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.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Encouragement part 2

          In my last blog I discussed some general opinions about encouragement.  I hope they have challenged you to find folks to encourage.  Maybe you could compile a list of people and each week send a card of encouragement to one of them.  Or call one a week and just tell them that you are praying for them.  What an impact you could have on them and on their ministry.

          Now I mentioned that seldom do most of us receive any encouragement from others.  But, by God's great grace, He provides us with encouragement in several different ways.  There are two ways that I find that He provides that for me.
          The first is through Scripture.  Now it may be just an excuse, but I find it harder to memorize the older that I get.  But growing up I memorized many verses and hid them in my heart.   And it is amazing how often the Lord brings those back to me when I need them.  
          We taught children for many years and we borrowed an idea from my uncle and aunt, Pastor Bob and Thelma Smock.  For their VBS programs they put a verse to music for each letter of the alphabet.  They rotated them over several years and the children really learned them.  I have probably now composed 50 or more of these choruses myself that we have used with both adults and children.  And so often these melodies still come back to me and I can sing them and often even remember the reference.
           Reading, memorizing, and meditating upon Scripture can be a great source of encouragement.  Here are a few examples of encouraging verses.   

Proverbs 3:5-6  "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."
Proverbs 18:10  "The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe."
Isaiah 41:10  "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
John 14:27  "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."
John 16:33  "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
Psalm 46:1-3  "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,  though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah."
2 Timothy 1:7  "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline."
Psalm 16:8  "I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken." 
Psalm 55:22  "Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall." "
1 Peter 5:7 "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."
Isaiah 26:3 "You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you."
Psalm 120:1  "I call on the LORD in my distress, and he answers me."
Jeremiah 33:3  "Call upon me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things which thou knowest not."
Psalm 139:3  "Thou compasseth my path and my lying down and art acquainteth with, all my ways."
  Matthew 6:26  "Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?
Psalm 138:8  "The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me."
      Philippians 1:6  "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."
Deuteronomy 31:6  "Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."
Psalm 32:8  "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go.  I will guide you with my eye."
1 John 4:4   "The one who is in you is greater that the one who is in the world."
Psalm 23:1  "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want."
1 Peter 4:10  "When the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade."

So are you discouraged or in need of encouragement?  Then spend some time in the Scripture and be reminded of God's promises.  He never fails. Be encouraged, God is still on the throne and in control.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Encouragement, Part 1

           Encourage- give support, confidence, or hope to (someone).   Have you ever been encouraged by somebody?  How did it affect you?   Or a better question, how often do you attempt to encourage others?  I believe the action of encouragement is one of the most important actions that two people can have between them.  It is so important in my opinion that I will attempt to devote three blogs to this topic.  While this one will deal with some general views and opinions, the next two blogs will deal with two specific ways that I have been encouraged.

            1 Thessalonians 5:11  "Therefore comfort each other and edify one another."
          Now, if you are like me, receiving genuine encouragement doesn't happen too frequently, especially if you are in a leadership role.  While we appreciate encouragement from others, encouraging others doesn't seem to be part of our nature.  Maybe that is why we sometimes need to schedule it.  For example, October has been set aside as Pastor Appreciation Month.  Now that is great, but why must we be reminded, once a year, to encourage our pastors.  It seems as though that should be done regularly throughout the year.  But, in most cases, it probably doesn't happen, so we schedule a particular time to make it happen.
          Maybe encouragement is on my mind because of a thank you card that I recently received.  In the card the writer expressed sincere appreciation for a ministry job that I do every week.  This was extra special because it was only the second time in 12 years that such appreciation was expressed to me for this work . And this note has been a real encouragement to me.  Do I serve for the praise of men?  Certainly not.  Did I need this encouragement?  Not really, but it certainly was special and uplifting.
          I think it is vital for leaders to regularly encourage those who serve under them, especially when those folks are volunteers.  I have always tried to make this a priority with those I taught, those I supervised in school, and those that I led in Awana.  In most cases this was appreciated and was helpful to them.  Generally they were encouraged and so was I.  My brother, Terry, was a great encourager and he always went out of his way to show appreciation to those he knew.
         But sometimes, even with good intentions, our most sincere efforts to encourage do fail.  For many years I have organized a special banquet to honor and thank our volunteer Awana staff for serving.  Our cost to do this has been about $2,000 annually which has been covered by some special contributions.  About 70% of the staff come and have a great time.  They look forward to it and talk about it for months.  But about 30% choose not to attend.  I guess I will never fully understand that.  But at least I have been sincere and have tried to encourage them.  
          Now if you are going to be an encourager, you need to be careful and sincere and not over do it.  There are a few folks that I know who are always so positive that their appreciation at times almost seems programmed and insincere.  You know the compliments are always going to come from them and you must consider how meaningful it really is.  But folks like that are in the vast minority.  Most never say anything positive.
         Now let me challenge you to think of some folks that you know and can encourage this week.  Think of those who work quietly behind the scenes and who are faithful in serving. Think of those who are facing tough times and challenges. Think of those who might be discouraged or even getting weary in well doing.  We don't need to schedule another special month or holiday to do this.  It should be a natural action from our hearts and should be motivated by 1 Thessalonians 5:11.
        Now let me clarify something. Folks shouldn't serve just to receive praise. I Peter 4:11 reminds us "If anyone serves, he should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised."  But even though the praise should be God's, it is still nice to know once in awhile that others around you appreciate what you do.  Be an encourager.
         "May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word."  2 Thessalonians 2:16-27.
Now by His grace, the Lord has provided two special sources of encouragement to me that have helped me over and over throughout my life.  They will be the topics of my next two blogs.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Don't Mess With Them!

         It's been over a year since I learned a tough lesson - don't believe little old ladies who are still driving cars.  As you might remember, a little old lady ran a red light outside Park City and plowed into the side of our car.  Fortunately, while our car had considerable damage, nobody was hurt.  The little old lady was very apologetic and admitted that it was all her fault.  She told me it was her first accident and that her husband was at home, very ill.  I fell for it and I pitied her.  I decided not to have the police prosecute her.  We helped her with her car and acted with kindness to her, even though our car had to be towed.
          Then, weeks later I found out that this little old lady had taken me.  She filed a false insurance report saying that it was all my fault.  We were stunned.  And we were even more stunned when the two insurance companies couldn't agree on what had happened, despite pictures and detailed explanations from us.  We had to pay our $500 deductible and I learned not to trust little old ladies who are driving, no matter how trusting they might appear.
         Then I came across the following story.  Now I don't know that it is a true story, but even if it isn't, it does give more credibility about the lesson I learned.  Don't mess with them!

An older lady gets pulled over for speeding...
Older Woman: Is there a problem, Officer? 
Officer: Ma'am, you were speeding. 
Older Woman: Oh, I see.
Officer: Can I see your license please?
Older Woman: I'd give it to you but I don't have one.
Officer: Don't have one?
Older Woman: Lost it, 4 years ago for drunk driving.
Officer: I see ... Can I see your vehicle registration papers please.
Older Woman: I can't do that.
Officer: Why not?
Older Woman: I stole this car.
Officer: Stole it?
Older Woman: Yes, and I killed and hacked up the owner.
Officer: You what?
Older Woman: His body parts are in plastic bags in the trunk if you want to see.

The Officer looks at the woman and slowly backs away to his car and calls for back up. Within minutes 5 police cars circle the car. A senior officer slowly approaches the car, clasping his half drawn gun.

Officer 2: Ma'am, could you step out of your vehicle please! The woman steps out of her vehicle.
Older woman: Is there a problem sir?
Officer 2: One of my officers told me that you have stolen this car and murdered the owner.
Older Woman: Murdered the owner?
Officer 2: Yes, could you please open the trunk of your car, please.
The woman opens the trunk, revealing nothing but an empty trunk.
Officer 2: Is this your car, ma'am?
Older Woman: Yes, here are the registration papers.
The officer is quite stunned.
Officer 2: One of my officers claims that you do not have a driving license.
The woman digs into her handbag and pulls out a clutch purse and hands it to the officer.

The officer examines the license. He looks quite puzzled.
Officer 2: Thank you ma'am, one of my officers told me you didn't have a license, that you stole this car, and that you murdered and hacked up the owner.
Older Woman: Bet the liar told you I was speeding, too. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Story Of The Three Sunflowers

          Now today I am going to share with you a true but probably very insignificant story that has happened to us this summer.  Maybe it should be a parable, or maybe there is a moral to the story, or at least there may be some practical application.  But if there is, I still haven't figured out what it might be.  Maybe you can provide it for me.

         Early this spring we were shopping at a local nursery store and while we were checking out, we saw packets of sunflower seeds.  Now we've never tried to grow sunflowers before but we thought that they might make a great addition to our flower garden.  So we purchased a pack and began the process.

         The packet contained about 20 seeds and so we planted them in a box and made a small "hot house" for them to help them germinate.  Soon about 12 actually geminated.  As they grew we decided to transplant them into individual cups to give them more space to grow.  Unfortunately, only three of the twelve actually grew large enough to be transplanted into our garden.  So from about 20 we ended up with just three.
          Now I was concerned that our rabbits might enjoy sunflowers just like they have enjoyed many of our other young plants.  So I came up with an idea to make three circular fences about 30 inches high and a foot in diameter.  I was proud of my work and we went ahead, transplanted the three, and enclosed them in my inventions.  And actually it worked and the three plants began to grow.
         Then as we watched them grow, their growth reminded me of the story of the three bears - Papa Bear, Mama Bear and Baby Bear.   Does that children's story have a moral?  Maybe it would be the same one as this story.
         Papa Sunflower began to grow - taller and taller.  It eventually stood strong and firm, about 8 ft. in height. It towered over everything in our garden. I thought that maybe it was going to be Jack's beanstalk. And alas, it finally produced - two sunflowers! Please note, in all fairness to Papa, it now has a few more buds and may still produce another flower or two if the Fall doesn't get it first.
         Then there was Mama Sunflower who quickly grew to about five feet tall.  And she was actually the first to produce a flower - a pretty, but rather small sunflower.  But alas, the Japanese Beetles got after it and it never developed fully before dying.  But she wasn't done and she eventually produced about five more flowers.
          Then there was little Baby Sunflower.  It struggled to grow, although a late spurt finally made it about four feet tall.  And guess what?  Baby Sunflower outdid the "parents" by producing about 12 beautiful yellow flowers.  It was the star of the show.
          Now as I was watching them grow I couldn't help but think of the Biblical parable of the talents.  Does that fit here?   I really don't know. Or how about the woman who quietly gave her all in the offering when others showed up but actually gave so little of their large funds?  I'm not sure. Could the lesson be that some folks who appear to be "big" in the eyes of others really don't produce much spiritual fruit while some lesser folks, behind the scenes, are much more fruitful?  Again, I don't have any idea but there must be a lesson there to be learned.
          I do know, however, that I can't wait until next Spring to start this process and challenge once again. I may need to build some more rabbit proof cages.   Oh, by the way, did you know that the seeds of a sunflower are actually in a Fibonacci sequence?  That is one of the amazing facts about God's creation and maybe that is one of the many reasons that I love sunflowers.
         Just before this blog was published things changed dramatically.  Poor Mama Sunflower seemed to shrink and her flowers began to dry up.  Maybe a case of old age "osteoporosis"? I don't know.  Poor Baby Sunflower became over zealous and produced so many flowers that his stalk couldn't handle it and he doubled over.  In doing so his stalk broke and his top flowers all quickly dried up.  And it was too late for my attempted "spinal fusion" on him.   But the real surprise was Papa Sunflower with his tall strong stalk.  Suddenly he broke out with a surprisingly large number of beautiful sunflowers.   He bore beautiful fruit in his old age.  I guess us old guys hope that will be our experience as we continue to age.
          Now I have no idea what the parable or lesson of this whole sunflower growing experience may actually be.  And I don't intend to spend too much time trying to find it.  Instead I'll just enjoy the beautiful flowers that remain.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Letters To The Editor

          Do you spend time reading letters to the editor in the local newspaper?  Sometimes they are better than the comics.  Most of the time they are written by people who have a complaint to make or who are pushing some agenda or maybe just to want to see their name in print.  Often it is the same people who write over and over and over again.  Locally, recently area democrats have been writing to defend Obama or to tear down local Congressman Joe Pitts. Fall elections are coming soon so these letters will be common. There are a few atheists who regularly enjoy proclaiming their wisdom and tearing apart Christians. And then there are a few well meaning Christians who quote scripture to defend their views.  Fortunately, scripture at least can be powerful because many of these letters by Christians are very poorly written.  But, with a few exceptions, I often question the intelligence of these letters writers.
          Now my opinion was backed up after I read a recent selection of letters sent in to the Washington Post by clueless readers, usually in response to a headline.  Here are a few of these "intelligent responses" compiled by Stan Kegel.
To the editor:  Does The Post so hate America that you wish to deliver our national secrets into the hands of our enemies? I refer of course to The Post's publication of page after page of "Classified" information, blatantly labeled as such in type so large that even the most dimwitted spy can hardly fail to miss it!
To the Editor: Are you people idiots? What the homeless need are homes, not 10 tons of additional pavement! This donation is cruel, like giving 20,000 Zippos to a burn ward. You should all be ashamed of yourselves.
To the editor: Do not let them bury those people whose pictures you showed in Sunday's obituaries! Most of them look like they are still alive!
I continue to be appalled by your poor understanding and incorrect usage of even the simplest physics terms. Momentum is the property of mass multiplied by velocity. As buildings remain at rest, they have no momentum. The term you are looking for is "inertia."
Our nation's military academies are and should remain highly competitive. But it is horrifying that parents are resorting to corporal punishment when a student has fallen behind in his studies. I am especially dismayed to learn the Southern Methodists had a hand in this savagery.
Catholic fumbles? I cannot believe your sportswriters are allowed to single out for criticism persons of certain faiths. Everyone errs occasionally, not just Catholics. I guess Mr. Greenberger feels Jews never drop the ball, but I'm here to tell you I found one who did, in this awful article.
So now they're blaming the Jews for every car that's broken into?
Well, that's just great. Just what we need -- an entire settlement of people devoted to their cancer sticks. What's next, a drunk driving commune?
A Roman Catholic miracle, and The Post buries it in Sports? This is typical of your godlessness. I'm sure if it was some Vatican scandal, we would see it on Page 1 above the fold.
I find it commendable that the clergy are attempting, like Saint Patrick in Ireland, to rid the land of dangerous animals. However, your story irresponsibly fails to tell us where the good bishop is taking these creatures. Is he bringing them to the D.C. area? Show a little civic responsibility, please, and inform the public.
What is the world coming to when Pakistani officials can get away with humiliating its enemies by holding their members?
I was disgusted with the sloppy spelling for the article on D.C. United. There were so many typos I couldn't understand a word.
To the editor: You Washingtonians are so self-absorbed! Take Sunday's weather report. You go on and on about weather in the Washington area. You can bet that here in Muscateen, we don't spend all our time talking about Washington's weather.
When will these Poindexters in Washington understand that the American public won't put up with their gross misspending of U.S. tax dollars -- $600 hammers, $2,000 toilet seats, and now vacuum cleaners to open doors for Governors? Please.

         Point proven?  So if you are tired of the comic section and need a few good laughs, don't forget to check out the letters to the editor in your local newspaper.

Friday, September 5, 2014

School Thoughts

       Another September ... another start of a new school year ... the 12th that I've missed since retiring.   Do I miss school?  For the most part, definitely no. That was now a different lifetime for me and I have moved on. But I must admit that there are a few things that I do miss.
          Believe it or not, I miss the kids ... or I should really say, the teens.  I always got along well with my students.  I miss the give and take of the classroom.  I miss their enthusiasm.  I miss trying to challenge them while yet trying to make learning interesting.  I miss seeing them do better than they ever expected.  Being with them was usually fun and I think it helped keep me young and sharp.
          I miss the elementary teachers that I worked with, especially those who were on my elementary math committee.  They were fun to work with.  They were enthusiastic and so appreciative of anything that I did.  I learned to admire elementary teachers who I think have the toughest job of any level teacher.  When I was given the responsibility of leading the elementary math program, it was one of the two best changes in my career that refreshed me and kept me going with renewed enthusiasm.  The other was the move to block scheduling.
         I miss the technology in-service programs.  Penn Manor was and still is a leader in the use of technology and the annual workshops introduced me to so many practical ideas and software packages.  I wish that I could still take these sessions.  While I was one of the early leaders in the area in introducing technology into the math classroom (first use of scientific calculators, programming, computer lab), I feel that everyday I fall farther behind in this expanding area.
          But maybe the thing that I miss the most right now are the first days of school.  One of the benefits of teaching is that each semester or each year you start with a brand new set of students.  That for me was always exciting.  They come to you not knowing what to expect and you have the opportunity to challenge them, mold them and build class spirit.  Everyone starts with a fresh slate and new enthusiasm.  And I do miss that.
        Now I am not sure how many former teachers would agree with me.  Unfortunately, many have had different experiences, have worn out from the grind, and couldn't wait to get out.  I never felt that way.  Making the decision to retire was very hard, except  for the fact that I knew it was time to make the move.  And I thank the Lord for 39 years that I really enjoyed.  It went by too quickly. I was blessed and I realize that few can say that. And while most of my former students have now forgotten all about me, I still have so many great memories.
          Recently somebody sent me a list of possible book titles that relate to education.  I will end this blog by sharing them with you.


Walking To School The First Day Back
          by Misty Bus

The Day The Car Pool Forgot Me
      by I. Rhoda Bike

Can't See The Chalkboard
    by Sidney Backrow

Practical Jokes I Played On The First Day Of School
              by Major Crackupp

What I Dislike About Returning To School
               by Mona Lott

Making It Through The First Week Of School
            by Gladys Saturday

Is Life Over When Summer Ends?
      by Midas Welbee

What I Love About Returning To School
           by I.M. Kidding

Will Jimmy Finally Graduate?
      by I. Betty Wont

What Happens When You Get Caught Skipping School
            by U. Will Gettitt

And one final thought,  "Nobody will be able to prevent prayer in school as long as there are tests!"