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.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Beautiful Lady

        As I've shared so often, I have been blessed to have a wonderful godly heritage.  My father's parents, his three sisters, and their husbands have always modeled Jesus to me and have been an inspiration and encouragement to me throughout my life.  It is always with such mixed emotions that I feel when I watch as they pass on to their rewards in heaven.  I miss them greatly, but I also realize that they are now where they have looked forward to being for decades.
          Just recently the second of my father's three sisters, Aunt Beats, moved on to her eternal home.  My aunt didn't really know me the last few years of her life, although I think she may have at times thought that I was my dad.  But she always had the most beautiful smile and pleasant attitude.  She appreciated everyone and everything, especially in her final years, even though most of her memory was gone.
          Aunt Beats married Uncle Mart in 1942 and they had 61 years together until he was taken home 11 years ago.  He was a manager in the J.C. Penney chain and they moved quite frequently.  Over the years we enjoyed visiting them in their many locations.  We especially enjoyed the visits when they lived in Binghamton, N. Y., where they had a lovely home and a great swimming pool. They once hosted me overnight in their home when our basketball team from Susquehanna played a college game there.  And the first time that Dianne and I both visited them there together, we accompanied them to their church where we sang our first duet, "In The Secret Service of Prayer".
          Later they moved to Hanover and our visits were more frequent.  Once our family provided music in their church. Our boys enjoyed visiting with them in Hanover since Uncle Mart would take them out in his boat.  And they also had a swimming pool.  Upon retirement they bought a farm near Sunbury and we enjoyed visiting there as well.  They would always load us up with produce from their farm which they also  readily shared with all their friends.  When serious health issues developed they moved to Calvary Homes in Lancaster.
          We always enjoyed our times together with them, especially since their faith and testimony for the Lord was always so evident.  On their tractor shed on the farm they placed the sign "Wise Men Still Seek Christ" and they backed that up with their lives.  It was always a special blessing to be with them and they were always so kind and welcoming.
          Recently several folks have remarked to me how much Aunt Beats was like her father, Pastor N. H. Wolf, with a positive disposition and a love for the Lord.  This and her beautiful smile is how I will always remember her.  What greater heritage could one have then to have family members who loved and served the Lord.  I thank the Lord for this legacy and trust that my children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces will see the same in my life. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Coincidences? Luck?

          Life is filled with many unexpected events.  Many folks will say these events are just luck or coincidences.  But those of us who claim to know the Lord Jesus Christ know that our life events are part of His plan for us and not just coincidences.  Maybe they are even special miracles.  During the past three months we have had many of these special events which have been orchestrated by the Lord.

         If you have been reading my recent blogs you may be aware of the discovery of a very serious spinal condition that could have led to paralysis or even death if it had not been discovered.  A trip to the ER for expected heart issues led to this diagnosis.  A special surgeon who is normally booked many months in advance agreed to see me almost immediately.  This led to unexpected cervical spine surgery which replaced two discs, removed calcium behind three discs which had compressed my spinal cord and the removal of a spur.  Even the surgeon didn't anticipate this much damage and wasn't sure if he could correct it all.  But we prayed and he was able to do it all in 4 1/2 hours.  Coincidence?  Luck?  No, just a special intervention by the Lord.
         Now I had numerous limits following surgery, including not being allowed to drive.  I still can't lift more than 15 lbs. and complete healing may take up to a year.  Three days after my surgery my wife had her annual colonoscopy required for her ulcerative colitis.  Numerous biopsies were taken.  PTL, they all came back negative.  And the Lord was continuing to be in control with special blessings or even miracles.
          Several weeks ago, about 15 hours before my appointment to get cleared to drive again, Dianne passed out while we were putting a puzzle together.  We should have called 911 but she revived quickly and didn't want to go to the ER.  The next morning we went to her doctor who thought it might have been a TIA or a brief seizure.  He wanted to send her to a neurologist but I suggested that she see her heart doctor instead.  Then we found that the first opening with her heart doctor wasn't until September.  I wanted her seen right away so they set us up with another doctor in the same group.  He ordered more blood tests and a 24 hour monitor and promised to call as soon as he got the results.
          When he failed to call back we asked to see another doctor in their group and this one reviewed the test results with us and then ordered a chemical stress test.  They wanted it done in their facility but couldn't do it there for two weeks.  So I suggested checking with the hospital and they were able to take her, would you believe, at 7:15 the very next morning.  The Lord was continuing to work things out because when her test began we were surprised and pleased to find out that her regular heart doctor was actually on duty in the hospital that day.  He then was able to monitor her throughout the day.  I must admit that this surprise boosted my confidence and reminded me how that the Lord was really in charge.
          There were some problems with the stress test so the doctor suggested that while she was already there they should do a heart cath. If they found a blockage they would keep her overnight and do surgery the next morning.   But when the tests came back fine he then suggested that her electrical system should be tested.  We were then able to schedule another doctor in their group and see her July 3, the day before we were headed to Pinebrook and she was leaving for vacation.  And we were able to schedule Dianne's heart test the day we both returned home from our vacations.  Timing and availability a coincidence?  No!
          So on that Monday, at 6 am, she entered LGH where they went into her heart and examined the electrical responses.  About an hour into the test they called me and said that she actually needed a pacemaker.  I told them to go ahead and they implanted one while she was still out.  Later they did find some sort of glitch happened exactly at 11:51, probably from an external source and they never could figure out what caused it but her pacemaker was right on otherwise.  So, against my desires, they discharged her at 5 in the afternoon. They told me that if there was any problem we should call 911.  That suggestion didn't make me feel anymore comfortable, but seeing how God had been working everything out, I still knew He was in control ... and He was.  She actually slept in bed that night and everything appears to be slowly healing well.
          Now she can't drive for at least six weeks, but in God's perfect timing I now can.  And she is limited in what she may lift and she is not allowed to place her left arm above her shoulder for at least six weeks.  So we are a good pair and we often laugh about our restrictions together.  And it appears to be working fine, although I have much to learn about cooking, washing and cleaning.  But those are lessons I really need to learn anyway.  The one thing we haven't resolved is how I comb her hair.  All I've ever dealt with is my short hair and so this is a challenge.  One thing sure - I'll never be a hair dresser.
          But even more sure than that, God is good, all the time and all of our moments are in His hands. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Day By Day

        Last week we were stunned to see a friend of ours have a heart attack during an evening service at Pinebrook.  We prayed as folks gave him CPR until the ambulance arrived.  Just moments before he had given his testimony of  how he came to know the Lord.  It was such a vivid reminder of how we never know what a day may bring.  I recall receiving the word that my mother was killed in an auto accident.  I remember how I found my father minutes after he had passed away.  I remember receiving word that several of my friends had been told that they had serious physical diseases.  I remember being told that I had prostate cancer and recently that I needed cervical spine surgery or I might become paralyzed.  Last week we received word that my wife needed heart surgery which she had on Monday. I remember 911 and President Kennedy being killed. Events that change our lives happen unexpectedly.  As I said, we never know what a day may bring.  As I've thought about such unexpected events the song "Your Faithfulness" by Brian Doerksen kept coming back to my mind.

I don't know what this day will bring
Will it be disappointing, filled with longed for things?
I don't know what tomorrow holds
Still I know I can trust Your faithfulness
I don't know if these clouds mean rain
If they do, will they pour down blessing or pain?
I don't know what the future holds
Still I know I can trust Your faithfulness

          The song began days before the birth of the Doerksen's sixth child.  Several years before they had found that their son had "Fragile X syndrome", a permanent condition that caused severe development delays and other big challenges. Knowing that the syndrome is passed genetically through the mother, and having four daughters and one son, they decided to take a 'step of faith' to try and have one more child. They hoped and prayed for a son who would not be affected with the syndrome.  As the due date approached Brian found himself becoming more and more overwhelmed by the uncertainties of life and he asked himself, "Is there anything I can count on in life?" As he began to pour out his heart at the piano, this song spilled out amid his tears with the assurance that there is only one thing we can really count on, even when we don't understand - the faithfulness of God. Their sixth child, a son, was born with this disease. 
            Sometimes even our faithful God does not shield us from the problems of humanity, but He does give us the us the strength to face them in His power. We don't know what a day may bring, but we have the presence of God Almighty who is ever faithful.  The older I get, the more I remember to start each day by thanking the Lord for another day and asking Him to give me the strength and wisdom I need to handle whatever He has planned for me in the coming hours.

When darkness overwhelms my soul
When thoughts and storms of doubt
Still I trust You are always faithful, always faithful
Certain as the rivers reach the sea
Certain as the sunrise in the east
I can rest in your faithfulness
Surer than a mother's tender love
Surer than the stars still shine above
I can rest in your faithfulness
I don't know what this day will bring
Will it be disappointing, filled with longed for things?
I don't know what tomorrow holds
Still I know I can trust Your faithfulness

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Mall Observations

          I  recently had about an hour to do one of my favorite things - people watching.  My wife was doing some shopping at Park City and since I had already completed my daily walk there I decided to grab a seat in the center mall and just observe what was happening.  During that time I made numerous observations, but here are just ten of the things that I noticed.

(1)   A few people stopped at the Bake Shop where they sell expensive cup cakes.  But all that I saw purchase them there were at least 50 pounds overweight.  Is that a cause and effect relationship?

(2)   The economy must be much better than I realized since the busiest shop was the coffee shop.  Folks continually stopped there to purchase all sorts of fancy, over priced coffee combinations.  I think the least expensive item - regular coffee - was $3.75.  They must make the most profit of any of the stores in the mall.  And people need their fancy coffee fix.

(3)    I did need to make a visit to a restroom and I felt very much ill at ease there since there was a young boy who was playing around in there, unattended.  I felt very uncomfortable in this day and age when it is common to have folks make claims of sexual misconduct.  In fact, Awana now has a new policy for its major events. Children and adults may not be in a rest room at the same time.   How sad it is that we have reached such a point in this sinful society.

(4)    Along the same line, while I was seated in the mall, a father passed me pushing his young son in a stroller.  The toddler waved to me so I waved back.  Then I saw the father give me a nasty look.  I guess it's dangerous to even smile or wave to a youngster today.

(5)    And while I am on the subject of children, I was shocked at the number of youngsters who were running around and appeared to be unattended.  What a dangerous situation in a day when children are sometimes kidnapped.  And, likewise, what a sad situation when parents don't control and discipline their children.

(6)    It appears that anything goes today with the way people dress in public.  The clothing ranged from those who looked like they were going to a formal banquet to those who must have just come out of the garden. Amish to Muslim and many different cultures. Multicolored hair is in and so are piercings and skin. And torn jeans and saggin pants are still in.

(7)    You could also tell that summer is coming.  Push-up bras and low necklines were prevalent and revealed much more than one really needed to see.

(8)    We really have become international.  The number of different languages that were heard there was amazing.  The days of just English and Pennsylvania Dutch are long gone.

(9)    There are some very boring jobs there.  I can't imagine sitting all day at a Bathfitter display or a Cabinet Refinishing display or a few of the others.  I guess some folks really need the work and are willing to spend their days doing that.

(10)   What did people do before smart phones and cell phones?  A large percentage of the shoppers were talking and texting as they walked and shopped.  Some were talking out loud and you could even listen to their "private" conversations.  I guess folks can no longer stand to be alone, even for a few minutes.

          It was an interesting hour and provided me with an interesting, but sometimes sad view of our changing society.  But I guess my biggest observation during that time was that the masses who passed by needed the Lord.  I couldn't help but think of the words of Steve Green's song, "Everyday they pass me by, I can see it in their eyes. Empty people filled with care, Headed who knows where?  On they go through private pain, Living fear to fear. Laughter hides their silent cries, Only Jesus hears.  People need the Lord, people need the Lord. At the end of broken dreams, He's the open door. People need the Lord, people need the Lord. When will we realize, people need the Lord?"  And that is a haunting and challenging observation.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Invest Information

Once again we've passed that time that is dreaded by so many - the deadline for filing federal and state income taxes.  Now I don't really dread that at all.  Our taxes were filed the beginning of March and by the middle of the month I had received and invested our refund.  But since we did owe state tax this year I held that return and filed it just before the deadline.  Then it's all over for another year.
          Recently a Steve Sanderson sent me some important information about investments.  I had shared this on my Awana website, but in case you didn't see it there, I felt that it might be worth sharing this in my blog for those who didn't see it.  
          There are some key definitions listed here that you should know if you are an investor. And you won't find this help anywhere else.  So study it carefully.


STOCK: A magical piece of paper that is worth $33.75 until the moment you buy it. It will then be worth $8.50. 

BOND: What you had with your spouse until you pawned his/her golf clubs to invest in Amazon.com. 

BROKER: The person you trust to help you make major financial decisions. Please note the first five letters of this word spell "Broke."

BEAR: What your trade account and wallet will be when you take a flyer on that 
hot stock tip your coworker gave you.

BULL: What your broker uses to explain why your mutual funds tanked during the last quarter. 

MARGIN: Where you scribble the latest quotes when you're supposed to be listening to your manager's presentation. 

SHORT POSITION: A type of trade where, in theory, a person sells stocks he doesn't actually own. Since this also only ever works in theory, a short position is what a person usually ends up being in (e.g., "The rent, sir?   Hahaha, well, I'm a little short this month."). 

COMMISSION: The only reliable way to make money on the stock market, which is 
why your broker charges you one. 

YAK: What you do into a pail when you discover your stocks have plunged and your broker is making a margin call.

There you have what you need, so get busy and invest away!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Give Thanks

         Do people show you appreciation and "thank you" when you do a favor for them?  If you let another vehicle pull out in front of you do they always wave "thank you"?   If you hold a door open for another person, do they say "thank you"?  If you provide some information that a person has requested, do they say "thank you"?  I guess I would answer those questions by saying "sometimes", but maybe not as often as folks used to.  I guess I feel that the act of having good manners and showing appreciation and saying thanks is becoming a lost skill.
        Maybe showing appreciation needs to be taught.  Like many parents we have had to train our boys to say thank you.  It doesn't appear to be a natural reaction.  When I was commander of Awana I often had to remind clubbers that it was proper to say "thank you" when receiving an award.  Many learned to do so, but others never did.
         For 12 years I served as Judge of Elections for our precinct.  It was a lot of work with little pay but generally we enjoyed it and we worked with such a nice team.  But we decided that it was time to retire.  Now never did anybody at the county election board ever say thank you for serving.  The only response that I ever received from them was that I once packed their electrical cords in the wrong place.  Maybe if I had known my work was appreiated I might have continued a few more years.  But I guess that is the way that government acts.  It's a wonder that folks continue to serve when they aren't appreciated.
         Recently I received an e-mail from a church member after I responded to their request for some information about gifts for their missionary trip.  They thanked me for doing that for them and I admit that I was shocked and pleased.  Do you know that in 12 years of handling the finances for our church that is the first time that I received thanks for doing this. Some years I provide 160 or more receipts and I keep individual records for gifts for trips - about 40 this year.  But I guess folks just expect that this will be done for them.  I prepare over 300 end of year giving receipts and the only time I hear about them is when somebody has lost their receipt and quickly needs another copy to take to their tax preparer.  It is often expected that I will provide this for them almost immediately.  Now I don't do this work for thanks and I'm not looking for any sympathy.  I do it because God has given me the gifts to do so.  But, unfortunately, even Christians can be demanding and not appreciative.  And churches can be the least appreciative of anybody.  Church leadership wants folks to serve, but they seldom, if ever, show their appreciation to those who do volunteer.
          Now there is one exception that I must mention.  Our Awana staff has always been overly appreciative of our leadership.  Notes of thanks, annual gifts at our banquet, and even standing ovations have been given to us.  While it is embarrassing at times, it is special because we work with such good people and we know their responses are sincere.
        But sometimes it is hard to show your appreciation when folks don't accept it.  For about 30 years we have made it a personal project to thank our Awana staff for their service by providing an annual buffet banquet for them at the end of the Awana year. The last few years we have gone to the Conferene Center at Millersville University.  It cost us about $32 a person and we only charge them $6 as a way to thank them.  We announce it a year in advance so they can reserve the night.  And despite this, about one third of the staff don't come.  And this year we had to even pay for six staff members who bought tickets and then didn't come.  This is always so disappointing to us personally because it is our special opportunity to provide a special night for them to say thank you.  I will never understand this, but at least we try.
          But problems with showing and accepting appreciation aren't really that new.  I have always been perplexed by the time that Jesus miraculously healed ten lepers.  Of the ten, only one came back to thank Jesus for this miracle that changed their lives.  I've never really been able to comprehend this story.
          But as I've shared these stories and examples, I am reminded first that it is our responsibility to serve the Lord and use our gifts, no matter what the response.  We are serving Him first and our rewards will be in heaven.  But secondly, we have a responsibility to be thankful.  We need to look for those who serve, especially in our church ministries, and share our appreciation with them.  But, thirdly, and most importantly, we need to continually thank our Lord for His grace and mercy and goodness.  I think often we fail to do this.  God is so good and faithful to us, all the time, and we need to continually live thankful lives before Him.  1 Thessalonians 5:18 "In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."