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 29, 2012

Keep Looking Up!

My grandfather was one of the most godly persons that I have ever known.  He had a tremendous influence on my life and on the lives of countless others.  He was in the ministry for over 65 years and was actually our pastor for a few of those years in Sunbury. I also had the special privilege of living with the Wolfs for three of the years that I was in college.  On the 65th anniversary of his entering the ministry, a special celebration was held in his honor.  Members from his former congregations came from all over to honor him and grandma Wolf that night.  Recently my cousin prepared a CD of that service.  It was stirring for me to listen to it because so many of the people who shared that night were influential in my life and are now with the Lord.  At the end of the service Grandpa Wolf was given a chance to share a few words.  I have never known any pastor who could share such profound thoughts in such a short time.  He had a special gift to be able to do that so effectively.  That night he shared  a story about a neighborhood boy he learned to know when he served in Bethlehem.  The day after Halloween he discovered that somebody had taken his gate from the fence in the backyard.  He searched around the entire neighborhood for the gate but was unable to locate it.  Finally he saw this young lad in the alley behind the parsonage and he told the lad that his gate had disappeared.  He offered the boy ten cents for an ice cream cone if he could locate it.  That  reward offer gives you an idea of how long ago this happened.  The boy accepted the offer and then pointed up in the air.  As Grandpa looked up he discovered that the gate was hanging on the telephone phone.  He continued by saying that he had looked for it everywhere but up.  He then concluded that this is the way that we often handle situations in life.  We look everywhere but up.  Not only is that a great lesson but it explained to me where my grandfather's favorite expression might have come from.  All of us who were under his ministry know that he continually exhorted us to "keep looking up".  I know that this was meant as a reminder that our strength and wisdom come only from the Lord and we need to continually look to Him for our help.  But I think it was also a reminder that we are to be watching for the return of the Lord.  We don't know when that will happen but we need to live each moment in anticipation that it might be today.  I guess because of the truth of this phrase and probably also in memory of my grandfather, I find that the older I get, the more I am also using that phrase.  So I don't know what your needs are for this moment, but my message to you today is ... keep looking up!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Dr. Bryson

It was 49 years ago this month that we moved to Lancaster County into a house in Silver Springs.  We had looked for a place to rent for several months and finally decided upon this country location even though it was farther from my work than we had wanted.  We were there just a few days when our baby, Craig, became very ill. We weren't there long enough to have even looked for a doctor, but we located a Dr. Richard Bryson who had a general practice in Landisville.  He told us to come to his office as soon as I got home from work and we rushed to his office  He looked at Craig, recognized the symptoms, called a surgeon and sent us directly to the hospital.  Two hours later Craig was in surgery with a very rare intestinal problem,  Thankfully they caught it in time to not only save his life but to repair it without even cutting the intestine.  Craig was four months old.  The condition was so rare that most doctors never ever see it.  Dr. Bryson had only seen one such case before - his own daughter.  And because he recognized the symptoms the surgery could be done in time.  This was definitely a God thing and we continue to thank God for leading us to this doctor.  And obviously Dr. Bryson became our family doctor and our friend.  For about 27 years we saw him regularly.  He delivered our son Ken.  He took care of me when I had kidney stones.  We could call him anytime of the day or night. We even called him a few times when we were out of town.  He provided medicine for us when we needed it. In fact he helped us out with a sick son one Christmas morning.  He was an old fashioned doctor who was always available and willing to help. He probably would have had trouble operating in today's world of regulations and restrictions.  He was an important part of our lives.  Then he developed a heart problem and decided to go into early retirement so that he could have heart surgery.  It was like having a friend die. And we had to begin the search for a new doctor knowing there would never be a Dr. Bryson. And since that time we've only gotten to see him a few times.  A few years ago his wife died and a daughter also passed away.  Those must have been tough times for him.  Then on Thursday morning we opened the newspaper to see that he had passed away.  Even though we've gone through several other family doctors since he had retired, his death still seems to leave a hole in our lives.  He was a good family doctor and a good man.  He was an elder and Sunday School teacher in his church.  He was a friend to so many from many generations.  We were blessed because our paths crossed here on this earth.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Are You Registered?

There are many times that I just don't understand some Christians.  For example, sometimes their letters to the editor are so poorly written and so legalistic that it is embarrassing.  The way some of them sling scripture at unbelievers makes it easy to understand why we are ridiculed as being intolerant and ignorant.  Do we lose our brains when we are born again?  Sometimes it makes you wonder.  Now another area that continues to surprise me is the way some Christians handle elections.  We have one of the most important national elections in our history coming up in November, and many Christians are not even registered.  Some who are say they just won't vote this time.  Others say that they will vote for Ron Paul and that is really a vote for Obama.  Now the problem is that many Christians don't want to vote for a mormon.  It appears that they would rather keep a president who is one of the most liberal in history, one who supports gay marriage and homosexual rights, one who has supported class warfare, one who has supported laws that restrict our religious rights, one who supports socialistic principles, one who is antibusiness, and one who believes that government handouts and expenditures should be expanded.  Now these same folks will condemn those practices and this president but in turn they will not vote or will waste their vote on a man who has no chance of winning.  And that folks is just a vote for the way things currently are.  Now would I prefer an evangelical for president?  Certainly, if he is honest, experienced, moral and has a sound plan to reform this failing country.  But a good evangelical is not running.  In which case I will vote for the candidate who best represents Christian values and principles, even if he is a mormon.  If you are facing serious surgery, who do you want for your surgeon, a Christian or the very best experienced surgeon available?  For me, that is a no-brainer.  I want the best one available.  Unfortunately, I have had many bad experiences dealing with so called  Christian businessmen.  Give me the one who is honest, ethical, experienced and best equipped to handle the problem.  So are you registered?   Do you have your photo ID (unless that law has already been scrapped)?  Are you ready to vote for the candidate who could win and just might best be able to turn things around?  If you can't answer yes to each of these questions, then shame on you.  And just be prepared as your Christian freedoms slowly are taken away.  I think this election is that important.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Wide World of Sports

Did you enjoy the Olympics?  We certainly did.  I think the track events, team volleyball, and beach volleyball are my favorite parts of the summer Olympics.  I also thoroughly enjoyed the exciting entrance that the Queen made with James Bond.  That was clever and fun to watch.  But I can't say that I really enjoyed NBC's coverage.  I guess because of their huge cost to broadcast the games they had to sell many, many commercials.  And I got tired of watching them as they continually broke in on the taped delayed events.  And then there were all the "human interest" background stories for each individual.  Some were interesting but in general I thought they took away from key events and just stretched out the action.  I wish they had just showed more competition with fewer commercials and interviews.  It seemed to me that four hours each night included less than an hour of actual competition.  But, maybe that really wasn't the case.  It probably just seemed like it. Then there were the announcers who tried to impress the world with their "wisdom" by getting in the way of the competition.  For example, in the women's vault, the announcer kept saying that the U.S. entry was so far superior to everyone else that nobody had a chance to beat her.  After hearing this over and over and over again, she finally performed and made a mistake. She came in second. Then the cameras followed her everywhere.  Of course there were the dumb interviews. "You worked for this for four years and didn't make the finals.  How do you feel about that?" or "You were the defending champ and didn't qualify for the finals.  How do you feel about that?" Duh!  And that leads me to share some dumb things that announcers actually have said, not at the Olympics, but while broadcasting other soccer matches. Here goes.  1.  Well, it's Liverpool two, Ipswich nil, and if the score stays this way, I've got to fancy Liverpool for the win.   2.  He had an eternity to play that ball, but took too long.   3.  And so they have not been able to improve on their 100% record.   4.  With the last kick of the game, he scored with a header.    5.  Well, it's a fabulous kaleidoscope of color: almost all the Brazilians are wearing yellow shirts.   6.  If that had gone on, it would definitely have been a goal.  7.  Their manager, Howard Wilkinson, isn't here today, which strongly suggests that he may be elsewhere.    8.  I am a firm believer that if one team scores a goal, the other needs to score two to win.   9.  If a team scores early on, it often takes an early lead.   10.  You cannot possibly have counted the number of passes made, but there were eight.  Duh once again!  And so much for the wacky world of sports!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Customer Service Tale #4

Stay with me for one more customer service story - this one has a better ending.  We recently received a call from an instrumentalist from our church who needed Dianne to make a background CD for a solo he was scheduled to play the following Sunday.  Dianne has used our Korg M1 keyboard/synthesizer numerous times to do this for him and others.  However, when she turned it on there was a signal that the internal battery needed to be replaced.  This happened five or six years ago and replacing the battery means opening the case to replace the battery. That I could do. But it also means that it is likely that you will lose and need to reload all of your sounds.  That part I can't do. And what good is a keyboard with no sounds?  So we tried calling the man in Wrightsville who had done this work for us previously, but his phone is now disconnected.  Not sure what to do, I consulted a few friends who I hoped might have some contacts who could help us out.  Unfortunately, none of them did.  So we did what we should have done sooner, we prayed.  Then I went to the Korg website to see if they had any certified service centers in the area.  We found that the closest ones were located in Dover and Annville. Next would have been Baltimore.  The one in Dover was easier for us to get to so I sent them an e-mail, using the address provided on their website, asking if they could help.  When I didn't receive an answer I called them only to get their answering machine.  On their recorded message they promised to return our call "quickly".  They never have returned the call.  The day after the Korg was repaired I did receive an e-mail from them asking me to send my e-mail to another member of their staff.  Why didn't they just forward it for me and why did it take four days to answer my e-mail? Great customer service once again.  So then I called Sound Advantage in Annville.  Not only did they answer the phone immediately but they were very courteous and said that they would try to help us out and maybe even have it done in time for us to make the CD for Sunday.  They suggested that we not play it again before they worked on it because if the sounds were still there they might be able to preserve them while replacing the battery.  Otherwise it could be a problem finding the sounds to be reinstalled.  We rushed it to them and left it with the confidence that they would do whatever they could to help us out.  When we got home we had a phone message from them telling us that the sounds were apparently already gone but that they might be able to get them from another source. They wanted to be sure that we understood the possible problem before they worked on it. We told them to go ahead and try. The following day they called to tell us that it was all done and like new.  They were able to replace the battery and to restore all the sounds for us.  And their charge was extremely reasonable and less than we had expected.  We told the technician that he was an answer to prayer, and he was.  They were so kind and understanding and went out of their way to help us.  Need any electronic instrument help?  We highly recommend Sound Advantage in Annville and their technician, Randy.  It is refreshing to find someone who still actually provides good prompt customer service today.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Customer Service Tale #3

Now I could add some stories about poor service at restaurants, such as the recent experience we had at Ruby Tuesday’s on Manor St. in Lancaster.  But I won’t go there since those experiences are far too common and we’ve all had them.  But here’s another customer service story.  There is a company in Lancaster that I have dealt with for about 25 years with both school district and Awana business.  Until a month ago they were hard to get to since they were downtown and had no parking.  They seldom got my orders done in time and seldom contacted me, as promised, when they were done. I learned to expect that and planned accordingly.  So why did I keep dealing with them?  Mainly because they were the only business locally who could provide the services I needed.  And after that many years they knew what I needed.  Well a few months ago they moved to a much more convenient location that includes two parking spots.  So on June 28 I took an order to them which I needed rather quickly. I had hoped to have it within a week. I told them that and the boss replied that it would be a little over a week since she was going on vacation.  I replied that this would still be fine.   Then 15 days later I received a telephone message that they weren’t done yet but would have it ready on day 18.  Based on past experience, I waited until day 19 and stopped by.  Guess what?  The order wasn’t done.  They apologized and said that it would be delivered the next day, day 20.  So I waited.  Another week went by and there was no delivery.  On day 28 I called to find out what the hold up was.  I was told that they were finishing my order and that it would be delivered to me within the hour.  Well three hours later it was delivered.  Mission accomplished and a job that should have taken 7 days at most finally made it in 28 days. How does a company stay in business with customer service like that?  I guess the fact that the family has been in business locally for about  50 years might be part of it.  But I guess the real reason is that there is no competitor and because there is not a large profit margin in this business, nobody will risk trying to provide competition. And the folks that I deal with there are very kind, friendly, apologetic and try to be accommodating. I do enjoy talking to them. So I guess I just continue to overlook the customer service and the disorganized business practices and keep giving them my business. And there is really nothing to be gained in complaining since you just hurt your Christian testimony and you also risk the service getting poorer or even their refusing to  service you.  What else can one do?  However, I still find it very hard to understand why, in times of a very poor economy, merchants don’t give reliable customer service.  Maybe that is one of the reasons our economy has sunk so badly.  

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Customer Service Tale #2

It was Saturday morning and I was chewing on a hard pretzel - a dumb thing to do! Suddenly I realized that the entire front side of one of my molars had broken off.  I knew my dentist wasn't in but I wasn't sure what kind of pain would develop over the weekend.  Now I have an excellent dentist who we've gone to for years.  Before his father died I went to his father.  Those two were the only dentists that I have ever gone to and my experience with them spans about 60 years.  Not sure what to expect, I decided to place a call to his office.  As expected, the answering service told me that he would not be in until 9 am on Monday. She took all my information and told me that the office would call me when they opened at 9.  In the meantime, in case that I would have any difficulty, she gave me the information of the dentist who was covering that weekend.  I decided to give him a call.  I also got his answering system and they said they would connect me to him.  After a considerable wait, I was finally patched through to him only to find that he was out of town and wouldn't be available until Sunday afternoon.  So much for somebody on duty for emergencies.  I decided that if I was going to wait that long to get checked that I might as well wait another 20 hours and see my own dentist.  As it turns out, thankfully I had no pain and was comfortable waiting until Monday.  Well Monday came and by 10:30 I still had not heard from my dentist.  So I decided that I would just drop by his office and ask him just to look at it and decide how much time I would need for a future appointment.  I didn't see any need at that point to have it taken care of immediately. And since I knew him and his assistant so well, I didn't feel that there was any problem with doing this.  But then I met his receptionist.  She must have been having a bad day.  Maybe she wasn't feeling well.  And even though we go there every six months, I don't think she really knows us.  She immediately told me that there wasn't anything that could be done that day - the dentist wouldn't even have time to talk with me - they were booked full.  I mentioned that I had been waiting for the call that I had been promised and she informed me that she didn't have time to call me.  I noticed that my chart had been pulled and was on the very bottom of the stack of Monday's patients.  I don't know when she might have ever called.  I kindly insisted that I would at least like to talk to the dentist or his assistant and that I only needed a few minutes of their time.  She didn't know if that was possible.  When I told her that we had driven 30 minutes to get there she said that I could wait if I really wanted to.  I said that I would.  As I said, she must have really been overwhelmed that day because she really didn't want to accommodate me.  A few minutes later, the assistant came out and told me to come over to one of the chairs.  A few minutes later the dentist dropped by and I apologized for taking up his time.  As I expected, he said it was no problem.  He quickly looked at my tooth and asked the assistant how much time they had until the next appointment.  When she said 20 minutes he replied that he could fix it in less than that.  They went right to work and 15 minutes later the tooth was fixed and we were headed home.  As I've said, I guess the receptionist was either having a bad day or just didn't know how to organize things.  If I had not been a regular patient there I would probably have looked for a different dentist because she had not been the least bit accommodating. The actions of a receptionist certainly can affect the entire practice.  And this experience has reminded me again of how important it is to make good first impressions, not only as a receptionist, but in all of life's contacts.  

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Customer Service Tale #1

The tale of three recent customer service experiences .... number one.   We seldom shop at a Walmart.  We've had a few troubling situations in the past.  None are very close to us and while there are some bargains, we can often find bargains just as good, if not even better, at other stores.  However, we do get to the one in Ephrata about once a month and load up on several cases of distilled water.  Unfortunately, on my last trip there they didn't have a single bottle of distilled water - but that is a different story.  That store is clean and most of the clerks that we've met there have been friendly.  But a few weeks ago we were at Pinebrook.  While there we celebrated Dianne's birthday and in honor of that we decided that we should treat all of our friends who met each evening to play games.  Two of these folks had celiac disease and could only eat gluten free products.  So I went online to find what area stores might stock gluten free snacks.  On the Walmart website I found that they said that they have a special area with gluten free products.  So even though I never cared for the East Stroudsburg Walmart, we headed there.  After some difficulty parking we grabbed a cart and went looking for the gluten free area.  Twice we went through every aisle in the food area and couldn't find these products.  Twice we stopped and asked clerks only to find out that they were not employees but were just there to stock their products from their trucks.  We found no directory and no employees available to help us.  Finally we finally found somebody working in the bakery and she told us that they didn't stock gluten free products.  But, thankfully, she knew of a competitor which did.  We had picked up eight items - including six gallons of distilled water - so we headed for the check-out line to at least purchase these.  They had two regular lines open but they were backed up with customers with full carts.  They also had five or six lines open for those with "20 or less" items.  Those "quick" check-out lines were also backed up.  And when we finally got in a line we realized that none of the carts we could see really had 20 or fewer items and yet the clerks accepted them. I guess being able to count is not a prerequisite for running a check-out line there.  Then it turned out that the cart in front of us actually had over 60 items.  So after about 10 minutes waiting in line, the clerk found some items that wouldn't scan and she had to call somebody for a price check.  By now I was getting very frustrated and ready to just leave my cart and walk away.  But I noticed that one of the lines was moving very quickly and only had one person to go.  We quickly left our line and headed there before somebody could beat us.  But just as we got there the clerk turned off her sign that indicating that she was now closed.  I think I was rather calm as I told her that I was just  leaving my cart and not purchasing the items because I was not going back into those long lines where the clerks weren't following the rules. I had endured this inconvenience long enough. She apologized and kindly said that I should just stay and she would take care of me. I thanked her for being understanding.  However, the lady who was being checked out turned and gave me grief. I think she might have been a fellow employee.  She loudly told me that I was being rude and inconsiderate.  She chastised me for picking on this clerk.  When I kindly told her that I wasn't picking on the clerk, she told me that I was picking on her because I was making her stay a few extra minutes to take care of me after her long day of work.  Not wanting to make a bigger scene I decided just to leave - I didn't need my order that badly and I was embarrassed about being publicly attacked.  However, the clerk told me to stay and in less than a minute my order was processed and we left.  That was not a good experience.  The lady in the bakery and the clerk, Eddy, were kind and considerate but nothing else about the store would encourage me to ever return to the East Stroudsburg Walmart. And we do get to the Stroudsburg area about once a month. Not only weren't there any employees available to help us when we needed help, but the clerks at the check-out did not enforce the rules at all.  I guess many of their shoppers are tourists and that gives the store a different atmosphere.  And maybe the lady who verbally attacked me was a tired tourist or probably another Walmart clerk who was off duty and giving me her version of customer service.  Fortunately, when we return to Pinebrook, there are many other cleaner, friendlier places to shop.  And they will get my business in the future.  And maybe the manager of East Stroud Walmart needs to hire some folks who can help customers and some clerks who can count beyond 20.  Customer service story #2 coming in a few days.