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.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Whiz And Wheeze Kids

Shibe Park
Home of the Whiz Kids
        I guess I have been a Phillies fan most of my life, both in their very  few good years and even in their many, many lean years.  I can recall listening to them on the radio before the time that broadcasts were live.  Instead of the noise of the crowd, you'd hear the noise of the teletype running in the background.  A local announcer would do the "play-by-play" by reading what was on the teletype.  In those days it was all that you had.
          Now while I have enjoyed their great success in a few recent years, my favorite team was the 1950 team whose nickname was The Whiz Kids.  In sharp contrast to the present Wheeze Kids, their average age was only 26.4 years of age.  It was a team built on bonus babies and they were exciting to listen to.  And they won the National League pennant during that season.
          I had all of their baseball cards and their yearbook and many of their autographed pictures. It's too bad that I don't still have them today.  My favorite players were Robin Roberts, Del Ennis, Curt Simmons, Richie Ashburn and Willie Jones.  But I also loved Granny Hamner, Eddie Waitkus, Andy Seminick, Stan Lopata, Jim Konstanty, and Dick Sisler.  Some of these were among the best ever to play for the Phillies.
          Unfortunately, all sorts of problems came their way late in the 1950 season and the league championship came down to the final series against the defending champion Brooklyn Dodgers.  The final game pitted the Opening Day starting pitchers, right-handers Robin Roberts and Don Newcombe, against one another. The Phillies defeated the Dodgers in extra innings in the final game on a three-run home run by Dick Sisler in the top of the tenth inning.  But going into the World Series, their first since 1915, the Whiz Kids were hurting and missing several key players.  Pitcher Bob Miller, who injured his back slipping on wet stairs, outfielder Bill Nicholson who was diagnosed with diabetes and out for the remainder of the season,  rookie pitcher Bubba Church, who had been hit in the eye with a line drive,and star pitcher Curt Simmons, who was activated into military service on September 10.  They were so short of pitching that they had to use reliever Jim Konstanty to start the first game. And, with typical Phillie luck, the Whiz Kids were swept by the New York Yankees who won the second of five consecutive World Series championships. 
          With such young players, most thought that a new dynasty had begun. But the team finished with a 73–81 record in 1951, and, except for second place tie in 1964, did not finish higher than third place again until 1975.  I didn't realize the following until a few days ago, but their failure has been attributed to multiple theories, the most prominent of which is owner Carpenter's unwillingness to integrate his team after winning a pennant with an all-white team.  The Phillies did not integrate until 1957, a decade after Jackie Robinson's entry.  And maybe this is why the Phillies have generally been mediocre at best.  So sad.
          Now that brings us to 2014, most likely another mediocre season.  Instead of being young, they are loaded with older veterans in the final years of their careers. Most are past their peaks and are declining in performance. They are burdened with many high salaries and have ruined their farm system over the past few years attempting to win one more championship.  And so, unless there is a miracle, the Wheeze Kids are probably destined to trying to stay out of last place for the next decade.
         Will I still be a fan?   Probably.  We have gotten used to it and we still hope for miracles.  And after decades, it is hard to change your allegiance.  I guess some of us are just slow learners.  But I do miss the Whiz Kids!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Memories

        "He is risen, He is risen indeed!"  And this is the vital, life changing message of Easter Day, the most important day in the life of a Christian.  I hope that today you've taken time to worship and celebrate the risen Lord.

          On Good Friday I was reading some messages on a special Facebook website which highlights the history of Lititz, my hometown.  Reading these messages brought back many of my interesting memories of the Easter season in Lititz.  It also made me realize how society has changed and how politically incorrect it has become to even talk about or celebrate the true meaning of this holiday.  For many it has been replaced by Spring Holidays with bunnies and candy as the focus.
          The discussion began with memories of days when elementary students were taken to local churches for special services on Good Friday.  I remember those days when we marched across the street from Lititz Elementary to participate in a service at the Evangelical Congregational Church.  Others remembered going down the street to the local Lutheran Church.  I don't recall ever being given an option, it was just part of our schedule and we attended.
          And during those years all the stores closed from noon to 3 pm so that employees could attend services.  At least that was the case in Lititz as well as in Sunbury where my wife lived.  In fact, during those hours her employer, a local bank, actually held a required service in the bank for its employees.  All were expected to attend.  As I said, times have changed.
          For us, Easter day itself was a very full day of both worship and time with our family.  We would generally attend special morning services in our church in Lancaster.  Our kids usually participated by saying pieces. Then we would drive to Lititz where the entire family would gather for a special Easter dinner prepared by my mother.  I don't know how she was able to pull all of this off, but somehow mothers do.  
           In the afternoon we usually had an Easter egg hunt for the kids in the backyard.  How well we remember the Easter that my brother-in-law cut his chin while trying to hide an egg on top of a pole.  He needed several stitches.When the weather was nice I would always love to take an afternoon walk around Lititz.  It is an amazing town to walk in and I really miss being able to do this.  
          Then we would have a quick evening meal which always included mother's delicious macaroni salad.  Since her death, nobody has ever been able to recreate this special treat that we all loved.  Many have tried, but all have failed.  Then we would rush back to church in Lancaster for our annual Easter cantata that most of us were involved in.  And that would wrap up an exciting but very busy day.
          But most things change.  Mother and dad and my brother now enjoy Easter in heaven.  We don't do cantatas or have evening services anymore.  I don't take my afternoon walk in Lititz.  Now we usually have our children and grandchildren at our house for dinner. My wife has replaced mother. We have an egg hunt.  Then everyone heads home.  And mother's macaroni salad is just a memory.
          But one thing does stay the same - the power of the Resurrection!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Hurry Up And Wait - ER #2

In my last blog I shared my recent experience in the ER.  I've had another interesting one several years ago.  Here is what happened that time. 
"I think my throat is closing!"  These were the words that I mumbled to Dianne at about 7 a.m.  We were in a Reading motel room, and I had been having trouble getting saliva and swallowing since about 3:30 a.m.  And, it seemed like my problem was getting worse.   Jim Herrold, my former college roommate, was getting remarried that morning in a nearby town at 11 a.m.  I was to be the best man and we needed to leave by 10 a.m. to get to the wedding in time.  We had come for practice the night before and after a practice dinner we had returned to the motel to avoid the trip home.  Aware of my concern and discomfort, Dianne helped me quickly pack our belongings.  We decided to dress for the wedding, check out and head to the closest emergency room.
  We arrived at the emergency room before 8 a.m. and shared not only my physical problem but also our need to leave by 10 a.m. to drive to the wedding. While I was having difficulty talking at that point they seemed to understand and appreciate my situation.  They assured me that getting help in time would not be a problem since it was early Saturday morning and only one person was ahead of me.  So we waited … and we waited … and 45 minutes later I was taken to an observation room where two ladies began to ask me a battery of questions.  They took all sorts of tests, but never even looked at my throat.  I had hoped that one was a doctor but it turned out that they were both nurses. They kept assuring me, however, that I would be out in time to participate in the wedding.
  After this battery of questions they decided I needed an EKG and I had to take off my wedding clothing to have this done.  With this accomplished, they then put me into a wheelchair and wheeled me to another observation room where a doctor was supposed to finally see me.  By then it was already 9:30 and we had just 30 minutes before we had to leave.   Finally another young lady appeared in the new room and again went over my history and problem.  She never looked at my throat either, but she informed me that it was probably mucous caught behind my tonsils.  She said this often happens.  She seemed surprised when I told her that this would be unusual since my tonsils were removed years ago.  She then told me that a doctor would soon be in to see me … she wasn't a doctor either.  I told her that I only had 30 minutes until I had to leave and asked her if I'd get to see a doctor in that time.  Her reply?  "Probably not, and if you really have to leave just let me know."
  Incidentally, that was the last time I saw her.  And, 30 minutes later I went out to the desk and told them I had to leave.  At first they thought I'd have to sign a form but then they decided that since I hadn't seen a doctor I could just leave.  They suggested that I come back after the wedding.  We had waited there for two hours and had seen three nurses, but nobody had even looked at my throat.  They had to be kidding!   Why would I ever return there?   Someone volunteered to show us how to get out and we left – hopefully never to return.   Incidentally, the longer we were out of the motel room, the better my throat became.  I really believe that it was either something in the room or the air conditioning or something I ate the night before.
  On Monday I tried to make an appointment with my throat specialist at home.  I told her receptionist that I had been to the emergency room and needed a follow up visit.  The first appointment they could give me was three weeks later.  So I guess the Lord knew I had to learn the lesson "hurry up and wait"!   Do you find it hard to wait?  I do.  We all want instant answers and instant help.  But sometimes the Lord requires that we wait until He is ready, in His perfect timing, to answer and direct us.  So at times we must learn in our spiritual walk to wait and to trust Him fully.  And, He never will leave us down.   The Psalmist must have realized this when he penned the words of Psalm 27:13,14.  "I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart:  wait, I say, on the Lord."  And waiting on Him is always the best choice.
  Oh yes, we arrived at the wedding on time and we had a wonderful experience at a Christ honoring ceremony.  I was fully able to participate and to even enjoy the great food at the reception.   And one final observation. … the hospital never took my address or my insurance information.  So while I don't know the results of my EKG and other tests, they didn't know how or where to bill me and they never did.   It was an "interesting" way to spend a morning!

Friday, April 11, 2014

An Unexpected Visit

It was not an experience that I looked forward to or would ever want to repeat.  It began early Friday afternoon when symptoms of a heart attack began.  I tried to ignore them, especially since we had tickets for my granddaughter's play that evening.  Then my blood pressure began to go up much higher than usual.  Late in the afternoon I finally told my wife that we needed to make the trip to the ER.  I assumed that at supper time the ER would not be very full.  Wrong, very wrong!
         When we arrived there was only one parking space left in the ER parking lot.  Then we found out that there was standing room only in the large waiting room.  When we signed in they gave me a wheelchair but Dianne had to stand.  It was a terrible place to be. Several folks were vomiting.  Many were moaning.  Babies were crying.  You had the bad feeling that you might leave being more ill than when you arrived.  The staff seemed efficient and positive, but definitely overwhelmed.  One told us that when the rain ended everyone suddenly appeared.
          I did have an EKG in about 20 minutes and within an hour later I also had blood work and a chest x-ray done.  But then we waited and waited and waited. About three hours after arriving I was finally taken back and placed in a hall because no rooms were available in the ER.  Thirty minutes later I finally saw a doctor who quickly told me that because I was diabetic they would probably keep me overnight for observation.  Almost an hour later a physician's assistant finally confirmed this decision and I was taken to a room.
          My two nurses, Kara and Crystal, and other staff members in 6W were excellent and made me feel comfortable and at ease. By that time I was feeling normal once again. Two hours later I had another EKG and more blood work.  Then at 2:30 in the morning I was taken for an MRI of my brain and cervical spine.  A planned echocardiogram was canceled.  That was the end of the testing except for regular blood pressure and blood tests.
          About 7:30 in the morning nurse Kara told me that she expected I would be released as soon as the doctor came to see me.  I never saw a doctor but about 9:30 a physician's assistant appeared and explained that they felt my heart was fine, PTL, but that there were problems with my spine.  I knew that but I guess they must have gotten worse.  She said I would be discharged as soon as she met with the doctor.  Fortunately I made one good choice and I ordered lunch, even though I thought I wouldn't be there to eat it.  But I was, and the lunch, like breakfast, was excellent.  Discharge finally came about 1 in the afternoon ending a 20 hour experience.
          There were several good things about the experience.  The staff members were all so friendly and kind.  The food and my room were excellent.  But there were some disappointing things like the conditions in the ER waiting room and the amount of time it took to be seen.  But, in all fairness, they were overloaded.  I would have liked to have talked to a regular doctor. Did they really give attention to my situation or did they just pass me off to stay overnight so they could deal with others? And everybody kept saying that I had chest pain, which I never did.  And despite correcting each of them, that still appeared on my discharge report.  And there was a mistake concerning my medicine on my discharge report.  But I have learned to take care of myself and keep my own records.  It is easy to become just a number in today's healthcare system. I just hope that in the future I can avoid needing the ER.  It's not a fun experience.  Actually, if you have a choice, you are much better off going in the ambulance and avoiding the waiting rooms.
           Now I have already followed up and seen a neurosurgeon who has ordered more tests. So the journey is not over and it will probably lead to surgery.  But God is good, all the time and our ways are in His hands.  

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Prime Time!

          I think today is a good time to give you a math challenge.  It's my birthday gift to you. Now please don't leave yet because this challenge really isn't too difficult.
This is a great day!  It's not really my birthday, it is the anniversary of my birth.  X number of years ago I was born in a hospital in Sunbury. My father was able to watch my appearance, something I never had the opportunity to do with the birth of my three sons. But sometime after my birth they tore down the hospital and moved it to another location.  I wonder if my birth had anything to do with that decision.  They never even asked me if they could do it.  But they did build a new junior high in that location so my wife could attend it more than a decade later.
But it is a great day because today I am "back in my prime" once again.  This the 21st time in my life that I have been "in my prime".  Actually I was "in my prime" just two years ago.  But last year I was just a composite.  Now what is special about this year is that if you reverse the digits of this 21st prime (my age) you get the 12th prime.  And I enjoy discovering patterns like that.  Now here is one to give it away.  Find the factors, other than 21 and 1, of 21 and that will give you the digits of my age.  Hint, choose the larger number that you can form.  At times I may wish that I were the smaller number that you can form, but I'll never come close to that age again.
          Actually, my age, X, is the same as the atomic number of tantalum. Tantalum is a greyish silver, heavy, and very hard metal. When pure, it is ductile and can be drawn into fine wire, which can be used as a filament for evaporating metals such as aluminium. Tantalum is almost completely immune to chemical attack at temperatures below 150°C, and is attacked only by hydrofluoric acid, acidic solutions containing the fluoride ion, and free sulphur trioxide. The element has a melting point exceeded only by tungsten and rhenium. Now there is a chemistry lesson given to you free of charge.  That may make your day!
  Now I really feel old when I tell you that I am actually 1001001 (a palindrome) expressed as a binary number.  Wow, that really is old.  And the sum of the first X odd primes is actually divisible by X.  Now there is a pattern for you.  And one last challenge for you.  Take the word NUMBER and to each letter in the word assign its position number in the alphabet.  Hint - N would be 14.  Then total the six numbers and you have X.  Try it, it's fun.
  So do you have it?  Now don't tell me you were never good in math.  I really am disappointed when somebody says that.  What you should say instead is something like "I never had a good math teacher".  And maybe you didn't and that is sad.  Math should be interesting and fun and anybody should be able to do it, at least the fundamentals.  Somehow it is socially acceptable today to say "I never was good at math", but you never hear anybody say " I was never good at reading".  It is a disgrace to admit you are bad at reading, but acceptable to say you are bad at math.  Go figure!
Oh yes, in case you didn't yet find the value of X, it is actually LXXIII.  Well I better start enjoying the next 12 months, because when they end it will be another six years until I am again prime!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

He Has Placed A Song In My Heart

          Recently somebody posted a blog on Facebook that caught my eye.  It was entitled "Why Men Have Stopped Singing in Church", by a David Murrow.  I have never copied another person's blog before, but I found this one interesting enough to do so.   I may add a few personal comments at the end.  Here goes.
          "It happened again yesterday. I was attending one of those hip, contemporary churches — and almost no one sang. Worshippers stood obediently as the band rocked out, the smoke machine belched and lights flashed. Lyrics were projected on the screen, but almost no one sang them. A few women were trying, but I saw only one male (other than the worship leader) making the attempt.
          A few months ago I blogged, "Have Christians Stopped Singing?" I did some research, and learned that congregational singing has ebbed and flowed over the centuries. It reached a high tide when I was a young man – but that tide may be going out again. And that could be bad news for men.
          First, a very quick history of congregational singing.  Before the Reformation, laypersons were not allowed to sing in church. They were expected to stand mute as sacred music was performed by professionals (priests and cantors), played on complex instruments (pipe organs), and sung in an obscure language (Latin).  Reformers gave worship back to the people in the form of congregational singing. They composed simple tunes that were easy to sing, and mated them with theologically rich lyrics. Since most people were illiterate in the 16th century, singing became an effective form of catechism. Congregants learned about God as they sang about God.  A technological advance – the printing press – led to an explosion of congregational singing. The first hymnal was printed in 1532, and soon a few dozen hymns became standards across Christendom. Hymnals slowly grew over the next four centuries. By the mid 20th century every Protestant church had a hymnal of about 1000 songs, 250 of which were regularly sung. In the church of my youth, everyone picked up a hymnal and sang every verse of every song.
          About 20 years ago a new technological advance – the computer controlled projection screen – entered America's sanctuaries. Suddenly churches could project song lyrics for all to see. Hymnals became obsolete. No longer were Christians limited to 1,000 songs handed down by our elders.
          At first, churches simply projected the songs everyone knew – hymns and a few simple praise songs that had come out of the Jesus Movement. People sang robustly.  But that began to change about ten years ago. Worship leaders realized they could project anything on that screen. So they brought in new songs each week. They drew from the radio, the Internet, and Worship conferences. Some began composing their own songs, performing them during worship, and selling them on CD after church.  In short order we went from 250 songs everyone knows to 250,000+ songs nobody knows.
          Years ago, worship leaders used to prepare their flocks when introducing a new song. "We're going to do a new song for you now," they would say. "We'll go through it twice, and then we invite you to join in."  That kind of coaching is rare today. Songs get switched out so frequently that it's impossible to learn them. People can't sing songs they've never heard. And with no musical notes to follow, how is a person supposed to pick up the tune?  And so the church has returned to the 14th century. Worshippers stand mute as professional-caliber musicians play complex instruments, sung in an obscure language. Martin Luther is turning over in his grave.
          What does this mean for men? On the positive side, men no longer feel pressure to sing in church. Men who are poor readers or poor singers no longer have to fumble through hymnals, sing archaic lyrics or read a musical staff.  But the negatives are huge. Men are doers, and singing was one of the things we used to do together in church. It was a chance to participate. Now, with congregational singing going away, and communion no longer a weekly ordinance, there's only one avenue left for men to participate in the service – the offering. Is this really the message we want to send to men? Sit there, be quiet, and enjoy the show. And don't forget to give us money.  There's nothing wrong with professionalism and quality in church music. The problem isn't the rock band, or the lights, or the smoke machine. The key is familiarity. People enjoy singing songs they know.
          How do I know? When that super-hip band performed a hymn, the crowd responded with gusto. People sang. Even the men."
          Now my reason for sharing this is not meant as an attack on praise choruses.  I love many of them and many of them have wonderful words and thoughts.  My reason for sharing this opinion is just to stir up some thinking.  I do have two concerns about the praise chorus movement.  The first is that I think they fall short in two key themes - the blood of Jesus Christ and the return of Jesus Christ.  Second, they are usually sung for a month or two and then forgotten. New ones are then introduced. They aren't given a chance to penetrate our minds and hearts so that they could return to us years from now to encourage and help us when we need them.  How many praise choruses do you now sing that you sang last year, or two years ago or three years ago?   How many of those do you even remember anymore.  Probably very few.
          Hymns and praise choruses both have their place in worship today.  They should enhance our worship by allowing us to praise God for who He is and also allow us to testify of what He has done for us in the past and what He has planned for us in the future.  God is good.