Welcome to my blog, or should I say to the ramblings of an old man. I doubt that my ramblings are of much value, but at least I have an opportunity to share them.  So, please be kind and humor me. If nothing else of value stands out in these thoughts, I hope that you at least sense the value I place on a daily walk with the Lord.  That walk is what has provided me with motivation and a sense of purpose throughout my lifetime.  My prayer is that you, too, are experiencing this direction and joy in daily living which is available to everyone who puts his trust in Christ.  So, thanks again for joining me.  Please don't go without leaving some comments here so I can get to know you better as our paths intersect today in this blog.

Saturday, 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.