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

Thursday, August 29, 2013

I Surrender!

Our "nice" yard
I'm giving up.  It is a losing battle.  They're back, in record numbers.  I'm not talking about the cicadas whose noise can drive you mad.  I'm talking about their foes, the cicada killers.  They come to kill the cicadas and drag them to amazing tunnels which they have dug where the bodies are stored to fertilize their eggs.  Until four years ago I had never heard of this insect.  But now I know more about them than I ever wanted to know.  They have been appearing in our yard now abut the beginning of each August for several years.  This year they have probably already dug about 60 new holes in what was once a nice looking backyard.  And this year they have expanded their damage to other parts of our lawn and it is beginning to look like a battlefield.  I have contacted lawn specialists who tell me there is nothing that I can do but put up with them.  I have tried hitting them with plastic bats and even an electrified tennis racket.  But all that I have accomplished is maybe improving my swing and definitely getting tired.  I have tried closing their tunnels and all that has produced is a yard full of patched holes.  Hopefully we will have a good spring and the grass will grow back again, at least in in some of the areas.  Then we may have a nice looking lawn again, until next August.  They are remarkable creatures and fortunately they don't sting.  We have dodged each other when I am using my riding mower, but they are quick and generally avoid me, unless they are caught entering or exiting one of their tunnels.   Then I often win.  They are interesting to watch, especially when they capture a cicada and carry it to their tunnel.  But why couldn't they share this pleasure with one of our neighbors.  To the best of my knowledge, we are the only ones being hit annually, at least in our immediate neighborhood.  Probably it is the number of trees on our property which provide good hunting grounds for the killers.  If you've never seen one, go do an internet search and learn much more about one of God's most unusual creations.  The Scripture says that "all things work together for good".  Does that include cicda killers?  So far the only good thing I've seen coming out of our experiences with them is that it has given me material for another blog.
Killer at work
Entering a tunnel
Tunnel entrance

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Change, Change, Change!

A few days ago a steam shovel appeared in the lot across from our house.  The next day it was used to knock down the large white barn and workshop which had been there since before we moved in.  Next came the surveyor and posts appeared all over the lot.  Next came the bull dozer.  Soon the workmen will arrive and before we know it four or five new houses will be squeezed into what used to be a nice open field.  Then, probably by next year, the new tenants - most likely college students - will begin to move in and life here will never be the same.  Our former neighbor and owner of the land would turn over in his grave if he knew what was happening to his property since his death. Change - you can't avoid it - all you can do is learn to adjust to it.

A few weeks ago I went for my haircut only to be told that my barber for over 40 years had just signed a lease for his barber shop and he plans to retire September 1.  I knew someday this would happen, but why not a few years from now?  Change, everywhere.  
     We've gone through it with our medical services.  When our wonderful family doctor was forced to retire with heart issues it was a major adjustment for us. He was like a member of our family and had taken such good care of us. Later we found another family doctor - this time a young man - but suddenly he had to close his practice because he was diagnosed with cancer and then later he passed away.  A year ago Dianne's favorite gastro specialist who had cared for her for over 20 years told us that he was unexpectedly moving into administration.  Change, change, change.
I know very little about repairing cars and for almost 20 years we had a local garage man who was so helpful, honest and reasonable.  We trusted him completely and he took such good care of us.  Then he retired and we have never found anyone since then like him. It was almost like a part of us had died. For 40 years we purchased every one of our cars from a friend of mine who owned a car dealership.  We would tell him what we needed and he would find it for us.  We never dickered over the price because he was fair right from the start.  A few years ago he sold the dealership.  Now I am ready to purchase again and have nobody I can trust to deal with.  And I shouldn't forget Pete who has done all of our additions and repairs to our house over the years.  He is preparing to retire and is now doing some work for the government, so he is no longer available for jobs.  Change, change, change.
Over the years we have also faced the loss of loved ones and friends.  Now you expect that parents and grandparents will pass on.  But you don't expect siblings and good friends who are the same age as you to be taken home.  And I really, really miss them.  These changes are almost the toughest to deal with, except for the fact that you know that someday you will be reunited with them.  But it is change.
When I think of all the changes we face I often think of the line from the hymn "Abide With Me".   "Change and decay in all around I see, oh Thou who changest not, abide with me."  What truth there is in that line.  And what a thrill to know that our faith is strong and secure because we serve one who doesn't change.  "Yesterday, today, forever, Jesus is the same.  All may change, but Jesus never.  Glory to His Name!"  Yes, glory to His Name!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Being A Care-giver

     I feel so sorry for spouses who must serve for a long period of time as the care giver for their mate.  The burden of doing this day by day while watching your mate in pain and becoming more dependent is a very heavy one.  But the vows we take when we get married say ... "in sickness and health".  We just hope that it is always in health.  My wife has lovingly cared for me several times following surgeries but in those cases we knew healing would soon come.  But still, I often told her that I was so sorry that she had to take care of me.  And I thanked her for doing it.  Recently the tables were turned and I had to care for her after surgery and I smiled as she then would say, "I'm so sorry that you must do this for me." 
     Now most would not consider her hernia surgery as being major surgery, and in one sense is wasn't.  Actually, major surgery is when it is being done to you.  One of our doctors told us that anytime you are being cut open it is major.  I admit that I was very apprehensive because my wife has anemia, ulcerative colitis, heart and blood pressure problems.  But I learned numerous lessons going through this brief care giving experience.  I learned that there can be so much anxiety when you are sitting in the waiting room waiting for the surgery to be over and you don't know what is happening. It would have been nice to have someone to talk to, making the time go faster. But thankfully the Lord was with me. But when the operation went past the expected hour I began to think of all sorts of things.  When I was finally told that the doctor was coming out to talk to me and I then waited for another 15 minutes for this to happen, my imagination began to run wild once again.  Eventually the doctor assured me that she would be out soon and that she was fine. But I didn't expect "soon" to be another hour.  I was relieved when I finally was allowed to be with her in the recovery room.  However, I did have a tough time watching her in pain and enduring the shakes which they said was from the anesthesia.

The first night or two at home can also be long nights.  At times you feel so helpless and you think morning light will never come.  I am not a good cook but I was prepared with things that I could heat in the microwave or easily prepare on the stove.  I didn't think I would need any help with food.  But when a friend brought soup and a cooked meal for us, I was so thankful and relieved.  I learned how nice it must be to get meals from friends when you are busy caring for your patient.  That meal was certainly welcome and a major help.  I did handle the food for several days and learned some important lessons.  I learned that when you drop a container of ice cubes, the cubes will slide to every corner of the kitchen.  And when you drop a container of macaroni salad, it never drops the way it was held, and it isn't much fun cleaning macaroni salad off the kitchen floor.  But we survived.
I also learned how much the patient appreciates cards and personal notes - my wife did receive a few of those.  You also appreciate hearing from folks who prayed for you and want to know how you are doing.  Besides family members, I think my wife had two such calls and three e-mails.  And a few inquired about her at church on Sunday. We had asked over 100 folks to pray for her and I am sure a number of them did.  But it was nice to hear that a few actually remembered and followed up their prayers with some sort of contact.  I learned how much personal contact is appreciated by not only the patient but also by the care giver who is often weary with a load of unfamiliar duties and often a little lonely without personal contacts from others.  Being confined to home is hard on both.
But I guess the biggest lesson that I learned, once again, is that God is good and in control.  He is always present. And, unlike humans, he never forgets us or forsakes us. He knows our needs.  He provides wisdom, strength and peace when we need it.  And while I hope that neither of us ever have to serve as longtime caregivers for each other, I am confident that if we ever must, then He will be there to help us even if we are alone.  He is a faithful Father.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Faithfulness is defined as being loyal, constant, and steadfast.   Does this word really mean much anymore in today's world?  In many marriages it doesn't.  Spouses are unfaithful to each other and divorce is now common.  What about in the workplace?   Employers are finding it much more difficult to hire folks who are reliable and can be trusted.  Many just don't show up on time for work or call in sick whenever it is convenient for them to do so.  When I was teaching I was often amazed at the many who acted like their sick days were personal days and used them all, whenever they wanted to, even when they weren't sick at all. How about in the community?  Many service groups are folding because they no longer can find members who are reliable and faithful.  Ambulance associations and fire companies are reorganizing for the same reason. How about in the church?  How many can be counted on to be there every Sunday, except maybe for an annual vacation or sickness?  It doesn't take much today to have folks miss services regularly, whenever they just don't feel like coming. People take more vacations today than they probably need because they can afford to financially.  And many find it convenient to hop around to another church every couple of years.  
     Growing up our family was in church every time the doors were open for a service but that is very uncommon today.  Boats, golf, athletic events, dining out or sleeping in seem to be more convenient for many.  And what about ministry in the local church?  Churches are finding it more difficult to find reliable volunteers who can be counted on.  Now this might be too extreme, but my grandfather, a pastor for over 60 years, was often criticized because he didn't want to take vacation.  Now he never had a problem having guest speakers fill his pulpit, but he just felt that it was his responsibility to be available to care for his congregation.  And he did care for them with over 1,000 visits every year. 
      Getting more personal, what about faithfulness in our spiritual walk?  Are Christians faithful to vital spiritual disciplines such as prayer and Bible reading?  I must admit that I was much more faithful when I was working and had a daily routine.  I used to have a regular prayer time when I got to my desk at work.  Now I do pray more often, throughout the day, but my more lengthy prayer times are often during the hours when I can't fall asleep at night.  But while we may struggle with faithfulness, our example should be the Lord who has always been faithful to His children - through the ages, season by season, day by day, moment by moment.  He was faithful in carrying out God's plan for our redemption. He is the same, yesterday, today and forever.  Great is His faithfulness!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Bong! Bong! Bong!

Grandpa Wolf checking
his clock in Sunbury
When my father and father-in-law passed away, we inherited their two grandfather clocks.  The first was one that was actually built from a kit by my father-in-law.  He wanted Dianne, his older child, to have it and today it is proudly displayed in our living room.  It is a good looking clock with a nice sound.  The second clock has much more history to it.  About 1950 the congregation of my grandfather's church in Bethlehem honored him for his years of ministry with a special "This Is Your Life" program.  I recall being part of that service.  As a gift they presented him with a grandfather clock.  I recall seeing and hearing it in their parsonages in Bethlehem, Harrisburg, Sunbury and Ephrata.  Upon his death it went to my father and  was in his living room for many years.  Then upon dad's death it became ours.  It shows the wear of many years of use and moving, but I am told that its mechanism is far superior to those made today.  
     Now when we began to have some trouble with both clocks we found a man in Columbia who repairs clocks and has a good reputation.  Since I didn't know then how to properly dismantle the clocks, he had to come to our home, disassemble the clocks and then take them to his store for cleaning and repair.  Unfortunately, they had not been cleaned for many years and it cost us about $600 to have this done.  But they then worked like new.  But a few months ago we began to have trouble with the older one.  It stopped striking the hour or it wouldn't stop chiming. This time I was able to take it apart myself and take it to Columbia for repair.  It took three trips to finally get it working properly.  But I had many hours to observe the mechanism work.  It was fascinating to see all that had to happen to make it strike properly.  It has all sorts of gears and levers that must work together.  If one pin doesn't connect properly, the clock doesn't work.  I marvel at the engineering every time I look at it.  I marvel thinking about the person who constructed all the parts and placed them in the proper locations.  And every time it chimes properly I now understand how many things had to happen together, in sequence, to keep time and chime at the appropriate times.  I've learned more about this clock than I ever expected to know. Now I would never try to fix it or adjust it myself, because I could easily create additional problems.  
     But my experience with this clock has given me a greater appreciation of what the Creator of the universe has done.  I think of how the planets and stars move according to precise patterns and how the seasons and even day and night always happen on schedule.  And I think of the human body with all of its many parts and how they function together.  I recently have had some eye problems and they have taken all sorts of pictures of my eyes.  It is incredible to see all that makes up just the eye and all that happens to allow us to see.  How can anyone doubt that there is a Creator?  Could one take all the parts that make up one of my clocks, put them in a bag, shake the bag and then pour out a completed mechanism?  Impossible, no matter how many times you would try to do this. But essentially that is how many feel that the universe and our earth were formed.  For me, I'll believe the scriptures ... "In the beginning God created the heaven and earth"!  Amazing!  Indescribable!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Righting and Rithmetic

Technology is having a tremendous impact upon education today.  Many students today have their own computers, smart phones and scientific calculators.  Word processing and keyboarding is taught in most schools.  Internet access in classrooms is common.  Typewriters, encyclopedias, slide rules, overhead projectors, blackboards and many other tools are becoming ancient history.  But the biggest challenge for educators is not just  learning to use these new tools, but deciding what topics no longer need to be taught.  For example, in mathematics, how much time should be devoted to teaching fractions, especially arithmetic operations with them?  Where are they used today?  When is the last time you had to divide two fractions?  What about long division?  Teachers used to spend weeks trying to teach this process and once again I ask, where is it needed today?  And if it is needed who doesn't just reach for a calculator to do the division.  Now some things are obvious.  Decades ago we stopped teaching using logs to do calculations and we eliminated slide rules.  Do you even know what a slide rule is?  This took about a month out of an algebra course.  
     But here is an even tougher question.  How much time should schools devote to teaching basic arithmetic - number facts and operations?  Now I know that there are still very many uses for doing calculations, but how often do you reach for your calculator rather than doing the arithmetic in your head or on paper?   And if you are any kind of sales clerk, your cash register will do it all for you - and much faster and accurately.  But if you don't teach it you are condemned by much of the public for not teaching basics.  And some would argue what will you do if the power goes out and you can't use your calculator  ... or maybe we should add if the sun doesn't shine and you can't use your solar powered calculator. Yes, I have actually heard such comments. So are you beginning to see the dilemma that educators are facing today?  
     Now let me add some more.  Should we quit teaching cursive?  After all, who writes using cursive anymore?  We've gotten rid of typewriters.  I do have an old one but can't get ribbons for it even if I wanted to use it.  We've replaced them with computers and word processors and they are so much more convenient and efficient to use.  But then if you don't teach cursive, how will folks be able to sign their checks?  Of course a growing feature of the electronic age doesn't require checks anymore - transactions can be done through your computer or smart phone.  And if you don't teach cursive, how will you be able to read the writings of our grandparents or historical documents?  And how important is that?  Oh yes, and while we are at it, how much time should be spent teaching spelling?  How many of us now rely on spell checkers?  
     Now I don't have the answers, especially as technology explodes.  My intent is just to raise some questions and share some of the practical curricular problems that educators are facing today.  And maybe there is little that we will agree about on this topic ... except maybe the elimination of typewriters ... and of course the slide rule.  (This blog was written on my computer, sent through the internet and spell checked, hopefully.)