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.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Where Was Joseph?

On Sunday evening I was listening to a recorded radio program featuring Bill Pierce. He was talking about the birth of Jesus and he read a short portion of a book about that evening. Unfortunately, I didn't catch the name of the author or the title. But what he read said that Joseph was probably pacing outside the stable, like men have done for centuries, while Mary delivered. When Mary finally called him, he entered the stable and saw the beautiful baby Jesus, the Messiah, wrapped in cloth, in the manger. My first reaction when I heard that explanation was that with the exception of his pacing, this certainly was not like any birth I had been part of. My wife was never left alone to deliver the baby by herself. She had a team of doctors and nurses. And when I first saw the baby, seldom was it all cleaned up. Now I have never thought before about this part of this miraculous birth. Was Mary, this teenage mother, actually alone and was she able to clean up herself and the baby before her husband came in? I've come up with a few possible explanations. (1) Maybe she was alone and God gave her this miraculous strength and wisdom. Certainly God could do that. (2) Maybe God sent angels to help her. There certainly were angels nearby that night. (3) Maybe the inn keeper summoned a midwife since he knew how pregnant she appeared. I imagine the town of Bethlehem must have had such help available. But then, why wouldn't this person be identified, especially when she would have been the first to see the human form of the Messiah. (4) Maybe Joseph wasn't outside. Maybe he was with Mary and helped her with the delivery. I personally tend to believe this option. Joseph had probably endured all sorts of ridicule when his betrothed became pregnant out of wedlock. I'd like to think that God would have honored what Joseph had endured by allowing him to be the first one to touch and hold the Messiah, God incarnate. But I guess we'll not know until we get to heaven. So what do you think actually happened? Why not leave your answer in a comment below? Tell us what you think.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Memories

This was written for my grandchildren, but you are welcome to read it, too. Here are some of the things that I remember about the 70 Christmas seasons that I have experienced ... I remember, when I was very young, Christmas trees in New Cumberland, sometimes with my dad's Lionel trains running underneath them - I still set up his train underneath our Christmas trees today and they still run, even though they are nearly 90 years old ... I remember Pappy Wise's silver metal tree with blue balls and his homemade white fences that he placed around the tree platform ... I remember trips to Grandma Wolf's house in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, always looking to see who could first spot the lighted PPL building in Allentown. I remember her making barbecue for the carolers who always returned to the parsonage and ate and played ping pong in the basement ... I can remember playing with Uncle Bob Smock's train and the fun of all the family gathered there on Christmas morning ... I always looked forward to the box of chocolate covered raisins that would be in my stocking ... I remember in Lancaster the elaborate displays in the windows at Watt&Shand and going to see the large train display upstairs at Farmer's Supply. Those were exciting adventures ... As a youngster, each Christmas I sang in a trio at church with Bob Minniig and Dan Sheffy. We sang "We Three Kings" and I always had the verse about frankincense as a solo ... At home, in Lititz, my dad made two four foot high candles which were placed outside at the front door every year. We decorated the stair railings to the second floor to look like candy canes and we strung all of our Christmas cards on strings which hung in the dining room from the center light to the windows ... Growing up in Lititz, I remember going to the Lititz Movie Theater, which no longer exists, for Christmas cartoons. Then Santa would come and we kids would all get a gift - an orange. In those days that was a treasure ... At home we always set up a big train display in the basement, complete with loads of Plasticville buildings, mountains, and grass ... I remember caroling with the church, using a truck filled with straw. A few years later I enjoyed caroling with friends in Sunbury ... I remember after we were married, with two small children, making a very difficult trip in the snow to Sunbury on Christmas Eve. I was released from the hospital just hours before and Dianne had to drive. I was so sick the whole way there. But we made it ... I can remember Gramps showing the movie "The Night Before Christmas" and teasing our boys about the sleigh bells ringing outside ... I remember Christmas days in Sunbury, in the morning with Gramps and Muz, at noon with the Wolf family at the parsonage, in the afternoon visiting the Wise family ... years later, after the Wolfs retired, it was a morning trip to Ephrata to be with the Wolf family and then an afternoon trip to Sunbury to be with the Bickles - oh how I miss those days and all the family members who are no longer here ... And how could I ever forget the togetherness in the Lord with the Wolf family as we harmonized to sing "We Thank Thee Lord for This Our Food", as our prayer, before the meal. Precious memories. We have continued that tradition whenever our immediate family is together for a meal ... Then there was the year we had a flat tire on a busy highway near Harrisburg. We were coming home from Sunbury with our car loaded with luggage and gifts ... I recall decorating my classrooms with artificial pine around then chalkboards and red balls hanging from the pine. I used red and green chalk the week before Christmas and taught my classes dressed as Santa Claus on the last day before the break. I always had a small Christmas tree in my office ... I treasure the Christmas Eves that we have been able to celebrate together with our immediate family. First we'd go to the Christmas Eve service, which I usually planned and directed. Dianne and I usually sang duets and several times our family sang or the boys played the cowbells. Then we'd return home for Dianne's buffet. Next we'd gather around the tree for the Christmas story from Luke and prayer, then came the Christmas gifts. After Grandma Kauffman died, Grandpa Kauffman always came to be with us that night. This was only the second year he wasn't there, and we missed him ... For a few years we went to Selinsgrove on Christmas and took Gramps and Gloria to an area church for dinner. We had a good meal and we didn't even have to prepare it. What a nice ministry by that church.. Now that the Christmas reunions are gone and we've freed our boys to develop their own family traditions on Christmas day, Dianne and I have learned to enjoy the quietness of being alone together that day. And please don't feel bad for us, our boys often invite us to come to their house. But, sometimes a day of peace and quiet is just what we really need. A few years ago we had a big snowstorm and we enjoyed sitting together, in front of the fire, watching the snow fall and build up on our huge pine trees in our backyard. That was a spectacular sight. ... but another Christmas is over. I love the Christmas season. And I already miss the Christmas music. And far too soon for me, the tree will come down and the decorations will be packed away once again. That's another reminder of how fast time goes and how quickly the years pass by. But we still have the memories. So develop those traditions and hang on to those memories. They are so important.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Christmas Gift

Thank you for your taking time to read my blogs. I realize that I don't have a large audience, but I do appreciate those of you who have faithfully visited. My wish is that you and your family would have a blessed Christmas and a prosperous 2011. As part of that wish, let me share with you something a little different today. For over 40 years the Lord gave Dianne and I a chance to minister in music by singing duets together in a variety of places such as our church and in our family ministry. We enjoyed using the gifts that God has given us to share with others. But our traveling ministry ended and the Lord blessed our church with so many talented vocalists that our duets weren't needed there anymore. However, up until a few years ago, for about 25 years, I planned and directed our Christmas Eve Candlelight Service at church. It was a very traditional service using the talents of our musicians. And in that context we still were still able to sing, often as a family, and annually as a duet. We alternated singing "The Babe In The Manger" and "Christmas Within Your Heart". The latter was a song that I had written the words and the music for to sing as a duet at our Candlelight Service. The song has long been forgotten and no longer sung, but as my "Christmas gift", I am sharing the words today. Hopefully these words will be your testimony this year.

God gave peace at Bethlehem, when the Saviour came,
But greater far God's Gift of peace,
That floods your soul, when in your heart,
God's perfect gift you receive.
Christmas within your heart, Christ reigning within,
God's perfect gift was His only Son,
Your salvation to win.
Christmas within your heart, Christ reigning within,
Won't you this moment His gift receive,
Then you too will know, of the peace He brings,
When the Lord reigns supreme in your heart.

God gave life at Bethlehem, life abundant and free,
Do not reject His precious gift,
New life He gives, when in your heart,
God's perfect gift you receive.
Christmas within your heart, Christ reigning within,
God's perfect gift was His only Son,
Your salvation to win.
Christmas within your heart, Christ reigning within,
Won't you this moment His gift receive,
Then you too will know, of the life He brings,
When the Lord reigns supreme in your heart.

God gave joy at Bethlehem, Of joy the angels sang,
But greater far God's gift of joy,
That you can know, when in your heart,
God's perfect gift you receive.
Christmas within your heart, Christ reigning within,
God's perfect gift was His only Son,
Your salvation to win.
Christmas within your heart, Christ reigning within,
Won't you this moment His gift receive,
Then you too will know, of the joy He brings,
When the Lord reigns supreme in your heart.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

My wish for you, no matter where you may live -

Apache (Western) - Gozhqq Keshmish
Arabic - I'D Miilad Said ous Sana Saida
Croatian - Sretan Bozic
Danish - Glædelig Jul og godt nytår
Farsi - Sal-e no mubarak
French - Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année!
German - Fröhliche Weihnachten und ein glückliches Neues Jahr!
Greek - Kala Christougenna Ki'eftihismenos O Kenourios Chronos
Hawaiian - Mele Kalikimaka & Hauoli Makahiki Hou
Hebrew - Mo'adim Lesimkha. Shanah Tova
Hindi - Shubh Naya Baras
Iraqi - Idah Saidan Wa Sanah Jadidah
Irish - Nollaig Shona Dhuit
Iroquois - Ojenyunyat Sungwiyadeson homungradon nagwutut & Ojenyunyat osrasay
Italian - Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo
Japanese - Shinnen omedeto. Kurisumasu Omedeto
Korean - Sung Tan Chuk Ha
Kyrghyz - JangI jIlIngIz guttuu bolsun!
Latin - Pax hominibus bonae voluntatis
Maori - Kia orana e kia manuia rava i teia Kiritimeti e te Mataiti Ou
Mongolian - Zul saryn bolon shine ony mend devshuulye
Nepali - krist Yesu Ko Shuva Janma Utsav Ko Upalaxhma Hardik Shuva & Naya Barsa Ko harkik Shuvakamana
Norweigan/Nynorsk - Eg ynskjer hermed Dykk alle ein God Jul og Godt Nyttår
Polish - Wesolych Swiat i Szczesliwego Nowego Roku.
Portuguese - Boas Festas e um feliz Ano Novo
Romanian - Craciun fericit si un An Nou fericit!
Russian - Pozdrevlyayu s prazdnikom Rozhdestva i s Novim Godom
Samoan - Ia manuia le Kilisimasi ma le tausaga fou
Somali - ciid wanaagsan iyo sanad cusub oo fiican.
Spanish - Feliz Navidad y Próspero Año Nuevo
Sudanese - Wilujeng Natal Sareng Warsa Enggal
Swedish - God Jul och Gott Nytt År
Tagalog - Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon
Tahitian - Ia ora i te Noere e ia ora na i te matahiti 'api
Thai - Suksan Wan Christmas lae Sawadee Pee Mai
Ukrainian - Veseloho Vam Rizdva i Shchastlyvoho Novoho Roku!
Vietnamese - Chuc Mung Giang Sinh - Chuc Mung Tan Nien
Zulu - Sinifesela Ukhisimusi Omuhle Nonyaka Omusha Onempumelelo


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Oh Algebra!

There are only a few things that I do miss about teaching. One of these are the things that I did during the last two days of school before the Christmas break. First, I always gave tests two days before the break so that we could begin a new unit when we returned. As part of these tests, I would include a couple of non-mathematical bonus questions about details of the Christmas season. The tests were then corrected and ready to return the next day when my class was always taught by a substitute - Santa Claus. I think I went through three Santa outfits in my many years of teaching. Santa would start by leading the class in some of Mr. K.'s special holiday songs. Several of those will be found later in this blog. Santa would then review the bonus questions and share things about "Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus", Dicken's "Christmas Carol", the traditions of Hanukkah, and then the Christmas story from Luke. I would conclude by reading the story from Luke and sharing my personal observations. I always was careful to handle this tactfully and in decades of doing it, I never heard a complaint. In fact, some of the only things my former students remember about my classes are the things I shared about the meaning of Christmas and the mathematical carols I had written. Concerning the carols, I never had them copyrighted but I have heard that they have been used in various math classes in Lancaster County and actually throughout the nation. Some of this is the result of sharing things with other Presidential Award winners that I have learned to know. It is interesting that a few days ago I heard "O Christmas Tree" on the radio and I immediately began to sing the words to one of my songs that I haven't sung in about nine years. Anyway, for your enjoyment, here are a few that you can try to sing, even if math wasn't your favorite subject.

Oh algebra, oh algebra, how lovely are your properties,
Oh algebra, oh algebra, how lovely are your properties.
They show us how to operate, our feeble minds they stimulate.
Oh algebra, oh algebra, how lovely are your properties.

I'm dreaming of a nice parabola, just like the ones we used to draw,
With a fixed directrix, a single focus, a vertex which on the graph doth fall.
I'm dreaming of a nice parabola, with every quadratic that I see,
May your thoughts be second degree, as you sketch a parabola for me.

Mathematics, my favorite subject, is a very challenging class.
And, if you ever take it, you will learn to love it fast.
In it we learn equations, linear, quadratic and more,
We always do our homework, it will ne'er become a bore.
For some future college day, professor just might say,
"Students with your minds so bright, solve this problem right tonight!"
Then you will use this background, that some other kids have missed,
With math you'll solve the problem and be named to the Dean's List!

Monday, December 20, 2010

What They Say About Christmas

As we approach Christmas, I thought that instead of sharing my ramblings, I'd share comments from other, more famous people. So here goes ... Mail your packages early so the post office can lose them in time for Christmas. (Johnny Carson) ... Christmas is a time when you get homesick — even when you're home. (Carol Nelson) ... Christmas gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect. (Oren Arnold) ... Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won't make it "white." (Bing Crosby) ... The only real blind person at Christmas-time is he who has not Christmas in his heart. (Helen Keller) ... Christmas began in the heart of God. It is complete only when it reaches the heart of man. (Unknown) ... Celebrating Christmas without Christ is like celebrating George Washington's birthday without mentioning the first president. (James N. Watkins) ... Christmas without Christ is a mess. (Jose B. Cabajar) ... for it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself. (A Christmas Carol,Charles Dickens) ... This is Christmas: not the tinsel, not the giving and receiving, not even the carols, but the humble heart that receives anew the wondrous gift, the Christ. (Frank McKibben) ... The newest Christmas tradition appears to be shopping while talking on your cell phone. On Friday, in just half of the Park City Mall, I counted 48 folks chatting while shopping. Young mothers are especially good at this. They can push a stroller containing two kids, while shopping and talking on their phone (Barry Kauffman) ... When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs? (Gilbert Keith Chesterton) ... The implications of the name 'Immanuel' are both comforting and unsettling. Comforting, because He has come to share the danger as well as the drudgery of our everyday lives. He desires to weep with us and to wipe away our tears. And what seems most bizarre, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, longs to share in and to be the source of the laughter and the joy we all too rarely know. (Michael Card) ... There has been only one Christmas — the rest are anniversaries. (W.J. Cameron) ... And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:9-14) ... The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end (Isaiah 9:2, 6-7) Compiled by James Watkins on his Hope&Ho!Ho!Ho! site.

Friday, December 17, 2010

We Survived!

Somebody told us that one of the biggest causes of divorce is wallpapering. They may be right. Now as I see it, there are four dangerous steps in the papering process. Step #1 - Deciding to do it. We recently had our living room, dining room, hallways and ceilings painted. I was happy with the old wallpaper in the entrance way. After all, I had papered that twice since we lived here. But, I finally had to agree with my wife that it really did not look good once we had painted. Step #2 - Choosing the paper. This is a very dangerous step. I've been through this before, so I suggested that she pick what she liked and I would just agree. After many hours visiting stores, looking through dozens of books, and bringing several home, little progress was made. Finally I looked through a few of the books that she brought home and suggested several that I thought might work. She then showed those to some friends who were visiting and they agreed on one of the patterns. That was good. We were both satisfied. I found it on the internet and it was much less expensive than the local store wanted for it. And the store also wanted to sell us more rolls of this expensive paper than my mathematics said we needed, so I had some reservations dealing with them. Then, before we made the purchase, somebody recommended going to York where paper was often less expensive. So we made the trip to York only to find that the book we were using was discontinued. But the clerk checked their stock and they still had some rolls of our pattern. We ordered, at about half price, and had it sent to our house. We were relieved. We had survived step #2! Step #3 - Preparing the walls. In this case it meant taking off the old paper, and my wife volunteered to do this. I didn't object and she completed the work without much difficulty. Then together we sized the wall and we were ready for the last step. Step #4 - Papering. Now I wasn't eager to do this, but I had done six such jobs previously (when I was younger) and I had all the equipment that was needed. We were scheduled to go to Pinebrook for a Friday hymn sing and had planned to make it a mini-vacation, staying in Bethlehem Thursday and Friday nights so we could enjoy the Christmas sights there. But instead, we decided to begin papering on Thursday, then drive to Pinebrook early Friday morning, still staying in Bethlehem for one night. After three hours of work we successfully had three strips papered and we decided to celebrate by going out for dinner. When we returned home, Dianne called my attention to a "problem". Strips one and two had shrunk, leaving a very obvious gap showing. I was devastated. I considered patching it but knew we would always know it was patched. I didn't sleep much that night, but I did pray. We left early for Pinebrook very early in the morning and then decided - for several reasons - just to come right home after the sing. We got home early enough that we could still drive back to York to see if they had any rolls of our paper left - we now needed another double roll to redo what I had messed up. We held our breath until they found that they still had one - from the same run. We quickly purchased it. They also told me that it shrank because I didn't "book it". I had never heard of doing this and had never done it before, but I didn't "book it" - and it shrunk. I then lost my nerve and was afraid that I would mess it up again, so I called a paper hanger. He agreed to do it for a reasonable price. Two weeks later he came and in less than 2.5 hours had the job perfectly done. Remember, that it took me three hours for just three strips and my job was only half done with the hardest parts yet to go. So when in doubt, pay somebody who knows what they are doing. It was a bargain! It's easier on your nerves and it helps preserve your marriage. So we survived. Now we only have four more rooms to have painted, one to have the paper taken off, and one to be papered. Pray for us. Hopefully our marriage will survive that as well. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Attempted Murder?

There are a number of things that bother me and one of the worst of these is smokers. I find them to be inconsiderate, often lighting up in your presence. I find them to be dirty, throwing their butts on the ground or out the car window. I find them to stink - you can smell a smoker from a distance even if they aren't smoking - the smell clings to them. Fortunately they can no longer spoil my meals or my motel stays. However, up to a few days ago I did pity them because not only were they wasting their money, but they were committing suicide with their habits. But now I am angry with them because they could also be killing me and my family. The latest U. S. Surgeon's report on tobacco says that even one occasional whiff of secondhand smoke can damage DNA in ways that lead to cancer. For someone with underlying heart disease, exposure to "one" cigarette can cause a heart attack. Even before this news, I have never been afraid to tell smokers what I thought. Once at a baseball game and once on a tour bus, I told smokers that they could continue smoking but that it often made my wife ill and made her throw up. That warning was effective. One of the things that really upsets me happens at Park City. Despite signs that are meant to stop smoking with 50 feet of the entrances, the smokers - especially young ladies - like to gather at the entrance ways to smoke. The ban there never seems to be enforced. So when we go to walk for our health, we often have to walk through clouds of unhealthy smoke to enter or leave the center. The front door is the worst spot featuring numerous smokers sitting and standing there and dozens of butts all over the ground. We avoid that door and use another one - yesterday we only counted about thirty butts on the ground there as we left at the side door at Penneys. It is amazing how times have changed. During World War II, the government actually issued cigarettes to our soldiers. I am told that about 75% of the population smoked at that time. As a teen I didn't smoke because of "religious" reasons, not because of health concerns. Then in recent years warnings were put on the packages and smoking bans began to appear in public places. Now about 20% of the population smokes, despite serious warnings about the consequences. It is especially sad to see that the smoking rate for young girls has increased dramatically. Now that there is new evidence of the risk caused by just an occasional exposure to secondhand smoke, I feel that all smoking should be illegal. But with our strong tobacco lobby that will never happen. And with the large amount of tax money that comes from sales, that will never happen. I wonder what our local Amish think about this new report? What is the answer? I don't know, but I am not going to sit back and let people blow smoke in my face without a protest. Wouldn't you say that smoking in my presence is now attempted murder? Let them kill themselves, but they have no right to attempt to kill me or my family. I have rights as well. What do you think?

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Pledge - One More Time

I can't help but make a few more comments about the flag pledging controversy mentioned in my previous blog. There were three more letters about it in this morning's newspaper, including one from the 14 students who were in the class. They want us to look at them. They say, "we are not the disrespectful bullies some members of the community have made us out to be." They add "we also do not believe that standing for the Pledge of Allegiance is a measure of our patriotism. We consider ourselves patriotic Americans and value our freedoms as citizens and students." Really? I can't help but question this statement or their understanding of patriotism. They go on to say, "some of us are considering careers in the military." Wow, good luck kids. I'm sure in the service you will have the freedom to do what you want - to pledge or not to pledge! No way! That would be humorous if it weren't so sad. You kids have so much to learn. They also share how they some of them have volunteered and served the community. But I really love this statement. "If we are forced to recite the Pledge, we are no better than any other communist country." Other? Double wow! Kids, you have no idea what a communist country is like. One thing is sure, in such a country you would have NO freedom to choose not to pledge to their flag. It would be pledge or be sent to prison - or maybe worse. Reading this letter made me feel sick and sorry for these kids. Once again they are defending their lack of courtesy and good manners and have no idea what patriotism really is. It's just another sign of a generation that has been spoiled and given all that they want. And they want all their "rights" without any of the responsibilities of citizenship. I would have at least felt a little better if they would have accepted and admitted their rudeness in this whole situation. An apology would have been the right thing to offer. But I guess an apology would not have been sincere when they "have their rights", including the right to be rude. God help America!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

To Pledge Or Not To Pledge

If you have read the Lancaster newspaper during the past month you probably are aware of the controversy about a sad situation in Manheim Twp. High School. A substitute there ran into a problem when the majority of her class refused to stand and salute the American flag. In fact, they said that they didn't have to do it and they rudely talked, listened to their ipods, and did as they pleased while a few said the pledge. When the frustrated sub got home she told her husband about her experience. He is a retired marine who was incensed by this rude behavior. Without telling his wife, he wrote a letter to the newspaper sharing her experience. A few days later the principal sent a letter to the newspaper defending the school and the students. The sub also found that she was suddenly dropped from the substitute list and was no longer welcome to work in that district. The newspaper then ran a feature article about the situation and since then, almost daily, there have been letters in the newspaper from outraged members of the community defending the sub and criticizing the school. I've had the urge to also write one, but I don't want to get publicly involved in this firestorm. So I have resisted the urge to do so. However, if I were to write one it might go something like this.

Madam Principal,
Until a few years ago when I retired, for 39 years I was a public school teacher in a neighboring high school. During that time I probably led the pledge, with my students, more than 6,000 times. I never experienced, nor would I ever have tolerated, what reportedly happened at your school. Now I know that no student can be compelled to say the pledge or stand for the National Anthem, especially if they have religious convictions or are a foreign exchange student. But they can be expected to show the courtesy of at least standing in silence while the majority say the pledge. That is the standard that I expected in my classes. Multiple thousands of American soldiers have died to give people the freedom not to be forced to pledge. But these same soldiers didn't die to give them the right to be rude and obnoxious. Respect for others and for our country starts right from the top. I have worked for numerous principals who have made respect for country and others a priority in their building. Research shows the importance of the principal in setting the atmosphere in the building. Maybe starting the day with the pledge and anthem would help make it a priority, rather than waiting until second period when the announcements are made. I've never been to an athletic contest where they postponed the anthem until the second quarter because it was more convenient to do it then. Set the example, make it a priority, and start the day with it. Part of the problem is also caused by parents who have coddled their kids, accepted disrespect, defended irresponsibility, given them whatever they wanted, and let them make their own choices. It's time that parents actually begin to be parents. But I guess that is beyond the scope of your job. However, a major part of the problem must be the teacher who was absent. He or she apparently allowed this environment to develop throughout the year. I'm sure that this wasn't the first time that this happened in this classroom. The teacher needs to set the example and expect courtesy and good manners from the students. Anything less is totally unacceptable. My students knew from day one how thankful I was to be a citizen of our great country. I was always proud to lead the pledge knowing that the great sacrifice of so many made it possible for me to live and teach in freedom that much of the world never has known or enjoyed. I think many of my students appreciated my example and they were willing to proudly say the pledge with me. I always read the written reports that my subs left and if there was ever any hint that my students took advantage of the sub, I dealt with it immediately. As one who also supervised teachers for many years, I did not put up with teachers who could not control and set a proper example for their students. I hope that you are now working with this teacher to change the classroom environment. If not, you and the school are negligent. Certainly there are problems with this country, but despite that, there is no country in the history of civilization with the freedoms and opportunities that our citizens have. And it is the responsibility of the school to teach and pass on the American spirit and develop respectful, civilized citizens. Hopefully you will learn from this situation and not just respond by defending your school and your job, but work to make sure that such classroom incidents are eliminated and good citizenship is taught. Only then you will be doing your job.

And that is what I might say if I actually wrote a letter. What is your reaction?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Day Of Infamy

December 7, 1941. I was eight months old, so I don't remember the "day of infamy". All that I remember are the blackouts that came several years later and then I also remember my dad taking me downtown in Wilmington to watch the celebration when the great war ended. As the years pass, there are fewer people who actually remember that day. But, hopefully, we will never forget what happened. Hopefully we will never forget the 400,000 who died to protect our nation and the freedoms which we so often take for granted today. Most of us do recall 9-11 when we were again attacked. And today brave men and women are again engaged in fierce battles to protect our freedoms. Many are making the ultimate sacrifice for their country as an older generation did nearly seventy years ago. Recently I have learned much about World War II and I've learned that many veterans of that conflict have not ever talked about their experiences because of the deep scars in their memory. Two years ago we were with my Uncle John on D-Day when he opened up and shared details of his experiences during D-Day. He told me how he quoted "The Charge of the Light Brigade" as the men prepared to storm the beach. He told me of the many men, his friends, who died that day. When we visited with him again in August, he again shared with me many stories and pictures as he paged through a large book which recorded the events of the invasion and the days that followed. As my aunt listened, she heard things that he had never shared with anybody before. It was a touching experience. In November we directed a hymn sing at Pinebrook which honored all veterans, but especially those of World War II. Our speaker was Robert Kauffman (no relation) from Emmaus who had just authored a book which shared his experiences in France following the invasion. As I later read his book, I was overwhelmed with the hardships and dangers that these young men faced. Incredible! Following the hymn sing, a number of the veterans also shared some of their stories. For some of them it was the first time that they had ever shared these with anyone. As with my uncle, I felt honored to hear these stories from real patriots. Robert Kauffman ends his book with a moving story about a visit he recently made to a cemetery in Normandy. "I knew that there were 9,000 young Americans buried there, but I was shocked ... that there were 38 sets of brothers buried there and there are 33 sets of brothers buried side by side ... It seemed that each wave as it moved toward the shore still carried with it all of the horror and all the terror of the last few moments of that young man's life and each wave had the sound of a bell tolling out another and another and another of his unlived years. And each succeeding wave carried the painful reminder that the young man buried up there on the bluff overlooking Omaha Beach, unlike me, would never know the fathomless pride of fathering a precious son or daughter. ... and, unlike me, he would never know the profound experience of holding and hugging and kissing a beloved grandson or granddaughter ... and the relenting sound of those waves is God's eternal reminder of the enormity of the price that was paid for our freedom and for my freedom and privilege to stand here. But then I wondered, what more could I say ... to those who suffered such terrible loss, except to repeat to them the words of an anthem for which those young men died:
"Oh beautiful, for heroes proved in liberating strife,
who more than self their country loved,
and mercy more than life.
America, America, God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood,
from sea to shining sea."

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Do Not Touch!

"Tell a man there are 300 million stars in the universe and he'll believe you. Tell him a bench has wet paint on it, and he'll have to touch it to make sure." That was the thought of today that was sent to me yesterday. And as I read it, I couldn't help but smile and agree. Last December, one of the area piano dealers set up a display of pianos in the Park City Mall. One of our fellow walkers, who was a piano teacher, enjoyed stopping her morning walk to play Christmas carols. She was a friend of the owner. She would always invite Dianne to stop and play some impromptu duets with her. The mall walkers enjoyed these unexpected "concerts" and it added to the holiday spirit. This year the same store wasn't there, but a company we never heard of, Piano Direct, set up a display there in November. Unlike the local store, they apparently didn't have covers for their pianos, but they did pay somebody to guard, and I guess try to sell, the pianos during the hours the mall was open. Now I can't blame them at all. Pianos are very expensive and people could have spilled food on them, scraped their finishes, or done other damage. And, in addition to the patroling guards who looked like never smiling bulldogs, they taped the keyboards shut and displayed large signs "Do Not Touch" on each of the pianos. The pianos were protected, but it certainly was not a friendly or even a consumer friendly environment. We never heard any of the pianos played and never saw any customers. And there weren't any "concerts" like there were last year. Now I admit that my carnal nature rose up many days and I enjoyed making a quick touch as I passed them. Why are we like that? I actually wanted to take the tape off and play a few notes, but I also didn't want to get arrested. So I didn't tempt fate, except in my mind where I guess I am guilty. An interesting side note is that they closed their display and moved out November 30. Did they sell any? I really don't know.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Lovers of the English language might enjoy this: How do non-natives ever learn all the nuances of English? There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that word is "UP." It's easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP? At a meeting, why does a topic come UP? Why do we speak UP and why are the officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report? We call UP our friends and we use it to brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver, warm UP the leftovers, and clean UP the kitchen. We lock UP the house and some guys fix UP the old car. At other times the little word has real special meaning. People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses. To be dressed is one thing but to be dressed UP is special. And this UP is confusing: A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP. We open UP a store in the morning, but we close it UP at night. We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP! To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP, look the word UP in the dictionary. In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4 of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions. If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used. It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don't give UP, you may wind UP with a hundred or more. When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP. When the sun comes out we say it is clearing UP. When it rains, it wets UP the earth. When it doesn't rain for a while, things dry UP. One could go on and on, but I'll wrap it UP, for now my time is UP, so ... Time to shut UP! Hope this blog doesn't UPset you too much.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Oh Christmas Tree!

There are two special things that I enjoy doing to relax. One is sitting in our back room, next to our roaring gas stove, watching, through our new large windows, the snow fall and accumulate on our huge pine trees. It is so peaceful and beautiful. The second is sitting in my lounger, listening to beautiful Christmas music, and looking at our Christmas tree. I love the beautiful colors of the tree, especially when everything else in the room is dark. It's a great atmosphere in which to relax and meditate and pray. Unfortunately, before one can enjoy this experience, one must deal with putting up and decorating the tree. A few years ago we got rid of our huge artificial tree that took hours to assemble and purchased a slightly smaller one from Stauffers that was supposed to be much easier to set up. But, we found out, too late, that the branches sag. It looked much nicer in the store. So the first thing we must now do is tie up many of the branches to fill in the open spots. Not much fun. A few days ago I survived that ordeal. Then we began to put on the strings of lights. Dianne had three of the five strings on when we found that many of the lights had burnt out. So we began to work on the fourth string and suddenly all the lights on that string went out. After much frustration, I found that the fuse on that line had blown and, of course, we had no such fuses in our house. So the next morning we were off to the hardware store and when I found fuses, I decided to buy some extra in case more would ever go out. Then we went to another store to buy more replacement bulbs. When we finally got home I replaced the fuse and we began to install bulbs again, only to find out that Lowes had mixed in some of the wrong type bulbs in the rack with the ones we needed. I didn't know that until we opened the one box. Then it was too late. Bummer. I was just able to return one of the boxes. But we had enough to hook up the fourth string. Then suddenly all the lights on the four strings went out. Once again the fuse had blown and now I no longer wanted to take a chance with that string. So I went to work on the fifth string only to find out that it also needed a fuse, and guess what. It took a different size. So back to the store once again. However, this time we just decided to avoid the hassle and purchase two new strings. Have you shopped recently for Christmas tree lights, especially looking for those that match what you already have? Lights now come in all sizes, all colors, and all types, including energy efficient. But we did find two strings of the same size and type that we had. That just about solved our problem. However, we also found that we had some blinking lights mixed in and we really don't want blinking lights - sorry if you like them - we don't. So once again we replaced bulbs. Finally the lights were on! And now we have enough extra bulbs, including blinkers and wrong styles, and fuses to last us a lifetime - or at least until next year - or, hopefully, at least until January. The tree is up and it is beautiful and I am looking forward to a number of nights of relaxation in front of the tree listening to Christmas music. Unfortunately it won't be very long until we need to reverse the process and take all of it down again. That is almost as much work as putting it up. Now, in all fairness, Dianne does much of the work. But I do share in both the work and the frustrations. However, I do have a great creative solution for this problem, but Dianne won't listen to it. Once it is up, why not just keep the tree up all year? Look at all the work and frustration this would eliminate and I could enjoy the tree whenever I wanted to. That solution has my vote! Let me know if you support my solution. I need all the support that I can get on this one.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Dear Editor

I guess letters to the editor are part of the American way, but I am beginning to wonder if they should be continued in local newspapers. It appears that they are becoming much more critical - actually nasty. And it appears to me that those who write them generally fall into certain categories - liberals who defend liberal ideas and denounce conservatives; Ultraconservatives who attack liberals; Special interest activists promoting their causes; Anti-Christians who attack Christian beliefs; Folks who just want to be heard or whose elevators don't reach to the second floor. For example, last week in the Lancaster Sunday News there were letters defending Obama and Pelosi while blaming Bush for all of our problems. That's a regular theme. It was worse prior to the election. There was another letter condemning Republican Congressman Pitts, saying he should not take his salary. There was a letter chastising parents for not having their children ready at the bus stop. I guess the writer must be in a hurry. Of course, maybe she could leave earlier to avoid the buses. There was also a letter saying that a local elementary school could be kept open if the history department were eliminated. I never knew that an elementary school even had a history department. The writer probably failed history when she was in school. But I guess that is "past history". There was also another letter condemning Michael Vick. Writers have trouble with the concept of forgiveness. Fortunately there weren't any letters this week defending gay rights or condemning the county commissioners for eliminating the Human Relations Commission to prevent another tax increase. But there was a letter criticizing comments made by a local Christian pastor. Here is part of what the writer had to say. "If he (the pastor) were to read Bart Ehrman's books about how the early Bible writers - most long after Christ's death - produced wildly different stories about Christ and his relation to us, he might change his mind, but I doubt it. He might adopt the Beiswenger hypothesis and search for the atemporal particle in our neurons that constitutes our soul; that's not much different from his Bible story. Yes, we've all been afraid of dying, but we shouldn't be afraid of being dead, because death is the price of evolution, and we all must recycle our atoms back to the earth. The false hope and threat of the hereafter is encouraged by the princes and by the priests like Steve Cornell. Its principal use is mind control. Live a good life, and live it in the here and now. That much we know." I wonder if the writer's viewpoint will change moments after he dies. Then my favorite - the Sunday before Thanksgiving - defending the poor turkey. Here is part of what the writer had to say. "The 270 million turkeys killed in the U.S. each year have nothing to give thanks for. They breathe toxic fumes in crowded sheds. Their beaks and toes are severed. At the slaughter-house, workers cut their throats and dump them into boiling water, sometimes still conscious. Consumers, too, pay a heavy price. Turkey flesh is laced with cholesterol and saturated fats that elevate the risk of chronic killer diseases. Labels warn of food poisoning potential. This Thanksgiving, our dinner may include a "tofurky," lentil roast, mashed potatoes, corn stuffing, stuffed squash, chestnut soup, candied yams, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and carrot cake. An Internet search on vegan Thanksgiving and a visit to my local supermarket will provide me more recipes and delicious turkey alternatives than I can possibly use." I can't believe that the writer would actually eat all those products which were grown, ripped from the earth, scraped, stuffed into small packages, and finally boiled and cooked. Those poor plants were once alive. Oh well, I enjoyed my turkey at Thanksgiving and I hope that you did too. It was delicious. Sorry turkeys. Now maybe I am wrong about the letters. Maybe they should be continued. Often they are funnier than the comics! But I did learn a few lessons from last Sunday's letters. We must live life in the here and now because past history isn't really important and the future is only a matter of mind control, especially if you are a tortured turkey. And you are certainly wrong if you are a conservative, Christian, or liberal, in fact you are a mindless fool who can't have an opinion. But it really doesn't matter anyway since everything is all George Bush's fault, or maybe Michael Vick's fault. Oh yes, now I have all of that straightened out, at least until I read today's letters. I guess I'll go have some "tofurky" and lentil roast while I read them.