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

Friday, April 27, 2012

Saving Money

Today I want to share my plan to reduce the state and national debts.  Let's start by eliminating all primary elections.  Last Tuesday I spent almost all day from 6 am to 9 pm waiting for a few hundred voters to show up and exercise their freedom to vote.  Because it was a primary they could only vote for their party and in most cases there were no real contests.  Not including the cost of all of the equipment, it probably cost at least $1,000 in salaries, rentals, and materials to run our precinct for the 301 voters (16% of eligible voters) who showed up.  And this is not unusual for an annual primary. Now I think there are about 250 precincts in Lancaster County alone.  So there is about $250,000, plus I don't know how much more in costs for all the full-time staff that works for the election bureau.  In addition to handling absentee ballots and registration they must prepare, deliver and pick-up the equipment.  They must also spend weeks verifying the returns from each precinct.  Now multiply that amount by 67 counties and you can begin to see how much is spent, or let me say, wasted on a primary.  Now my suggestion is to eliminate the primary and let each party send out ballots or find another way to select their candidates.  And let those not selected by the party have their names placed on the final ballot by getting a minimum number of signatures on petitions.  Now that change alone would save millions annually for a state that is facing severe financial difficulties.  Then I would also reform national campaigns. I would eliminate super PACs.  One of these PACs plans to raise 240 million to influence campaigns this Fall.  Multiply this by all of these PAC's and use this money instead to support medicare or reduce the national debt.  Limit the amount that a campaign can spend - let's say 60 million dollars for a national campaign.  In his last  campaign our president is said to have spent almost a billion dollars - not million, but billion!  Wouldn't this have been better spent on reducing the national debt?  And a limit on campaign spending might even reduce the negative advertising that floods television.  It might also make it easier for a common person to compete and gain office instead of just the rich and connected as happens today.  And let's limit the campaign to three debates - we don't need more than that, especially if they are handled correctly and hit the main issues.  Maybe by curtailing campaign activities we would have kinder, more civilized campaigns that would be centered on the issues rather than on the negativity that we now experience.  And while we are reforming things, let's also eliminate the recorded telephone messages. I'm sick of them - they give me a negative impression of the candidate especially when I must interrupt a meal or other work to answer them.  And why are these calls exempt from the no-call policy?  Well I know such changes are just a dream.  Nobody will consider them seriously - maybe they make too much sense.  But if we are serious about saving money and reducing state and national debt, here would be a great place to start. As the debt deepens we will continue to spend millions and billions on the election "circus".  But I guess such changes would run counter  to the main goal of most elected officials to get themselves reelected over and over again.  Term limits?  Well that is another issue for another day.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Safe And Secure!

Do I look like a terrorist? Are old guys who are growing bald with a little white hair remaining considered threats? Maybe it was my old inexpensive St. John's pants that fit a profile. I still don't know why I was picked out for special security checks while trying to enter the O'Hare Airport at Chicago. We progressed through the waiting line with no problem. My boarding pass and photo license were fine. I did have some trouble placing my things on the security line because when I took off my belt I almost lost my pants! So I had to hold up my pants while opening my brief case and emptying my pockets. But I made it. Then I came to the body scanner. I was fine until I had to hold my hands over my head. Fortunately, my pants stayed up. Nothing beeped so I assumed that I was fine and I moved ahead. But then I was stopped by security. I was first asked if I had anything in my pockets. I told them only my wallet. I was asked to remove it and hold it in front of me. I was then patted down. Fortunately my pants stayed up. Maybe I shouldn't have lost weight. But I wasn't done. The examiner then took my wallet, held it in front of me, and went through it. I guess it passed. But I still wasn't done. Next he went and got some sort of liquid and spread it over the palms of both of my palms. Then he pressed another piece of something on my palms and took it to some machine to be examined. Finally I received the approval to enter. I made it! Oh yes, I quickly put my belt back on. We were very early for our flight so we stayed about ten minutes and watched other folks come through the check point. A few were stopped and patted down, but I didn't see anybody else receive all the checks that I did. I would have liked to ask why they were checking me so closely, but they didn't seem too friendly and I really didn't want to call any more attention to myself. The only other time that we had a problem with security at an airport was in Florida when one of us set off the alarm. But they got mixed up and checked out the wrong one of us. That mistake didn't make us feel much safer about flying. So I guess I'll never know what they suspected about me in Chicago. However, later I remembered that I did have surgery a few years ago and had a plate and seven screws placed in my right thumb. I was told by the surgeon that this would never cause any security problems. But now I wonder if with the new full body scans that might have set off an alarm. Or maybe the security folks just wanted to see my pants fall down. I guess I'll never know. But at least all the passengers on our plane flew in confidence knowing that I was thoroughly checked and no explosives were found.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


For thirty years we have been involved in the Awana ministry. During those years this ministry has grown and expanded. Today it is international, reaching nearly one million children in other countries and one million in this country. Awana has expanded its outreach to prisons, to children at risk, to fathers, and to numerous other groups, in addition to its main ministry to children. Last week we had the honor of attending Commander College 301 in Chicago. It is an intensive three day program for commanders who have completed CC101 and CC201. We had completed those levels at Hershey and at Pittsburgh. The theme of this final level training was legacy, a topic that has been very dear to my heart in recent years. We were challenged to leave a godly legacy for our Awana club, for our church, and for our family. We were taught by outstanding speakers, we studied scripture, we participated in discussion sessions, and we exchanged ideas with key commanders and missionaries from all over the country. We studied from early morning to late evening - it was intensive. We also had a special chance to renew acquaintances with six great friends from Idaho, New York, and Pennsylvania that we met in CC201. We spent time with new friends from California, Texas, Michigan, Tennessee, Kansas, Illinois, and numerous other states. These folks are special because of their love for the Lord, their passion to serve the Lord, and to share the gospel with children. We had the special honor of meeting Art Rohrheim, the founder of Awana who is now in his nineties and still very active (see the picture). Art has probably had the greatest impact on sharing the gospel with children around the world than any other person in history. We also toured the church where Awana actually grew and expanded about sixty years ago and we saw the old Awana circle which is painted on the floor there. The first Awana Games event was held there. We met many of the folks from the home office and we saw where they work and where all the shipping is done. It was a special experience. The names of all Meritorious and Citation Award winners are displayed at the headquarters and we were able to find my name. So now the Lord has allowed me to complete the highest award that a clubber can earn and the highest training that a commander can receive. I will always have a passion for the work of Awana and sometimes I regret that I'm no longer able to do all that could be done with the Awana ministry. We concluded the conference on Saturday night with a banquet where about 50 of us were presented with diplomas, gold name tags, and gold clocks to signify that we are now official graduates of the Awana Commander College program. It was so hard to leave all of our new friends. We have been challenged and there is so much to do before the Lord returns. But it is encouraging to know that there is an organization like Awana and so many dedicated folks like we met who are sacrificing to reach children around the world with the gospel. Unfortunately there is not a Commanders College 401!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Disappointment But Profitable Anyway

Today we are in Chicago. We completed Awana Commanders College 301 yesterday and tomorrow we fly home. We had planned today to make the trip to Rhinelander, Wisconsin to visit my aunt and uncle. It is a six hour drive each way and we were planning to drive the 12 hours to spend a few hours with them. We were really looking forward to being with them. However, God had other plans for us. The midwest was hit with very dangerous and devastating weather and today's forecast called for severe storms, heavy winds, hail, and possible tornados all along our route during the times we would go and return. So about 5 am we made the difficult decision to cancel our plans and stay here in Chicago. What a major disappointment, but rather safe than sorry. So we decided to go to the early service at Willow Creek. We had been there twice before, years ago. However, that was before they built their 7,200 seat auditorium. It is hard to describe the place if you have never been there but there are all sorts of large worship areas for various age groups. There is a large bookstore, large dining areas, and numerous areas where you can purchase meals of all types. When we were there the last time I had two observations that I haven't forgotten. First, the congregation applauded the pastor when he was done and then much of the crowd ran out to the restaurant in another part of the building. Today there were large staffed areas to greet visitors. CD's and DVD's of the service were available to purchase right after the service concluded. There were banks of computers to locate information about the facilities and programs. And, if you didn't have access to the internet at home, you could use these to sign up for things at the church. No old fashioned sign up lists here. When the doors opened to the auditorium, we were greeted warmly by the church greeters who were all over the auditorium. Unfortunately, that was the last time we were greeted or welcomed by anybody, except a few of our friends from the Awana conference. I guess that is one of the problems with a large church. We came and went and nobody will ever realize that we were there and that we probably won't be back again. The service itself featured excellent use of technology and an upbeat praise team of talented musicians. Actually, while it was a little loud at times for me, the music was very well done and was very worshipful. I especially was touched with the way they led "How Great Is Our God" which is one of my favorites. I don't know who the speaker was. It obviously wasn't the senior pastor who we've missed each time we've been there. He shared Psalm 100 with the theme of using music to praise, thank, and worship God. It was well done and very challenging. All the worship music emphasized and was built on that theme. It was especially interesting to me that the Psalm he chose concluded with "His truth endures to all generations". The theme of our Awana conference was legacy - leaving a legacy for your Awana club, for your church, and for your family. The Psalm was an appropriate exclamation mark for our four days here. Yes, it was a major disappointment to not get to Rhinelander as planned, but I needed to be in a full worship service, something I haven't had the opportunity to do in several months. I guess the Lord knew I needed that. God is good all the time. And, incidentally, while I am writing this, we still haven't had any rain, wind, hail, or storms!

Thursday, April 12, 2012


When I was younger I really followed most sports closely, but for a variety of reasons that has changed as I've gotten older. Today my interests are basically college football (Penn State in particular), the Phillies, the Eagles and post season pro football, the NCAA basketball championship rounds, some college volleyball matches, and the summer Olympics. That's about it. Tennis matches are too long, soccer is so boring, and I'm still not sure why they call NASCAR a sport. Now there are times that I do enjoy the final holes of a big golf tournament. I did enjoy the end of the Masters last weekend - it was exciting and there were some great shots. But other than that, I'm not into golf. Years ago I did some golfing, but it always made my back problems worse, so I gave it up. Think about how much money I have saved over the decades. But golf is a way of life for many folks. Recently I read a number of interesting quotes about the game. Let me share some of them with you. (1) "The ardent golfer would play Mount Everest if somebody would put a flag stick on top."-- Pete Dye (2)"Golf is played by twenty million mature American men whose wives think they are out having fun." - Jim Bishop (3) "It took me seventeen years to get three thousand hits in baseball. I did it in one afternoon on the golf course."-- Hank Aaron (4) "Golf is a game in which you yell "fore," shoot six, and write down five." -- Paul Harvey (5) "Have you ever noticed what golf spells backwards?" -- Al Boliska (6) "The only time my prayers are never answered is on the golf course." -- Billy Graham (7) "Go play golf. Go to the golf course. Hit the ball. Find the ball. Repeat until the ball is in the hole. Have fun. The end." -- Chuck Hogan (8) "If you think it's hard to meet new people, try picking up the wrong golf ball." -- Jack Lemmon (9) "It's good sportsmanship to not pick up lost golf balls while they are still rolling."-- Mark Twain (10) "Golf is a game in which one endeavors to control a ball with implements ill adapted for the purpose." -- Woodrow Wilson (11) "They call it "golf" because all the other four-letter words were taken." -- Raymond Floyd.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Enough Is Enough!

During the last three weeks we have participated in activities involving the deaths of eight of our acquaintances and because of physical problems there could even be several more in the weeks ahead. I had commented on this experience in a recent blog, but today I want to share with you some observations and personal opinions that have resulted from these experiences. First, it continues to bother me that folks will come to a visitation just minutes before the service is to begin and expect to still visit the family. It is rude and not fair to the family who must prepare themselves for the emotional service ahead. It isn't fair to those who've come on time and now must sit and wait for the service to begin. How should you deal with such inconsiderate folks? Announce the visitation time to end 15 minutes before the service is to begin and then cut the line off when it reaches the point where folks can no longer get through the line in the allotted time. A related problem is those in line who expect to spend 5 or 10 minutes greeting family members while other stand and wait. Offer your sympathy and quick memories and move on. If you want to say more, visit them or take them out for a meal a few weeks later when everybody forgets them and loneliness really sinks in. And then there are the greetings themselves. Please don't use the Christian "cop out" that "I'm praying for you" - unless you really are. And don't say that "if there is anything I can do for you, please let me know". That sounds so noble but you know you aren't going to be asked for help by the grieving person. Instead, take them out for dinner a few weeks later or drop by their house to do some errands. Take your mouth out of gear and put your legs into motion. And please don't quote Psalm 116:15 "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints." This certainly is true, but it hurts and isn't much comfort when a loved one has just been taken away, especially if the grieved are questioning why the death has happened. The knowledge and impact of this truth will come later to those who are grieved. I also get bothered about the hundreds of dollars spent on flowers which are often left to decay after the service. I used to dig graves at a cemetery in Sunbury and would watch beautiful expensive flowers just rot on the closed graves. Instead, give to a memorial fund that the family designates - but as financial secretary of our church I know that few people ever do this. Maybe it just isn't as "showy" as a large basket of flowers. Then there is the funeral service itself. I do think the pastor should build the service around the wishes of the departed or their loved ones - that makes it more memorable. But I personally don't care for an "open mike". I've seen all sorts of things happen with this. Sometimes nobody has anything to say - embarrassing. Sometimes folks folks talk forever - boring. We were at one recently where the comments went on for well over an hour. Sometimes I think participants just want to call attention to themselves and what they did for the departed. And there are times when the speaker gets so emotional that nobody knows what they are trying to save - this also happened at a funeral we attended recently. It is good to hear personal reflections but it would be much better to have the speakers planned ahead of time or to have comments submitted before the service for the pastor to read. Then there are differences in the way funeral directors run things. For example, I think it is terrible when the family must close the casket with mourners watching. That should be a private time. We were at a funeral recently where the funeral director asked the mourners in the sanctuary to be quiet while they waited for the family to be seated. Unfortunately everyone stopped talking, the music stopped, and we could then hear the family crying as they closed the casket behind us. That was uncomfortable and unnecessary. And finally, we attended a viewing of the father-in-law of a friend of ours. When we left we didn't take one of the funeral folders because we didn't really know the man and didn't want or need one. The funeral director apparently thought that was terrible of us and she questioned us at length about who we were and why we were there when we tried to leave without one. That was really none of her business. We finally "escaped", without a folder. When we got to our car I told my wife that we should have told her that we were just visiting funeral homes this week to look at dead people. Now would that have been good funeral etiquette?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The April Fool

As a teacher I was always looking for creative and unusual ways to get a point across to my students. I was always sure that given a chance I could teach a fake lesson and my students would follow along, take notes, nod their heads in agreement, and not challenge what I said. And so I began a tradition of every few years on April 1 teaching the Looflirpa Theorem. And I was generally very successful in pulling it off. One year I was so successful that even though the next day my students were told that it was fake and we reviewed the incorrect steps, I still had a student who tried to apply it on the final exam. Well I thought that if I could pull this off in the classroom I could probably do the same thing to our friends by e-mail. And so about a decade ago I began a new "tradition". After we returned from a trip to Florida I prepared an e-mail which said that we had so much fun there that we were purchasing a home and moving there in a few months. My April Fool's Day e-mail was so very effective - the best one ever - that we had friends calling and tearfully saying how much they would miss us. That one has been hard to beat. But every year since then I have sent out an e-mail presenting a "fake" problem - a new law that was passed, a tax increase on gum and candy, a charge for bulk mailing our prayer chain e-mails, etc. Some have worked, others have not. Last year I shared that Taco Bell was obtaining the naming rights to the Liberty Bell and would rename it the Taco Bell. This really upset a number of folks until they went to my link and realized that it was my annual prank. But each year it has become harder to do one since folks now are expecting it and are on guard. I had decided to "retire" this year and give it up. And I probably should have quit while I was ahead. However, several folks wrote to me or talked to me on Sunday morning and wondered when I was going to send out my annual e-mail. A few years ago even our pastor mentioned this "tradition" in one of his messages. So I thought I'd give it one more shot and late Sunday afternoon I sent one out informing folks that I might have spread a virus that would affect everyone in my address book beginning April 6 (my birthday). I always prepare a web page and send folks to it to reveal that it is an April Fool's Day joke. I provided a link to this page telling them that there they would find the remedy and protection for this virus. But this year I ran into numerous problems. Several reported back that the link wouldn't work for them and wondered what they should do to avoid the virus. I either sent them another link or told them to relax since it was just a joke. When I received numerous "complaints" about the enclosed link I had to send out another bulk e-mail with a new link. Some wanted to make sure that the e-mail really came from me before they clicked on the link and got another virus. One waited to have the tech person at work check her computer. A couple of others called us because they were worried about what we had done to their computer. And a few others ignored it completely or assumed that it was a joke and didn't even try the link. Only a few replied that they were tricked and thought it was funny. One said "you got me once again" and another "hook, line and sinker - we are still laughing about it!" It is interesting, however, that despite the reactions and concerns, my counter on the linked web page shows over 130 hits. Maybe this year I may have gone too far. I probably upset a number of folks and have others who didn't check the link worried about the April 6 virus. Hopefully after April 6 I will be forgiven. So maybe it is really time to "retire" this "tradition". Maybe this year I was really the April Fool!