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, December 27, 2015

Your Impact On Future Generations

          Have you ever thought much about the legacy that you will leave for the next generation?  How will the life that you are living now influence family members and friends after you are gone?  I personally think that this is an important question and unfortunately one which we don't really think about until our senior years. 
           In many cases when an older person dies all that remains might be a box of photos without any identification or explanations on them.  A few of the obvious facts about the person's life might be shared in the obituary.  Personal stories and experiences are often quickly forgotten, if they were even ever known by others.  Memories will probably soon fade for those who remain.
          For several years I have been passing on pictures and writings to my grandchildren.  I have written well over 150 pages with information about our ancestors, about my life and about the things that are important to me.  For a dozen or more years I have also prepared an annual DVD with key pictures of the family events from that year.
          But the most important part of leaving a legacy is the life that you live. Some of the most important parts of a legacy are how you live and what you say.  We need to remember that our friends, our children and our grandchildren are watching how we live and react to things. And this can be a real challenge.
         Now this blog was not to be about the practical points of leaving a legacy but about the possible future impact of your influence and life.  And this thought came to my mind as a result of a recent Christmas meditation in David Jeremiah's monthly devotional booklet, "Turning Points".  The meditation was on the journey of the magi based on Matthew 2:1-2.
          Actually, we don't know too much for sure about the magi.  Tradition says that there were three, but there could have been fewer or more.  Tradition gives them names, but the Bible doesn't.  Tradition shows them at the manger but they probably came much later.  What we do know is that two thousand years ago they trekked westward where they found and worshipped the Savior.
          Now there are many possible explanations of who they might have been, but David Jeremiah shares one that I have never heard before.  He starts by sharing how Daniel, the young Jewish exile in Babylon, interpreted the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar and was appointed chief of the wise men of Babylon (Daniel 2:48).  He mentions how Daniel wrote extensively about the coming of Christ.  He guesses that Daniel probably passed along a keen anticipation for the coming Messiah.  He then concludes that perhaps the wise men in Matthew 2 were from a sect among the eastern Magi devoted to the writings or oral traditions of Daniel.  An interesting idea.
          Now what really caught my attention was the conclusion of the meditation.  "If so, Daniel cast a long shadow.  So do we.  Future generations will be influenced by how we live, what we believe, and how we pass on our faith.  Should Christ tarry, you can still be influencing the world a hundred years from now by your devotion to Christ today."  Wow!
          And I know that is really true.  I am blest to come from a long line of strong believers, some of whom were pastors while others were faithful believers.  Some of them actually left writings and for others the stories of their lives and ministries have been passed on through the generations.  i doubt that they ever thought that their lives would influence my life, generations later.  But they did.
          Now you may not have been blest to have the same type of heritage and, in fact, it is possible that things done by your ancestors may not be things that you even want to know about or remember.  But you can begin today to leave a positive influence on the next generation and, maybe even generations to come, by living a life committed to serving the Lord and demonstrating His love to others.  It's never too late to start.  Ask the Lord to allow your life with Him to impact those around you today as well as those who follow ... and, should the Lord tarry, maybe even a hundred or more years from now.  Your life could have a profound positive impact on future generations and that would be an amazing legacy.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Seasons Greetings

          For those who didn't receive our Christmas letter this year, here it is. And for those who did, I've added a few things which weren't included in the original letter because they would have made that one too long.

          "God is so good, God is so good, God is so good, He's so good to me."  When we used to lead.  Awana we would sing this chorus each night just before our awards time.  The words are so simple but so meaningful and so true.  And, they do convey our thoughts and our prayer as we conclude a somewhat challenging 2015.
          We thank the Lord for many opportunities to serve Him during the year.  We were able to lead several hymn sings as well as the Sr. Saints Retreat at Pinebrook.  Barry has continued to serve as financial secretary and Dianne has been able to play once a month at our church.  We both continue to serve in supporting roles in Awana.  Barry's hymn blog continues to reach about 600 people around the world each week.
          We were excited to be able to lead our church in the purchase of a beautiful Kawai digital grand piano.  As part of the process we were also able to purchase a studio size model of the same piano for our home and that was really a "God thing".  They have over 1,000 amazing sounds and Dianne has been able to develop and play many outstanding arrangements.
          We didn't really get to take a vacation this year although we did get to Pinebrook twice without any duties there.  We did make a trip to Wisconsin in May for the burial of Aunt Ellen Derck.  She was a precious person who was a great influence on our lives.  Actually she was the one who led Barry to the Lord when he was a child.  Her husband, Uncle John, was 97 on December 21 and is doing quite well.  His mind is sharp and the Lord continues to use him in his senior years.  We are so thankful that the Lord allowed both of them to be a part of our lives.
          Physical challenges have kept us busy most of the year.  We both had numerous physical therapy sessions early in the year.  Dianne was in the hospital for three days in May due to an apparent viral infection.  Then, early in October, on our first night of a planned vacation at the shore, Dianne developed a severe case of shingles.  The severe nerve pain from this continues even months later.  Please pray for needed relief for her.
          On the first Sunday of the year Barry did something to his back while getting out of the car.  After months of tests and four different diagnoses, it was finally decided that he would need lumbar back surgery.  His surgery, on October 20, involved three different levels, two rods and six screws, and implanting of marrow from his hip to grow new bones.  His recovery will be lengthy with many limitations.  Therapy woon't  start until February, at the earliest.  He must have electrical stimulation for two hours daily for up to nine months to help the bones grow and he will need his back brace for many months.  Your prayers will be appreciated.
         We are especially thankful for our family and for several folks from our church who have responded with meals.  Our family has been especially helpful in taking care of our yard and things around our house.  We have been blessed by those who care and have responded to our needs.  It is hard for the first time in our lives to be so dependent on others, but God is providing what we need.
          We thank the Lord that our three boys and their wives are doing well. Our grandchildren continue to grow.  Zachary has transferred to Penn State Capital Campus and is doing quite well there. He is active in leadership roles in our church's Revive Ministry. Josh will graduate from Lebanon Valley in June with a degree in chemistry and is applying to graduate schools. He made presentations at two national conventions this year. Taylor is an RA at Lebanon Valley and plans to study next semester in Spain. She was chosen to greet the new freshmen and give the benediction at Lebanon Valley's convocation.  Noah will graduate from Warwick in June and is applying to a number of colleges.  His marching band came in second in the state competition this year.  Chloe (grade 10), Lexie (grade 6) and Brodie (grade 4) are all doing very well in the Conestoga Valley School District.  Chloe was selected to participate in a state science competition in Altoona this year and Lexie was chosen to be in her district's Geography Bee.  Brodie earned his Sparky Award in Awana. Lexie and Brodie both had lead roles in the recent church children's Christmas musical while Chloe served as stage manager. God has been so good to our family.
         It is so hard to believe that 2016 is almost here but we are looking forward to whatever the Lord has prepared for us in the days ahead.  We hope that you have had a good year and we pray the Lord's blessing upon you in the coming year.  God is so good, all the time.
         We hope that you have a wonderful holiday season and that the One who came to earth for us on that first Christmas night will be your comfort, strength and hope in the days ahead.Take care and keep looking up!
         The Kauffmans

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Never Too Old To Learn

         I guess you are never too old to learn new lessons or to be reminded of things which you should know.  At least I am finding that to be so.  With my present physical limitations I have had plenty of time to reflect and consider things around me and here are some observations and reactions that I have had.
         First, don't be too self sufficient to accept help from others.  I originally said that we didn't need folks to bring us meals for there are those who needed them much more than us.  But one person responded by telling us that we had helped others over the years now we should graciously accept the help of others.  And we did.  And it was so helpful and nice.  Some of the meals were arranged by members of our church staff while others came unexpectedly from friends and family who just wanted to help us.  I guess I needed to be reminded that it is more blessed to give than to receive and sometimes you need to be the receiver.  And we are so thankful for those who took the time to show their love and concern in meeting our needs for meals.
          The giving also came from our family members who responded to many practical needs - filling our water softener, gathering our leaves, carrying heavy objects, preparing our AC for winter, staking our driveway and walks for snow removal, completing numerous lawn and household jobs, providing food, bringing in our Christmas items and even setting up and decorating our Christmas trees.  And this was done during a time when all three boys were overloaded with their jobs and other obligations.  God certainly has blessed us with wonderful sons, spouses and grandchildren.
          I have also been reminded of the different communications involved in friendships.  I admit that there were a few friends who seemed to stay away during our times of challenge. Maybe they didn't know what to do or say.  But there were others who really surprised us and stepped up in unexpected ways.  They really encouraged us and I needed that.
          I also really appreciated those who I knew were praying, especially some relatives who did not live close enough to actually visit but prayed regularly for us.  I was encouraged by prayers during two pastoral visits while I was in the hospital and two more at home, as well as by the wife of a staff member who prayed for us when she visited and brought a meal.  Now I didn't need to be reminded of the value of prayer but the prayers of others for us in a specific time of need were extra special.  I've also learned during this time to be more of a prayer warrior for others myself and that was a reminder I guess that I needed.
          I learned how nice it is to get visits weeks after surgery, especially if you know about them in advance and the visitors don't stay too long.  It is a real encouragement especially when you are confined and time passes slowly.  And that is something that I admit that I personally haven't cared to do when I was able.  I am much better at sending cards, notes and e-mails of encouragement.  And I have appreciated receiving those myself, especially when personal comments were included.
         I've also been reminded to accept that things don't always go as expected. But I guess I really knew that.  When observing the length of recovery of others who had back surgeries, I was expecting my recovery to take a month or two. That was true for my previous back surgery. But it is very obvious now that mine will be much longer - maybe a year.  I must now wear an electric stimulator to promote bone growth for two hours each day - up to nine months.  However, I am continually reminded that God is in control and that he has allowed this for a specific purpose - maybe so that I would learn some of these lessons.
          And the final lesson that I have been reminded of is one that I have often experienced in the past.  God allows things in His will to come into our lives in preparation for things in the future.  Here are some examples. (1) We did not schedule any ministry responsibilities for November or December of this year that we would now have had to cancel.  And that is unusual, but God knew our schedule even when we didn't.  For 25 years we scheduled about 100 family ministry meetings each year, sometimes even a year in advance.  And never did we have to cancel because of an illness, a death, or other unexpected events.  God knew what would come into our lives and when it would happen, long before we did.  
          (2)   Although I am sure that God would not control the weather just for me, I am amazed at the weather so far this month. One of my concerns is snow removal at our house this winter since for the first time neither of us will be able to do it and I don't want my boys to drive here through bad weather to do it for us.  But so far God has taken care of that for us with record high temps and no snow.  Now I don't know how long that will last, but it has been a real blessing for us. And when it comes, somehow He has plans to take care of it for us.
          (3)   Last December we decided to shop for a new car.  I had my plans to buy a Camry but the salesman suggested that I also drive a Rav4, even though that wasn't the style of car that I wanted.  But as soon as I drove it, I was sold on it.  And guess what? It has been a real blessing with this surgery.  I have no trouble getting in or out of it.  I would have had real difficulty with a sedan.  And it has been extremely comfortable to ride in.  God knew what we needed - almost a year in advance - long before we did.  What a great God we serve.

         I am often reminded of a verse which we taught to others so often in our family ministry.  Psalm 139:3 - Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with ALL my ways. "   

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

I Give Up!

          I really enjoy watching the many birds that frequent our bird feeders.  I especially look forward to visits from our woodpeckers and cardinals.  There are so many different types that come and they constantly remind me of God's beautiful creation.  I often think of the hymn "His Eye Is On The Sparrow" and the scriptures that remind us of his constant care and provision, even for the birds.
          But there are other creatures which also enjoy visiting and participating in our buffet - namely, our nasty neighborhood squirrels.  And they are not only nasty but they are very intelligent and crafty.  I've tried to declare war on them ... but I must admit that I've lost.  Their IQ's must be much greater than mine.
          Because of my surgery I have recently had hours to sit and watch the birds and the squirrels.  My main feeder was to be "squirrel proof".    But it wasn't and I now doubt if there is such a thing.  It had a covering on a spring which would close the feeding areas whenever a squirrel got on it.  And that part usually worked.  But these nasty visitors learned to break and bend the metal that would cover the feeding areas.  Their teeth must be like wire cutters.
          Then while I was watching one day, one of the squirrels discovered how to pop off the top of the feeder.  He could then stick his head right into the feeder and eat all that he wanted.  We would close it and he'd come right back and pop it once again.  And in the process of opening it he also chewed off part of the plastic feeder itself.  I thought that maybe if I put something like vaseline on the lid that this would defeat them.  I even tried adding hot pepper.  But it made no difference.
           With plenty of time to watch and think, I finally came up with a way to prevent him from popping off the cap.  And it worked.  But that didn't stop him.  He appeared to know what I had done and he tried without success to remove the clamps and wire that I had used.  When he couldn't do it, he went back to bending the metal to get some food.  I was beaten once again.
          My next attack was to replace the damaged feeder.   I invested in a new, more expensive feeder that advertised it was "squirrel proof".   Now I am a slow learner and should have realized that there is no such thing.  It didn't take long for them to learn that if they hung on the cage, food would fall out of the holes.  They could then retrieve it on the bottom of the cage or on the ground.
         But I wasn't done.  I decided to put tape over the holes that were releasing the most food.  Surely that would work.  But, of course, it didn't.  I should have known that I couldn't outsmart them.  They continued to come and hang on the cage and somehow get enough to make them happy.  And they are no longer scared by our banging on the window.  When we come out and clap or yell at them they just go higher in the tree and "hide" until we leave.
         Now maybe they have engineering degrees since they explored all parts of the new bird feeder looking for weak points.  This didn't bother me since with the cost of this trap there couldn't be any weak points.   Wrong!  One day I came out and didn't see the feeder.  When I looked closer, I saw it was on the ground and wide open.  I don't have any idea at all how they accomplished this.  Maybe I could have beat them if I had just finished my engineering program instead of becoming a math teacher.  Probably not,  I am now convinced that their IQ is just far superior than mine.
          So that's where things are now.  I admit defeat.  Maybe I just need to buy more feed and feed the birds and the squirrels .... or maybe buy a shotgun!  But with my luck I'd probably end up in jail.
One of my
visitors at work!

Thursday, December 3, 2015


            My recuperation from my back surgery limits what I can do and sometimes it becomes rather boring.  Now for up to nine months I must also wear a special electrical stimulator to help the growth of new bones in my back.  I must use this for two hours every day.  This limits me even more, so I often find myself in the afternoon sitting watching boring television for those two hours.
           I was doing this on Wednesday when suddenly all the major stations interrupted regular programming to cover the mass shooting in California.  And for hours they repeated pictures and interviews without many actual facts.  If one took the time to sit there and watch it all, it could become very discouraging, maybe scary and even depressing.  And the viewing public did not need all this coverage.  A few definite facts would have been much better, but of course they didn't have any such facts for hours so must of the negative coverage was based on speculation.
          Part of the debate was whether this shooting could be labeled as terrorism.   Now the formal definition of terrorism is "the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims."  So I guess the question is, were there actually political aims involved?  But who really cares.  Killing is killing and that to me is terrorism no matter what the aim might be.  Innocent people are killed and that is tragic.
          Now I believe that mass killings and terrorism are here to stay and we shouldn't be surprised.  The scripture tells in Jeremiah 17:9, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"  And the scripture predicts times when violence will increase.  I don't like to be negative, but this world is not going to get any better.  Outside of a major revival, brought on by our fervent prayers, little can be done to reverse this tragic way of life.
          And President Obama, I totally disagree with you.  Tougher gun laws would not have prevented this or other mass shooters.  Whether these folks are terrorists or just mentally unstable, if they wanted to kill people they would have found ways to get guns, even if it was done illegally.  And you can't legislate morally - only Christ can change man's direction, attitudes and perspective.
          But there are some things that I wish the media would do.  First, cut off the major television coverage of these situations.  Why do we need to see hours of tragedy?  Among other things,this can show "copy cats" what they can do and maybe how to get away with it.  And, since the shooters on Tuesday apparently escaped, it might help them know what is being done.  The general public just does not need to see this.
         Second, why publish pictures and names of the shooters?  We almost make them heroes and give them tremendous publicity.  I wonder how many might not carry out their terror attacks if they realized that they would get no publicity.  
         Third, this is controversial, but let's reinstate the death penalty for those who do the shootings - if they survive their attack alive.
          Fourth, eliminate all the violence on television, in movies and in games.  Of course, this will never happen.  The public would call this censorship and demand it be returned.  But what a breeding place for violence.
          Now what can we as believers do?  Obviously, pray for our country.  Pray for safety for yourself and your family whenever you or they go some place. Don't take your safety for granted.  No place is exempt from terror.  We now even have security teams at our church to attempt to protect those of us who come to worship.  Don't refrain from living a normal life - just be aware of things around you.  And, finally, live each day as though it might be your last.  Love your family.  Live for Christ.  Trust Him.  And live with the certainty that should something happen to you, that the Lord knows and cares and has prepared a special eternal home for you.

Friday, November 27, 2015

In Everything ...

          I try not to be a complainer.  God has been so good to me and I have so much to thank Him for, so why would I complain?  But, if I am honest, during the past ten months I have found myself more than once complaining about people and things.  And I have probably at times been short with folks.  It's not a good excuse, but I have been in pain and not feeling well since the first week in January. Because of this I've not wanted to be with people or talk to them. I've tried to hide it and not draw attention to myself, but at times I guess my problems still have affected my reactions to things. And it shouldn't be that way because there are so many others with worse problems than I have been dealing with.  And I sincerely apologize if I have shown a negative spirit in any manner to you during this time.
         However, the Lord has been reminding me in so many ways that I need to be more thankful, more positive, more friendly, and more considerate.  And He is right.  Numerous times I have thought of the many scriptures that tell us to always be thankful, in the good times and in the bad.  And I have also been reminded of this lately through the song "Count Your Many Blessings" where the writer encourages us to see what God has done and actually try and count our blessings one by one.
          I have recently been trying to do this.  It is really easy to think of the big and important things for which I am thankful - the Lord Himself, salvation, the Bible, and my church.  And of course high on the list is my wife, my children and their spouses, my grandchildren, our home and my very special heritage of relatives who have loved and served the Lord.  And a list of the large things would certainly include my country and the freedoms which we have enjoyed here over the years.
          But recently I have been thinking of the many, many "small" or every day things which are so meaningful and enrich our lives today - things we often take for granted.   Such as ... central air conditioning that works ... fresh vegetables like corn and tomatoes ... beautiful mums ... spectacular colors of the leaves in the fall ... the exciting green of Spring ...  fresh, clean water to drink ... indoor plumbing ... hot showers ... refrigerators and freezers ...  beautiful lakes ... clean grocery stores ... good doctors and specialists ... Christmas ... eggs and home fries ... caring nurses ... soaring eagles ... a sump pump that works when needed ... turkey and filling ... safety on the highway ... a good church ...rainbows ... lawn mowers and snow blowers that work ... parades ... sun flowers ... apples and peaches ... Christian radio stations ... freshly fallen snow ... computers ... shoes and sneakers ... books to read ... football ... Chick fil A ... a good mattress ... full moons ... Pinebrook ... the ocean waves ... good hymns ... roses ... warm fires in fireplaces on cold nights ... eye glasses and hearing aids ... iced tea and meadow tea ... pianos and talented pianists ... our Rav4 ... reunions ... swimming pools ... freezers ... Thanksgiving ... polite children ... comfortable recliners ... good friends ... peanut butter ... cardinals ... jigsaw puzzles ... the beautiful farms of Lancaster County ... apricots ... beautiful mountains ... crisp, clear mornings ... sunrises and sunsets
          And my list could go on and on and on.  How about yours?  As they say,"take some time to smell the roses" and develop a thankful spirit.  What amazing things God has done and provided for us.

When upon life's billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings, see what God has done.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey's end.
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings, see what God has done.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

To Facebook?

          To facebook or not to facebook?  That is the question.  Or maybe I should revise that and ask "to continue to facebook or to quit facebook", that is really the question for me.
         I have been on Facebook for at least two years, and maybe more.  There are times that I enjoy it and there are times I almost despise it.  I've come close to pulling the plug several times but have not yet done so because there are pros as well as cons.
          Here are some reasons that I still like Facebook.  (1)  Facebook does give me the opportunity to keep up with family, friends and former students who live outside of the area and that is often interesting.  Unfortunately, many of my relatives aren't on facebook.
          (2)  Awana has many interesting posts, especially blogs and suggestions for parents and leaders.  These I try to share on fbfawana, a page that I operate for interested parents and leaders.  Much worthwhile information is shared in this way.  I also have a chance to learn what is happening with Awana in many foreign countries as well as in the United States.  This I would miss if I pulled the plug.
          (3)   Sometimes there are clever cartoons and even jokes which just brighten the day.  A few times there are funny real life experiences that happened to my friends.  A few good laughs are good for what ails you.
          Now while there are some positives, there are also things which bother me and turn me off.  (1)   Some of my friends are always sharing photos, stories and comments that they have received from all of their friends.  Not only do I not know many of these people, but I also am not interested in what they have to say.  And yet they fill my page and take up my time to sort through them.  That is really a waste of my time.
          (2)  Closely related to that are those that I know, as well as those who are friends of my friends, who share photos of their children and grandchildren ... not just one, but 10, 15, 20 at a time ... and not just once a month ... but in some cases almost daily.  I'm sorry, I could care less about them ... I have my own children and grandchildren ... and they are better looking and probably more talented than yours.  Get a life and brag elsewhere, not on my page.  Just show me one picture of important things - no more than once a month.  That's plenty.
         (3)   Then there are those who try to make a business by selling products through Facebook postings.  Now I admire your spirit and your desire to make money.  But I am not interested in your finger nails or beauty aids or health products or cookware or anything that you are selling.  If you want me to buy, then come to my home to make your pitch.  But don't be surprised if I don't open the door for you.  I can control that entrance while I can't control your entrance via Facebook.  I'm not interested, understand?
         (4)   I think that those who play games on Facebook or share recipes that you haven't even tried, need to find something more productive to do with your time.  And I don't need to see your scores or your pictures of things I couldn't eat anyway.  Try making them first and then if they are successful, share them along with you personal evaluation.
         (5)    I get tired of all those shares that one is to pass on if you love your sister, if you are proud of your grandchildren, if you love your cat or dog, if you feel sorry for a kid with cancer (I may feel sorry, but better to pray for the child - assuming there is such a real person) .... or even if you love almost anything.
          (6)   I also tire of all the comments that share how bad our elected leaders are and how our country is in such bad shape.  This is generally all true but what good does it do to vent about it on Facebook? Are they going to read your postings and change?  I don't think so. If you want to feel negative today just watch Fox news rather than read about it on Facebook.
          (7)   Talking about sharing negative thoughts,  I agree that there is merit in pointing out the negatives of evangelists, teachers and pastors.  The scriptures do warn us that we need to be discerning and that in the last times there will be those who deceive.  And we have plenty of that happening today. Many are being deceived. But there are some who do nothing but share this information, over and over, many times a day.  But, unfortunately, even if that is their calling, sometimes the number and tone of these messages makes you just move on and not even pay attention to them.  Now I commend these folks for their serious and needed mission, but don't overwhelm your readers if you want them to connect with your message.  And maybe a few positive thoughts would provide a needed balance.
           (8)   I do get fed up with all the ads that pop up on my page.  But I guess that is the way that Facebook survives.  I wish there was a way to block them like there is for spam.
         (9)   I really don't need to see pictures of everything my friends eat or drink.  What you want to fill up on is your choice and I really don't care - no matter how "pretty" it might look.
         (9)   And one final negative response - many of my "friends" never post anything or reply to anything.  I have 82 "friends" on facebook but only 36 of them have ever posted a message or responded to mine.  What good is a friend who never communicates with you.  If we are just in a race to see who can rack up the most friends, then count me out - you win!
           So what should I do?   I guess time will tell.   In the meantime I will probably continue to scan the postings and read a few while ignoring the rest.
          Oh yes, before I leave, one positive thought.  Thank the Lord for Facebook. Otherwise I'd have to call 82 people this morning to tell them I had cereal for breakfast.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Psalm 77

         During the recent days of my long recuperation from back surgery I came upon Psalm 77 during my Bible reading and it has been a real help to me  This passage caught my eye because the writer's experiences seemed to mirror some of mine during recent weeks.  Now I do realize that his problems were much more serious than mine.  He feared for his life since his enemies were looking to wipe him out.
           But here is what he said in the first four verses.  "I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me.  When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;  at night I stretched out untiring hands, and I would not be comforted.  I remembered you, God, and I groaned;  I meditated, and my spirit grew faint. You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak."
           Now I don't  think that there is a worse time than at night to be in fear or in pain.  You feel so alone and helpless and can't wait until sunrise.  I have often been there with sick and fevered children or with my sick spouse.  The night hours can be so long.   I have been there recently, not just because of my own post surgery pain, but because my wife has been dealing with the severe nerve pain from shingles.  She needs healing and relief.
          The Psalmist continued his lament when it seemed like God wasn't listening or answering his pleas.  In verses 7-9 he says, "Will the Lord reject forever?  Will he never show his favor again?  Has his unfailing love vanished forever?  Has his promise failed for all time?  Has God forgotten to be merciful?  Has he in anger withheld his compassion?"  
          Have you ever reached this point?  I admit that I have.  During these recent days and nights I have pleaded with the Lord to give my wife relief, especially since she has to care for my needs.  And yet it has seemed like He has been silent.  Why doesn't He answer quickly?  Is He really there?  Does He really care?  
          But then the Psalmist appears to remember God's miraculous dealings with him and his people.  In verses 10-14 he says, "Then I thought, to this I will appeal:  the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand. I will remember the deeds of the Lord;  yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.  I will consider all your works  and meditate on all your mighty deeds." Your ways, God, are holy.  What god is as great as our God?  You are the God who performs miracles;  you display your power among the peoples."  And then in the final five verses he relates many of the amazing ways that God had worked in the past.  And it appears that this trip down memory lane renews his faith and trust in God to take care of the things in his troubled life.
          And, like the Psalmist, I have gone back in my memory and recounted the amazing ways that God has answered my prayers and intervened in my life over many decades.  As He has promised, He has never left me alone.  He has always worked things out for His good.  He has never left me hopeless, and I know that He will never do so.
          Now I don't know how or when He will answer my specific prayers, but I know that He will.  I need the patience to wait for His timing, the strength to meet today's challenges and the faith to know that my days and hours (even the night hours) are in His hands.

Monday, November 9, 2015


          Frustration!   Yes, I am frustrated dealing with several companies and their customer service representatives.  Why can't companies hire folks who tell the truth or actually solve problems?  
          My first recent problem came with one of my most disliked monopolies - Comcast, now known as Xfinity.  Every Fall I order their sports package so that I can see all the football games that are televised.  I especially enjoy the NFL Redzone channel where I can watch all the exciting action and scores of all the NFL games as they are happening.  Well, on a Sunday afternoon I was watching this action when all of a sudden I lost all of the stations in my sports package.
          I went to the phone, and, as usual, had to wait an excessive amount of time to talk to a customer service rep who said he would restore it.  He required all sorts of serial numbers that I had a difficult time finding.  But, finally after getting all of these numbers for him, he said that he couldn't restore it because according to his records I hadn't purchased this package - even though I had been watching it.  When I finally convinced him that I had, he said that I would now need to talk to a purchasing agent.  After another lengthy delay I was finally connected and this agent told me that Xfinity was in the process of changing billing companies and I was in one of the groups that they had to disconnect until things were changed over.  She told me that there was nothing she could do but that the service would be restored - the next morning.  That meant I couldn't continue watching what I had purchased.  The next morning it still wasn't restored and I was told that it would be done later that day - which it was.  I asked for a credit for my 24 hours without the package.  
         Several days later I received an e-mail thanking me for purchasing a $34 video package on demand.  I called and complained and they said they would take it off my bill.  Two days later I received another such e-mail.  I contacted them again and was told that this was sent by mistake.  But when my bill was sent to me it still included this package.  Another call to billing and I was told that the bill was sent out before the corrections were made but that I should still pay the amount billed and I would get a credit on next month's bill.  No way am I going to let them have about $40 of my money for a month until the next bill comes.  If I end up being charged an extra fee for paying just what I owe, I will consider quitting them.
          Oh yes, last Saturday my sports package was cut off once again.  Fortunately, this time it took fewer calls to get through and get it restored.  Maybe I should change my password to Ihatecomcast!
          Next problem - when I was having my pre-op appointment I mentioned that last January I had had an back x-ray at LOG.  The surgeon's assistant suggested that it might be helpful, but not necessary, for them to have a copy of this and the report.  However, LOG would not provide it for them.  I had to go there and request it since LOG is not part of the large LGH network.  When I went to LOG they said I could have it but that I would have to hand deliver it to my surgeon because they do not send them out.  Of course, I would also have to pay $10 for the x-ray and report.  I was shocked about the lack of sharing between medical practices but I guess that is the way it is today, despite or because of Obamacare.  So I decided to just let them keep their x-ray and report which actually won't do them any good since I don't ever plan to go back to them.
          But my biggest frustrations came with Optimum Rx, the company which handles our claims for medicine.  Beginning October 1, I found that we were suddenly being overcharged by them for our medicines.  Both of us are now in the catastrophic phase of our medicare insurance but suddenly we were no longer getting charged accordingly.
          In my first call to them the person I talked to claimed that the charges were correct.  She said that two of the increases were because my pharmacist changed companies - he did not.  My one bill was to be 5% of the retail price.  I tried to explain that if the bill was right that the retail price would be $1,300 a month and that was a ridiculous price for an inhaler.  But she insisted that it was correct.   Completely false information - incidentally in call number 4 I found the retail price was actually $329 not $1,300.  She probably flunked math or maybe even reading or had an IQ below freezing.
          In my second through fourth calls the reps admitted that the computer program was incorrect and I was to have my pharmacist resubmit all the bills.  The pharmacist reluctantly did each time and the charges were still wrong.  In my calls five through nine the company admitted that they had mistakes in their computer system and they would be fixed.  Each time they promised to call me back, but they never did.  Incidentally, during these calls I talked to ten different customer service reps and three different supervisors, probably in multiple locations.  On the ninth call they agreed to talk to my pharmacist directly, but when I heard back from him, the problem still wasn't solved.
           So, because we were going to Pinebrook for a week, I waited another week to make call number ten - and a tenth customer service rep.  She proceeded to tell me that everything was fine and that my pharmacist would need to resubmit the claims - I think for about the sixth time.  When I realized that I was once again getting no help, I again asked to speak to a supervisor.  This time she switched me to somebody at HOP which is the company that actually has our entire insurance plan - both medical and medicine.  Finally, I think I found somebody who might help.  She said they would give the problem to one of their investigators and would get back to me.  I think she will do that since she is based in Lancaster, not all over the country like the many folks I talked to at Optimum Rx.
          Finally things were corrected but not until after some exchanges with my pharmacist who says they were to most rude folks he's ever worked with.  But I did get a refund of over $70.  This is why I keep detailed records and know the details of my medical plan.  Many others would just pay the bill and not even realize they are overpaying.  I wonder how many others were overcharged and will not get a refund.
         When things were settled I composed a letter to the President of the company based in California.  His representative called me while I was in the hospital.  Dianne told her that I had just had lumbar surgery.  The rep repled, "thank you Mrs. Lumbar.  I'll call back when he gets home."  She never has called back and if she did I don't know if she would ask for Mr. Kauffman or Mr. Lumbar!
         Oh the joys ... or should I say, frustrations ... of working with some customer service agents.  At least the ones I dealt with could speak English and that in itself is remarkable.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


          To bore - make (someone) feel weary and uninterested by tedious talk or dullness.
          I must admit that it used to upset me when our boys were growing up and they would complain that they were bored or that something they had to do was boring.  I used to tell them that boring was a state of mind and that they should get over it and get on with the excitement of life.
          Now I know that at times we have all faced things that were boring.  We can probably recall teachers that we had or lectures that we had to sit through that were very boring.  And we learned to adjust and take them in stride and try to make the best of the situation.
          I can't say that I have ever really been bored for any period of time.  At least, not until now.  Now I really am not complaining, just getting it off my chest, but I am bored.  I am recovering from extensive back surgery and have numerous limitations and am dependent on the help of others.  I must wear a brace - helpful but limiting.  I can't lift more than five pounds - it seems almost everything weighs more than five pounds.  I can't bend, twist or lift - what more is there to do when you must move?  I must use a walker for the most part.  I can't drive which limits where I can be and makes me dependent upon my wife.  And I can't even take care of many of my personal hygiene needs.  But I know many folks who are in worse shape, and, Lord willing, my restrictions will be off in a few months.
          In the meantime my days are generally limited to my recliner, my bed, the kitchen table and the bathroom.  There is no convenient place with walks near our house so if I want to walk or get any exercise, my wife must drive me somewhere. And too much movement results in pain.  At least I can get to some areas of my house, but I do feel like I have cabin fever already.
          I am learning that television is almost worthless unless there are interesting football games on.  Of course, twice good old Xfinity (Comcast) has suddenly cut off my sports package in the middle of my weekend viewing.  You have choices of reruns, soap operas, news shows, female talk shows, crazy judges or several dozen other worthless things.  At night you have the crime and action shows with violence and sex and of course you have the biased news reports.  Thankfully, my one son brought me a stack of movies that might be worth watching in the weeks ahead.
          Now normally I would love the free time to get caught up on reading and I have done some of that.  I have a huge stack of books to get caught up with, but being confined to the recliner I can only read so long until my eyes tire and I must quit.  I'm also not into computer games and we haven't been able to start any jigsaw puzzles because the table would block my path from my recliner to the rest of the house.I can't do any of the work around the house - such as check the water softener, change light bulbs, pick up leaves and too soon clear the snow. I do not like to talk on the telephone, I don't text and few correspond with me via e-mail. And I can't say that I really want visitors because even the best intentioned ones often stay too long.  10 - 15 minutes is fine.  60 is not!   So while my boys would cringe to hear me admit it, I must say that I am generally bored.
          But not all is lost.  I have found one valuable thing that I can do no matter how I feel.  I can pray.  And I have enjoyed having the extra time to pray in detail for family, friends, missionaries, Christian organizations, our country, and many needy situations.  As I said, there are so many who are in a much worse situation than I am and the Lord has given me this down time to be an intercessor for them. And I am also reminded, in everything give thanks, despite the current circumstances. I have already seen the Lord answer some of my recent prayers.  As I've said so often, God is good ... all the time.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

When In Need

          I wonder if some people think about what they are saying when responding to a person who is facing a difficult situation.  Many times it seems to be "open mouth and insert foot".
         One of the common responses to those in need is, "if you ever need anything just let me know".  Now the person who says that usually is 99% sure that the person will never contact them and ask for a favor.  It may sound nice and make you feel good saying it, but it is a "cop-out" and to the person in need it is usually a meaningless response.
         When my mother was killed in a car accident, we got so tired of hearing that comment that we decided to respond with a specific suggestion that during the months ahead they should take dad out for a meal at least once.  A few did, the majority did not.  Most never visited him or even contacted him.  I can only hope that a few remembered to at least pray for him.
          Now there were a few folks who stepped up and helped without even being asked.  Some brought food which was so appreciated especially when none of our family felt much like preparing meals.  But the most appreciated response came from a family that just showed up at our house, unannounced, and cleaned up all of our November leaves. It was a major job that took them many hours and they did an amazing job.  I won't share their names, but those who attended our church would be shocked if they knew who it was.  These responses meant so much more than those who said we should call if we needed anything.
          We have had similar situations with some recent physical challenges which we encountered.  My wife suddenly developed a very bad case of shingles and then on top of this a very bad case of trigeminal neuritis.  She is still in terrible pain and has missed church for several weeks.  She did get a few very nice get well cards and a couple of e-mails encouraging her. But several others who talked to her shared their "horror stories" about their experiences with shingles.  And one person even "encouraged" her by saying that she had them four times!  Just what my wife wanted to hear while she was enduring the pain.
          Then there were the responses and non-responses to my back problems.  Even though I was forced to use a cane for about nine months, only a few people ever inquired about my problem.  Most just ignored me.  A few people in passing said "how are you doing?" and since I knew they didn't really want to stop and listen I would usually reply "hanging in there".  If they hung around long enough to even hear a reply from me, they either said nothing or else "that's good".  After all, they didn't really care. 
          Even when my surgery was scheduled, I decided to only share it with my family and a few folks who seemed concerned and might actually pray for me.  But even that was discouraging.  Some responded with "horror" stories.  One person shared with me that her husband had similar surgery and while the back pain was gone, he can no longer walk properly.  Great! Another told me about a friend who had to repeat the surgery several times and now was going to pain management regularly.  A few others told stories about friends who still live in pain despite the surgery.  I didn't need to hear any of that.  I don't know if they were trying to warn me or encourage me.  But what they did was discourage me.  So I stopped telling folks about the surgery.
         But I don't want to be too negative.  Three different pastor friends from out of the area talked to me and prayed with me before the surgery.  It was uplifting to know that at least these three would care enough to contact me and pray with me.  There were other folks, especially my relatives, who really were praying and I felt it.  Many of them kept in contact with me and I so appreciated their concern and support.
         Now I am sure that I have often been guilty over the years in responding poorly to people's needs.  But the Lord has been teaching me to listen to those with needs. He is teaching me not to say "I understand" when I've never walked in their shoes.  He is teaching me to pray for and with them.  He is teaching me to look for practical ways to help them.  But I still have so much to learn in being an encourager.  And the Lord has provided me with personal experiences to help me understand what it is like to be the one with needs.
         My prayer is that I might be a better and more faithful encourager.  There certainly is a need for that in the body of Christ today.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Oh My Aching Back

         It began in third grade.  We were introduced to tumbling and I just couldn't do it.  I couldn't bend to do a somersault like everyone else.  It was embarrassing.  And I lived with that problem and fear for many years into my college years.  I loved sports but I hated tumbling.  It affected me psychologically and hurt my self-esteem.  I looked for ways to miss gym class when we were doing tumbling.  It was hard to understand and I never knew why I couldn't do this like everyone else could.
         Fast forward to my late 20's.  I was struck by incredible lower back pain.  There were days that I barely could get out of bed and leave for my teaching job.  Often the pain did get better as the day went on but at times teaching and even just living were difficult.  I went to a neurosurgeon and was in the hospital for tests.  His conclusion was that I had arthritis and there wasn't much that could be done.  For several years my family doctor gave me ultra sound treatments which sometimes did relieve some of the pain ... for a few days.
          But with no real relief I then went to an arthritis specialist.  After listening to my story he said that he thought he knew what the problem was.  He got a tape measure and checked my chest expansion, finding that I had a very limited expansion.  He then told me that I had ankylosing spondilitis and my spine was becoming fused at several places.  He put me on some very heavy drugs and I finally did get some relief.  He told me that at some point I could go into remission and that the key was to keep my back straight so I wouldn't end up bent over.  It was then that I began to realize that my problem with tumbling wasn't a mental thing, apparently it came from a spinal condition that I didn't  know existed.  And it was a relief to know that I wasn't nuts.
          So there are some things that one just needs to learn to live with. It's life!  Eventually the condition did go into remission.  My back is partially fused which has limited me in numerous ways.  I have trouble bending over, carrying things, and getting into most cars.  I can predict storms using my back and I have learned to live with daily pain and discomfort.  And I have learned not to complain because many folks live with worse situations.
          Five years ago my back seemed to get worse so I went to see a neurosurgeon after an MRI indicated worsening stenosis of the spine.  He ran more tests and finally concluded that he couldn't do anything for me surgically.  He sent me to physical therapy which did help to some degree.
          Then early in 2014 I went to the ER with heart attack symptoms.  They admitted me and ran a number of tests.  About midnight they decided my heart was fine and they sent me for some early morning MRI's.  The next morning they told me that my spinal cord was being compressed and that I needed to see a neurosurgeon as soon as possible.  I decided to try the one with the best reputation in the area knowing, that it normally takes at least three months to get an appointment.  They checked my MRI results and said they'd see me as soon as possible because it could be life threatening especially if I got bumped ..  He ordered more tests and about a month later I had cervical spine surgery.  It was worse than he had expected but he was able to clear everything up.  And my recovery was fine. PTL!
           But I wasn't done yet with spinal issues.  On Sunday, January 4 of this year, when I stepped out of our car at church I suddenly had terrible pain in my lower right leg.  I could barely walk but I made it through the services and even made an Awana presentation despite being in terrible pain.  That afternoon I called the doctor and I was sent for an ultra sound to rule out a blood clot. Over a few days the pain lessened but I had real trouble walking. I was then sent to an orthopedic doctor who took some x-rays and decided that I had drop foot and that it was coming from my back, probably from my stenosis.  He suggested that I see a neurosurgeon.
          When I called for an appointment I figured that since I had just had surgery with the surgeon that I would again be seen quickly.  Wrong!  My appointment was three months away.  In the meantime my family doctor ordered an MRI and sent me for an EMG.  The EMG doctor suggested that I might have peroneal nerve palsy. That was the third diagnosis.  So I went to physical therapy for two months.  That helped strengthen my foot but did not relieve the pain or my ability to walk.  My cane was with me constantly.
          Finally I saw the neurosurgeon who wanted more tests done.  However he wanted me to first have my prostate biopsy before having the tests.  So that delayed things even more.  Finally the biopsy was done and then I had the other tests.  But in the meantime I saw another family doctor about my terrible leg pains and he sent me for vascular work.  After another test I saw a vascular surgeon who said that I have periferal arterial disease (diagnosis, number 4) but all that I could do about it now was to walk regularly.  I have been doing that despite the pain and niumbness in my right leg.
          Finally, six months after the "accident", I saw the surgeon and he recommended surgery.  He said that he couldn't fix all of my problems but that he could improve my quality of life.  But unfortunately he was booked up into September and since we had several commitments that we wanted to keep, we had to agree on October 20 as the surgery date.  He said he expected 3.5 hours of surgery and three days in the hospital.
          Since this entry was written prior to the surgery, I'm not sure what condition I am in as you read this.  I am trusting the Lord for success despite all the horror stories which people have shared with me.  But I will appreciate your prayers for a quick and complete recovery.
         It's been a long journey - probably about 65 years - from the problem with tumbling to the present surgery.  But God has been good and there are so many who have faced far more difficult situations.   And He is my refuge and strength and He has never failed me and I know He never will.  My hope is in the Lord!

Friday, October 16, 2015

At the Right Time

        All scripture is given by inspiration of God.  It is God breathed.  It is direct from God through chosen men who wrote it down for us.   And the Holy Spirit often brings parts of it back to our minds just at the time we need it.  I am thankful that growing up I memorized so many verses that help me today, even if they were in the old King James version.  Memorization is much more difficult today than it was a half century ago.
           Now I don't like to use the word inspiration when talking about hymn writers since there is a major difference. Hymns are not God breathed and without errors.  However, over the years, the Lord has allowed men and women, often as a result of their life experiences, to pen words which encourage us when we hear them.  And I believe that the Holy Spirit, just as He does with scripture, can also bring those words to our minds in times of particular needs.
          Now, as you may know, I also write a weekly hymn blog. (HYMNS).  Over the years I have featured about 350 different songs and hymns.  My problem is, because I try not to repeat them, some of those which have meant the most to me have been written about months or years ago.  And I don't know how to share new, fresh experiences concerning them without doing repeats.  So I am thinking that maybe I can do that here once in awhile for my couple dozen of faithful readers of this blog.
          One of my favorites for many years has been "Day By Day".   And I recall two special times that the Lord has brought these words to my  mind at a time when I really needed some encouragement.  
          The first happened about 20 years ago.  In those days I  used to get up early in the morning to walk before going to school. I would take my portable radio and listen to the music on the local Christian radio station as I walked. One of my paths took me past the local water tower which was about to be made higher.  The night before I had received some very discouraging news that was about to eliminate or change something that I really valued in my life.  To me the news was overwhelming.  I prayed as I walked that day and then I was surprised to see that the construction of the water tower had begun and it was being built differently than I had expected.  Not only was I taken back by that, but I suddenly realized that God often does major things in our lives in ways that we had never expected.  And He was doing that with my situation.  At that very moment, on the radio came the words of the hymn "Day By Day" ... "help me then in every tribulation, so to trust Thy promises, O Lord ... trusting in my Father's wise bestowment, I've no cause for worry or for fear ... Every day the Lord Himself is near me with a special mercy for each hour."  Wow, what a timely and needed reminder.
          Then, much more recently, I was scheduled to undergo a procedure which could not only be painful but could alter my hopes and plans for the future.  I had difficulty sleeping that night and decided to get up very early and go to our church to walk before the procedure. When I walk I use my ipod on which I've stored about 160 of my favorite Gospel songs and hymns.  And guess which one was the first one that played when I turned it on that morning?  You got it, "Day By Day".  And that was just the encouragement I needed for that day. And now as I face serious surgery in a few days, this hymn remains an encouragement to me.
          I don't know if you know this hymn, but maybe you too might need to be encouraged by its words today.  Here they are for you.

(1)      Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father's wise bestowment,
I've no cause for worry or for fear.
He, whose heart is kind beyond all measure,
Gives unto each day what He deems best,
Lovingly its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

(2)     Every day the Lord Himself is near me,
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear and cheer me,
He whose name is Counselor and Pow'r.
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
"As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,"
This the pledge to me He made.

(3)     Help me then, in every tribulation,
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith's sweet consolation,
Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
E'er to take, as from a father's hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till with Christ the Lord I stand.

I've also shared this today because of more challenges that I will be facing in the next week.  The words of this song will be in my mind as I go through the coming weeks.  The Lord is my hope and I put my trust in Him.

You can listen to it here.   LISTEN