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, August 31, 2011

Good-bye Irene!

Good-bye Irene. I won't say "goodnight Irene" because there wasn't much good about that night with Irene except that it wasn't quite as bad as some had predicted. It left homes and properties devastated with billions of dollars of damage. It produced a major blow to insurance companies and the economy. We didn't anticipate too much of a problem at our house because the forecasts called for only 2-3 inches in our area. We actually had 4.5 inches but we were spared the damage that so many others are still facing. Our problems developed at 3:40 a.m. when we both got awake and suddenly realized that our electricity was off. As I listened to the pounding rain, my first concern was the basement and our sump pump. Thankfully the Lord got us awake just in time because I found that the water had just begun to overflow the pump pit and the water hadn't spread too far. Using a flashlight I quickly found a bucket and began to bail water out and pour it down a nearby sink. Dianne soon joined me. We set up two chairs, turned on a portable radio, and spent the next few hours, in our night clothes, taking turns with the bucket. For the first hour or so the pit filled up about every 3 - 5 minutes. Each time we took out about 4 buckets of water. By about 5 a.m. it slowed to about every 5 - 7 minutes. Later it slowed to about every 10 minutes and it finally began to get light outside. Waiting for the daylight reminded me of the many times we were up at night with sick kids waiting for the morning to come. You feel like it will never happen. I had responsibilities at church to count the morning offerings and present an Awana award. So when it slowed to about every 15 minutes, I left Dianne to handle the water and I went to church. I made a quick trip home between services and then when I finally returned at about 11:40 the electricity finally came on and our problem was solved. And finally we could use our well once again to wash and go to the bathroom. We decided to go out for something for lunch only to find that most restaurants and fast-food places were closed because they had lost their power as well. We finally found a Golden Arches that had just opened and we were their first customers of the day. But that wasn't the entire story. At church in the first service, while the organist was playing the offertory, the power went off. No lights, no instruments, no power points, and no sound system. However, the pastor was able to preach and finish the service in the dark. They began the second service with guitars for the singing. And, just as I was about to present the award, the power came back on. It really was a morning to remember. As far as our basement goes, since we do have a water problem when we get large rains, I guess I need to buy a generator. We had a similar experience back in 1972 during Hurricane Agnes and that really was worse because the storm got ahead of us and we did have considerable water in our basement. But since that time, thank the Lord, we have never had a serious problem of flooding during a power failure, at least for any length of time. So is a generator in our future? That's a good question. But as I said, good-bye Irene! We won't miss you!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Safe And Secure

There are certain commercials that I really don't like. The ad about the fellow who shows up 30 minutes too early for the flash mob is funny - the first or second time. But after the 50th time - forget it. The Comcast ad with the turtles has now become annoying. Then there is the one used in every Phillies game when a Phillie is safe on an extra base hit. The announcers say, "Safe and secure - with New York Life". That statement has now become predictable and annoying. Now what is really safe about New York Life? In this economy is any financial company really safe and secure? In fact we live in a time when nothing in this world is really safe and secure. The stock market certainly isn't and they say social security and medicare may soon run out of money. Last weekend we had severe thunderstorm warnings here. At least this time they didn't include tornado warnings but we have had numerous such warnings this summer. And we have had several destructive tornados just miles from our house in years past. We have been more fortunate than thousands of others. Nothing is safe and secure in a tornado. Tuesday we experienced an earthquake - the most serious one in the east in about 100 years. We have experienced earthquakes here before but thankfully none as bad as those in Japan. Everything can be gone in seconds. Nothing is safe and secure in an earthquake. Now this weekend they are talking about hurricane Irene hitting here. It has the potential to follow the same track as one a century ago which settled over New York City and created devastating 13 foot waves there. Will that happen this time? I certainly hope not. We have experienced hurricane damage and flooded basements in the past and realize that nothing is safe and secure in a hurricane. Finances, health, jobs, pensions, family, possessions - none of these are really safe and secure. So what can we do? Worry? Hide? Get ulcers? I hope that you've personally discovered the only answer which is found in Psalm 46:1, "God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble." Or Psalm 46:7, "The LORD of hosts is with us;The God of Jacob is our refuge." Or Psalm 57:1, "Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me!For my soul trusts in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, Until these calamities have passed by." Or Psalm 62:8, 'Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.' Or Proverbs 14:26, "In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, And His children will have a place of refuge." So come what may, God's children know where they are really safe and secure. Safe and secure - with Jesus Christ!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Thirty Years

Thirty years is either a long time or a short time depending on what has happened during that time. This week will mark 30 years since we started our Awana program and it is hard to believe that it has been that long. It has been an exciting 30 years and we have watched the Lord work in so many marvelous ways during that time. When we began we decided to hold a training class during Sunday School, beginning in September. And if by December we had at least a dozen folks committed to the ministry, we would start it in January. I taught the class and in December we had 20 adults ready to go. And since then the ministry has grown. We will begin this year with a staff of at least 90. During these years we've now trained and certified over 270 adults. We've had the experience of working in three different locations as our church has relocated. In the second building we had to create game areas in two different locations and that meant measuring and laying tape on carpet, several times. Often we have faced what appeared to be major obstacles in replacing staff, especially key club leaders. But every year the Lord has answered our prayers and provided the people that we needed. Last year we had a major need for men to work with our boys in grades 3 -6 and the Lord actually provided more than we needed. This year we had a major need to replace most of the staff in another club and the Lord again provided all the help that we need. Often we needed to replace key directors and the Lord led us to just the right replacements. I should not be amazed, but I admit that I still am. Now as you might guess, I am thoroughly sold on the Awana program. Their goal is to reach boys and girls with the gospel of Christ and train them to serve Him. The key verse is 2 Timothy 2:15 from which the name comes - Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed. Their major emphasis is teaching children fundamental Biblical concepts and memorization of scripture. It is fun to see our kids excel in regional Bible quizzes and in Awana games. But the greatest thrills for me are to see a youngster come to know Christ personally or for me to present Sparky and Timothy Awards in our morning worship service to those who have disciplined themselves to complete the Awana curriculum. I will have the privilege of presenting a Timothy this coming Sunday morning. During the past year Dianne and I have had the special honor of completing Commander College 101 and 201. Despite our years of service there is so much to learn and so much more that we would like to see accomplished. But we know that we don't have 30 more years to do that. In fact we're not sure how many more years we will have. We are training replacements and we know their time to take over is approaching quickly. Life does go quickly when you are serving the Lord. We would enjoy being able to attend the final training program, Commanders College 301 in Chicago, but that appears to just be a dream. In the meantime, here we go again with another exciting year of Awana. Pray with us that many children will be reached for the Lord this year and that children will grow in their love and passion for the Lord. And while you are at it, join us in praying for the 14 adopted clubs that our Awana sponsors internationally as well as for a new Spanish club in Reading that we are helping to sponsor . Incidentally, over 12,000 churches in the U.S. now sponsor Awana clubs reaching 1.5 million children. Another 10,000 are reached internationally. Pray for this great ministry.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tradition, Tradition

Over the past few years I have begun to realize how important it is for parents to establish traditions for their children and to do things to pass their legacy to future generations. This has become an important activity and goal for me and I have done numerous things to pass my godly heritage to my children, grandchildren and maybe someday even to my great grandchildren. I have had the opportunity to share this concern and some ideas at Pinebrook and in a Sunday School class years ago, but it is not a "hot" topic and there seems to be little interest in it. But most families do have traditions. Some are better than others. One of ours is that we annually host a birthday dinner for each of our grandchildren. They get to select the menu. We have had everything from pizza to ham to hoagies to chicken pot pie, and much more. Then we make them a special cake. Each year, until they are 13, the cake is a special shape that has some special significance in their lives. Once they are 13 they receive a cake in the shape of a heart but they still may decide what kind of cake and icing we should make. As part of our tradition, we always sing together the prayer which goes "We thank thee Lord for this our food, God is love, God is love. But most of all for Jesus' blood, God is love, God is love. These mercies bless and grant that we may live and feast and reign with Thee, may live and feast and reign with Thee, God is love, God is love. Amen". And all learn the words and participate. I recall having sung this at family gatherings on my father's side since I was a toddler. It is one tradition that I want to continue to pass on. The cakes have been a challenge. I do most of the designing, Dianne does the baking, and we share the decorating. I've just placed 18 pictures of some of these on my Facebook wall. One of our granddaughters has had a butterfly, a castle, a cat (her pet), a horse (her hobby), a piano, a dolphin, and a violin. Her sister has had a Christmas tree, a cat, a panda, a teddy bear, a reindeer, a Christmas stocking (her birthday is near Christmas), and a bicycle. A grandson has received a crown (he used our King puppet in Awana) and a football. Another granddaughter received a soccer ball, a soccer ball (guess what sport she likes), a roller coaster, and a blonde wig (she had the lead in a church musical and dressed with a blonde wig). A grandson has received an ark (guess what his name is), a Sparky (an award won in Awana), a snowman, a french horn (guess what he plays), a Brian Westbrook uniform, and an angel (he had the lead in a church musical as an angel). Pictures of each of these are included in the annual family DVD which I make each Christmas for the families. Traditions are important as are other activities for sharing your legacy - maybe I'll need to write blogs about some of these ideas in the future. However, many of my writings and pictures can be found on my web site, fbfawana.com. Well we have another birthday this Sunday - number 11 for one of my granddaughters. She has asked for ham loaf, mashed potatoes, french green beans, chocolate cake with white icing and Lady Liberty ice cream. And her cake is done! It's her favorite of the three instruments which she plays - a trumpet. A two-layer trumpet which is made from two flat cakes. And you have a special preview of the finished product - just don't tell her about it or you'll spoil the Sunday surprise.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Turn Your AC On

I never enjoyed history when I was young, but the older I get, the more interesting history becomes. I guess that is because I've actually now lived through a great deal of history. And there are so many interesting stories that folks often don't know about. One of those is about the Goldberg Brothers, the inventors of the automobile air conditioner. The four Goldberg brothers, Lowell, Norman, Hiram, and Max, invented and developed the first automobile air-conditioner. On July 17, 1946, the temperature in Detroit was 97 degrees. The four brothers walked into old man Henry Ford's office and sweet-talked his secretary into telling him that four gentlemen were there with the most exciting innovation in the auto industry since the electric starter. Henry was curious and invited them into his office. They refused and instead asked that he come out to the parking lot to their car. They persuaded him to get into the car, which was about 130 degrees, turned on the air conditioner and cooled the car off immediately. The old man got very excited and invited them back to the office, where he offered them $3 million for the patent. The brothers refused, saying they would settle for $2 million, but they wanted the recognition by having a label, 'The Goldberg Air-Conditioner,' on the dashboard of each car in which it was installed. Old man Ford was more than just a little anti-Semitic, and there was no way he was going to put the Goldberg's name on two million Fords. They haggled back and forth for about two hours and finally agreed on $4 million and that just their first names would be shown. And so for many decades, all Ford air conditioners showed - Lo, Norm, Hi and Max - on the controls. And that's the news - have a great day!

Friday, August 12, 2011

It's Coming!

It's coming! I can feel it! My favorite season will soon be here. I love the cooler temperatures. I love the colored leaves. I love the fields filled with pumpkins. I enjoy the smells of burning leaves and wood burning in fireplaces. And I love football. Now the calendar certainly indicates that Fall should soon be here. But here are my top ten indicators that tell me it is coming quickly.
10. It's getting dark earlier - daylight is really getting shorter.
9. High school sports teams are beginning to practice and today, in the mail, we received the school calendar for the coming year. It's on its way!
8. We're getting sick of reruns on television. They aren't too bad the second time, but the third time - boring. Bring on the new shows.
7. Garden stores are beginning to sell mums. I love to see mums bloom in Fall.
6. People are beginning to talk about wild card teams for the October baseball play-offs. Hopefully the Phillies won't need to worry about winning a wild card spot this year unless they begin to fall apart. And that has happened to the Phillies before.
5. Advertising for Awana begins, I have meetings each Wednesday beginning next week and I am spending hours getting everything ready to go again - for the 30th year.
4. Our tomatoes are all getting ripe at the same time. We are living on tomato sandwiches and tomato salads ... and we have tomatoes, and tomatoes and tomatoes!
3. The kids are counting how many days of vacation are left until school begins. The parents probably began doing that in June.
2. The cicadas are singing loudly and the cicada killers are busy attacking them and digging up our yard.
1. And my number one indicator is that the Penn State football board has started its countdown to the first kickoff. While I am writing this, the clock says there are 21 days, 14 hours, 12 minutes and 53 seconds until the opening kickoff. And when you read this blog the clock will already be much closer to 0 0 0 0! Let's go Lions.
Ready or not, here comes Fall!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Lesson Lived - Lesson Learned

Monday morning I heard a song that was new to me. I don't know the title nor the artist, but the message was clear - his father taught him many lessons. One of the things mentioned in the song was how the family used to take an elderly lady to church each week. That message stirred my memories. My parents were married about the time World War II broke out. Times were tough. Jobs were scarce. For about eight years of married life they lived without owning an automobile. This is so impressive since during those years they moved seven times. During the war, among other things, dad taught Air Force cadets at Susquehanna University and worked on the Manhattan Project in Wilmington, Delaware. He also taught math and physics at Doylestown High School, New Cumberland High School and Elizabethtown College. He coached football and had to travel fall weekends to scout opposing teams. He had two young sons to support and all of this was done without an automobile. He spent considerable time walking and traveling by bus and train during those years. And, we never missed getting to church and weekly he had to carry groceries home by hand. All this was done without a car. Then, when I was in second grade, he purchased his first car, a Ford, from Garber Motors in Elizabethtown. Now we could drive to Harrisburg to go to church, three times a week. We could visit relatives and do many of the things we couldn't really do before. Then we moved to Lancaster where dad helped establish a new church. During the initial services, in a tent, we met an elderly lady, Mrs. Brenneman, who came to the services by bus. Dad told her that we could provide transportation for her and for many years we did that, each Sunday. During those years she lived in two different locations, neither of which were on our normal route to church. Later she moved to Lititz. Again we would take her to church, each week, even though it meant six of us squeezing into dad's car. Finally she was physically unable to come anymore. And the transportation stopped, but not for long. There was another lady who lived in Lititz, Mrs. Sturgis, who had formerly attended our denomination's church in Easton. She wanted to attend our church and once again the weekly transportation was provided by dad. But this situation was a little tougher - our family was growing up and needed more room. And Mrs. Sturgis was very overweight - and that is saying it as kindly as possible. In fact at one point she even broke the springs in our car. But I never heard dad complain. But what I do remember is that during these years he often said that the car wasn't his - it was the Lord's. He had struggled for many years without one until the Lord provided one for him. And he dedicated its use to the Lord, not just in name but in practice. That was true of all that my father and mother had. And they lived that way through the lean years as well as through the years of plenty. They continually thanked God for all that they had and they were always ready to use it for the Lord. Our home was always open to host missionaries, visiting speakers, and students. They provided meals and clothing to others. They hosted Bible clubs for children and they supported many ministries with their time and money. All that they had was the Lord's. And that is a lesson I hope that I too will practice and never forget. Lesson lived - lesson learned.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Daily Ups and Downs

One day last week personal comments from three different people really impacted my emotions that day. All three made comments - two of them were public - about things I had done. I was surprised because I really didn't expect any of the three. One negative one came from a person I don't know very well. And it hurt even though I realize our lifestyles are very different. The other two were from people that I know who are born again Christians. One of these two is very vocal about his/her faith and you aren't with that person very long until you hear of all the "ministries" he/she and his/her church are involved in. And they are really good ministries and I think he/she is sincere and is being used by the Lord. But this person has very strong opinions and isn't always bashful about sharing them. Comments made by this person have hurt before and this unnecessary public comment stung once again. Being human, my first thought was to defend myself and strike back. I thought of all sorts of comments I could make in return. But as I thought about it, it certainly wasn't a way a Christian should respond. Better just to turn the other cheek. So I have decided not to react, but to forgive, try to forget and just move on. However, I was reminded of the scripture verse, Colossians 4:6 "Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man." Unfortunately, just because we are born again doesn't mean that our speech will be perfect. Our tongues still can create problems. But as Christians we must recognize the need to speak with grace to those who cross our paths - believers and unbelievers. That isn't always easy. Another of my favorite verses is Psalm 19:14 "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer." I find that I need to pray that many times throughout the day and I think most Christians probably need to also make this a daily request. Now to finish my story. I mentioned the two critical comments that were made to me, but there was a third one that day. A dear Christian brother surprised me by calling just to say "thank you" for a decision that I had made and to tell me how excellent that decision was. I didn't ask for this reaction nor did I expect it. But it sure was an encouragement to me and it more than balanced out the two negative comments I received that day. God is so good. I need to be more sensitive to others and to encourage them as this caller did for me. We don't need to attack or wound fellow believers - the world does this enough to us. Let me urge you to watch what you say - and think - and to encourage somebody today. Years ago I heard "To live with saints above, oh that will be glory. But to live with saints below, well that's a different story." It's sad that there is so much truth to that saying. Have a great day! God is still on the throne and He is in control! And, keep looking up!

Monday, August 1, 2011

You've Got Mail!

It started like any typical Monday morning. I headed to my den to check the morning mail - the e-mail that is. I was waiting for some replies to e-mails that I had sent over the weekend. I needed to check the tracking information on some products that I had ordered online. I needed to see if there were any prayer chain requests that I needed to send out to the prayer chain which we supervise. I wanted to check to see if my newest blog was online as scheduled. I wanted to update my website. I was hoping to get an update on my cousin who has been in the hospital for several weeks. I wanted to see if there were any updates and new verbals on the Penn State website which I check daily. And I wanted to see if there were any messages from friends, either by e-mail or on Facebook. But after my computer fired up I found that I couldn't get online. I tried our other computer with the same results. And I checked our new iPad and found the same problem. I tried a different browser and still couldn't get online. In frustration I checked all the connections. I unplugged the modem and the router, reset them, and rebooted with no change. Then I decided to call Verizon, our internet supplier. I finally waded through all their menus and finally received a message that there had been an outage in the Lancaster area but service was now restored. I was told to pull out the power supplies to the modem and router, wait 60 seconds, plug them back in and reboot. For the second time I did that and still had no service. Frustration was now building up. It was amazing to me how isolated I began to feel. I was not able to communicate with the outside world - at least by computer. It almost felt like we had a snowstorm or bad electrical storm and were housebound with no electricity. I then had a reality check and realized that it was just the internet and I could survive without it. But I kept trying, unsuccessfully, throughout the morning. Finally, early in the afternoon I decided to call Verizon once again. I spent 35 minutes going through their phone system. They required me to go through the routine of unplugging and rebooting once again before I could talk to a real person. Finally I reached what I guess was a real person who spoke in broken English. Despite their recorded message that all service was restored, I think he told me that their technicians were still working on the problem and that it would soon be restored. I gave up and decided just to wait. A few hours later it was restored and life returned to "normal". But the experience reminded me of how much we are learning to depend upon the modern technology. I was embarrassed to realize how isolated I felt when I couldn't use it. And yet I am not alone. I still am amazed to see folks everywhere - driving, shopping, walking - talking into their phones. Many others are listening to their iPods. How dependent we've become. I am convinced that one of the biggest terror threats to our country is the loss of electricity and internet service. We couldn't bank, we couldn't buy, we couldn't communicate, and we'd all feel isolated. And that might be devastating to many in today's technology dependent society. That's enough for now - I really need to check my e-mail.