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, March 27, 2014


We live in a society where it is difficult to trust anyone.  It is so easy to get out of a situation by telling a lie.  Usually it is done on purpose.  Sometimes it is done just out of habit.  Listed below are a few that come to my mind.  You are welcome to add some others that you experience by using the comment section for this blog. 
*  I promise to pay you back on my next paycheck.
*  You made it yourself? I never would have guessed.
*  This will only take a few minutes.
*  We'll only have an inch or two of snow.
*  The check is in the mail.
*  We'll get back to you.
*  I'm praying for you.
*  If I can help you, just let me know.
*  I understand just how you feel.
*  This won't hurt very much.
*  Your hair looks just fine.
*  You look as though you are losing weight.
*  Go ahead and tell me; I won't tell another soul.
*  The doctor will call you right back.
*  Your baby is just beautiful.
*  I gave at the office.
*  I doubt that I can do it, but I will pray about it.
*  Sorry, he's not here right now.
*  Put the map away. I know where we are.
*  Having a great time. Wish you were here.
*  I wish I could help, but my schedule is full that day.
*  It will be a mild winter with above average temperatures.
*  I'm glad I read this blog.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Up In Smoke

          At times I don't know whether to be angry with their actions or to just pity them.  They are rude and inconsiderate.  They are dirty.  They often don't pay attention to regulations.  They burn their money.  They are addicted. They ruin their health and sometimes even the health of others.  They often stink.   And they may be headed to a terrible physical death and possibly even a worse spiritual end.
          Cigarette smoking has gone through many changes during my lifetime.  Growing up it was widely accepted and advertised freely.  I heard that the government even provided them for soldiers during war time.  Folks, especially men, smoked openly at work, at play, in restaurants and everywhere.  When i began teaching I disliked going into the faculty room to get my mail because it was filled with smokers.  Second hand smoke could not be avoided.
          During those years it seemed like the only folks who didn't smoke were Christians who felt their bodies were the temples of God and wanted to keep them clean.  I never smoked - I think my parents might have disowned me if I did.  However, one time I came close.  I was with a few of my friends on a bus trip with the Lititz Hot Stove League to see a Phillies game.  Almost everyone on the bus was smoking, including my friends.  When we stropped at a Howard Johnson's to eat, I approached the cigarette vending machine and was considering the possible choices.  After all, who would know.  Suddenly someone said, "Hi Barry, what are you doing here?"  It was our Sunday School Superintendent who knew our family well.  And with that unexpected event, my desire to try a smoke ended.  Today I thank the Lord for that intervention.
           Over the years I learned to speak up to inconsiderate smokers.  My wife couldn't stand smoke, maybe because as she was growing up her father was a smoker.  He later came to know the Lord and gave up the habit.  But twice, once at a Phillies game and once on a tour bus in Washington D.C., when we were surrounded by smokers, I spoke up and said that we didn't care if they exercised their right to smoke but they should know that my wife might throw up.  In both cases the smoking suddenly ceased.
          Recently I heard that there are 500,000 deaths a year due to smoking in this country.  Experts say that while 50 years ago it was finally proven that smoking causes lung cancer, now it is known to cause at least 13 different cancers.  It also can lead to blindness, liver and kidney disease, diabetes, arthritis, infertility, and other diseases.  Teen smoking is increasing and experts predict that 1 in 13 children will die from the effects of smoking if it continues to increase.  And today 18% of the public still smoke.
           But, fortunately, with the revelations of the health effects of smoking, no smoking areas have become common in restaurants, work places, schools, athletic competitions and most public places.  Berkeley, California, has even banned smoking outdoors in commercial districts, in parks and at bus stops.  They are considering expanding that to multiunit buildings and even single-family homes.  But with all of that I find it so sad to see the number of women, and especially young girls, who now smoke openly.  Is that a result of women's lib?  I guess the girls now have the same right to ruin their health by smoking.  And I guess they also have the right to spend huge amounts of money to maintain their habit.  Maybe it helps the economy.
          Now what upsets me about smokers?   I hate when they throw their butts on the street in front of my house or on my driveway.  I hate when a smoker litters by throwing a butt out of the car window on the public streets.  I often feel like picking it up and returning it to them, but with road rage I might get run over or attacked.  I hate going into Park City where the signs say no smoking within 50 feet of the entrance, but folks still stand or sit at the doors smoking away.  Then we need to walk through their smoke to enter.  I hate seeing drivers, usually females, driving with their cell phone in one hand and a cigarette in the other. I hate seeing small children in an enclosed car with adults smoking away.  I hate when smokers use public bathrooms to sneak a smoke.  I think that if they are caught they should be required to do 50 hours of community service caring for folks who are suffering from lung diseases or even with throat and lung cancer because of their smoking habits.  But I don't know that even that would make a difference.  Young people just don't think it will ever happen to them.  And for many others, especially the insecure, it becomes a crutch.
          I guess the bottom line is that you just can't legislate good health practices.  People will just do what they want anyway.  And that is a sad commentary on today's society.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Field Goal!

We had just completed an administrative staff meeting when my assistant superintendent, Jerry Brooks, received a telephone call telling him that he needed a timer for a district basketball doubleheader that was to begin in a few hours at the Farm Show Arena in Harrisburg.  Jerry was chairman of the District 3 of the PIAA and he served as game manager for many district and regional play-off games. He was in a pinch and asked me if I could run the clock.  Now I had been involved for many years writing, coaching, scoring and keeping statistics for basketball games so I figured why not try running the clock.  And so that night I joined a team of five Penn Manor administrators who worked the district doubleheader.  And this was the start of an interesting 30 years of working at district and state basketball play-off games.
For many years we worked doubleheaders, triple headers and on Saturdays two sets of doubleheaders at the Arena, commonly called the "barn".  Some nights were very long, especially when we had girls games.  Those were the years before girls basketball became exciting.  In those days the games were slow with loads of walking calls, jump balls and fouls.  The games never seemed to end and I often had trouble keeping awake.  But the boys games were different - often fast and furious.  I had no trouble keeping awake for those.  And I had the fun of watching the great Carlisle and York Catholic teams work their way to several state championships.  And the extra pay was good.
I also had a chance to serve as scorer for a few play-off games at other locations when the regular scorer couldn't be there.  One of my interesting experiences came in an eastern semifinal game.  Before the game the official asked me if I knew that with two technicals you would be ejected.  I had never heard of that rule and had never been at a game where somebody had two technicals.  But I guess the official suspected that this might happen.  At that time hanging on the rim was a technical foul.  The game featured Lebanon and their future 7 foot NBA star, Sam Bowie.  And would you believe that Bowie hung on the rim twice resulting in two technicals and I had to inform the officials that he was to be ejected.  The crowd was incensed and we were pelted with trash and even soft drinks.  Fortunately, Lebanon played a better game without him and went on to win.  That satisfied the crowd and nothing more came of their anger towards us.
I did have another very difficult experience in a district elimination game between Steel High and Dallastown.  Steel High was always very good and always  brought a very large vocal and involved crowd with them.  It was a close game and Steel High was up by one point in the final seconds when they fouled a Dallastown player as the final buzzer sounded.  Now most of the time good officials quickly determine whether or not the game was over and if they thought it was, they quickly disappeared to the locker room.  But these guys huddled and weren't sure, so they came over to me to make the final decision.  I told them that I thought the foul was called before I could react and snap the clock off.  So, based on my decision, they sent the player to the foul line for a one and one situation. And he calmly sank both shots to win the game and end Steel High's season.  The crowd went wild and I was escorted out of the arena by a policeman.  But the next day, the Harrisburg newspaper reported that I had made the decision and gave my name and where I lived.  I was prepared for the worse, but fortunately it never happened.
But in making that decision I did impress one person, the head of the PIAA.  A few days later he came to me and invited me to become the official statistician for the eight state finals at Hershey.  He said that I could choose somebody to work as my assistant.  So for 25 years I kept the stats for the finals with the help of one of my sons, usually Craig.  The work was always very stressful, but I loved it and couldn't wait each year to return.  We saw great basketball.  We saw many well know college coaches who were there to recruit.  We saw future college and NBA stars, such as Kobie Bryant, Sam Bowie and Billy Owens.   We were on television and we had special privileges.  We were treated royally by Hershey and by the PIAA.  Great, great memories.
But as is usually true in life, things change and come to an end.  When Hershey added the Giant Center, the old "barn" at Harrisburg was no longer used for basketball games.  And so I was "retired" as timer.  That was fine because I still had the exciting state finals.  But then, about five years ago, Penn State lobbied to have the finals at State College and the PIAA moved them there.  I was no longer needed and I never got an explanation or an invitation to return.  And that's the way life often is - 25 years and you just aren't invited back.  Not even thanks for 25 years of service - nothing.  Things didn't work out for the PIAA at Penn State, as I anticipated, and they've now moved back to Hershey.  But I'm no longer needed.  So now I watch the games on television.  While I was very disappointed about not even receiving a response or a thank you when they made the move to State College, I'm glad I wasn't asked back when they returned.  While it was fun, I am getting too old for the fast pace and all the pressure and stress.  It was probably time to "retire".

But I do have great memories.  And I really do miss the excitement.  Those were special times and I am glad to have had these extra special opportunities. And during those challenging years of raising a family on one income, the extra pay went a long way in helping to pay the bills. It was another example of the Lord allowing me to be at the right place at the right time when the right opportunity developed.  And I thank Him for that.  But now it is just a good memory.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


         I've been blogging quite a bit lately about getting old, and I guess I am facing the fact that I am.  I can recall when I thought somebody who was 70 was ancient, and maybe we are.  But now that age seems relatively young.  I am continually amazed at how so much has changed in my lifetime and how little many folks know about what we've experienced - we who were born before computers, cell phones, television, jet planes, GPS's, microwaves, credit cards, a cure for polio, and even snow blowers.
          These thoughts hit me again when somebody recently sent me the following story - The boys had been up in the attic together helping with some cleaning. The kids uncovered an old manual typewriter and asked her, "Hey Mom, what's this?" "Oh, that's an old typewriter," she answered, thinking that would satisfy their curiosity. "Well, what does it do?" they queried. "I'll show you," she said and returned with a blank piece of paper. She rolled the paper into the typewriter and began striking the keys, leaving black letters of print on the page. "WOW!" they exclaimed, "That's really cool. But how does it work like that? Where do you plug it in?" "There is no plug," she answered. "It doesn't need a plug." "Then where do you put the batteries?" they persisted. "It doesn't need batteries either," she continued. "Wow! This is so cool!" they exclaimed. "Someone should have invented this a long time ago!"
         About 20 years ago I was amazed when one of the bright, young math teachers that I had hired asked me what a sliderule was.  She had never seen or heard of one.  She missed all of those "fun" years when we used this amazing tool and log tables to do all of our advanced calculations - multiplication and division.  We spent weeks in algebra II teaching students how to use logs to do calculations - do you remember interpolation? I also recall the summers working on my master's degree in math at Bucknell when we just had a "juiced up adding machine" to do our work.  Then a few years later, when I studied at Florida State, I was introduced to their "modern" mainframe computer which filled a large room.  We had to input our data on punched cards.  Oh how times have changed.
         The younger generations have missed so much - some of it good, some not so good - such as Blackjack chewing gum, wax coke shaped bottles with colored sugar water, soda machines that dispensed bottles and not cans, table side jukeboxes, home milk delivery in glass bottles with cardboard stoppers, party phone lines, butch wax, telephone numbers with a word prefix (MAdison - 8356), peashooters, Howdy Doody, 45 RPM records - or any kind of records for that matter,  S&H green stamps, metal ice trays with levers, home ice delivery for refrigerators, mimeograph paper with that interesting smell, blue flashbulbs, roller skate keys, cork popguns, drive-ins, Studebakers and Edsels, wash tub wringers, Kukla, Fran, and Ollie, automobile headlight dimmer switches on the floor, listening to radio announcers report baseball games play by play by reading the teletype, atom bomb drills, and dial telephones.
         Well those are enough memories for one blog from an oldtimer.  Guess I'll go heat some tea in the microwave, do a little surfing on the internet, send some e-mails and then watch some programs on our hi-def television. If you want to give me a call, you can try my cell phone - I haven't yet graduated to a smart phone.

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Puzzling Hobby

          Many people who retire love to travel, play golf, play table games or go out and take advantage of early bird dinner specials at expensive restaurants.  For many reasons, including the costs, we have not been big travelers.  My back problems prevent me from playing golf, and we really don't care for expensive restaurants.  Now my wife loves to play table games, but, unfortunately, I really don't.  I'm tempted to use the words 'hate' when I discuss table games, but I tried to teach my boys not to use that word so I should set an example.  
         However, there are a few things that we have enjoyed doing together. We have enjoyed serving together in Awana and in our local voting precinct.  Music is one of our key loves - conducting hymn sings, preparing visuals for my wife's piano offertories, listening to good music, etc.  Another thing we really enjoy is doing jigsaw puzzles.  There is almost always one being done out on our enclosed porch and we complete one every week or two.  Maybe that is something that I inherited since my father always had one going, even when he was 90.  And my sister usually has one in the process.
          My wife and I enjoy the companionship of working together and our skills complement each other so well with the puzzles.  She is so good at seeing different shades and matching pieces that way.  She doesn't look at the picture on the box.  On the other hand, I look at the picture and then find the shapes and marks on the pieces to put them together.  Contrasting styles, but both important.
          Now some people probably think we are crazy spending so much time doing puzzles.  But there are some real benefits. There have been several studies, like the MacArthur Study, that have found that people who have been used to doing jigsaw puzzles as well as cross words and were fully active, stood to gain a longer life span and also had lesser chances of falling prey to Alzheimer's, memory loss, dementia and other old age problems. The brain produces a chemical known as dopamine that is chiefly responsible for learning and memory. The production of this chemical increases in the brain at the time when it is engaged in solving the jigsaw puzzle.
         We believe that working on puzzles and solving them provides us with many helpful benefits. First of all, it helps make us alert, increases our concentration, expands our creativity. Looking at the images constantly helps us practice visualization, which is again a good aid for any physical activity that requires mental activity. Experts say that it  also affects our physical health by lowering our breath rate, reducing heart rate and blood pressure too.  At least some puzzles do that - others sometimes may have the opposite effect.
         No matter what age you are, puzzles are very good for your brain.  Putting a puzzle together calls upon many cognitive skills, providing you with a great brain work out.  Here are some more things that experts say that it helps.
Visual Perception:  As you work to match shape, color and design, you are giving your Occipital Lobe a workout.  As you search through all of the pieces to find the correct ones you are strengthening your visual scanning abilities.  It's also great for spatial reasoning.  Now I have no idea what my Occipital Lobe is, but I guess giving it a workout must be a good thing.  Gotta keep that Occipital Lobe in shape!
Coordination:  Putting puzzles together hones hand-eye coordination and can strengthen and improve fine motor skills and dexterity in young and old hands.  I guess it also helps when we must pick up some pieces that fell on the floor.  And when we get down we "coordinate" our efforts by looking around to see if there is anything else that we can do  before we get back up.  At our age you dare not waste a trip to the floor.
Critical Thinking:  The steps it takes to complete a puzzle incorporate elements of sequencing, planning, logic, strategy and problem solving skills.  These skills require the work of your prefrontal cortex located in the frontal lobe.  Oh yes, we need to remember to exercise that prefrontal cortex in the frontal lobe!
Memory:  You may not realize it but puzzles exercise your short term and visual memory.  These memory components are used regularly while you put a puzzle together.  Now let's see, what were we talking about?  Oh yes, benefits of doing jigsaw puzzles.
Accomplishment:   Many people find puzzles relaxing and they can provide you with a sense of accomplishment which releases dopamine in the brain.   And any time we spend focusing on one activity helps improve our ever-waning attention spans.   On the other hand, at our age, anything we can still successfully complete gives a sense of accomplishment - like getting out of bed in the morning or remembering your name or where you parked your car.
          But seriously, you do get many benefits out of doing puzzles on a daily basis, including that sense of accomplishment when you are finished.  That is especially true if it is a very challenging puzzle which at times has made you feel like giving up.  Just persevere!
          Now did I sell you on the value and benefits of this hobby?  We will be glad to share any of our puzzles with you after we complete them since we always try to pass them on to others.  Just ask us.  If we can remember who you are or where we put them, we'll be glad to give a few to you.  Wow, it looks like I better get back to doing one to try and sharpen my memory once some more.  On the other hand just thinking of all the benefits has made me tired.  Maybe a nap would be better.  I think my Occipital Lobe and my prefrontal cortex in the frontal lobe may need some rest.

Sunday, March 2, 2014


        Tragedy - we don't know when it will happen and it comes when we least expect it.  We pray that it will never happen to us.  We fear that telephone call or notification that changes our lives forever.  But tragedy does happen ... hopefully to somebody else.
          Tragedy affected our life this past week when we received word that the son of a good missionary  friend of ours was killed in a horrendous auto accident.  Many of you know the details.  Josh Allen, a thirty year old pastor from New Mexico, was on his way to the airport to pick up his twin brother.  A 24 year old male driver, going 90 mph in the wrong lane, hit Josh head on, killing him instantly.  At home, waiting for his return was his wife and nine month old son.  They had planned to celebrate his wife's birthday the next day.  Josh had no life insurance.  This tragedy has impacted and changed the lives of his family and child, as well as the small growing church which he served.
          The stunned reaction to this tragedy is to question God.  Why would a loving God allow this to happen to a fine young man who was serving Him.   Some would also blame God for this tragedy.  And such questions are normal and expected.  Even the Psalmist often questioned God.  And the truth is, we will never know the answers this side of heaven.  God's ways can be mysterious and unknown to we humans.  And, as hard as it often is, we need to claim God's promises, such as "all things work together for good to those who love God".  We need to believe that God is good, all the time, even when our world is falling apart.
         Several of our close friends have also had similar tragedies involving family members. I, too, have experienced such an event.  I will never forget receiving the telephone call from my son telling me that my parents were in an accident and my mother was killed.  Those are moments you never forget.  Our lives were changed forever.  But God did give us incredible peace during those days.  And, looking back now, we realize that this accident did save mother from the possibility of years of suffering and possible stays in hard places like nursing homes.  It is so sad to see older folks suffer in their senior years, especially when things like dementia kick in.  Mother never had to go through those years.  Instantly absent from this world and present with the Lord.
        Now one of the problems we face when friends go through tragedy is how to respond.  It upset me when people said things like "she's better off".  That was certainly true, but nothing I wanted to hear at that time.  And what really bothered me were those who quoted scripture such as there is "rejoicing in heaven".  At that time I didn't care at all about rejoicing there when we were grieving here.  I hoped that those who said they were praying for us really were and not just using that as a "Christian" greeting. Then there were those who said "if we can be of any help, please call us".   To me that was a cop out.  They didn't really want to do anything and they knew we wouldn't call them.  They were off the hook.  We started responding that  if they really wanted to do something they should take dad out to eat sometime.  A few did, the vast majority did not.  

         Now there were a few things that were done that were really appreciated.  We enjoyed the food donations - we certainly didn't feel like cooking at that time.  Then there was one person who was considered an "outcast" among many of our friends who brought a huge platter of lunch meat and cheese and rolls and spent time talking with us.  Sadly many of our other "friends" did nothing.  Then there was a family, again considered by many as outsiders or different, who unexpectedly showed up at our home and cleaned up all of our November leaves.  Wow, was that an unexpected help that we have never forgotten. That was Christianity in action. And of all the sympathy cards that we received, we especially appreciated those where folks wrote personal notes and shared memories of my mother.  They meant so much more to us than most of the cards which contained nothing more than just a stock message.
          As I began to read the many messages about Pastor Josh Allen on Facebook, many of those memories came back.  Finally, I challenged all of those who were posting to put their words into action and do something practical, such as sending donations to help meet the huge financial needs.  Please don't misunderstand what I am saying, prayer is essential, but sometimes we need to put our prayers into action.  I am hoping that many will respond to the Allens in this practical way in this time of great need.
         I pray that the Lord will give all of the Allen family strength, wisdom, and peace in the midst of this tragedy.  And yes, I have backed up my words with action.

P.S. - For related comments, please go to my hymn blog for March 2 - http://barryshymns.blogspot.com/