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".