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.

Monday, February 25, 2013

In Everything Give Thanks

A few weeks ago my wife received a card from somebody we don't even know.  The person thanked her for an offertory that she had played, "In The Presence of Jehovah".  He said how much it had ministered to a need that he had.  She also received a note from a church member thanking her for playing hymns.  Wow, a thank you for having done something in church!  Very unusual!  She has played in church for over 50 years and seldom has anyone ever said "thank you".  Saying thanks to anyone seems to be a rare occurrence.  How many times do you let another car go in front of you and the driver doesn't even wave to acknowledge his appreciation?  How many times do you do a favor for somebody and they just act like that is expected of you?  Fortunately, some parents make it their job to try to train their kids to say thanks or write thank you notes for gifts. For years as a teacher I would spend hours of my time writing college references for students who asked me to do so, but over the years probably only a half dozen or so ever thanked me.  I guess it just isn't natural for humans to say thank you and apparently people need to be trained to do this.  But this problem isn't new to today's generation.  I have always been fascinated by the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers and only one returned to thank Him.  That has always been hard for me to believe - only one thanked Jesus the healer.  Maybe that is why the scripture so often reminds us and tells us to be thankful.  My wife and I have often given gifts to folks who have quietly served in our church.  This past Christmas we gave out ten small gifts with a note of appreciation to people who have worked behind the scenes.  Two wrote notes to thank us.  A few others sort of mumbled a thanks because they were in a situation where another thanked us and they were sort of forced to respond as well.  And a few others never acknowledged even receiving our gift. It is always sad to me that some of the most thanklessness happens in our churches. I think Christians should be the most thankful of all people.  Of course we should serve to please the Lord and not man and so we should not expect or want the thanks of man.  But let's be real.  We are human and it is encouraging when others appreciate your service.  Our church makes an effort to do that for our church staff with special programs and gifts during Pastor Appreciation Month in October and with Christmas bonus offerings.  When I headed up Awana we held a big annual banquet to thank our leaders and to reward them for their service.  And I would often write notes of thanks and encouragement to them and maybe that is partially why we annually retained so many faithful volunteers.  And they also responded by honoring us and giving us gifts.  And while that was appreciated, it did become sort of embarrassing because others did not get the same thanks.  But I'm not sure that much more than these things are ever done for those who quietly and faithfully serve.  Maybe that is part of the reason why folks burn out or quit after a few years of service.  And let's be careful that we don't misjudge them for not being spiritual enough to work without thanks.  We can easily say that their reward will be in heaven and it will be.  But they are human, too.  Dianne's note was very, very unusual despite the fact that for 50 years she has spent hours and hours in preparation to lead folks in worship.  I have quietly served in a vital church position, for eleven years, that requires many hours each week and only twice that I can recall has anybody ever thanked me or told me that I do a good job.  Of course, maybe I don't and maybe they are actually hoping that I will quit.  But how would I know that?  Now we don't serve for that thanks and we are really fine without it.  I state these two examples just to illustrate what I think is too common in church circles - thanklessness for those who faithfully serve without pay  So maybe we all need to be reminded of the need to be more thankful .... in our homes ... in our community ...  in our church ... and even more importantly, in our fellowship with the Lord.  In everything give thanks!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Staples Customer Service

Once before I dedicated a few blogs to examples of poor customer service that I had experienced with a variety of dealers.  Yesterday I had another such experience that I must share with you.  Last week I was completing a special project and needed 20 report covers before the product could be mailed out.  I drove to the nearest Staples which is 17 miles roundtrip from home.  There I purchased four sets of clear report covers ($31.76).  When I returned home I opened them to complete the reports.  Most were fine, but about four were defective and the holes didn't line up properly with the pins.  However, I was still able to use three of these.  And with those done I mailed and distributed the finished product with the intention of taking back the one remaining bad one to have it replaced.  That one in particular was over .5" off and couldn't be modified or used.  So yesterday I returned to Staples expecting that there would not be any problem. Why would there be any?  Nobody was staffing their customer service counter so I waited in line to get instructions from a clerk.  When I finally reached the register, I showed the clerk my receipt and the defective cover.  I explained the situation and asked to have it replaced.  I didn't know if they would take one out of another pack or five or give me one which was also available in a single pack.  The clerk never even apologized for the defect but he told me that he couldn't help me.  The only way it could be replaced was to bring back the entire set of five.  I explained that this was now impossible and stated that even if it were, a third roundtrip to Staples would be both expensive and inconvenient for me for one cover.  He assured me that he could only help me out if I would return the set of all five covers.  I found this both incredible and stupid.  I guess that despite the struggling economy, Staples must be doing well enough that they can afford not to stand behind their product to satisfy a regular customer.  So I left as an irritated customer and I will get my cover elsewhere.  I guess what I should have done was purchase another set of five, then leave the store and replace one of the five with the defective one before going back in and returning the pack for a refund.  But that would have been dishonest.  And I don't think that I should be dishonest just to beat terrible customer service.  Unfortunately, I will still probably return to Staples because I have over $50 in Staples Reward credit to spend.  But I just can't believe that a company would treat a regular customer like this.  But it happened.  Buyer beware!  Well I guess there is always Office Max ... Office Depot ... and better yet, online.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Poverty and Reading

Recently we attended a viewing in a church in the small town of Mt. Nebo.  To get there we drove through the hills of southwestern Lancaster County, near the Susquehanna River.  We passed a wide variety of homes, from the very, very expensive to shacks and trailers.  I guess that I had forgotten about the poverty that really exists in our school district and this trip provided a stark reminder of this reality.  I have always thought that Penn Manor did a much better job of teaching its students than most other area schools because of the success that they have had with the challenges they face.  Many of my students never had a newspaper or a magazine in their home. Then, a few days later, I read some statistics about reading which at first I could not believe.  But once I thought about the pockets of poverty in places like our school district as well as the extensive poverty seen in our cities, I realized that these very sad statistics could be very true.  So I share these statistics with you, without much additional comment, for you to consider.  From Statistic Brain – some facts about reading.  57% of books are not read the whole way through.  70% of adults have not been in a bookstore in at least a year.  80% of families didn't buy any books this past year.  42% of college kids will not read another book after they graduate.   33% of high school kids will not read another book after they graduate.  56% of youth say they read more than 10 books a year.  If you read just 15 minutes a day, you will average a million words per year.  50% of adults can not read a book at an 8th grade reading level.   46% of American adults can't read a label on a prescription.   If you can read this blog, even if you think it is a waste of your time, be thankful for parents, teachers, and an environment which taught you and encouraged you to read.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

College GPA

It has been 54 years since I began my college experiences.  Times have changed drastically since then.  But I am finding out that a few things haven't changed about the experience.  When I was a teenager my parents really had little.  After World War II, jobs were scare and we moved many times until my father finally obtained a "permanent" job as an engineer at RCA.  A big treat for us then was having a quarter to buy a bottle of soda for the family.  So when my college years rolled around, my parents really weren't in a position to pay my way.  So the deal was that they would provide my room and board and living expenses but I had to pay for my tuition, fees and books.  I worked several jobs.  I earned scholarships and I took out government loans to get through. It took me ten years to pay off the loans. But, as a result, my education really meant something to me since much of the cost was coming out of my pocket and I didn't want to waste this money.  I often noticed that those of us who were paying our own ways seemed to study harder and take our work more seriously than those whose parents were footing the entire bill.  I know that this is a generalization, but it was a definite observation that I made at that time.  And I graduated Magna Cum Laude.  Later in life, as my three boys faced the college years, I found that, like my parents, I couldn't afford to pay their entire bill.  In those days public school teachers didn't earn very much. I started at $3,800 per year and had to work at nights and on weekends to support my family. So I made the same deal with my boys - we pay the living expenses, you pay the rest.  All three decided to live at home and commute - two to Millersville and one to Penn State York.  Now I know every family is different and I don't want to judge them for their decisions.  But today I guess most folks feel that they must pay the entire bill for their child's education and that is a major challenge.  For us, we had no choice.  We just couldn't do it.  And I have no regrets. But I admit that I haven't thought too much about this lately since we are no longer affected my this problem.  However, recently I read an interesting article in the local newspaper and I realize now that I might not have been that far off base in my thinking.  The headline said "Parental help hurts college GPA" and it was written by a Justin Pope for the Associated Press.  The lead paragraph says "Parents who are footing more of the college tuition bill for their children give them a better chance of graduating.  But a surprising new study finds that they may not be doing them any favors in another area - generous financial support appears to lead to lower grades."  He goes on to discuss a recent study published in the American Sociological Review based on figures from three large federal data sets that allow parental contributions and grades to be compared.  Family socioeconomic status was controlled to allow a comparison of similar students.  For example, among those families with at least $90,000 available in income, parents not giving their children any support can expect a GPA of 3.15.  At $16,000 in aid the GPA drops to under 3.0 and at $40,000 it drops to 2.95.  Interesting.  Now the writer thinks the reason is that those students who are not paying their own way are free to take on a more active social and extracurricular life.  And as he says, "that may be fun and even worthwhile, but it comes at a cost to GPA". Living and observing in a college town makes me second his conclusion.  However, I think the bottom line is that all of us tend to value more something which we have personally worked hard and sacrificed to obtain.  And maybe that is an important life lesson that many college students ought to learn.  

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Following Instructions

Is following directions a lost skill? When we run our election precinct many people just ignore the posted signs and directions. They enter and leave at the wrong places, despite the many signs. They complete their ballots incorrectly, ignoring posted directions. Recently I have supervised two projects involving adults and children. In both, probably 30%, didn't follow the printed instructions, creating more work for me. I am financial secretary of our church and every year, when I give out new boxes of envelopes, I include detailed instructions on how to use them. But too large a percentage of the users just ignore the written instructions and do as they want. The first week of the year at least a dozen folks used old envelopes, despite written warnings not to do this. And I could continue to provide example after example of folks not following instructions. And while it frustrates me, I shouldn't be surprised. I was a school teacher for 39 years and faced this problem regularly. But that was different. There I was the teacher and I could insist that directions be followed completely. I could reject assignments not done properly. I could deduct points for those who handed things in late, disregarding my instructions. I always felt that making my students follow directions was part of my job - teaching them a real important life skill. But did it have a lifetime effect? I really don't know, but it was worth the try. Some people are just careless and unorganized. Others feel that they have the freedom to do it their way, despite what others want. I guess some don't even realize that they aren't doing what is expected. But I guess in some ways all of us, including myself, have the same problem to some degree. How many times do we disregard reading the instructions when we get a new product and are just eager to use it quickly? We just tear open the boxes and assemble as we think it should be done. I guess we've all done that. But there is a more serious problem of not following instructions. You see, God the Creator, gave us the instructions for living the life He wants us to have. They can be found in the Bible. But how much time do we spend in His "instruction manual"? And how often do we just do what pleases us, not following His instructions. It is obvious that we live in a world that just doesn't want to follow His instructions. They want it their way. And not following God's instructions is a much more serious matter than not following the posted exit signs or using old envelopes or handing in an assignment late. The results of not following God's instructions about life can keep one from experiencing all that God wants us to experience or even worse, it could have eternal results. So during the days ahead, take time to read and follow God's written instructions to us. "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go:I will guide thee with mine eye." Psalm 32:8

Saturday, February 2, 2013

An Influenza Death

Esther and Pastor
Horace A. Kauffman
A young minister was busy visiting the many in his congregation who had been struck by the influenza.  The flu had been spreading rapidly throughout the community and his congregation had been hit hard.  Many were very ill and some had even died, so there were funerals to be conducted.  The minister traveled from house to house praying for the sick and comforting families.  That was his calling from God.  Then he, too, became ill with the flu and unexpectedly he died.  He left behind a son who was only a year and a half old and his wife who was pregnant with their second child, a daughter who would be born months later.  Because of the spreading flu his body was displayed behind a large window so friends and members of his congregation could view it one more time.  The young minister had not had a flu shot to protect himself, because none were available at that time. The year was 1918 and it was part of history's  most lethal influenza that killed as many as 100 million people worldwide.  The young minister was Pastor Horace Abraham Kauffman, my grandfather.  The superintendent of the denomination insisted that his widow needed to be remarried very quickly.  After all, she was pregnant and had no way to support her family.  He chose two men as possible husbands.  The first refused but the second agreed.  He was a very close personal friend of Pastor Horace Kauffman. They had even served together. And so Norman H. Wolf married my grandmother. They were quickly  reassigned to the same church in Spring City where Pastor Kauffman had been serving and they were given the same parsonage where Pastor Kauffman had been living when he died.  Pastor Wolf became the only father my dad would really remember.  And we called him Pop Pop.  He was the most godly man that I have ever known.  Later he was our pastor for several years. He performed our wedding ceremony 50 years ago.  Both men have been major influences in my life in so many different ways. I thank God for both of them. And so, when I think of flu epidemics, I always recall the devastating flu epidemic of 1918 and the impact it really had on my family and even on me.  This year we have faced another epidemic.  Many around us have been ill, some have been hospitalized.  At the time I am writing this blog we have been able so far to escape it.  Of course, both of us have gotten our annual flu shots.  And while this doesn't provide 100% protection, experts claim about 60% of those who get the shots will escape the flu and those who don't escape it will generally have a less severe case.  Now I like those odds.  But we have many friends and relatives who won't get a shot, for various reasons.  There are some who are allergic to them.  There are others who don't trust the medical authorities.  There are others who just think they are a waste of time.  And that is their right unless they have a job that requires them.  Some of these folks have been hit hard this year while others have so far escaped.  All that I ask is that if you don't get one, please don't have close contact with me for I don't want to catch it from you.  I have rights, too, and I don't want to be infected by one who chooses not to get the protection.  Hopefully this flu season will pass quickly.  Hopefully we'll never see another influenza epidemic like the world experienced in 1918.   But the flu can change your life, as it did for me.