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, October 30, 2014

Affordable Health Care

         Is the Affordable Health Care, better known as Obama Care, really affordable?  It appears that for many it has been exactly the opposite, especially in Lancaster County.  In 2008 the cost of family health coverage was 17.8% lower than the national average.  Today it is only 5.6% lower than the average.

         The average cost for an individual per month has risen from $359 to $492.  For a family it has grown from $902 to $1,392.  Now if you are fortunate enough to be employed and receive health care as part of your benefit package, on the average such a single pays about $100 a month of the actual cost and a family $407 per month of these costs. If you must buy your own, without any company help, you are much worse off. And not only is it growing much more expensive, but deductibles and co-payments have risen and coverage restrictions have increased.  And often you are forced to change doctors.   Less coverage, higher deductibles, and increased costs - affordable health care?  
          Some of the selling points OF AHC are supposed to be that preexisting conditions are now covered and that "affordable care" is available to all.  But if you don't purchase coverage, there will be fines for you to pay.  But our local newspaper recently reported that there are still thousands in the county who haven't purchased coverage.  And we have heard of one situation where they had to go to court because a pre-existing need wasn't covered after all.
          It is also a fact that numerous employers have been forced to go to court to be excused from some required coverages or items that are in opposition to their religious beliefs.  And this is America where in the past folks have risked their lives to come here just for religious liberty.  But times and values have changed.  The government has taken over.
          And the AHC has also placed many, many new burdens upon busy doctors and medical facilities.  For example, doctors are now required to personally prepare a report for their patient after each visit.  These must now be done by the doctor and not by a nurse or secretary.  And they are required to give you a copy of the report unless you are on their portal.  What a waste of their time and of paper.  Most of our reports have been two to three pages in length with only a sentence or two about the actual visit and recommendation.  Think of how many trees and hours are being wasted to make this happen.  I am also aware of one doctor who left his family practice to go with a medical group because of all the increased costs and requirements of AHC.
         Now I must admit, I do like the new required portals.  They provide a review of all your visits and test results.  They notify you of future appointments.  They list your meds.  They remind you of needed tests and procedures.  We also appreciate the fact that we usually get the results of blood and other tests online long before we are actually notified by the doctor.  In fact, sometimes they have been available within a couple of hours after being done.
         I also like the feature that allows you to correspond with your doctor concerning simple questions and get a response in 24 hours of less.  We have used that feature several times, eliminating additional visits or leaving phone messages.  And our doctors have been excellent in responding quickly to us.
         In a related matter, a few months ago we found that some of our doctors were now giving us follow-up cards which urge us to use their portal to send a message to them in 3 to 5 days telling them how we are doing since our appointment.  Unfortunately, many folks feel better and then just don't respond.  We found out that if the practice doesn't have 5% or more of their patients respond each month, they lose 1% of their federal reimbursements.  And our family practice has had difficulty reaching that mark.  Just one more federal requirement from AHC.
          My only complaint about the portals is that they aren't coordinated.  In our case, the Lancaster General Health does include several of our doctors and their portal is very easy to use.  But we also have portals for PAL, Urological, May-Grant, Parish and LOG.  Our foot doctor may also soon have one.  But some of these can be difficult to use and, unfortunately, your information is not shared among the various portals and doctors. That is sad.
          AHC?  I guess it is here to stay and we, as well as our doctors, will need to adjust to all of it, including all of its negative aspects.  But there is one way to  beat it - don't ever get sick or need a doctor

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Three Shows

         I've learned the secret of getting three different shows for the cost of one.  I've learned this recently by attending high school football games.

         Times have certainly changed.  When I was a teen I played in the band for six years and went to every game, home and away.  We used to go to cheer on our football team.  We played football music to stir them and the crowd on.  We helped the cheerleaders with football cheers such as "We want a touchdown!" or "Hold That Line!".  All eyes were on the game.  But that is the way it used to be.
         The first show that you get at a game today is done by the cheerleaders.  Most of the time they have their backs to the game and have no idea what is even happening with the game. They don't even watch their own band perform. Often they are busy stretching and fixing their hair.  They are there to perform and perform means doing cartwheels, dances, build pyramids, and do fancy cheers which few in the crowd know.  They love to shake and dance and do fancy jumps.  It is obvious that they think they are the stars of the night and that people have come to be entertained by them.  And they are often well trained and very good.  But their participation and attention has little to do with the game being played. They practice long and hard. But, they do little or nothing to help the football team.
         My observation?  When schools are having so much trouble meeting budgets, the first line item that I would delete is that of cheerleaders.  There are enough sports for women available today that cheerleaders have no real contribution to make to athletic competitions.  At Penn Manor they now have an independent, very active student cheering section which has taken over what the cheerleaders used to do.  And that doesn't cost the district a cent.
         Then there is show number two.  Here is where I may get myself in trouble. This has become the "sacred cow" of devoted band parents. It is the band show.  Most high school marching bands now exist mainly to participate in competitions.  It appears that football games just give them another opportunity to practice.  Here is a typical night for a high school band today.  They show up early to tune up and to cheer on the other team's band as they do part of their competition program before the game begins. That is good sportsmanship. During the first quarter of the game they might play a number or two.  During the second quarter they leave the stands and spend the entire quarter warming up somewhere behind the endzone for their show.  At half they do their performance.  Then the third quarter is free time to get something to eat and talk to their friends.  Then they usually reassemble in the final quarter to watch the game and maybe play another number or two.
          There are very few what I call "football bands" today.  Marching bands exist for the weekend band competitions. Bands have become very small because of the number of hours required to perfect their show and enter their weekend competitions.  Kids today just don't have the time or aren't willing to devote all their "spare" time to the practice and competitions.  My grandson's band put in over 150 hours of practice - before school even began.  Most bands in Lancaster County now have 40 or fewer instrumentalists.  Few play many or any football march songs.  And so Friday football games become their practice session for Saturday's competition.  And they are cheered on by devoted band parents who follow them and support them everywhere.  If the band wasn't at the game, they wouldn't be there either.
         Oh yes, what is show number three?  Surprise, it's a football game.  While the other two shows are going on, a game is still being played on the field for those who might be interested.  In reality, it is no longer the main event of the night.
          But this is just one of the many changes that have happened over the years.  Give me a good football team which is supported by a 100+ group of musicians who play stirring numbers and by energetic cheerleaders who understand and watch the game and get the crowd involved in supporting their team.  But that is the way it used to be and I guess time changes most things.
         But then why should I complain?  Where else today can you watch three shows for the price of one?

Monday, October 20, 2014


          I guess there have always been scams and those who would try to profit by being deceitful.   You can probably even trace such actions back to the times of Cain and Abel  or Jacob and Esau, just to name a few.  But I think modern technology is providing an explosion of new ways to fool folks and steal from them.

In recent weeks we have had numerous such attempts made on us.  One of the biggest is phishing, the attempt to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details (and sometimes, indirectly, money) by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.  We have had numerous e-mails telling us that we need to update our accounts at places like banks or credit card companies or ebay or paypal or aol.  They ask us to click on a link to do this and that link would take us to a site where such information would be requested in the name of this company. Sometimes they even come from companies which we don't deal with at all, so those are dead giveaways. But I wonder how many users actually fall for these schemes.
          As I was writing this, I actually received an e-mail from my financial advisor warning of a new phishing scheme involving a company that he uses for our investments.  His warning showed a very professional e-mail that informed me that my account was about to be closed unless I immediately used a link to update my account information.  If you weren't aware of this scheme you could potentially lose all of your investments.
         Another one which has been very common recently on our computers has been e-mails from a delivery service telling us that they couldn't make the delivery to our house.  To get the order we need to click on a link to make new delivery arrangements.  In almost every case we weren't even waiting for a delivery, so it was very easy to spot those attempts.
         Many of the scams come by phone. Some electric suppliers are the worst offenders.  One starts by asking you if you saw the notice in your last bill that there is a way to guarantee your rate won't change for three years.  Well most people don't realize that such notices were not sent out.  The caller claims that they are just following up to enable you to get this suggested service. They show you the bait and then try to trap you by asking you to get your recent electric bill while they switch you to another rep who really is a salesman.  He starts by asking you for your account information from your bill.  Now at that point I refused to go any farther until he answered some questions for me.  It turns out that he was trying, as I anticipated, to switch me to another provider who was actually charging more than I currently pay.  If I had given him the information he probably would have changed me without even needing my consent. And some folks would probably never even know that they were changed. Buyer beware - they are clever and deceitful.
          I have a new line that I use when the caller asks for the person who pays the electric bill.  I tell them I am Amish and we don't use electricity.  One salesman actually apologized and said she didn't realize that before she hung up.  I guess that response wasn't on her script.  At least I had my laugh for the day.
          But the worst scam was a call we received from a "windows" rep about a virus which had infected our computer.  He was offering me a free service to show me what this would do to my computer and then remove it for me.  He wanted me to go to my computer and log in.  I knew what was coming next.  If I had followed his instructions he would have gained access to my computer remotely so that he could steal all my information and passwords.  Knowing this was coming, I mentioned to him that I did not use windows and asked how my computer could then be infected.  He tried to convince me that I was hit by trying to share with me my mailing address.  That was interesting because of his language difference, he couldn't even read my address correctly.  But friends, that is frightening because if I hadn't known better and wasn't computer literate, I might have been scared and he would have been able to get access.  I am sure that he has successfully done this with many worried computer owners.
          Some common sense principles - never give your account and personal information to anyone in response to a call or e-mail request.  Don't use your credit or bank information on the internet when purchasing something unless the url address starts with https, not just http.  That "s" must be there to make it secure. Don't download attachments, especially forwards, unless you are 100% sure they are virus free.  And change your passwords frequently. Use common sense and protect your information because there are very clever and resourceful folks out there trying to steal from you.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Memorable Week

President Reagan and me (with the mustache)
        It is hard to believe that this month is 30 years from one of the most exciting weeks of my life.  My how time flies.  This special week began with an unexpected letter from the White House. The letter told me that I had been chosen to receive the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching Mathematics and we were to spend five days in Washington D.C.  I knew I had been nominated, but I never expected to be chosen as the one to be honored.  This was the second year for the prestigious award given annually to one mathematics teacher from each state.  I had been chosen to represent Pennsylvania.
          Quickly all our plans and priorities changed.  The President had summoned us and nothing was more important.  The calendar was cleared, events rescheduled - we were going to Washington.  I needed a new suit if I was going to appear before President Regan.  I found the one I wanted only to be told that it would take a week for alterations.  However, when I told the salesman why I needed it, he quickly changed his story and said it would be ready tomorrow.  And it was!
         The morning we were to leave for Washington we had car problems.  We took it to a local garage and explained our need.  They discovered the car needed a part which they didn't have but they called a dealer who had the part and agreed to take care of us immediately.  Getting us to Washington became a priority for both garages.
          We left Millersville feeling that we were something special.  The Lancaster Newspapers carried front page stories and pictures.  Even John Herr's Village Market featured me on their sign on Manor Ave.  "Congratulations to Barry Kauffman, Presidential Awardee!"  It seemed that everyone was sharing in this special honor and we could barely contain our excitement of meeting President Regan.   Our time in Washington was very special.  We attended numerous banquets and receptions.  We toured historical buildings.  We visited congressmen.  We had a news conference.  We were given many gifts, including a computer.
          While I was attending a session, Dianne decided to go shopping and for lunch with a group of wives she had met in the hotel lobby.  When she took some time to look at some puppets in one of the stores, the conversation moved to our use of puppets in our family ministry.  Dianne then discovered that the other two women were also born again and active in their churches in New Mexico and Nebraska.  This began a special relationship that lasted many years.
         But not everything was going perfectly.  We were stunned to learn that the President would not be able to see us as planned because of plans to campaign for next month's presidential election.  Instead we were to receive our awards from another government official.  The news was not only disappointing but devastating as well.  We were not his priority at that time.
I suggested that we needed to express our disappointment and I encouraged the awardees to flood the White House switchboard with calls.  We did!  It worked!  The plans were changed to allow the President to meet us on the White House lawn on Friday before he boarded a helicopter to fly to New York for a campaign speech.
          That Friday was a highlight of our lives as we greeted the President.  I got to shake his hand, take his picture and actually talk to him for a few seconds.  Unfortunately, because of the press of the crowd, Dianne couldn't even get her arm out to shake his hand.  But she saw him by looking over my shoulder. Then he was gone and we were left with exciting memories.
          On the way out we collected fall leaves from the lawn.  We were suddenly challenged by the Secret Service, but we had already gathered enough to take home.  We laminated them and gave them out as bookmarks to all our Awana clubbers.
         But we still had some lessons to learn.   When we arrived home we found that we had been replaced on John Herr's Village Market sign with a sale in wild birdseed and ground beef!  The newspapers didn't call and on Monday I had to face my students again with all of us knowing that I really wasn't the best math teacher in the state.  And some of my fellow teachers were jealous and resentful of my award.
          On Monday the President made a campaign visit to Millersville and our students were dismissed to watch him arrive by helicopter.  But I was only an observer, from the parking lot, this time.  Craig actually got closer to the President than I did because he was working with the fire company in providing security.
          The biggest lesson was still to come.  We received a call that my close friend, Paul Brosious (father of Lisa Beamer), had a massive heart attack and was called to his eternal home in heaven.  As we learned more about his death we came to understand that it happened almost at the same minute when I was shaking hands with the President.  So while I was shaking hands with the most powerful leader in the world, Paul was unexpectedly being ushered into the presence of Almighty God, Creator and Sustainer of the Universe.
          Earthly awards are temporal.  They rust.  They fade.  They wear out.  They are forgotten.  But what is done for the Lord is eternal.  That is why the scriptures warn us not to lay up treasures here on earth but to lay up our treasures in heaven.  "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.  And all these things shall be added unto you".  Matthew 6:33.  That should be our priority.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Advice Of Mothers

         Most of us remember things that out mothers told us as we were growing up.  Sometimes they were very serious.  Sometimes they were funny.  Sometimes we listened and obeyed and maybe sometimes we didn't.  But our mothers always wanted what they thought was best for us because they loved us.
          I imagine that the mothers of children who turned out to be famous also wanted the best for their children.  And maybe history would be different if their children had listened and obeyed.  Here are some pieces of advice that mothers could have given their children over the years.

MONA LISA'S MOTHER: "After all that money your father and I spent on braces, that's the biggest smile you can give us?"

COLUMBUS' MOTHER: "I don't care what you've discovered, you still could have written!"

MICHELANGELO'S MOTHER: "Can't you paint on walls like other children? Do you have any idea how hard it is to get that stuff off the ceiling?"

NAPOLEON'S MOTHER: "All right, if you aren't hiding your report card inside your jacket, take your hand out of there and show me."

ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S MOTHER: "Again with the stovepipe hat? Can't you just wear a baseball cap like the other kids?"

MARY'S MOTHER: "I'm not upset that your lamb followed you to school, but I would like to know how he got a better grade than you."

ALBERT EINSTEIN'S MOTHER: "But it's your senior picture. Can't you do something about your hair? Styling gel, mousse, something...?"

GEORGE WASHINGTON'S MOTHER: "The next time I catch you throwing money across the Potomac, you can kiss your allowance good-bye!"

JONAH'S MOTHER: "That's a nice story. Now tell me where you've really been for the last forty years."

THOMAS EDISON'S MOTHER: "Of course I'm proud that you invented the electric light bulb. Now turn it off and get to bed!"

PAUL REVERE'S MOTHER: "I don't care where you think you have to go, young man, midnight is past your curfew."

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Encouragement part 3

          The second way that the Lord regularly encourages me is through Christian music, especially the old hymns of the church.  Growing up my family sang hymns all the time, especially when traveling in the car.  I learned by heart all the verses of many great hymns this way and the Lord continually brings them back to my mind.  In our senior years the Lord has given us the privilege of leading many hymn sings and we find so many folks miss the hymns so deeply.  I also have a weekly hymn blog and about 750 people visit this each week.
          Now I refuse to get drawn into the "church music wars" of hymns vs. praise choruses.  They each have a place in worship.  But my one concern about the praise choruses is that they change every few months.  Seldom do we sing one that we sang a year or two ago.  They appear to come and go and while they do minister to us at the time and enable us to worship, I can't help wonder what the younger generations will have to recall as they grow older.  I am so thankful for all the hymns which the Lord recalls to encourage me in various times of my life.
          For our October hymn sing at Pinebrook I choose the theme "Hymns of Encouragement".  Here are a few portions of some of the hymns that were included.

"Have we trials and temptations?  Is there trouble anywhere?  We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.  Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?  Jesus knows our every weakness; Take it to the Lord in prayer."  What A Friend We Have In Jesus by Joseph Scriven and Charles Converse.
"He giveth more grace as the burdens grow greater, He sendeth more strength as our labors increase; To added afflictions He addeth His mercy, To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.  His love has no limits, His grace has no measure, His power has no boundary known unto men; For out of His infinite riches in Jesus.  He giveth, and giveth and giveth again."  He Giveth More Grace by Annie Flint and Ray Steadman-Allen
"All your anxiety, all your care, bring to the mercy seat, leave it there, Never a burden He cannot bear, never a friend like Jesus."  All Your Anxiety by Edward Joy 1920
"O victory in Jesus, my Savior forever. He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood; He loved me ere I knew Him, and all my love is due Him.  He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood."  Victory In Jesus by Eugene Bartlett
          "So amid the conflict, whether great or small, Do not be discouraged, God is overall; Count your many blessings, angels will attend, Help and comfort give you to your journey's end.  Count your many blessings, name them one by one ... Count your many blessings, see what God hath done."  Count Your Blessings by Edward Excell.
          "Jesus my Lord will love me forever, from Him no power of evil can sever; He gave His life to ransom my soul, now I belong to Him.  Now I belong to Jesus, Jesus belongs to me.  Not for the years of time alone, but for eternity."  Now I Belong To Jesus by Norman Clayton.
          "No matter what may be the test, God will take care of you; Lean weary one upon His breast, God will take care of you.   God will take care of you, through every day, O'er all the way.  He will take care of you, God will take care of you."  God Will Take Care of You by Stillman Martin.
           "What have I to dread, what have I to fear, Leaning on the everlasting arms.  I have blessed peace with my Lord so near, Leaning on the everlasting arms.  Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms; Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms."  Leaning On The Everlasting Arms by Anthony Showalter.
          "O safe to the Rock that is higher than I, my soul in its conflicts and sorrows would fly.  So sinful, so weary, thine, thine would I be.  Thou blest Rock of Ages, I'm hiding in Thee."  Hiding in Thee by Ira Sankey.
         "When all my labors and trials are o'er, and I am safe on that beautiful shore.  Just to be near the dear Lord I adore, will through the ages be glory for me.  O that will be, glory for me, glory for me, glory for me.  When by His grace I shall look on His face.  That will be glory, be glory for me."  Oh, That Will Be Glory by Charles Gabriel.
          "I must tell Jesus!  I must tell Jesus!  I cannot bear my burdens alone.  I must tell Jesus, I must tell Jesus!  Jesus can help me, Jesus Alone!"  I Must Tell Jesus by Elisha Hoffman.
          "Standing before Him at last, trial and trouble all past, crowns at His feet we will cast, Jesus is coming again!  Coming again, coming again, may be morning, may be noon, may be evening and will be soon.  Coming again, coming again, O what a wonderful day it will be.  Jesus is coming again!"   Jesus Is Coming Again by John Peterson.
          "Sometimes the day seems long, our trials hard to bear.  We're tempted to complain, to murmur and despair.  But Christ will soon appear to catch His bride away!  All tears forever over in God's eternal day!  It will be worth it all when we see Jesus.  Life's trials will seem so small when we see Christ;  One glimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase.  So bravely run the race till we see Christ."   It Will Be Worth It All by Esther Kerr Rustholi.
           And that is just a quick sampling of some which encourage me.  And I haven't even mentioned ones like Great Is Thy Faithfulness, Day By Day, Stayed Upon Jehovah, I Belong to the King, Standing On The Promises, Blessed Assurance, My Hope Is In The Lord, Face To Face, The Sold Rock, He Hideth My Soul, Shelter In The Time of Storm, and How Great Thou Art.  I could go on and on.  I thank the Lord for hymn writers who composed these meaningful words to encourage thousands.  Discouraged?  Try singing these old hymns.  If you need some help, consult my hymn blog each week.   Be encouraged in the Lord!  He is good, all the time!