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.
This past week was a busy week for us that included two startling contrasts. On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday we enjoyed the beautiful, sunny, cool days at Pinebrook in the Poconos - a touch of Fall with the leaves just beginning to change. These beautiful days added to our enjoyment of another excellent Sr. Saints Retreat. Even though we were responsible for the music, we still were able to relax and enjoy two excellent speakers, great fellowship, too much food, and the beautiful Fall weather. Then on Thursday we left to go to Long Branch, New Jersey, to share in our nephew's wedding. What a contrast in weather. A tropical storm greeted us with heavy winds and driving rain. The ocean was wild, beating against the shore and fascinating to watch. These contrasts in God's creation reminded me of something from Wednesday night's concert at the retreat. Bert Kettinger, from Moody, in Chicago, presented a stirring concert. Many of you probably have heard him sing on Christian radio broadcasts. He shared many personal experiences and used his beautiful baritone voice to sing a wide variety of hymns from our past. But the hymn which keeps ringing in my mind is one written by George Beverly Shea, another gifted male vocalist. "There's the wonder of sunset at evening, The wonder as sunrise I see; But the wonder of wonders that thrills my soul, Is the wonder that God loves me. ... There's the wonder of springtime and harvest, The sky, the stars, the sun; But the wonder of wonders that thrills my soul is the wonder that's only begun. ... O, the wonder of it all! The wonder of it all! Just to think that God loves me. O, the wonder of it all! The wonder of it all! Just to think that God loves me." And so while we marvel at the beautiful contrasts in God's great creation, the greatest marvel is that in all of His vast universe, He has chosen to love us. And that is a real wonder that we should never forget.
I've never had many hobbies. But one of the things that I've really enjoyed is attending Penn State football games. And, fortunately, Dianne enjoys it as well. There is something special about mingling outside the stadium before the games and watching all the crazy fans and tailgaters. You'd never have any idea that we are in a recession when you see the many huge busses, vehicles, tents, and the huge spreads of food. Then there is that excitement and anticipation of entering the stadium, getting settled in your seat, and watching the teams warm-up. Then the excitement increases as the band enters and the drum major does his flip to the roar of the crowd. Next the crowd goes nuts as over a hundred thousand partisan fans cheer "We are, Penn State!" It send chills up your spine. The chills continue as well over a hundred thousand spectators sing the National Anthem, followed by the entrance of the Nittany Lions (or Nittaly Lions as Obama calls them). Then comes the game accompanied by the antics of the crowd and the Lion throughout the game. There is never a dull moment. Now I will admit that watching at home on TV does eliminate the long drive there and the tiring drive back home after the game. But you miss so much on TV that can only be experienced when you are there in person. It's just not the same. We did experience being there again last Saturday when we had tickets to the Temple - PSU game. It was even better because the weather was so beautiful. We have been very fortunate over the years in finding tickets and good seats even though we could never afford to be season ticket holders. Years ago we used to purchase them by placing a sign "We Need Two" in our car window, and generally we made a purchase before we crossed the Susquehanna. But now, with the expansion of the stadium, we are much more selective - we don't want the high seats or seats that require much climbing to get to. I guess we are getting old. Unfortunately, we've also lost our good contacts so good seats are harder to get, especially this year when PSU is playing so well. And the price of tickets, and gas, continues to increase which makes it harder for we retirees to afford the trip. So this Saturday night we will sit at home and watch the game on ABC. We are hoping to find tickets for the Indiana and Michigan State games, but that might not be possible. So we'll just need to imagine hearing "We are, Penn State!" Go Lions!
There is a saying that man's best friend is his dog. I would imagine that this saying could be debated, but if you ever had a dog, you know that at times they can be very loving and understanding. About a week ago our niece's husband was out with their dog chasing groundhogs in a cemetery across from their house in Lewistown. His young daughter wanted to come and be with him. She carefully crossed the dead-end street between their house and the cemetery and began to run towards her dad. Suddenly the dog turned and ran towards her. They were shocked when the dog actually knocked her over. Then they watched as a swarm of ground bees attacked the dog and stung him all over his body. His unexpected action saved the young girl from being attacked and stung. Nobody knew the nest was there, but somehow the dog sensed the danger, protected the young girl, and took the pain for her. It took several calls to the vet and much care for the dog to finally recover from this attack. It is ironic that just a few days earlier, our neighbor hit a nest while cutting grass on the bank between our homes. Fortunately, he was able to run from the swarm with only a few dozen stings. Hidden nests in the ground can be very dangerous - the nest between our homes is still active. We've not been able to find a way to get rid of it. Fortunately, the story in Lewistown had a good ending. Everyone is well. Somehow God gave the dog a sense of the danger and the sense to save the little girl. So God is really man's best friend. But a dog can also be a very good friend as I'm sure our niece's family will testify.
Late last night, after a hectic night of Awana, I was cleaning out my mailbox and I discovered a note that had been hidden in the back of my mailbox - probably for several weeks - under numerous other papers. I was stunned as I read it because it was a very caustic, harsh attack on something I had innocently done and upon my perceived motives for having done it. I will admit that it hurt me and still does. Human nature makes me feel like just quitting. And what makes it worse is that the note was - anonymous - not signed. So I have no opportunity to discuss the matter with the offended person, as the scripture suggests that we should do when there are disagreements or misunderstandings. It even hurts worse to know that there is a Christian brother/sister in our church that I have unintentionally offended and I can't do anything, except pray, to try to resolve the situation and our relationship. As Christians we often do see things differently, we have different opinions, and we do make mistakes, but these differences must be resolved without sharp attacks. Unfortunately, we are living in a increasingly critical society and we can easily get caught up in the world's critical approach. I am now trying to avoid reading letters to the editor in the newspapers because the harsh, critical spirit displayed in many of the letters makes me feel critical in return. While these letters must at least be signed, writers are using this "bully pulpit" to chastise everyone and everything. And often the criticisms appear to be exaggerated, biased, based on incorrect information, half-truths or at the least, very one-sided. The intent often seems to be to berate or tear someone apart publicly rather than to heal or correct in a kind way. Lately we Christians and conservatives seem to be fair game for many critical writers. And it has recently gotten worse as letters are now defending the writer's political favorite by tearing down their opponent. Sometimes these letters become very hostile. I guess this critical spirit is part of the times in which we live - a time of discontent with everything. A time when everyone wants their own rights and there are no absolutes. But that is the way of the world and shouldn't be part of our conduct if we are believers in Christ. James and others warn Christians of what damage the tongue can do. The fruit of the spirit includes .... love ... peace, longsuffering, gentleness - things not often displayed in letters or dealings with others. David said, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight ..." In Colossians 4:6 we read, "Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man". And we could go on at length looking at many scriptures which tell believers to deal with others in kindness, to control our tongue and our thoughts, and to encourage - and kindly and prayerfully correct when necessary - other brothers and sisters in the Lord. In this critical age, may we as believers be sensitive and discerning in such situations. May our conversations and dealings be filled with grace and kindness. In these difficult times Christians can't be tearing each other apart, especially when the secular society in which we live is doing such a very good job of doing it to us
Last winter - I don't even recall the date - I looked out our bedroom window and noticed that there were footprints coming off the street and across our backyard. It had snowed that night so the prints were very visible in the inch or so of newly fallen snow. Later I went out back to investigate and found that the tracks went across our small patio to the backdoor, which was locked. I then followed the tracks around to the side of the house to our den door which was also locked. Next they went to the side door to the garage which had been left unlocked just in case we had a major snowfall which knocked out electricity and I would need to get into the garage for the snowblower. The door there was partially open but the entrance was actually blocked by our riding mower. I checked inside the garage and nothing appeared to be missing. The prints then left our house and went to our neighbors. I thought that maybe I should report this to the police even though nothing was stolen or disturbed. About 30 minutes later a police officer came, retraced the path, took my name and left. I had done my civic duty! Mistake number one! Months later I began to get lengthy forms in the mail. I was classified as a victim and had to complete numerous forms. I could have qualified for all sorts of help - including emotional counseling. I kept returning these completed forms and continued to report that I didn't feel that I was a victim. I didn't require any help. Mistake number two! Now, months later, I receive a subpoena from the district attorney that requires me to appear at a trial on October 3 in the Lancaster County Courthouse. Now it is more of my time and gas expense. I guess I could refuse to go and not show up, but that would be mistake number three and I would be in real trouble. So, I am now beginning to wonder, am I really the victim? Should I have requested emotional counseling? The system is making me really feel like a victim. I thought I was just doing my civic duty. I guess the lesson I am learning is to be like others and not get involved. But that is the wrong attitude - at least I think it is - or is it? Well, I guess I'll just go and testify of my major knowledge of the case and gain another new experience in life. There is always more to be learned ... by victims ... and by nonvictims.
Yesterday afternoon I sat down to read and decided to also flip through the channels to see what was on television. I unexpectedly came across a PBS special which not only was highlighting the secular music of the 50's, but PBS had also brought back many of the original artists to sing their hits. It was great! I couldn't believe how old they all looked - I guess like me! You see, the 50's were the years in which I grew up - the years that I went to elementary school, jr. high, high school and also started college. So the PBS special really provided for me a sentimental journey, even though the song Sentimental Journey (that is an old song for you youngsters who never heard it) was actually introduced in the late 1940's. As I listened and watched, a flood of memories came back (and maybe even a few tears!). I recalled great times at home and at school. I thought about my parents and my brother and sister and wonderful experiences which we shared. I thought about friends and former classmates, football games, parades, playing pick-up baseball and football, music lessons, early jobs, teachers, starting a new church, grandparents and relatives, Christmas, starting college, and so much more. They were good times - simpler times - times when nobody locked their doors - times when kids could run outside and play without fear - times when television was clean and enjoyable - times when we knew our neighbors - times when you didn't need to fight traffic - times when "five and tens" and pharmacies had food counters and there were small grocery stores in every neighborhood - times when we walked long distances to school and came home for lunch - times when most people went to church and schools didn't give homework on Wednesday nights - times when all the stores closed for several hours for Good Friday services - times when the words to music were clean and understandable and the harmony was great. Great times, great memories of times long gone. I do thank the Lord that I lived in such times and have such good memories - I believe that I was really blessed. And adding to my sentimental journey is the realization that if mother had lived, today she and dad would have celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary. Oh how I wish that I could tell her happy anniversary today, but I know that she is now in the best of places, with her Lord. Again, I have been truly blessed in so many ways and I thank the Lord daily for my heritage. And, if you are fortunate enough to have parents who are still alive today, please don't miss the opportunity today to talk to them, thank them, and tell them that you love them. Afterall, time changes many things so unexpectedly - today is gone forever, so quickly - and then all we have left is to take our sentimental journeys.
So where were you at about 8:45 am EDST on September 11, 2001? I was preparing for my next class. During my prep period I turned on the television to catch up on the morning news before class. Like everyone, I was stunned to watch the planes crash into the towers and all the horror that followed. In that moment, all of our lives changed, forever. This really couldn't happen in our country, could it? But it did and life will never be the same again. I guess there are a few events in our lives that are so startling that we will always remember just where we were when they happened. For example, folks older than me remember Pearl Harbor. My first such event was the announcement that the Russians had launched Sputnik - I was driving on what is now 283, delivering surgical goods. Then there was the assassination of President Kennedy - I was teaching math when the announcement was made. And the assassination of Martin Luther King - on my way to an elder's meeting. The shooting of President Regan - on my way to a meeting at the college. Man walking on the moon - in our living room at our apartment at Florida State. Two space tragedies that cost astronauts their lives - watching TV at school, and returning from my morning walk at Park City. And I could probably recall some others. How about you? So today we remember 9-11 and pray that it will never happen again. But, unfortunately, it probably will. I don't believe that America is owed additional favors from God. As a country, we have turned our backs on Him, and we must be ready to bear the consequences of denying the One who has blessed this nation from its foundation. So, there will probably be more bitter events for us to experience and remember. We never know what a day will bring. But we do have the assurance that God does care for us as individuals. And today He is preparing a special home for all of His children and He has promised to return to take us there, in His time. And that, folks, will be the most special day to remember. Look for that day - oh that it would be today.
I guess I just can't pass on this one. The Democratic candidate for President of the United States, Barack Obama, appeared in Pennsylvania last week and saluted the Penn State "Nittaly Lions". Yes folks, the one some call the new Messiah publicly hailed the "Nittaly Lions". I guess he never heard of the NITTANY Lions. He probably never saw 110,000 gather for a Penn State football game. Now I don't know that his mistake will cost him any votes, but he sure offended thousands of Penn State fans. How could you not know that the famed Joe Paterno has coached the NITTANY Lions for many years. How could you not have heard of the team nickname on TV or radio or in newspapers or magazines? It makes me wonder if the elitist candidate from the political machine of Chicago really knows how the average person lives and what he does. Maybe he just had a "senior moment" - oh, but I thought that was supposed to be the problem of the Republican candidate, not the eloquent liberal from Chicago. Do you think he roots for the Chicago Beats in football, or maybe the Chicago Balls in basktball, or how about the Chicago White Sacks in baseball? I guess the media in Illinois just doesn't cover Penn State sports - we're just too rural and we "depend on guns and religion". Well, I guess all the candidates will make mistakes during the campaign, but "Nittaly Lions", in the heart of Penn State territory! Wow! Anyway, didn't those "Nittaly Lions" look good on Saturday! Go Lions, Nittaly, NITTANY, or otherwise!
About two weeks ago, an e-mail arrived that said "May Day, May Day". When I saw that it was from the director of Pinebrook, I immediately knew that it wasn't about a May Day celebration. He had just found out that the professional musician who was to do last Friday's hymn sing would not be able to meet his commitment. Pinebrook was stuck and was asking for us to help them out. I had been looking forward to just going that day and enjoying the sing, not having to plan and lead one - this was a real disappointment. And it couldn't have come at a worse time. I had two doctor appointments. Dianne had minor surgery and her annual colonoscopy scheduled. We had 19 coming for Labor Day. We were getting ready for the start of Awana and I had a director's meeting and a staff meeting to lead. But, since we have been key organizers and leaders in Pinebrook's monthly hymn sings, I felt we couldn't say "no". Then on top of it all, I developed more physical problems - possibly as a result of a change in my diabetes medicine. But, the day after we said "yes", an e-mail devotional arrived which featured Psalm 63:7, "Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings." Suddenly I had a theme - singing in the shadow of God's wings. A theme I could relate to. Then we found a soloist who would take 30 minutes of our two-hour program and things began to fall into place. Hymns like "Under His Wings", "All Your Anxiety", "Shelter In The Time of Storm", "Children of the Heavenly Father", "Day By Day", "Trusting Jesus", "God Leads Us Along" and "No One Understands Like Jesus", among many others, spoke to my need (and I think others as well). The musician sang some beautiful, meaningful songs which also ministered to me. We had excellent singing and many positive comments. We had a beautiful day and one of the best attendances that we have had. My voice held out and the traffic going home wasn't as bad as it usually is on Friday afternoons. It turned out to be a very moving experience in the midst of some trials and problems which we have been facing. Somebody has said, "Our disappointments are God's appointments". I believe this was really the case this time. Because God is our help, we can sing in the shadow of His wings. Maybe today He will give you a song as He leads you through your trials and concerns.
Not all gifts turn out the way they were intended. This is not my story, but one that was sent to me. Enjoy! "For my birthday this year my wife purchased me a week of private lessons at the local health club. Though still in great shape from when I was on the varsity chess team in high school, I decided it was a good idea to go ahead and try it. I called and made reservations with someone named Tanya, who said she is a 26-year-old aerobics instructor and athletic clothing model. My wife seemed very pleased with how enthusiastic I was to get started. They suggested I keep an "exercise diary" to chart my progress .... Day 1. Started the morning at 6:00 AM. Tough to get up, but worth it when I arrived at the health club and Tanya was waiting for me. She's something of a goddess, with blond hair and a dazzling white smile. She showed me the machines and took my pulse after five minutes on the treadmill. She seemed a little alarmed that it was so high, but I think just standing next to her in that outfit of hers added about ten points. Enjoyed watching the aerobics class. Tanya was very encouraging as I did my sit ups, though my gut was already aching a little from holding it in the whole time I was talking to her. This is going to be GREAT .... Day 2. Took a whole pot of coffee to get me out the door, but I made it. Tanya had me lie on my back and push this heavy iron bar up into the air. Then she put weights on it, for heaven's sake! Legs were a little wobbly on the treadmill, but I made it the full mile. Her smile made it all worth while. Muscles ALL feel GREAT .... Day 3. The only way I can brush my teeth is by laying the tooth brush on the counter and moving my mouth back and forth over it. I am certain that I have developed a hernia in both pectorals. Driving was OK as long as I didn't try to steer. I parked on top of a Volkswagen. Tanya was a little impatient with me and said my screaming was bothering the other club members. The treadmill hurt my chest so I did the stair "monster." Why would anyone invent a machine to simulate an activity rendered obsolete by the invention of elevators? Tanya told me regular exercise would make me live longer. I can't imagine anything worse .... Day 4. Tanya was waiting for me with her vampire teeth in a full snarl. I can't help it if I was half an hour late, it took me that long just to tie my shoes. She wanted me to lift dumbbells. Not a chance, Tanya. The word "dumb" must be in there for a reason. I hid in the men's room until she sent Lars looking for me. As punishment she made me try the rowing machine. It sank .... Day 5. I hate Tanya more than any human being has ever hated any other human being in the history of the world. If there was any part of my body not in extreme pain I would hit her with it. She thought it would be a good idea to work on my triceps. Well I have news for you Tanya - I don't have triceps. And if you don't want dents in the floor don't hand me any barbells. I refuse to accept responsibility for the damage, YOU went to sadist school, YOU are to blame. The treadmill flung me back into a science teacher, which hurt like crazy. Why couldn't it have been someone softer, like a music teacher, or social studies? .... Day 6. Got Tanya's message on my answering machine, wondering where I am. I lacked the strength to use the TV remote so I watched eleven straight hours of the weather channel .... Day 7. Well, that's the week. Thank goodness that's over. Maybe next time my wife will give me something a little more fun, like a gift certificate for a root canal." Now have a great day and be careful what you give for presents!
Former teacher/administrator (39 years) in public schools. Awana Commander (30 years). Financial secretary at church. Judge of elections locally. Married for 50 years. Father of three sons and grandfather of seven. Fan of Penn State football.