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.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Challenging Forward

I really don't want to upset anybody, but please don't put me on a list to regularly receive e-mail forwards from you. If the forwards include attachments or downloads, I will delete them immediately. I don't want to catch any virus that could be part of such a forward. And most of the time I delete plain forwards, too, unless I have a good idea what it is. I find that the majority of these are full of big pictures that tie up my computer for several minutes while they load. My time is too valuable for that type of entertainment. Or they often include hoaxes that have circulated through e-space for years. Some are attacks on Obama and I already know more about him than I want to know. The Bible tells me to pray for him, even if I disagree with him. Others are cute poems or prayers that I am asked to pass on to others. But doing so with my email address makes me more available to spammers who love to get such lists of email addresses. So, my delete button gets plenty of action daily. Now having said that, once in awhile (maybe 5% of the time) there are some that are worthwhile. Recently I received one that many of us seniors can relate to. I've saved that one to share with other seniors as we end 2009. So here it is. Who would have thought... (1) that when you wished your kids didn't need you so much, you would someday wish that they did? (2) that when there wasn't enough time in the day, you might someday wonder how to fill your free time? (3) that when you couldn't wait to get your driver's license, you would someday try to decide when to give it up? (4) that you would finally have more than enough stuff? (5) that grandchildren grow even faster than children? (So very true!) (6) that when people told you to enjoy your (time, education, job, kids, friends, health, spouse, etc.), you would someday realize why? (7) that some people are grateful no matter what, and some are ungrateful no matter what? (8) that when you struggled to make ends meet, they finally would? (9) that each day can be a blessing and a chance to be a blessing to others? (10) that a smile, a touch and a listening ear are worth more than expensive presents? (12) that there's always something new to learn? (13) that you would never get tired of watching a sunset, a rainbow, or a baby's first steps? (14) that the best things in life ARE free? Maybe I could add two more of my own … (15) that life goes faster the older you get? (16) that 2009 would already be over? Have a great and safe New Year's Day and enjoy each new day that the Lord grants you.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Twas The Day Before Christmas

Twas the day before Christmas and all through the land all the people are preparing as fast as they can … It is interesting how we have a whole year to prepare for Christmas and yet we are all so very busy at the last minute getting things ready. This morning we took our usual morning walk at Park City. The stores opened early and the customers were there, at least the men were. I think 90% of the shoppers were men doing their last minute shopping. And it looks like most of the women in their lives must be getting jewelry. The first jewelry store had five male customers, another had four, a third had seven men and one woman, and the fourth wasn't opened yet – I wonder how much business they lost. Traffic everywhere was getting heavy at that early hour. I'm actually ready for Christmas although my wife is still busy getting the food ready for our family buffet. All of our kids will be coming tonight for our Christmas celebration. One of my big jobs is completed. For the past five years I have prepared special dvds for our kids which highlight the past year in pictures and music. They are done. I also prepare additional chapters to add to the books that I have written for each of my grandchildren. These are chapters about their heritage and the lives of their ancestors. This year I've written five more chapters and prepared more pictures of their great grandparents and great great grandparents and their families. One of these is the first letter that my step grandfather, Pastor N. H. Wolf, wrote home to his parents when at the age of 15 he left home to become part of the pastoral team at a mission church in Lebanon. It is interesting to see the faith and maturity of a young lad as he sacrificed to serve the Lord. Another long chapter shares incidents from the lives of my parents and my grandparents. (If you are interested you can read these at fbfawana.com/Blog.html) I did have to rewrite part of this chapter on Tuesday after I learned some things about my mother and her father which I had never known. On Tuesday we made a quick trip to see three of my four remaining aunts on my mother's side. Thesel three are now in Manor Care at Sunbury. My mother's oldest sister, Anna, is now 92 and she told me that they had once lived in Port Trevorton. Their father, Pappy Wise, worked for a lumber company in Herndon and they wanted him to move across the Susquehanna River to live and work at their facility in Port Trevorton. So, in the middle of the winter, when the river was frozen, the family moved across the river using a horse drawn sleigh. I wonder if they sang Jingle Bells. When the move didn't work out, they later returned to Herndon, this time moving across the river on a barge. Unfortunately, I don't know how old my mother was at that time and she never talked about it. But that story and a few other items had to be included in what I had written for this year. So I am now ready for Christmas, except maybe for a short nap before the kids all come tonight. This will be a different Christmas for us, our first as orphans. It will be strange not to have dad with us tonight and it will be strange not to head to Sunbury to be with Dianne's dad tomorrow. We miss them, but we thank God that they are having a better Christmas celebration this year. After visiting my aunts in the home in Sunbury, I have thanked the Lord again for his goodness in caring for our parents. God is good all the time – even in times of grief. So we will spend Christmas Day alone this year, by our choice. We were invited by our children to be with them, but we decided that maybe it would be nice to just sit together in front of the fire, watch the Christmas tree and the birds at our feeders, listen to Christmas music, maybe sip hot chocolate, eat some no calorie cookies, and just relax. That sounds like a plan and I am looking forward to it. I hope that you have a blessed Christmas.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Let It Snow ... Not!

For those wishing for a white Christmas, if you live in southeast Pennsylvania, I believe that your wish will come true. Saturday's record snow will still be here and there is a warning of more to come on Christmas Eve. So be careful what you wish for. Here in Millersville we received 16 inches which is the largest pre-Christmas snowfall ever recorded, breaking the record of 13.5 inches in 1926. For those who say we never get snows like we used to, think again. We've just experienced history. There are a few other snowfalls that I still remember. The worst one was in 1958 when we received 20 inches in March. What made it the worst is that in those days they didn't have the equipment that is available today. There were snowdrifts on route 501 to the tops of telephone poles. I remember that storm well, because I was returning from a concert in Harrisburg the Saturday night the snow began, with my choir director and a friend, and it took us hours to make the trip since we had to stop often to push cars so we could get through. Half of Lititz was without electricity for several days and they were finally able to get milk and bread into town – by train. (Here is an interesting video of that storm – STORM - it will start after the brief commercial.) I don't recall what year it was, probably in the late 1960's when we had snow on Christmas Eve and much of the day on Christmas. I don't recall the amount. I had been in the hospital for tests and they released me late in the afternoon of Christmas Eve, not knowing that we were headed to Sunbury. Poor Dianne had to drive that night, through heavily falling snow, with two small children and a very ill husband. I still wasn't well enough to drive home a few days later, so my brother-in-law and sister-in-law followed us home and my brother and father came to shovel our driveway and some drifts which were blocking our street. In 1979 we had 15 inches on President's Day and in 1983, on the same weekend, we had two feet. That sticks in my mind because I had to have a medical procedure done in Lancaster and we drove through the deep snow in our yellow VW bug. In 1996 we had 35 inches over a four day period, including one day with 21 inches. I remember that snow because it came when our granddaughter, Taylor, was born and we drove into Lancaster to take her brother Zachary to the hospital to see his new sister. When we got to the hospital we were told that we shouldn't be there because Lancaster was officially closed due to the heavy snow. But we were there, we visited anyway, and we managed to get home again safely. We thought Taylor should have been named Storm. And then there was the ten inches we received on Christmas Day in 2002. For the first time ever, the two of us sat at home, alone, on Christmas and watched the beautiful snow fall. Now there are several obvious signs that I am getting old. First, I am recalling these old stories. Second, I no longer enjoy driving through snow. Third, I've already had enough snow for this year. And fourth, I am beginning to wonder if it is better to stay here and endure the snow or move to Florida and endure the hurricanes. Well there might be some good news. I used to enjoy the recently deceased columnist from the Lancaster Newspapers who annually would give his winter predictions based on observing the wooly caterpillar. And his predictions were as accurate as the professional forecasters, although that isn't saying very much. Well this year I've seen exactly one wooly caterpillar and he had a black neck and the remainder of his body was brown. So my interpretation is that this means we will have a stormy beginning to the winter, and we have, and then the rest will be mild. And on that I am counting! I'm dreaming of a … mild winter!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Cookies

Now what is Christmas without cookies? But some of us worry about too much sugar and too many calories. Now I can put your mind at ease. Here are the rules for Christmas cookies. 1. If you eat a Christmas cookie fresh out of the oven, it has no calories because everyone knows that the first cookie is the test and thus calorie free. 2. If you drink a diet soda after eating your second cookie, it also has no calories because the diet soda cancels out the cookie calories. 3. If a friend comes over while you're making your Christmas cookies and needs to sample, you must sample with your friend. Because your friend's first cookie is calorie free, (rule #1) yours is also. It would be rude to let your friend sample alone and, being the friend that you are, that makes your cookie calorie free.
4. Any cookie calories consumed while walking around will fall to your feet and eventually fall off as you move. This is due to gravity and the density of the caloric mass. 5. Any calories consumed during the frosting of the Christmas cookies will be used up because it takes many calories to lick excess frosting from a knife without cutting your tongue. 6. Cookies colored red or green have very few calories. Red ones have three and green ones have five - one calorie for each letter. Make more red ones! 7. Cookies eaten while watching "Miracle on 34th Street" have no calories because they are part of the entertainment package and not part of one's personal fuel. 8. As always, cookie pieces contain no calories because the process of breaking causes calorie leakage. 9. Any cookies consumed from someone else's plate have no calories since the calories Rightfully belong to the other person and will cling to their plate. We all know how calories like to CLING! 10. Any cookies consumed while feeling stressed have no calories because cookies used for medicinal purposes NEVER have calories. It's a rule! And remember, these rules are valid - they have to be since you read them here. So, go out and enjoy those Christmas Cookies - we only get them this time of year! Just don't get near the scales.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Our Secular Society

Paraphrasing a famous Christmas editorial we could say, "Yes, Virginia, the United States is a secular society". That became even more obvious last night in our Awana game time. My son, Tim, is the game director for the girls in grades 3 – 6 and he is very creative in planning new games and variations of old ones. Last night his games included facts about the Christmas story. When he told the girls that, quite a few of them thought he meant a movie. It was disappointing how little many of them actually knew about the birth of Christ. Quite a few of the girls had no idea who Mary was and they didn't know that she traveled on a donkey. And they knew little or nothing about other factual aspects of this special story. And this wasn't in Russia or Iraq, it was in our program located in the middle of the "Bible Belt" in Lancaster, PA. When I was still teaching, on my last test before Christmas, just for fun, I would include some bonus questions about the holiday season (incidentally, holiday came from holy day). I would include some items about other faiths and good holiday literature. But every year fewer and fewer students could answer correctly my questions about the story in Luke. Should we be surprised about this ignorance of basic Bible facts? Maybe, but isn't this the result of our society becoming very secular. It's a society in which Christmas can't even be discussed, and certainly not celebrated. It's a society where even Christmas carols can't be sung. It's a society in which many nativity scenes are banned. Some of you may think it has always been that way, but that isn't the case. Today I heard parts of the Christmas message delivered to the American people in 1944 by President Franklin Roosevelt. Here is just a portion of that speech. "It is not easy to say "Merry Christmas" to you, my fellow Americans, in this time of destructive war. Nor can I say "Merry Christmas" lightly tonight to our armed forces at their battle stations all over the world -- or to our allies who fight by their side. Here, at home, we will celebrate this Christmas Day in our traditional American way- because of its deep spiritual meaning to us; because the teachings of Christ are fundamental in our lives; and because we want our youngest generation to grow up knowing the significance of this tradition and the story of the coming of the immortal Prince of Peace and Good Will." Wow, times have changed and most of the parents of today's children don't even remember a time when the President could and would speak publicly like this. And few are concerned about our youngest generation knowing about Christ – certainly not the leaders of our country. So what can we as individuals do? First, we can make sure that we are teaching God's Word to our children and grandchildren. Second, those of us who have the opportunity to work with children must be diligent about our ministry. We need to teach basics. We need to be faithful – we can't give up or get discouraged. The battle is too critical. We need to ask the Lord for wisdom and then teach these children prayerfully and lovingly. For if we don't, who else will?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Letter Writing

This week John Pittenger died and it reminded me of an experience that happened when he was Secretary of Education for Pennsylvania. At that time the state passed a new certificate which was to be required of all supervisors. I was disappointed when my superintendent told me that I would need to return to school to earn 18 credit hours of supervision and budgeting courses, even though I had been doing this while serving in this position for over 15 years. So I decided to write to Mr. Pittenger and tell him how I felt it was a waste of my time and money to return to college to be taught by some inexperienced professors what I had learned in 15 years of practical experience. I was surprised when he answered my letter and told me that he agreed and would grant me the certification without the required course work. That is one of the few times that the Department of Education has granted a reasonable exception. This is one of many positive experiences that I have had writing letters about a variety of concerns. Once we received a case of applesauce when I shared that we had found a piece of glass in a jar. Several times we have received a free night in a motel when I wrote about some poor situations that we had encountered. A year ago I received numerous coupons when I complained about a bad container of deodorant. Last year I was very disappointed in the way my oil company handled renewal of my annual contract, so ... I wrote a letter. The manager actually called me and offered me a new deal that ended up saving me well over $600 this past year. That was more than I ever expected. I've also received coupons and refunds for meals after bad experiences. Recently, after we waited for 15 minutes for a waiter in an area restaurant, I shared my experience in writing and they sent me an apology and a gift card for $20. A mistake on a bill at an area grocery store also resulted in a gift card for groceries. Often I receive ano response or just a letter of apology. Sometimes the replies are a surprise. About a month ago I wrote a letter to a major company with a copy to Stauffers of Kissel Hill, about the poor packaging of their cases of distilled water. The company never replied, but Stauffers did and they told me that they had checked different suppliers and on Monday they will use a new supplier with cases that are much more customer friendly. We didn't get anything free, and that wasn't my motive, but I am impressed that they would make such a change based on just my letter. So I've learned to not be afraid to write a reasonable letter when I encounter a real problem. Such letters should not be written when you are angry. They should be short and to the point but should share the key details. They are best addressed to the manager or the owner. They should not request anything in return but should be written in a way that the manager understands that you are trying to help him improve his product or service. His response is up to him and my future use of his product or his facility is up to me. Now there is one exception to my advice – don't write a letter to the author of this blog unless you want to commend the writer for being intelligent, creative, and thought provoking.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Days To Remember

December 7, 1941 - a Day of Infamy. It was early in the morning that Pearl Harbor was attacked and the world was changed. For folks older than I am, it was a moment that they will never forget. It was one of those moments in history that you vividly recall exactly where you were when the event was announced. I was just a day over eight months old, so, of course, I don't remember that moment. But there are others that I do recall. I do remember some of the events that followed Pearl Harbor with concerns of my uncles who were serving around the world. I do remember blackouts here at home. I also remember my dad taking me downtown, in Wilmington, Delaware, to see the celebrations when the war was declared over. Much later in life, I recall where I was when it was announced that the Russians had launched Sputnik. I was driving to deliver medical goods when I heard the news on the radio. It would launch a new era of competition in space exploration. I recall watching the landing of the first manned space capsule which I viewed on tv in the student union at Susquehanna University. I also recall, years later, the night when man first walked on the moon. We were in an apartment at Florida State University, watching on television. One of the most crushing memories was receiving the word that President Kennedy had been shot. I was teaching an Algebra II class when it was announced. This is an event that many folks still recall. I recently talked to a former student who remembered being in my Algebra II class when that announcement was made. I remember hearing that Martin Luther King had been killed while I was driving to a church board meeting in Lancaster. I heard the news of Robert Kennedy's assassination on the radio while in bed. And I recall the news that President Regan had been shot while I was driving to a school meeting on the campus of Millersville. And, of course, most of us recall where we were on the morning of September 11. I was watching the news on television during a prep period at school. Like everyone, I was stunned and then I watched the events on television, in silence, with my students the remainder of the morning. And then we all have those personal events that we vividly remember, especially births and deaths. While our memory banks are already filled with memories of such events, I imagine that there will be many more to add during our lifetime. Unfortunately, many of them probably will not be pleasant. But there is a future promised event that I can hardly wait for it - a day that we shall never forget - the day Jesus returns to take His children home. He promised that one day He would return and His promises are secure. It seems to me that we seldom talk or even sing about this event now like we used to. But that doesn't change the reality of His promise. An old hymn asks the question, "Oh Lord Jesus, how long?" We don't know the answer to that question, but we should be waiting and watching in anticipation. The older I get, the more I hope each day that this will be the day. Titus 2:13 "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." It will be the most important day that you will ever remember. As my grandfather used to always say, "Keep looking for"!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Things I Don't Understand

There are many things in life that I just don't understand ... How can you expect to win a war when you tell the enemy that you will only fight for 18 months and then begin to pull out? Duh! Wouldn' t the enemy understand that all they had to do was hang in there for 18 more months and the victory would be theirs? What am I missing? ... Many cities, such as Lancaster, are facing major deficits resulting in higher taxes. Why then should I be surprised to see a city work crew of four with only one working while the other three are sitting and just talking to each other? Union rules? ... When I try to buy Christmas stamps to send our Christmas cards I find that I have just four choices - snowmen/reindeer, the Virgin Mary, Chanukah, and the newest - holiday stamps for Moslems. Why can't I just get stamps showing Jesus in the manger, with shepherds? I guess we really aren't allowed to celebrate Christmas this way, after all it is only the celebration of the birthday of Jesus. ... If the malls are afraid to play "religious" songs at Christmas, why can't they at least select some holiday songs that are fun to listen to. I don't get too excited about a rendition of "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" done in almost every major language but English, or a rendition of "Jingle Bells" which sounds like the vocalist has fallen off the sleigh and is being drug behind the sleigh through the white and drifted snow. Of course, there is also "White Christmas" sung by a vocalist who sounds like she must already have frostbite. Where is Bing when you need him? Is he politically incorrect also? ... Why can't the state pass laws making it illegal to use hand-held cell phones or text when you are driving? Philadelphia has just done this, but not Pennsylvania ... And talking about laws, why can't we make the penalty for drunken driving an immediate five-year suspension of the driver's license? ... Why do pharmacies make the sick walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions? ... How much worse can promotions for TV shows get? They have now gone beyond the point of just being sexually suggestive, especially when they do things like talking about grabbing a breast! And these promotions are shown in prime time when kids are probably watching! ... Why are there handicap parking spaces in front of a skating rink! ... And maybe the most profound thing that I don't understand, Why do we buy hot dogs in packages of ten and buns in packages of eight or twelve? Guess I need to go and ponder some of these deep things. Or I could go and read Tiger's latest book, "My Shortest Drive".

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Black Friday

A few years ago, Dianne and I got up very early on Black Friday and went to Circuit City since some of our family members wanted items that were on sale there. We were astonished to find the place packed. I left Dianne off and drove around the parking lot for a long time until I found a spot to park. Then I fought through the crowd to find her and stand in a check-out line that wound around the store. While we were there a person near us received a call on her cell phone that told her that she couldn't find a parking place at Park City. That experience was enough for me. I like bargains, but this wasn't worth my time or energy. I vowed that this would be the last Black Friday shopping experience for me. Now I was tempted to do it again this year when I read that some shirts I had been looking at would be reduced and the sale would begin at 4 am. After all, I needed and deserved these shirts since I have lost almost 35 pounds and many of my shirts don't fit. But 4 am came and went and we stayed in our warm bed. Later that morning we had to pick up some items at our doctor's office and we thought that since we were so close to Park City, maybe the very worst would now be over. Wrong! We got there and everything was parked full. Even the handicapped spots were filled with folks illegally parking in the striped areas between spots. We circled the lot and were about to give up when two ladies noted our situation and waved for us to follow them as they headed to their car. We did this only to find that many more cars also wanted their spot. Fortunately we fought them off and claimed the spot without an accident. We were reminded of a friend who lost a parking spot in a similar situation when somebody pulled in front of him. He waited until they left their car and then he went and let the air out of their tires. Now I would never do this, but I admit that the thought did pass through my mind. We finally got to the store and then the problem was getting to the merchandise. Dianne went to the women's department where she reported chaos and saw women grabbing things out of the hands of other shoppers. My problem were the women who were standing in the way talking on their cell phones. Again I resisted the urge to push or make some rude remarks. Black Friday shopping can give you those urges. Finally I collected my shirts and raced to get in line. Now where there was to be one line, folks had made two. And the folks in front of me were actually straddling both lines. As I waited, another women came and asked me which line I was in. When I said that I was waiting to see where the folks in front of me were going, she jumped in line, way ahead of all of us. At that point my carnal nature took over and I made a comment about butting in line. She heard me and decided to move back. Maybe she feared my "line rage". One small victory. But we weren't done. When we got to our car I let Dianne drive and I went to try to direct traffic because we had several cars lined up waiting to fight for our spot. And most of them were more interested in our spot than they were in letting us out. But finally we did get out, without any scrapes or bruises, and we headed home. Now I realize that Black Friday will continue - many women like to make it an annual social event. But, folks, this is my last Black Friday shopping spree ... believe me ... no more ... this is it ... I am done ... unless, of course ... I see some more bargains next year that "I need". After all, the store claims that I actually saved $120.17 by shopping there on Black Friday. But, since I have been watching their prices, I know it was really $14 off their regular sale prices for the six items we purchased. Now if I deduct the $3 I spent on gas, I probably saved about $11.00. That's not really a great bargain, but then where can you really have that much fun and frustration and temptation for $5.50 an hour?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Time Of Reflection

"Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom" Psalm 145:3. Thanksgiving should always be a day of reflection as well as a day of praise and thanksgiving. For many years I've kept a journal and today I have been reading about the events in our family that began a year ago. At that time it was becoming very obvious that my father-in-law, my father, and my brother were suffering very serious physical ailments. We were overwhelmed at the prospect of caring for them in the days ahead. And during this year the Lord did choose to take all three of them home to be with Him. And we had to deal with their sickness, and then the grief of their passing, and then the hard work of settling estates which still continues today. During those times my personal daily prayer was for wisdom, strength, and peace in dealing with these experiences. And, as I reflect upon the year, I realize again how great God was in all that has transpired. He answered my prayers in remarkable ways. We deeply miss all three, but God has been faithful. And we know all three are enjoying the beauty of heaven. I am reminded of the chorus that says, "Through it all, through it all, oh I've learned to trust in Jesus, I've learned to trust in God. Through it all, through it all, I've learned to depend upon His word." How true that has been. And these experiences give us hope and encouragement to move forward and face the unknowns of tomorrow. Again we are experiencing some unexpected and difficult challenges, but we know that God has been faithful and that He will continue to meet every need that we face. So today we reflect upon the many blessings God has given us - both spiritual and material. We thank Him for salvation and for His daily presence in our lives. We thank Him for our family and our great heritage. We thank Him for friends and for opportunities to serve Him. We thank Him for His Word and His promises to us. And we thank Him for the hope of a new home in heaven where there will no longer be sickness and sin and sorrow. As Psalm 145:3 says - He is great, He is most worthy of our praise, and we can't even begin to fathom His love and His blessings to us. God is good - all the time. Have a special Thanksgiving Day as you reflect upon His greatness.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

And They Keep Coming

In my blog of October 22 I remarked how difficult it has been to get organizations to stop asking my deceased father for money. He moved to heaven about ten months ago and the letters keep coming. And, when they include postage paid envelopes I keep returning them, at their expense. I enjoy writing creative messages on them and suggesting that they remove him from the mailing list or change his address to "heaven". They ignore the responses and I keep returning them. The Republican National Committee is the worst offender. I think I may have returned at least 25 to them, some with rather creative responses. The second worst offender is The Heritage Foundation - Leadership For America. I've now returned about 15 to them. The latest was a plea to have my dad include them in his will or living trust. They provided two choices. First, I have already done this. Second, I will consider including Heritage. In my response I checked the second one and changed the words "will consider" to "would consider". So it reads, "I would include Heritage in my will or living trust if I were still alive. But since I died a year ago, I probably can't do it. By the way, this is the 15th request my son has sent to you to remove my name from your mailing list or change my address to Heaven. Every time you send your requests for my money he has two reactions. First, he gets very disappointed that you have so much money to waste. Second, he must relive his sorrow over my passing. Is this your heritage gift to him? But keep them coming, and he'll keep returning them, at your expense. Have a nice thanksgiving. It sure is beautiful here in heaven." So what's your guess, will they remove him this time? My guess is, probably not. After all, what is a little postage to a large group like this. Maybe it's called "Leadership For America".

Friday, November 20, 2009

In His Grip

Our oldest grandson was just a toddler and he came home with us to spend the afternoon at our house. As we got out of the car and walked along the sidewalk I walked slightly ahead of him as I went to unlock the house door. Suddenly I heard a little voice say "Pop Pop!". As I turned I saw that he was standing at a gutter that I had placed across our sidewalk to drain rain water away from the house. I had just easily stepped over this, but to our little grandson, this gutter was a major obstacle. He couldn't step over it without help. He stood there with his hand in the air waiting for me to hold it and help him over this obstacle. He needed Pop Pop. For me it was no problem, but for him it was impossible. A few days later, in my devotions, I came upon Isaiah 41:13, "For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you". Suddenly the situation with my grandson helped me understand this promise. So often we face major obstacles in our lives. But for our great God these are not impossibilities, but possibilities. He wants us to grip His hand and let Him help us over the obstacle. Since that day Isaiah 41:13 has been one of my favorite verses. In fact I used this illustration as the title and theme for a book which I am writing for my grandchildren, "In His Grip". Excerpts from this can be found on a special part of my webpage at fbfawana@aol.com. The past year has presented many hurdles for us and we have time and time again reached out for His hand to lead us through these challenges. Now I am facing some new and different challenges in my life. Last week when I was very discouraged I asked the Lord for a special promise for that day. I turned on my computer and opened an e-mail that I receive daily with a promise for that day. And I received my answer to my prayer immediately. The promise for the day was Isaiah 41:13. Wow! And so, once again I have called out "Father" and have gripped His hand to help me over this obstacle. And I know that He will, He always has, and He is faithful. So are you facing an obstacle that seems impossible? Don't fear. Call out to God and hold on to His hand and He will lead you through your challenge.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Proud Grandparents

Now I must start this blog with a disclaimer. For those few who read these ramblings on a regular basis, you just might recall that on September 27 I asked the question "Where did all the marching bands go?" I am not changing my opinion, but I will admit that as a proud grandparent there is another side to the issue. I do miss the stirring marching bands at high school football games, but .... Now here is the situation. Our oldest grandson has always enjoyed music. He plays a number of instruments including the piano, guitar, violin and several others. But up until this year, his senior year in high school, he has only used these talents in the youth praise teams at church. But this year he decided that he would like to be part of the high school band, and, despite his inexperience with band and band instruments, he found a position in the pit playing the kettle drums. The director and others have really been surprised at how well he has done with no previous drum experience. During the season he has participated in numerous football games and band competitions. He even carried a flag in a parade. He has loved it and wishes that he had done it earlier. He even would like to get into a college music program, although because of his lack of experience, this may only happen if the Lord opens the door. But with the Lord, all things are possible. He also plans to be part of the high school concert band this year, again playing the drums. We are excited about his sudden, if not late, interest in music. He also has a sound background in music theory and often has helped his grandmother out with questions that she has had. Now back to my main point. This year he has invested at least 1,000 hours in preparation for this year's band competition show. And last Saturday his band competed in the state finals at Hershey and won second place in the state. That is really an amazing accomplishment. Last night we were invited to a special performance at their football stadium and we proudly watched as Zach and his band performed their seven minute show for the last time. It was impressive. 1,000 hours for a seven minute program, but memories that will last a lifetime. So we are very proud grandparents. Our prayer is that the Lord will guide Zach's decisions about the future and that he will be able to use his talents for the Lord. Thumbs up to you Zach!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Coming Through!

I am told that there are loads of "Murphy's Laws". If there are, one of them must go something like this. The probability of a person arriving late for an event, such as a game or concert, is related to how close that person's seat is to the middle of the row. Most likely you've experienced this, hopefully as an end seat holder and not as a middle seat holder. Let me illustrate this fact. At Penn State many rows contain 30 or more seats. The seats are very, very narrow and the rows give you just enough room, at best, for your feet. Your knees usually press into the back of the person in front of you. I guess it must be that way to squeeze in more than 104,000 spectators. Now guess who will almost always show up to be seated, five minutes after the opening kickoff. The ones with the middle seats. They will make everyone stand up and lean back while they try to squeeze through with their blankets and cold weather gear. They also block everyone's view of the game usually during a big or crucial play. Now also guess who will need to get out to go the bathroom late in the first quarter. You're right, the ones with the middle seats. Now that is probably because they were out in the parking lot finishing their beverages when the game began. Now guess who will return early in the second quarter from the bathroom, and then, of course, leave again for the refreshment stand late in the second quarter to avoid the halftime rush. You've got it again - the ones with the middle seats. And, of course, who will come back midway in the third quarter carrying their food which will pass right by your nose if it isn't spilled on you? That's right - the folks with the middle seats. I often wonder why many even come to the game. Obviously not to see the game. Probably they come to help those who have the end seats get their daily exercise. Stand up, inhale, lean back, move ... as they squeeze through ... again and again. Now a final question, guess who leaves with a few minutes left in the game. Wrong! Not the ones in the middle seats, but us, the occupants of end seats! We leave to beat the crowd out of the parking lot ... and maybe also to avoid those in the middle seats who will soon want out once again. It probably isn't one of Murphy's Laws, but it should be. Expect it and accept it and maybe help yourself to some of their food as they squeeze by - now that's an idea ... maybe next year.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Another Big Oak Has Fallen

Early on Wednesday morning I called my cousin in Wisconsin to tell her and her family that our uncle, Pastor Robert Smock, had been taken home to heaven. Her response was that "another big oak in our lives had fallen". And that was a great description, for during the past ten months I've lost four special men who have been such godly examples, not only to me, but also to their extended families. Last December it was my father-in-law, in February it was dad, in May it was my brother, and this week it was Uncle Bob. And yesterday was the 16th anniversary of my mother's death. Uncle Bob had been in the ministry for 63 years and was a tremendous example to me throughout my life. On November 11 he and my aunt would have been married 60 years. I actually remember being at their wedding in Bethlehem. As a youngster I recall going to tent meetings in Trenton where he entered the ministry. Later, when they moved to minister in Staten Island, I used to love to go there to visit them. Uncle Bob loved and knew New York City and he introduced me to the Staten Island ferry, the subway system, many museums, the Staten Island Zoo, and the beaches - he loved to swim. It was fascinating. Later he watched over me while we worked to set up and then tear down tents at Mizpah Grove. At nights we would go to Hellertown to swim and cool off. And he and Aunt Thelma introduced me to something new - pizza. As a teenager, when he was ministering in Terre Hill, he used to include me in their youth events such as progressive dinners and trips to minister at a mission in Philadelphia. He and Aunt Thelma always helped organize a special family reunion on Christmas day - in Sunbury, Royersford and finally in Ephrata. Those were special times. But maybe the most profound influence on me was their emphasis on ministering to children. They specialized in unbelievable DVBS outreaches and ministry to kids. Aunt Thelma used a vent dummy and they taught Bible verses by singing them, an idea we "stole" from them. In fact they wrote and taught 26 different Bible verse choruses, one for each letter of the alphabet. Their example helped inspire us to specialize in ministering to children, something we have done for over 40 years. For the past number of years we have made it a point to attend week three at Pinebrook, mainly because the Smocks and their family were there. It was special to be with them because they were always such an encouragement and example to us. We will really miss these special times. There is so much more to remember - the ongoing scrabble games, the bus ministry, the Ephrata parades, Wolf Hall .... but I will always remember Uncle Bob because of his love for the Lord which was expressed in a special love for people. His life verse is so meaningful, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Now he is experiencing that gain. Thank you Uncle Bob for a special example to me of godliness. You will be missed.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Very Long Day

Today is election day. I am serving as Judge of Elections and Dianne is Majority Inspector. Unfortunately, we are both running for reelection. I'm not sure why we agreed to do this for four more years. And we are unopposed, so we will probably win. It really is loads of work, but sometimes it is fun. We do have a great team to work with. I do spend many hours before the election completing schedules, getting a staff, going to training, preparing signs, and completing paperwork. The day before election I spend about eight hours setting up and organizing for the day. By 6 in the morning I am headed to the election site and on a normal night it is about 10 p.m. until I've delivered the results and head home. The forms and envelopes that must be completed are unbelievable and indescribable - government in action. Tomorrow I will need to return some equipment and keys. So it is plenty of work and it is a service to the community. However, on days like this, when the turnout is so very small, the day really drags. We will be fortunate to have 200 voters today out of about 2,100 registered to vote here. And then there are unexpected incidents. So far there have been just two today, but two too many. One voter was upset when the scanner rejected his ballot because he carelessly made a mark in a wrong box. I guess he thought that was my fault. The second incident was with one of the volunteers who works outside. I very kindly reminded him of the rules which I must legally enforce. He became angry with me because I had also enforced the rules the last time he worked here. He felt that I was picking on him and he refused to accept my apology and explanation. Nothing I could say or do satisfied him. I don't know if more will happen from this incident or not. Sometimes no matter what you say or do, it will be taken wrong, no matter how kindly you try to handle the situation. Then folks wonder why it becomes harder to get volunteers today. So it can be a very long day. Last year we handled about 1,800 voters for the presidential election. It was a very full day but time passed very quickly. But today .... Now tell me, why am I running for another four year term? I guess some of us are just slow learners. Hope you voted and helped the day move faster for the volunteers in your precinct. And, in the future, thank them for their service in an important but challenging position.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Senior Trick or Treating

It's that time again - Trick or Treating. And for some, as they get older, it gets harder to give up this annual event. So here are some things to consider - eight signs that you might be too old to participate. (8) You get winded from knocking on the door. (7) You have to have another person chew the candy for you. (6) You ask for high fiber candy only. (5) When somebody drops a candy bar in your bag, you lose your balance and fall over. (4) People say, "Great mask!" and you're not wearing a mask. (3) When the door opens you yell "Trick or ..." and you can't remember the rest. (2) You have to carefully choose a costume that won't dislodge your hairpiece. (1) You're the only Power Ranger in the neighborhood with a walker. So there you are. I hope that is helpful as you make your decision this year. And if you do go out and have any extra treats left, feel free to drop them off at my house - especially if they are sugar-free!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

25 Years Ago

I just realized that a few days ago was the 25th anniversary of one of the more memorable events in my life - meeting President Ronald Reagan at the White House and receiving the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching Mathematics. It was a once in a lifetime experience which I shall never forget. I remember that I was stunned when I received a letter from the White House telling me that I had been chosen to receive the award as the winner from Pennsylvania. This was only the second time the award had been presented, so I was only the second math teacher from PA to receive it. The letter also told us that Dianne and I were to be in Washington for a week with 49 other math teachers and 50 science teachers from every state. We had two weeks to prepare and that was a very busy and exciting time which included buying new clothing to meet the President. We had to look our best! The morning we were to leave, our car broke down. It was amazing to see how much special attention we received with the car, the clothing, and other arrangements when folks heard that we were going to meet the President. All week we were honored at banquets, toured many key buildings, met with senators, and participated in workshops and press conferences. However, we did receive a major disappointment when we were informed that the President would not be able to meet with us because he was busy campaigning for reelection. Many of us were really upset and I suggested that we should all call the White House switchboard and complain. And so we flooded the switchboard and actually forced a major concession. The President would not be able to personally present the awards to us, but he would greet us on the South Lawn just before taking off in his helicopter for a trip to New York to campaign. And so on Friday, he greeted us and I had a chance to take his picture (now autographed and hanging in my office), shake his hand, and talk to him. We actually talked about a campaign trip he was to make the following Monday, to of all places ... Millersville ... just a few hundred yards from where I taught. Unfortunately, Dianne didn't get to shake his hand because of the press of the crowd behind us. Finally we watched him take off and wave as he flew away. Dianne and I then collected Fall leaves from the lawn before we left and the Secret Service was not very happy about that. We brought them home and used them to make bookmarks to give to our Awana clubbers. It was a very special time, but I learned several lessons on humility during this special event in our lives. When we left for Washington, the local grocery store posted a large sign that said "Congratulations to Barry Kauffman, PA's best math teacher!" I guess my head probably swelled when I saw that. But when we returned from our trip, I was replaced with a sign for a sale of ground beef and wild bird seed. Fame is fleeting. The second, and more humbling experience, was the call that we received informing us that one of my closest friends had died of a massive heart attack, almost at the very moment when I was talking to the President. While I was meeting the most powerful man in the world, Paul was meeting the Creator of the Universe. And that I will never forget. The scriptures remind us not to lay up for ourselves treasures here on earth - for they may rot, rust and decay, they may be stolen, and like honors, they fade away and are forgotten. One day my kids won't know what to do with all the great pictures and clippings I have of that trip - they will probably do what I am now forced to do with my dad's things - throw them out. Now 25 years have gone by and these special events and awards are only fading memories for a couple of us, forgotten and unknown by most. But treasures that we lay up in heaven are eternal - and that is my desire.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A National Emergency

I just heard that the President has proclaimed a national emergency because of the spread of the swine flu. Latest reports show over 1,000 deaths including many children. Like many, I find this frightening because there really isn't much that one can do except wash your hands and stay home when you aren't feeling well. But I also find it frightening because once again the leadership of our country has failed in preparing for this situation. Despite many warnings and many promises, the flu vaccine is just not available, both for the regular flu and for the swine flu. While the sickness spreads, doctors and hospitals are forced to operate without any supplies of the vaccine which was promised nationally weeks ago. Our medical practice was forced to cancel its planned flu clinics, as have most others. Now I've read about all the problems in preparing such vaccines, but how can the greatest country in the world, even with growing unemployment, not have the resources to meet this serious challenge? If we can't prepare for something like this, how will we ever be prepared for biochemical attacks from terrorists? And those attacks could be more disastrous than the swine flu. And if we can't trust our government's preparation for this serious outbreak, how can we trust their plans for a national healthcare program? It looks like such a plan will be hustled through Congress and signed by our President, whether the country wants it or not. Just trust the government, they know what is best for us. It appears that socialism has really arrived. But the bottom line is that if we are trusting the government to solve all of our problems, including the swine flu and healthcare, we are sadly mistaken. Our trust needs to be in the Lord who is the only one who can control our health and our lives. He has a plan for our lives and while that doesn't mean we are immune to the problems of life, we are His workmanship and He will complete his plan for us. And while He is doing that today, He is also preparing for us a perfect future home where there will not be a need for swine flu vaccine or healthcare. And the reality of that future should keep us "looking up" despite our present circumstances. As my hymn blog for this weeks says, "trust and obey, for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus!". So put your trust in the Lord today and keep looking up.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Zip Code Needed

I've learned many interesting lessons during the past eight months while dealing with my father's estate. Two of these have surprised me. First is the difficulty I have had in getting firms to release money to you. They all like to delay and make you jump through all sorts of hoops to get from them what is no longer theirs. But that is a story for another time. The second lesson has to do with the mail. Right after dad died, I arranged to have his first class mail forwarded to my house. They will do that for a year and that has given us time to get most addresses changed. However, changing all addresses has been difficult since so many unknown organizations had dad's address for Bible Fellowship Church denomination business. For example, last week I had to sign for a certified letter from an engineering firm in Cape May, NJ, which was a notification about a zoning hearing. However, this sort of thing is to be expected. The real problem has come with the junk mail. We have no idea how all of these organizations got an address change - we certainly didn't notify them. But almost daily I receive a request for a donation, in dad's name, at my address. You wouldn't believe how many address labels and tablets with his name that I have received and discarded. For the first month or two I used my stamps to send back notes to these organizations telling them that he is deceased and should be dropped from their mailing lists. Most ignored these requests and I've stopped wasting my postage on them. However, a few of these "needy" groups include postage paid return envelopes. At their expense I include a note and send their request back. Most have still ignored this and they will continue to get the envelopes returned, at their expense. But the biggest offender is the Republican Party. They beg for donations and include postage paid envelopes. Today I received two more from them in the mail and these are also being returned. I've kept count and these are the 28th and 29th returned to them. Now let me think, 29 at 44 cents is $12.76 and growing. In fact in one of their pleas they included a dollar bill which they wanted returned - with a generous donation. The $1 was used towards my bill at breakfast. The breakfast was good - thank you Republicans for something positive. I've written funny notes and not-so-funny notes back to them. I've threatened to change my registration. I've challenged their fiscal integrity. Nothing has worked. So today I just reminded them, in both replies, how many I've now returned to them. With leadership like this, is it any wonder how screwed up our country has become? Well now it has just become a challenge to me, actually a big joke, and I will continue to keep track of the number as I return them in the mail. Oh yes, now I've included a change of address request with my returns. But, I'm just not sure if I should use the address of the Moravian Cemetery in Lititz of just use Heaven. Hmm, I wonder what the zip code is for heaven.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Not What I Wanted

Did you ever have an experience where you really wanted something and couldn't get it? Then, afterwards, you were so very glad that you didn't get what you wanted. I had such an experience this week. If you've read my blogs, you know that I am a big Penn State fan and my wife and I love to go to PSU home games. This year I really wanted to go to today's game against Minnesota. Not only should it be an exciting, close game, but it is Homecoming, and that is always a special spectacle. The Fall scenery would be beautiful. And it is a 3:30 game, not a night game, which means that we'd get home at a decent time. I've tried for weeks, unsuccessfully, to find tickets. They just weren't available. Then a few days ago hundreds suddenly became available - after folks began to hear the weather report for today. The report called for snow - even though it is just mid-October. At that point I decided not to take a chance and that turned out to be a very wise choice. At this point they already have six inches of snow with more predicted. They've closed all the grass parking areas which eliminates 20,000 parking spaces. Even if the snow stops or isn't as bad as they've predicted, it will be a royal mess in Happy Valley this afternoon. Now if I were 30 years younger, it might be fun and a great challenge. But today I am more than content to sit in my recliner, in my warm living room, in front of my television. I'm glad I didn't get what I had wanted. I've had many experiences like this throughout my life, some much more serious. For example, as I approached retirement, I was offered a job that I really thought I wanted. My only question was If I was really ready to retire to take this job. But I was sure that God was opening this door for me. A meeting was set up with my potential employers and I was sure that I would need to make a decision that day. Instead, I was stunned to learn at the meeting that they had decided to go another direction and that "my job" was no longer available. I was shocked. I felt that I had been misled. It hurt. So I returned to another year of teaching only to find out that the state was considering a new retirement incentive that would make a major improvement in my retirement plan. So that extra year made it possible for me to retire a year later without the necessity to start another job. I would have missed that if I had taken the job that I really thought I wanted. And, in addition, as I've watched what has happened to the job that I wanted, I am so thankful that I didn't get it. I have no doubt today that God was in that definite disappointment and I have no regrets. It is a constant reminder to me that God does have a plan for my life and His plan is always best. He makes our disappointments His appointments. Now if only Penn State can beat Minnesota ... but then again, it's only a football game.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Loaded and the Loopy

On Saturday we made one of our fall trips to Happy Valley to watch Penn State in a game, or maybe I should say a scrimmage, with Eastern Illinois University. And we were just two of the approximately 104,000 who gathered there that day. It has been our experience that even when the game is lousy, like this one, there is always fun to be had. The events on this trip ranged from the spectacular to the loaded and even to the loopy. Spectacular describes the beautiful trees, changing to a spectrum of colors, that we were able to enjoy, especially on the afternoon drive home. I love this time of the year. This time we had a new experience at Penn State. We had a reserved parking spot on the macadam near the stadium. This area is reserved for those who have money. Many of these season ticket holders who are also large donors, have six to eight permanent reserved parking spaces. And they need that many to park their huge, and I mean huge, buses and motor homes. We sat there and watched these folks pull in, park and setup for tailgating like you wouldn't believe. First, since the lot was on a slight incline, they all had special blocks designed to level their vehicles. One near us, parked, balanced, then automatically lowered four leveling devices, before expanding the sides. Their kids were in bunk beds and when the sides expanded, they looked out the windows. In this case the owner spent another hour or more unpacking tables, chairs, grills, food and drinks for a massive tailgate. It was amazing and I couldn't begin to guess how much money was invested in this excursion. And with all the drinks that were displayed, I imagine that the loaded were really loaded until the afternoon was over. Then came the loopy. As we entered the statement we saw folks in unbelievable clothing and hats. We found our seats and, just before game time, the lady next to Dianne finally showed up. She quickly pulled out the ingredients for a sub sandwich which she probably illegally smuggled into the stadium. She unwrapped individual packages of tomatoes, then onions, followed by peppers, and finally the mayonnaise. One could smell the ingredients seats away. Now if you've ever been to Penn State, you realize how close together the seats are - sometimes you need to inhale and exhale together. Dianne could have easily leaned down and taken a big bite of the sub. That wouldn't have been any more rude than making and eating the sandwich in that confined area. Maybe Dianne should have at least sneezed while she was making it. Then, throughout the game, whenever music was played, this lady, probably in her fifties, would jive and shake in her seat, fortunately without even hitting Dianne in the ribs. However the bench did shake. We had a few other older ladies in the area who stood and danced every time the music was played. Loopy is one way to describe their performances. Then we watched the student section as they tossed girls up in the area, to the time of the music, every time Penn State scored. Even the wave was special. The students would start it at normal speed and then when it had circled the stadium they would change it to a very, very slow speed for the next round. Finally, the third round was done in ultra high speed. And of course there was the great Blue Band and the Nittany Lion with their special performances. Even if you aren't a football fan, there is always plenty of entertainment for everyone. And, too soon, the game neared its end and we headed for home. We did that to beat all the traffic, as well as to avoid all the loaded who would get loaded and probably loopy with their post game tailgate. PSU football is a unique experience.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Home

Today is a day that I faced with very mixed emotions. It is the day that I settled on the sale of my parents' home. They built it in the early 1950's and lived there until the Lord took them to their new home - heaven. My parents moved frequently in the early days of their married lives. In fact, I think I lived in nine different locations until we moved to the home that they built in Lititz when I was in fourth grade. Even as a child I realized how nice it was to finally have a place that was really home. No longer were there fears of moving, going to new schools, and forming new friendships. And so, until I was married, that was my home. Since we were married, we lived in just four different locations and we have been in our present location since 1969 - forty years! I guess there are advantages to moving frequently - such as downsizing all the junk you collect. But there are certainly advantages to more permanent places to call home. We built many great memories in the home that I sold today, but life moves on, and so must we. And nothing can take away from those memories. But I thank God for His leading in the sale of this home. Since the death of our parents, life has been filled with stressful events for Dianne and I. We've spent most of our time the past nine months trying to settle two estates. I now have a new appreciation for executors of estates. The biggest hurdle was cleaning out my dad's house and selling it. We tried for several months to find a family buyer so we could keep the house in the family. But that wasn't to be the Lord's will. Finally, the end of August, we prayerfully placed it on the market. Despite its great location, we were concerned that it might be hard to sell. The housing market has been depressed - a buyer's market - and many homes in Lititz have been on sale for months. Dad's house will need plenty of cosmetic work on the inside - carpets, painting, wallpapering, etc. We did a good bit of work on the outside to increase its curb appeal. Then we placed it on the market. It was listed on a Friday and we continued to pray. Early Wednesday morning I received a call from our real estate agent who told me that we had a signed agreement with a down payment of $2,000. And after some negotiations, inspections, and final repairs, today we settled. Should I have expected any different after turning it over to the Lord? He had it all under control, despite my concerns. And as we approached settlement, I was reminded over and over that these buildings we call home are really temporary. Even our lives are like tents as we take our brief journey on this earth. Our real home is being prepared for us in heaven. Jesus said that He was going to prepare a home for us. And if He said that, He will do it. Today I have been thinking of some old choruses. "Home sweet home! Home sweet home! Where we'll never roam! I see the light of my mansion so bright, my home sweet home!" and "Heaven is a wonderful place, Filled with Glory and Grace, I want to see my Savior's face Heaven is a wonderful, Heaven is glorious, Heaven is a wonderful place." And so while I signed away the house in Lititz, I realize that it is just a house, not really home. My real home is ahead. So where is your real home today?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Reality Sets In

With the sale of my parent's home only days away, my mind has been flooded with many memories. I've realized again the great heritage that I have and how the Lord directed my parents and my family through many difficult times. This weekend we visited New Cumberland where I lived twice when my father
(PICTURE - my dad (coat) teaching trig at New Cumberland - our first house is in the background.)
taught math and coached basketball and football there. We drove past the house where we lived the first time there, when I was probably two or three. It was right across from what was then New Cumberland High School (now a middle school). I remember things about that time from pictures, stories that I heard, and actually some experiences that I do remember. For example, I do remember visiting the high school and actually attending some basketball games there. I remember how the neighborhood looked, with the alley next to our house - and it hasn't changed. We moved back there again after the war was over and my dad returned to teaching math and coaching. This time I had a brother and we have many pictures of us taken together at our home on Eutaw Ave. This house and neighborhood also hasn't changed in over 60 years - the lot next door where we used to play is still empty. I remember so much more about this time in New Cumberland. I remember walking several blocks to see my dad coach football - the field was crowded this weekend with midget football games. I remember walking downtown to take the bus to Harrisburg to shop, to go to church, and even to see my dad work at nights at the railroad depot there. I remember special visits from my aunt and uncle. I remember our neighbors who were our landlords. Years later I came to realize that my parents couldn't afford a car in those days so dad walked to school and even took the bus to shop for our groceries. I didn't realize until years later how poor we really were in those days. Recently dad told me how he'd take the bus and even the train to scout football games. I started first grade there. That building is no longer standing. We had a garden in another part of town and had to walk there to take care of it. The head football coach had a large field behind his house and every year he planted and harvested tomatoes in that field. I remember visiting there and watching my dad ride on a rig to help plant the tomatoes and later to pick them. As a first grader such things left lasting memories. Those were different times, tough times. So driving around New Cumberland brought back many of these special memories. But then as I left town it dawned on me that those family members who shared those memories are no longer here - my mother, my dad, my brother. Oh how I wish that I could ask them more questions about those days. Oh how I wish that I could take Terry back and show him those places where he was a toddler. Then it really dawned on me that none of my family remains who shared our experiences in Sunbury, Selinsgrove, Wilmington, New Cumberland, Elizabethtown, or Lancaster. Reality is setting in. Maybe I really am an orphan. Kendy and I, and our spouses, share the memories of Lititz, but come Friday all we will have left are the memories. And the memories are special and can't be taken away. God has been so good to us and as my parents set the example of trusting God and giving all to Him, even when they really had nothing in worldly possessions, God honored them. They never complained, they kept working very hard, and they trusted God fully. And so, when the house they dedicated to the Lord changes hands on Friday, we will still have the memories of the lives of faithfulness to the Lord that they modeled for us. And that is worth everything.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Perks Of Being A Senior

Do you realize that birthdays are good for you? The more that you have, the longer you live. Most folks don't really look forward to getting older, but there are many perks for being a senior, in addition to all those discounts that many stores and restaurants give. One of the best hidden perks is the annual Senior Saints Retreat at Pinebrook Bible Conference in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. We have just returned from the 2009 retreat and this special event is always one of the highlights of our year. Great speakers - this year Pastor Brooke Solberg spoke and was excellent. Great concert - pianist Bryan Popin was featured this year and he was tremendous. Great food - all you can eat including a special banquet and an ice cream social. Great activities - including an afternoon train ride, indoor swimming, shopping, hikes, and yes, even time for naps. Great fellowship and great fun. In fact, the program has been so well received that next year they will expand it to an extra day and move it to a few weeks later when the Poconos should be at the peak of their fall colors (October 18 - 21). It really is a great time. Now there are many other less serious perks of being a senior. (1) Kidnappers are not very interested in you. (2) People no longer view you as a hypochondriac. (3) Things you buy now won't wear out. (4) You can eat supper at 4 pm. (5) You can quit trying to hold your stomach in no matter who walks into the room. (6) Your joints are more accurate than the National Weather Service. (7) Your new best friend is the pharmacist. (8) Your idea of weight lifting is standing up. (9) Your eyes won't get much worse. (10) Your secrets are safe with your friends because they can't remember them either. Three cheers for seniors!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Where Have All The Marching Bands Gone?

On Friday night we went to a local high school football game involving my grandson's school vs. the school where I spent 39 years. I had two major surprises. First our football team is really very good - a vast improvement over most of the football teams when I was there. Second, sadly our band was very bad. I remember the years when our band numbered 60 - 70 musicians and they sounded great. This year's band has about 25 musicians plus about ten in the pit. They probably had about ten brass instruments and you could barely hear them when they played. It was sad, especially from a school that is Quad A and one of the largest in the area. What has happened? First, the new block schedule has prevented some students from being in the band because they must select it as a course - it is no longer optional or available during an activity period. But I think the main reason is that high school bands have changed their emphasis. Now they are all about competitions and winning awards. Instead of playing stirring marches, they have intricate shows which feature fancy routines, flashy costumes and flags, and special music written for these competitions. And to pull this off, it requires many hours in band camps, summer practices, practices in the evenings and long competitions plus football games almost every weekend. it takes a major time commitment and most kids today have other things to do but spend all their free time practicing and drilling. Band has to become their life. And this is becoming true at many schools. And their parents are almost like a cult. they travel together, they raise funds together, they tail gate together, and to them winning the competitions becomes their first priority in life. So gone are the days when a high school band is big, with a full sound, and the main purpose is to stir up the crowd and cheer on the football team. If you want that, you need to go to Penn State where the Blue Band sirs up the crowd and presents a simple, but exciting, halftime show. The members work hard, but for a much different purpose. Now while I was disappointed by the one band, my grandson's band sounded excellent and they had a good show, although none of the fans recognized their music or fully understood the purpose of their show. But they sounded great (especially the kettle drums). And they did win their first competition on Saturday night. But my age is showing - give me music like "Stars and Stripes Forever" or even "On Wisconsin". But then today's kids, band directors, and their parents probably don't even know these numbers.
Listen to it here! LISTEN

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Waiting ... waiting ... waiting

Do you like to wait? I don't! And yet a large part of our lives is spent waiting. Who hasn't had to stand in a long line waiting to check out in a store, especially a grocery store? Who hasn't waited in traffic, especially when you are in a hurry. I will often drive miles out of the way to avoid construction sites or other traffic problems because I hate to wait. And what parent hasn't stayed up at night waiting for their child to come home, especially when there is a storm or snow? At times we wait for the mail or a returned telephone call or for our car to be serviced. Some times we wait in excitement and anticipation - like waiting for a visit from someone special, a vacation, a birthday, or a holiday such as Christmas. Like many students and teachers, I often felt that I just couldn't wait for the weekend, or better yet, the summer. I remember as a college student waiting for a visit from my family or a chance to go home for a visit. Then there is the excitement of waiting for a new purchase to arrive - a car, some furniture, or maybe a new computer. Some times waiting can be much more serious. Students wait for test scores, grades, or college acceptance (or rejection). Many nights I've sat with a sick child or loved one just waiting for sunrise. In times like this, it seems like morning will never come. Sometimes we wait to see if we will be given a job, or in times like this, whether our job will be eliminated. It must be very hard to wait for a loved one to return who is in the service and many parents and family members must do this. It is so hard to wait when a loved one goes through surgery. Or, how about the waiting for results from the doctor? We've been waiting for the results of Dianne's annual biopsy and PTL they came back yesterday with no sign of cancer. We've also been experiencing waiting to see if my father's house would sell so we could begin to settle his estate. A month ago we put it on the market and in less than a week we had a signed agreement. But there were many hurdles to be crossed before settlement, and we waited, and waited. Yesterday we received a call telling us that all obstacles had been met and settlement was set for October 9. PTL! So waiting is a major part of our life - from minor inconveniences to anticipation to events filled with stress. In 1975 my father suddenly had his job eliminated at RCA. Dad never complained and went out and found some temporary jobs and finally a new career. At that time I bought him a plaque which now hangs in my bedroom. "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:31. Dad had learned and demonstrated the reality of that verse - a lesson I wish his son had learned a little better. Waiting can bring us stress and weariness (I admit it often does for me) or it can give us the opportunity to experience the strength and peace which only the Lord can provide. The choice is really ours.