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.

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


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!