaded the car, and she drove us home.  When we got home I called our family practice only to find that they were closing for the day.  However, when they heard my problem, one of the doctors agreed to wait and see me.  She diagnosed my problem as vertigo, prescribed a med and sent me home with the warning that if it happened again I should go to the ER for a full evaluation.
         The remainder of the day I was relatively fine.  But when I tried to go to bed that night my life exploded again - worse than before.  I knew I had to go to the ER but didn't think I could get there in the car, so we called an ambulance.  In the ER they put me through a series of tests, including a CT scan which was horrible because of my "tornado" problem, tried unsuccessfully to get me to walk, and then, about 3 am, decided to admit me to the hospital.  That was actually fine with me because I really was too scared to go home.
         During the next four days I had a variety of tests, including an MRI of my brain - yes they could fine one. I also had a heart monitor, an IV and blood tests.  I saw about five different doctors from the Internal Medicine Specialists, but only found out what I didn't have.  I was checked by a physical therapist who didn't think I was a candidate for vestibular therapy as they had expected.  As the days went on my serious problem came only whenever I tried to get up or when I tried to lay down. The elevated bed helped me with that.  Apparently BPPV isn't the same as "normal" vertigo that many suffer with.  Then finally, after two successful walks in the hall, they decided they couldn't help me anymore and sent me home.
          One of the "bummers" of the hospital stay was the fact that the first two nights I was in a nice, quiet single room on the observation floor.  But then when my time there expired,  they officially admitted me to the hospital and moved me to a semiprivate room. Fortunately, my fellow patient was fine to live with, although I missed the privacy.
          My stay at home was mixed - some good days and some bad ones. I went to the doctor twice and still have more visits scheduled. I did start vestibular therapy which at times was very painful and disruptive.  I learned that there are "stones" in your ear which control balance.  At times they can spill into your ear canals and create vertigo. (More about this in next week's blog.) The procedure to get them back where they belong usually brings temporary severe vertigo.  My sessions were not fun but appear to be the only way to get things back to somewhat normal.  Shots and medicine given to me did little but make me sleepy.  
          I am amazed how as soon as people learn that I have vertigo, they tell me that they have also suffered with it.  They give all sorts of advice and horror stories.  Now I must admit, that like many, I never felt that those who had vertigo really suffered more than a few days.  Most were helped with medicine.  However, I now know that there are different types of vertigo.  For some it is moderate dizziness and nausea, like being on a merry go round.  For others, like me, it is like being in a tornado where you need to quickly find something to hold on to while the world explodes around you.  And for those who have experienced this form, I apologize for not having been more sympathetic. I didn't know how you were really suffering. The attacks can be worse than kidney stone pain because you lose complete control. But, fortunately, they don't last nearly as long as kidney stone pain does.
          So that is my new physical problem of the month and I will appreciate your prayers for me. Maybe I need to write a book about all that has happened to my body in the last two years.  But who would read it?   The Lord is still good and continues to teach me many lessons which I guess I still need to learn.  I feel His presence in my life and have spent many moments talking to Him.  I am reminded often that I am His workmanship and that He knows all my ways.
          When we had our family ministry we often taught Bible verses by singing them to tunes which I had written.  One of my favorites was Psalm 139:3 (KJV). "Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways."  Being a math teacher I often think of the compass that we use to make circles.  So this verse reminds me that God encircles my life with His love and care.  My path represents my daily activities.  The lying down are the times that I can't be active, especially times of illness or injury as I have been experiencing.  And all my ways means what it says - ALL MY WAYS - the good and the challenging.  And,PTL, I have found that true.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Father's Day


           Father's Day is a celebration honoring fathers and celebrating fatherhood and the influence of fathers in society. In Catholic Europe, it has been celebrated on March 19 (St. Joseph's Day) since the Middle Ages. This celebration was brought by the Spanish and Portuguese to Latin America, where March 19 is often still used for it. Many countries in Europe and the Americas have adopted the U.S. date, which is the third Sunday of June.              

           A bill to accord national recognition of the holiday in the United States was introduced in Congress in 1913 but it didn't get anywhere. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson went to Spokane to speak at a Father's Day celebration and he wanted to make it an officially recognized federal holiday, but Congress resisted, fearing that it would become commercialized.  Now how would that ever happen in the U.S. Commercialized, never, at least not until Hallmark would see a way to exploit it.
          In 1957, Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith wrote a Father's Day proposal accusing Congress of ignoring fathers for 40 years while honoring mothers, thus "[singling] out just one of our two parents". In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father's Day. Six years later, the day was made a permanent national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972.
          And that brings us to this year when we celebrate this special day on June 18.  Now I must admit that our family never made a big thing out of this day as some folks do.  We usually sent a card, wished them a happy father's day and sometimes visited with them.  However, now that both my father and father-in-law are gone, I wish that I had done more for them.  We miss them both but have the comfort of knowing where they are.  But there are many days when I wish I could call my dad, share with him events in my life and seek his wise advice.
          We have decided to do one special thing for them this year.  On Sunday Dianne is playing the offertory and she has put together a simple medley of their two favorite hymns.  I have prepared a visual presentation to accompany her playing.  This is our way of remembering both of them this year.
         Music was an important part of both of our homes growing up.  Dianne and her sister sang solos.  They and their mother played the piano.  Her father played the guitar.  And hymns were important to them.  My family sang several times in church as a family.  My sister sang in the Kauffman Trio with my wife and sister-in-law. Dad played the harmonica. I played the trombone and sang with many groups.  Every time my family traveled together we sang hymns in the car.
          My father-in law's favorite hymn was "There's Room At The Cross For You".  He had the gift of evangelism and wanted to share with everyone the life changing experience he had in his adult years.

(1)    The cross upon which Jesus died
Is a shelter in which we can hide
And its grace so free is sufficient for me
And deep is its fountain as wide as the sea.
Chorus:
There's room at the cross for you
There's room at the cross for you
Though millions have come, there's still room for one
Yes there's room at the cross for you.

(2)   Though millions have found him a friend
And have turned from the sins they have sinned
The Savior still waits to open the gates
And welcome a sinner before it's too late. Chorus: 

(3)   The hand of my Savior is strong
And the love of my Savior is long
Through sunshine or rain, through loss or in gain,
The blood flows from Calvary to cleanse every stain. Chorus:

     My father grew up in a pastor's home and came to know the Lord as a child.  He, too, had a burden for the lost and looked forward to the time when he and his family would be reunited around God's throne in heaven.  His favorite was "Oh That Will Be, Glory For Me".

1.     When all my labors and trials are over,
And I am safe on that beautiful shore,
Just to be near the dear Lord I adore,
Will through the ages be glory for me.
Refrain:
O that will be glory for me,
Glory for me, glory for me,
When by His grace I shall look on His face,
That will be glory, be glory for me.

2.     When, by the gift of His infinite grace,
I am accorded in heaven a place,
Just to be there and to look on His face,
Will through the ages be glory for me. Refrain

3.     Friends will be there I have loved long ago;
Joy like a river around me will flow;
Yet just a smile from my Savior, I know,
Will through the ages be glory for me.  Refrain

          I thank the Lord for a godly father, father-in-law and even grandfathers who loved the Lord and set wonderful examples to me.  I have really been blest.
          Now if your father is still alive, don't you dare miss this special opportunity to spend time with him on Father's Day.  If you don't, someday you may regret it, after he is no longer here.
          If you don't know these two hymns, here are links that will allow you to hear them.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Senior Alphabet


        Do you remember the new math or the modern math that you might have experienced as a student?   Our approaches to many things have changed over the years as we've looked for ways to make things more meaningful and easier to remember.
        Well our alphabet hasn't changed, but maybe the ways we use it have.  It appears that cursive writing is now out but keyboarding has now become essential for students today.  And in some cases the alphabet's meaning and representations have changed.  So, in case you've never seen it before, here is  "The New Alphabet for Older People".

A is for arthritis
B is for bad back
C is for the chest pains. Corned beef? Cardiac?
D is for dental decay and decline
E is for eyesight--can't read that top line
F is for fissures and fluid retention
G is for gas (which I'd rather not mention) and other gastrointestinal glitches
H is high blood pressure
I is for itches
J is for joints that are failing to flex
L  for libido--what happened to sex?
Wait!  I forgot about K for bad knees.  (I've got a few gaps in my M-memory)
N is for nerve (pinched) and neck (stiff) and neurosis
O is for osteo-  P is for porosis
Q is for queasiness. Fatal?  Just flu?
R is for reflux--one meal becomes two
S is for sleepless nights counting my fears
T is for tinnitus - bells in my ears
U is for difficulties urinary
V is for vertigo
W is worry  about what the X--as in X-ray - will find.  But though the word "terminal" rushes to mind,
I'm proud, as each   Y - year - goes by, to reveal  A reservoir of undiminished  Z - zeal - for checking the symptoms my body's deployed, and keeping my twenty-six doctors employed.

Maybe somebody could put this alphabet to music.   But I guess that would be a waste of time for we seniors would soon forget it anyway.

So there you are.  What, you say you don't understand this.  Well, hold on sonny.  Your day is coming, sooner than you would expect!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Retirement


          It's so hard to believe that it is now 15 years since I retired after 39 years in the Penn Manor School District.  The years have flown by so very quickly.  Most folks can't wait until they can retire.  Often they have visions of traveling, or playing golf everyday, or sleeping late, or spending time with their family, or all sorts of "exciting" things.  And sometimes for some people those dreams do come true. But retirement often ends up being something different for others.
          Now, as usually happens when you get older, nobody really cares about your experience or opinions.  But even so, I have seen enough of what happens in retirement to think that my advice could be useful to some who haven't yet retired.  But, then again, it probably isn't.  But because it is my blog, I'm going to share it anyway.
          First, consider the cost of medical care.  You may have been healthy all of your life but then suddenly it hits you.  All sorts of physical problems develop as you age and care is very expensive.  You may see more doctors than you ever knew existed.  So make sure that you have good medical insurance and the funds to afford it.  In the first five months of 2017, 21% of our income has gone to medical insurance, doctor visits, tests and medicine.  Now I realize that this might be somewhat excessive, but it happens.  Medicare is good but it only pays 80% and doesn't include dental or vision coverage.  You will probably need to purchase a supplement plan to cover the remaining 20% as well as your medicine.  Make sure that you plan for this before you retire.  Maybe you'll be lucky enough to be covered by a company plan after you retire, but that now is unusual and something that we don't have.
          Second, make sure your finances are in shapeMake sure you pay off all of your debts before you quit work.  Prepare a retirement budget and try living on it a few months to see if it is realistic.  Hire a good financial advisor to handle your investments - not one who profits on selling and investing your money, but one who charges a set fee.  Now as long as you remain healthy, you can always get another job to provide income, but that might not be your vision for retirement.  And remember, taxes, gas, food, repairs and all those necessary things will continue to rise in price after you retire.  If your money is invested, remember investments can rise ... and fall.  If you are on a fixed pension, as I am, prepare to live the remainder of your life without a raise. I will never get one. And if you depend on social security, remember that the few dollars it might increase annually is usually lost in the increase costs of medicare coverages.
          Third, make sure you have hobbies and other interests to fill your days.  As much as you may want to quit working, life can become very boring and depressing if you don't have other things to do. Too many people go into depression or even die right after retiring because they have nothing fulfilling to do.  Some love to travel, and that is great if you can afford it.  Many of our close friends are constantly on the go and I am glad for them.  But our budget doesn't permit that, so instead we stay at home and involve ourselves as volunteers in ministry. There are so many things you can volunteer for and help others as you now have the time.  Our service at church and at Pinebrook are things that we enjoy and look forward to.  
         Fourth, make sure that you are emotionally ready to retire.  We all think we are ready to do so, but sometimes our identity is tied to our work and it becomes very hard to separate ourselves from it.  My boss once told me that you will know when you are really ready to retire and he was right.  But it was still very hard for me after being there for 39 years and often going in to work on weekends and during vacations. I loved the classroom and my students, but I didn't enjoy the increased requirements being imposed by the state and the district.  I did struggle for several months after I left, until the Lord provided me with two classes to teach at Millersville for a semester.  That was the interlude I needed.  Then those 39 years really became "another lifetime" for me.
          Fifth and most important, trust the Lord with your decision.  Proverbs 3:5,6 is vital for any believer in Christ.  Trust Him to lead you and guide you.  A year before I finally retired, I was being offered another job in ministry that I really felt I wanted.  But at what I thought was my final interview, I was shocked to find that the job was no longer being offered to me.  It was an adjustment, but I accepted it as the Lord's Will.  And what I didn't know at that time was that in order to get themselves a big pay raise, the PA House and Senate were approving a bill to not only raise their salaries but also the pensions of future retiring teachers.  By staying instead for my 39th year in teaching, I received a major and very unexpected increase in my pension.  God knew all about that when I didn't.  Looking back I can see how he was guiding all that was happening in my decision.  And He will do that for you, too, as you trust Him.
          I have enjoyed retirement despite numerous physical challenges.  We have not been able to travel as we expected, but we have  had many ministry opportunities to continue to serve the Lord and that has been very special and rewarding.  Yesterday we again led a hymn sing at Pinebrook.  And the Lord has provided all that we need and we know that He will continue to do so.  Psalm 37:25, " I have been young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread."

Saturday, May 27, 2017

When To Keep Your Mouth Shut


          I imagine that if your are human you've probably been guilty of "open mouth insert foot" sometime during your life.  I would be too embarrassed to share situations where I have done that.  But the problem isn't a new one, because many years ago Solomon and other Bible authors had much to say about when we should keep our mouth shut.  In fact in Proverbs 21:23 we read, "Whosoever keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from trouble."  Great advice!

          Recently somebody sent me a list of 20 items from the Bible which tell us when we shouldn't open our mouth.  They are great reminders, and even though you might not need these reminders, as I do, I've decided to share them with you.  So here are 20 times you shouldn't open your mouth.

1. In the heat of anger - Proverbs 14:17
2. When you don't have all the facts - Proverbs 18:13
3. When you haven't verified the story - Deuteronomy 17:6
4. If your words offend a weaker brother - I Corinthians 8:11
5. If your words will be a poor reflection on the Lord or your friends and family - Peter 2:21-23
6. When you are tempted to joke about sin - Proverbs 14:9
7. When you would be ashamed of your words later - Proverbs 8:8
8. When you are tempted to make light of holy things - Ecclesiastes 5:2
9. If your words would convey a wrong impression - Proverbs 17:27
10. If the issue is none of your business - Proverbs 14:10
11. When you are tempted to tell an outright lie - Proverbs 4:24
12. If your words will damage someone's reputation - Proverbs 16:27
13. If your words will destroy a friendship - Proverbs 25:28
14. When you are feeling critical - James 3:9
15. If you can't speak without yelling - Proverbs 25:28
16. When it is time to listen - Proverbs 13:1
17. If you may have to eat your words later - Proverbs 18:21
18. If you have already said it more than one time (then if becomes nagging) - Proverbs 19:13
19. When you are tempted to flatter a wicked person - Proverbs 24:24
20. When you are supposed to be working instead - Proverbs 14:23

          Great reminders for each of us.  Let me close with one of the verses that I quote to myself most often, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer."  Psalm 19:14.

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.