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.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Meaningless Words

Sometimes the things that we say are really meaningless and although we don't want them to be, we just don't realize it.  This often happens when we are trying to comfort someone who has just experienced a death or a tragedy.  Often the first things that come to our mind are clichés.  Here are three that I've learned to try to avoid.  First there is "I know just how you feel".  But unless you have gone through the very same situation, you really don't know.  So please don't say this unless your situation was exactly the same as the person you are trying to comfort.  Otherwise it is meaningless and it hurts rather than helps the person facing the present sorrow.  Then there is the well meant but meaningless statement, "If there is anything I can do for you, just let me know."  At my mother's funeral we heard this so often that we developed a reply.  We said, "Please invite my dad out for a meal and visit him once in awhile in the days ahead.  He'll be lonely."   But we wasted our breath.  Only one non relative has taken him out to eat and the only non family visitors appear to be those who come to have him do their income tax - which he does free.  After a few weeks the sorrowing one is generally forgotten.  If you really want to help - just do it, don't wait to be asked.  All people have needs and they usually don't want to ask for help.  We still remember the family that showed up unannounced at our house the week of the funeral and without asking they raked all of our leaves.  What a special gift that was and we have never forgotten it.  We also remember the family that brought us a large platter of cold meats and cheese as well as rolls.  That was such a blessing during a time when nobody felt like preparing meals for our family.  So instead of saying "let me know", just do something!  Otherwise your words are meaningless.  Finally there is the most common comment "I'll be praying for you!"  Really, that is a tremendous promise, if it is really sincere.  But I've come to realize that there are very few prayer warriors around.  It is so easy to be so spiritual and say this when we know that we will remember the person and his needs in a few fleeting comments before the Lord until we've soon forgotten about it.  It's sort of like saying to a person "How are you doing?" and then walking away before they can answer.  You don't really want to be bothered, you just want to be polite and then move along.  I wonder, however, if the Lord will hold us accountable for all of our promises to pray for someone when our words are often meaningless.   Now I admit I have been guilty of speaking meaningless words but having gone through some sorrow and tragedy, I have become much more aware of what I say and do.  Comforting a person can be difficult but let's make sure that we are honest before the person and the Lord when we do so.  Otherwise our comfort is meaningless.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

One For The Birds!

Today I was looking through my coupons to see which ones were still valid.  I found that I had four BOGO coupons for a local chain of restaurants that sells special sandwiches with bird names.  Since all four ran out on Wednesday, I thought that we should at least use one of them this evening.  So Dianne and I went to the restaurant expecting to get one free  sandwich.  After an enjoyable meal (a finch and a pterodactyl) we went to pay the bill.  I gave the waitress the coupon and a gift card.  Minutes later she came back and told me that she had to take the entire bill off my gift card and she couldn't honor the coupon because their "machine wasn't working".  I was astonished and challenged her about this but she insisted that the coupon couldn't be honored tonight and that I could use it another night.  I reminded her that it expired on Wednesday and she said that her manager said we could still use it anytime.  She knew I was upset and since other customers were watching I decided not to make more of a scene.  So we left - without leaving a tip.  As we drove home I became more upset thinking about things I should have done.  I planned to write one of my famous letters but thought that I should first call the manager.  Fortunately the manager answered and she knew nothing about the problem.  She asked for the name of the waitress and I found it on our receipt.  She then put me on hold while she talked to the waitress. Moments later she returned and said that the waitress had scanned our gift card before seeing my coupon and she didn't know how to correct her mistake.  I reminded the manager that the coupon was on top of the gift card when I gave it to her.  It appears that the waitress tried to cover up her mistake by telling me several lies - I no longer feel bad about not leaving her a tip.  The manager apologized and said that she would sent me three BOGO coupons for future use.  I told her that this was not satisfactory since I didn't intend to pay for three sandwiches to get my one free sandwich.  She replied that she would try to find some coupons for free sandwiches and mail them to me.  I told her that would be satisfactory.  Now I will watch the mail to see if that indeed happens.  I have a feeling that the waitress might be in a little trouble - as the Bible says, your sins will find you out.  If only she would have admitted her mistake and asked for help.  But instead she thought she could lie her way out of the mistake - but, unfortunately for her, she did it to one who is willing to write or call and complain when he is taken advantage of.   We live in a world where dishonesty is becoming the norm.  So the moral of the story is to watch all your transactions and be ready to stand up for yourself when you are taken advantage of.   After all, we have the responsibility to be diligent with the money and possessions the Lord has allowed us to have.  In future blogs I might relate two other similar situations that I had to deal with concerning purchases.  Now the dilemma I face is - do I really want another sandwich named after a bird?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

One Of The Most Beautiful Stories

Here is one of the greatest stories ever written.  I never tire of hearing it.   Luke 2:1 - 20   "1  And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.  2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)  3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)   5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.   6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. 8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10   And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,  14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.  15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.  16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.  18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. 20  And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them." 

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Off To The Mall

Twas the day before Christmas, and all through the mall ... the shoppers were shopping and having a ball.  There were bargains everywhere, if you had any money to spend.  But do you know what we noticed as we did our daily walk this morning at Park City?   The vast majority of the shoppers were men!  And maybe they were smart this year in waiting, as most men usually do, to the last minute.  For there were bargains as merchants tried desparately to unload their merchandise in a year when most folks have been forced to cut down.  Oh well, time to shop is now over.  Next comes the time to open the gifts.  Then comes the time to pay the bills. And shopping in the mall has become an international experience with so many languages heard.  So, accept my wish for a Merry Christmas, no matter where you may be this year or how you may say it. Afrikaans: Gesëende Kersfees, Afrikander: Een Plesierige Kerfees, African/ Eritrean/ Tigrinja: Rehus-Beal-Ledeats, Albanian:Gezur Krislinjden, Arabic: Milad Majid, Argentine: Feliz Navidad, Armenian: Shenoraavor Nor Dari yev Pari Gaghand, Azeri: Tezze Iliniz Yahsi Olsun, Bahasa Malaysia: Selamat Hari Natal, Basque: Zorionak eta Urte Berri On!, Bengali: Shuvo Naba Barsha, Bohemian: Vesele Vanoce, Brazilian: Feliz Natal, Breton: Nedeleg laouen na bloavezh mat, Bulgarian: Tchestita Koleda; Tchestito Rojdestvo Hristovo, Catalan: Bon Nadal i un Bon Any Nou!, Chile: Feliz Navidad, Chinese: (Cantonese) Gun Tso Sun Tan'Gung Haw Sun, Chinese: (Mandarin) Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan, (Catonese) Gun Tso Sun Tan'Gung Haw Sun, Choctaw: Yukpa, Nitak Hollo Chito, Columbia: Feliz Navidad y Próspero Año Nuevo, Cornish: Nadelik looan na looan blethen noweth, Corsian: Pace e salute, Crazanian: Rot Yikji Dol La Roo, Cree: Mitho Makosi Kesikansi, Croatian: Sretan Bozicm, Czech: Prejeme Vam Vesele Vanoce a stastny Novy Rok, Danish: Glædelig Jul, Duri: Christmas-e- Shoma Mobarak, Dutch: Vrolijk Kerstfeest en een Gelukkig Nieuwjaar! or Zalig Kerstfeast, English: Merry Christmas, Eskimo: (inupik) Jutdlime pivdluarit ukiortame pivdluaritlo!, Esperanto: Gajan Kristnaskon, Estonian: Ruumsaid juulup|hi, Ethiopian: (Amharic) Melkin Yelidet Beaal, Faeroese: Gledhilig jol og eydnurikt nyggjar!, Farsi: Cristmas-e-shoma mobarak bashad, Finnish: Hyvaa joulua, Flemish: Zalig Kerstfeest en Gelukkig nieuw jaar, French: Joyeux Noel, Frisian: Noflike Krystdagen en in protte Lok en Seine yn it Nije Jier!, Galician: Bo Nada, Gaelic: Nollaig chridheil agus Bliadhna mhath ùr! German: Froehliche Weihnachten, Greek: Kala Christouyenna!, Haiti: (Creole) Jwaye Nowel or to Jesus Edo Bri'cho o Rish D'Shato Brichto, Hausa: Barka da Kirsimatikuma Barka da Sabuwar Shekara!, Hawaiian: Mele Kalikimaka, Hebrew: Mo'adim Lesimkha. Chena tova, Hindi: Shub Naya Baras, Hausa: Barka da Kirsimatikuma Barka da Sabuwar Shekara, Hawaian: Mele Kalikimaka ame Hauoli Makahiki Hou!, Hungarian: Kellemes Karacsonyi unnepeket, Icelandic: Gledileg Jol, Indonesian: Selamat Hari Natal, Iraqi: Idah Saidan Wa Sanah Jadidah, Irish: Nollaig Shona Dhuit, or Nodlaig mhaith chugnat, Iroquois: Ojenyunyat Sungwiyadeson honungradon nagwutut. Ojenyunyat osrasay., Italian: Buone Feste Natalizie, Japanese: Shinnen omedeto. Kurisumasu Omedeto, Jiberish: Mithag Crithagsigathmithags, Korean: Sung Tan Chuk Ha, Lao: souksan van Christmas, Latin: Natale hilare et Annum Faustum!, Latvian: Prieci'gus Ziemsve'tkus un Laimi'gu Jauno Gadu!, Lausitzian:Wjesole hody a strowe nowe leto, Lettish: Priecigus Ziemassvetkus, Lithuanian: Linksmu Kaledu, Low Saxon: Heughliche Winachten un 'n moi Nijaar, Macedonian: Sreken Bozhik, Maltese: IL-Milied It-tajjeb, Manx: Nollick ghennal as blein vie noa, Maori: Meri Kirihimete, Marathi: Shub Naya Varsh, Navajo: Merry Keshmish, Norwegian: God Jul, or Gledelig Jul, Occitan: Pulit nadal e bona annado, Papiamento: Bon Pasco, Papua New Guinea: Bikpela hamamas blong dispela Krismas na Nupela yia i go long yu, Pennsylvania German: En frehlicher Grischtdaag un en hallich Nei Yaahr!, Peru: Feliz Navidad y un Venturoso Año Nuevo, Philipines: Maligayan Pasko!, Polish: Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia or Boze Narodzenie, Portuguese:Feliz Natal,  Pushto: Christmas Aao Ne-way Kaal Mo Mobarak Sha, Rapa-Nui (Easter Island): Mata-Ki-Te-Rangi. Te-Pito-O-Te-Henua, Rhetian: Bellas festas da nadal e bun onn, Romanche: (sursilvan dialect): Legreivlas fiastas da Nadal e bien niev onn!, Rumanian: Sarbatori vesele, Russian: Pozdrevlyayu s prazdnikom Rozhdestva is Novim Godom, Sami: Buorrit Juovllat, Samoan: La Maunia Le Kilisimasi Ma Le Tausaga Fou, Sardinian: Bonu nadale e prosperu annu nou, Serbian: Hristos se rodi, Slovakian: Sretan Bozic or Vesele vianoce, Sami: Buorrit Juovllat, Samoan: La Maunia Le Kilisimasi Ma Le Tausaga Fou, Scots Gaelic: Nollaig chridheil huibh, Serb-Croatian: Sretam Bozic. Vesela Nova Godina, Serbian: Hristos se rodi., Singhalese: Subha nath thalak Vewa. Subha Aluth Awrudhak Vewa, Slovak: Vesele Vianoce. A stastlivy Novy Rok, Slovene: Vesele Bozicne Praznike Srecno Novo Leto or Vesel Bozic in srecno Novo leto, Spanish: Feliz Navidad, Swedish: God Jul and (Och) Ett Gott Nytt År, Tagalog: Maligayamg Pasko. Masaganang Bagong Taon, Tami: Nathar Puthu Varuda Valthukkal, Trukeese: (Micronesian) Neekiriisimas annim oo iyer seefe feyiyeech!, Thai: Sawadee Pee Mai or souksan wan Christmas, Turkish: Noeliniz Ve Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun, Ukrainian: Srozhdestvom Kristovym, Urdu: Naya Saal Mubarak Ho, Vietnamese: Chung Mung Giang Sinh, Welsh: Nadolig Llawen, Yugoslavian: Cestitamo Bozic, Yoruba: E ku odun, e ku iye' ..... Now for Happy New Year in each of those languages .... no, I won't go there .....  Merry Christmas

Monday, December 22, 2008

Does God Answer Prayer?

God can work in amazing ways - here are a few things that we experienced during the past few days.  (1)  I took our car for inspection and while the car passed they told me that I needed four new tires before winter - $500!  I refused their "offer" because I had just had them checked a month earlier.  But right after a 400 mile trip we found that we had picked up a screw in a front tire so I went to a tire dealer that I trust.  He told me that my tires would last another year, but because there was some early cracking and they were guaranteed, they could replace them for $240, including alignment.  I accepted and replaced all four not realizing all the driving we would do, in snowy icy weather, the following week when Dianne's dad died.  How much safer we felt.  PTL!  (2)  We needed to find a motel in the Sunbury area and at our third stop we met a manager who had been a neighbor of Dianne's dad several years ago.  And while we didn't know her, because of his death, she gave us a bargain price for the three nights that we stayed there. PTL!  (3)  When we received the call about her dad at 1 in the morning, I was concerned because they were predicting sleet and freezing rain.  So we decided to leave for Sunbury early in the morning and we drove through sleet for an hour until suddenly, above Harrisburg, the weather cleared.  We were able to do all the funeral planning that day in clear weather, while back home they had slick roads.  PTL!  (4) When we heard that Dianne's dad's condition was terminal, we were concerned that because of the holiday the church would not be available.  We also knew that the pastor would be away on vacation for the week.  But God's timing was perfect and we were able to bury him on Saturday morning before Christmas week.  PTL!  (5)  The week of his death we experienced a series of winter storms.  They had predicted six inches or more of snow in Sunbury on Friday before the Saturday funeral.  But the snow turned to rain late Friday afternoon allowing our children to safely make the trip.  Saturday was clear and very cold and while we couldn't get into the cemetery because of the ice and snow, we were able to have the graveside ceremony from the church parking lot only about 40 yards from the grave.  PTL!  (6)  We were perplexed about how much food to purchase for the luncheon held after the service since we didn't know how the weather would affect the attendance.  In fact we had planned not to eat if we had more people stay than we predicted.  The cold icy weather did prevent many from coming and we had an adequate amount of food for all who stayed.  PTL!  So were all of these situations just lucky coincidences or did the Lord intervene and answer many prayers, including those about the weather?   You may have your own opinion, but I personally believe that the Lord does answer prayer and we had many folks on our prayer chain taking our concerns before the Lord.  I am reminded of a song that our family used to sing when we did programs as part of our family ministry.  "He holds the future in the palm of His Hand, And He has never failed me yet, I know He's leading and still has control, So why should I worry or fret. I know He holds the future, and I know He holds my hand, I know just as sure as I'm singing this song, I'm a part of His almighty plan. I believe, I believe, I believe, So why should I worry or fret."  Now if only I could learn to get over the worry and fretting, because He really is in control.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Christmas Wish

Somebody just sent me this Christmas greeting and I thought that you might enjoy it.  So, take your pick.

To All My Liberal Friends:          
Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2009, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere . Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.
To All My Conservative Friends who do not care for political correctness:
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Perfect Christmas Gift

It was a great Christmas present. Late Monday night God sent his angels to usher home my father-in-law, affectionately known to us as Gramps.   They took his hand while he was sleeping and together made the journey to a better home. Gramps spent 96 years here on earth and he wanted to go home to heaven. He had walked closely with the Lord for many years and had a special personal relationship with His Creator. He had a rough life in his early years and had to quit school when he was in eighth grade. He often regretted not being able to write or spell better, but he more than made up for that with his sound business sense. After years of earning a living by selling coal and doing other odd jobs, he went to Middletown where he worked at the Olmstead Air Force base. Wanting to go back into business for himself, he took a chance on a piece of run-down property in Sunbury where he began a water business using the spring that was there. He also ran a country store and a weekly auction until the water business became profitable. Over the years the Tulpehocken Water Company grew and he made it a very successful business. When he reached retirement age, he sold it to its present owner who has since built it into a multimillion dollar business now delivering in several states. Gramps was proud to be called the founder of the company.  During the years of transition, before moving to Sunbury, he came to really know and love the Lord. He gave up some bad habits and became actively involved in his church and in the Gideons. There are two things which really stood out about his Christian walk. First, he was a real prayer warrior. Every morning and at other times he fervently talked to the Lord and prayed over a long list of family and friends and their needs. He believed in prayer and rejoiced in many answers. Several folks have already remarked that they feel the loss of his daily prayers for them. When he was ill he apologized for not being able to pray as he had done before. The second outstanding feature was his gift and zeal for evangelism. He was always handing out Gideon New Testaments and explaining the way of salvation. And he was able to talk to folks in such a non threatening manner that was never offensive. He won many folks to Christ over the years. It was remarkable. And when we talked about his gift he would claim that it wasn't a gift. He was just being obedient to the Lord's commands to share the Gospel to everyone. He felt that anyone could and should do this. He often said that the Lord kept him here on earth because there was somebody else left for him to win to the Lord. And he did this, even during his hospitalizations. His final three weeks were amazing. After years of apparent good health, two hospitalizations and entrance into a nursing home gave him a chance to see all his children and grandchildren for what turned out to be the final time on earth. Then, on Monday, we were summoned to the nursing home for a meeting concerning his request to return to his apartment. When we arrived he was reading the morning newspaper and commenting about Bush and the shoe thrower. The doctor and his team then came and said that his condition was terminal. Dad asked how much time he had left and the doctor said he probably would not see the new year. Dad then rejoiced that he was soon going to his new home with friends and family. Then he began to sleep the rest of the day and he was doing that when we left for home. Later that night a nurse helped him with his oxygen mask and when she returned ten minutes later, he had gone home in his sleep. That was what he wanted. We received the call at 1 am, only 15 hours after our meeting and the doctor's announcement. Only ten days in the nursing home and then released in his sleep to heaven - a fitting move for a special man. We already miss him but we know that he is now celebrating with his Lord and his wife Mary. What a perfect Christmas present. 

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Recession and Religion

Check your mail - it's that time of the year.  Early in December our mailbox always gets filled with requests for end of year charitable donations.  Religious and service organizations are always hopeful of getting those donations from folks who are either generous during the holiday season or looking for deductions for their annual income tax.  This year the requests have been coming but with a new urgency.  Most religious organizations are facing severe shortages because of a drop in donations, much of which has been caused by the recession.  But the problem also stems from the fact that many believers are not honoring the Lord with their finances.  As a result, some reputable organizations, like Focus On The Family, have already made major updates.  Others are being forced to do the same and  reduce their ministry because they are operating deep in the red.  Organizations such as Pinebrook are facing major deficits and if the economy continues to decline, they may be forced to make difficult decisions about their existence.  Pinebrook has already made major cuts in staff and in programs.  Churches are also running in the red as contributions decline.  I know of two Bible Fellowship churches that are facing deficits of over $100,000 and $60,000.  Our church has been running between $50,000 to $60,000 behind budget.  We should break even for 2008 but only because many planned expenditures have not been made.  But we, like many churches and organizations, have huge mortgages to meet because of recent building.  Those were decisions made in a time of plenty.  Failure to meet budgets brings up the possibility of cutting more programs, eliminating staff, or even, as a last resort, foreclosure.  And as more members face layoffs, the problem deepens.  Will we see religious organizations and churches close their doors?  Let's pray that this doesn't happen.  Let's pray that more folks will honor the Lord with their tithe and make a commitment to support the work of the Lord, even in tough times.  Unfortunately, too many believers have not done that in good times.  If all church members would just give their tithe, we'd be looking for places to expand ministry.  The solution is really that easy.  Maybe the Lord will use the recession to force believers to examine their priorities before God.  And churches will need to be much more diligent in the use of the Lord's money and maybe that is a lesson that we need to learn.   However, lest we forget, our Father does "own the cattle on a thousand hills" and the recession is not a problem for Him.  The question is really how will each of us respond with what He allows us to have.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Getting Old

Growing old is not for sissies. It is hard. There are so many new health challenges to deal with as one ages. They often affect one's quality of life. I often joke that one retires so that he has time for all the doctor visits. There are also new financial problems to deal with, especially for those on fixed incomes who must face increasing costs for food, energy, healthcare, and taxes, without any raises. And recession cuts drastically into their investments. There is the problem of isolation, especially after retirement. Usually older folks are not valued for their experience and they are usually bypassed for significant responsibilities. My father-in-law used to say that when you are old, nobody wants you anymore. He is correct. Younger folks have their own circles of activity and often ignore older folks. In today's society young is good, old is not.  Andy Rooney has said "The best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person". Unfortunately, few believe or practice this.  And then there are the losses of close friends, family members, and even spouses. These become more common as one ages and can become devastating. And this often leads to loneliness. My father-in-law is depressed because there is nobody to talk to in his nursing home. His pastors and family visit him, but his friends and church family have stayed away. My dad lives alone and has been ill lately.  Nobody but his family visits him. Loneliness is often the curse of growing old. Then there is also the fear of the unknown future here on earth. Elderly believers know that someday they will be with the Lord, but in the meantime ... hospitals? living with children? nursing homes? Getting to one's heavenly home is often a rugged, unpleasant journey.  And while society ignores the old - except to give them senior discounts - seniors can contribute. • Walt Stack completed the Ironman Triathlon at 73. • Benjamin Franklin invented bifocals when he was 79. • Caleb was 85 when he entered the Promised Land • Frank Lloyd Wright completed his architectural design of the Guggenheim Museum at age 89. • Choreographer Martha Graham premiered Maple Leaf Gala at age 95. • Ichijirou Araya climbed Mount Fuji at the age of 100. Wow! I wouldn't even attempt that at any age. Maybe we need to listen to the command given to the Israelites in Leviticus 20:32, "Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God." Maybe we need to do more to minister to those who are elderly and facing very difficult times - after all, we all will soon be there ourselves - sooner than we may expect!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Phishing or Fishing?

The internet has brought us many new things including a new vocabulary.  One of the new words is "phishing".  In case you never heard this, it is a method of "fishing" for your personal information to steal your identity or to make charges against your credit cards or bank accounts.  The usual technique is to use an e-mail to tell you that a certain agency needs you to update your account information.  The e-mail looks very professional and often you can't tell it from the real thing.  When you click on the link provided, you are sent to a page which is not secure (no https) and asked to enter your information - usually account numbers, passwords, or credit card numbers.  Should you do this, the information is sent to the thief who will then use this information to access your accounts.  Phishing is no longer unusual.  I have received at least four such requests in the last couple of weeks.  Three of them came telling me that my aol account would be suspended if I did not update my information within 24 hours.  One even included a telephone number which was very similar to the actual aol number.  Since I knew that a reputable company would never ask for such information by e-mail, I didn't fall for it.  In fact, after the third one I actually called aol to make sure that this was a "phishing expedition".  They verified that it was and asked me to forward the e-mails to them for investigation.  The other one that I received yesterday "came from a bank" which I've never even dealt with - they were just fishing randomly for suckers who would respond.  The rule is never give out your personal information in reply to an e-mail asking for updated information.  Call the company directly and make sure that your account must be updated.  Phishing is common but so are other scams.  My father-in-law recently received several letters and several calls telling him that he had won the Canadian lottery and that a check for a huge amount was on the way.  All he had to do was send them a check to cover the taxes on his winnings.   At first, despite our warnings, he thought it was true.  Fortunately he checked with his local congressman who told him it was a scam.  Then when the last caller told him that he had won the lottery, he replied "You are a liar and you are going to hell!"  Then he hung up.   I think he got it right. Beware!  Don't be gullible!  There are many crooks using new techniques to steal from you.  And stealing from you through the internet or the telephone may actually be easier, safer, and more productive than actually breaking into your home.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

In The Fulness Of Time

I seldom get to participate in a Sunday morning worship service anymore.  A few years ago I took on the responsibility of counting offerings and taking care of the individual giving records.  Recently, as our attendances have increased in both morning services, this work load has increased and it now takes most of both services to complete my duties to prepare a deposit.  However this morning we had a surprise snow squall which made driving difficult and cut down the attendance and the offerings for the first service.  So I was able to get to the service for the message and for communion.  Our pastor had an excellent sermon based on the scripture in Galatians which says "But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son ... "   Pastor reviewed so many human things which could have eliminated or delayed the birth of Christ.  But God was in control and when all His plan was accomplished, Jesus was born.  He then shared how God is working out all the events needed for Christ's second coming.  Like His first coming, we don't know when it will happen, but we know it will happen when God is ready - in the fullness of time.  But there is an event where we do know God's timing - Now is the time of salvation.  And the invitation to accept Christ today was given.  And if you haven't yet done this, now is the time of salvation, don't delay.  Then we had communion.  When it came to the cup, the normal pattern was changed and each participant was encouraged to pray privately and drink the cup when they were ready to do so.  This change made this act of worship more personal and more meaningful.  While we quietly did this, we could hear the noise from folks in the narthex waiting to enter for the second service.  This reminded me of the clamor of the world around us that sometimes keeps us from worshipping.  But because God is always with His children, we can enter His presence anytime, anywhere and worship Him despite the circumstances that we encounter.  What a privilege we have.  It is special to worship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we are told in the Bible to do this, but we can also worship Him individually.  It was good to be in the Lord's House this morning and to participate in worship, corporately and individually.  I hope that you, too, had a time of meaningful worship today.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Be "Politically Correct"

A friend sent me the following a few days ago.  Thought you might enjoy it.   "Twas the month before Christmas, When all through our land, Not a Christian was praying. Nor taking a stand.  See the PC Police had taken away, The reason for Christmas - no one could say. The children were told by their schools not to sing, About Shepherds and Wise Men and Angels and things. It might hurt people's feelings, the teachers would say. December 25th is just a 'Holiday'. Yet the shoppers were ready with cash, checks and credit. Pushing folks down to the floor just to get it! CDs from Madonna, an X BOX, an I-pod, Something was changing, something quite odd!  Retailers promoted Ramadan and Kwanza, In hopes to sell books by Franken & Fonda, As Targets were hanging their trees upside down.  At Lowe's the word Christmas - was no where to be found. At K-Mart and Staples and Penny's and Sears, You won't hear the word Christmas; it won't touch your ears. Inclusive, sensitive, Di-ver-si-ty, Are words that were used to intimidate me. Now Daschle, Now Darden, Now Sharpton, Wolf Blitzen, On Boxer, on Rather, on Kerry, on Clinton! At the top of the Senate, there arose such a clatter, To eliminate Jesus, in all public matter. And we spoke not a word, as they took away our faith, Forbidden to speak of salvation and grace. The true Gift of Christmas was exchanged and discarded, The reason for the season, stopped before it started. So as you celebrate 'Winter Break' under your 'Dream Tree, Sipping your Starbucks, listen to me. Choose your words carefully, choose what you say, Shout MERRY CHRISTMAS, not Happy Holiday! Please, all Christians join together and wish everyone you meet during the holidays a MERRY CHRISTMAS.  Christ is 'The Reason' for the Christ-mas Season!"  Dianne and I have again begun to wear our pins, "It's OK, Wish me a Merry Christmas!".  You can purchase your pin here.   PIN 

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Alpaca Surprise

It seems as though most of my waking time the past two to three weeks has been spent going to doctors or hospitals for my father-in-law, father, wife or myself - 13 trips to be exact. Except for paying bills, trying to schedule a contractor to take care of our mold problem, visiting my ill brother, and doing church business, it seems as though I've thought about little else. So on Sunday when my wife asked me for computer help to send an entry to station WDAC-FM, I was glad to take a break and help her out. It turns out that she had heard on the radio that Eastland Alpacas of Mt. Joy was offering a free gift certificate to a listener whose name would be drawn from entries on Monday. To enter you had to find the answers to five questions about alpacas and send them to the station in an e-mail. She had already done the research and just needed help with the e-mail. With my help she accomplished this quickly. Afterwards the thought entered my mind that maybe I should also enter. I didn't find anything in the rules that would prohibit this so I entered using my e-mail account. I didn't even think it was worth mentioning this to her, after all I never win anything. On Monday morning, while driving to take my dad for more tests, I heard announcer Mike Stike say that he would announce the winner later and that it was a man. I told my wife that I was sorry that she didn't win and promptly forgot about it. That night I received an e-mail from a friend offering me congratulations. Two others followed. I still thought it was a mistake since I had heard nothing from the station. Then, this afternoon, my wife checked the station's website and saw that I was listed as the winner. So that is my "alpaca surprise" - a gift certificate for $250! I think that this is the first thing I've won in a drawing since I won a barrel of groceries about 55 years ago. It is a welcome surprise and diversion after the events of the last few weeks. Well the certificate is going to my wife. Since we've decided not to give each other Christmas presents this year, it will be a joy to see her use it and she was the one who really wanted it and worked for it. Thanks WDAC and Eastland Alpacas.