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, May 31, 2015

"On Wisconsin"

          Last week we traveled to Wisconsin, a state that we have learned to appreciate because of its beautiful farmlands, mountains, lakes and friendly people.  We have really learned to especially enjoy the town of Rhinelander which is in the hills of northern Wisconsin, not too far from Canada.  The pace there seems so much slower than ours here at home and, as I previously mentioned, folks seem so nice and friendly.
           But the main reason we have enjoyed our visits there is because that area has been the home of my Aunt Ellen and Uncle John for over 20 years.  And my cousin Nancy and her husband Bill also live there.  All four are such special people who love and serve the Lord and it is always a blessing to be with them.
         But this time our trip was a little different, for back in January my aunt passed into Glory.  She was almost 96 and had been married to my uncle for 73 years.  Because of the cold temperatures in northern Wisconsin they were not able to bury her body at that time and they had to refrigerate it until the ground thawed.  We were not able to travel there in January for her memorial service but we were glad that we could at least be part of her burial on May 23.
          There were only ten of us at the burial service but the service appropriately honored Aunt Ellen for the Godly woman she was.  And more importantly, the service honored the Lord who she served most of her life.  The pastor's short message shared thoughts on some of her favorite verses and the hymns which we sang were some of her favorites -" Great Is Thy Faithfulness", "Like A River Glorious" and "Praise the Name of Jesus".  I thought that it was interesting that the first two of the three which she had selected were ones which we also sang at the service of her only brother, my father.
          Despite his age, Uncle John has a great memory, and for almost an hour he spoke, without any notes, sharing the beautiful history of their lives together.  He talked about how they first met when she was placed in his eighth grade homeroom because the one she should have been placed in was full.  He shared how they got married just before he was sent over seas and out of the country for three years which included being part of the Invasion of Normandy.  He talked about the various places they lived and how they were bound and held in their home while robbers emptied the safe in the store he managed.  He talked about their move from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin when they were 75 and he shared their final moments together on this earth.  It was an amazing summary of how the Lord continually provided and led them for all those years.  It was easy to understand why they selected the hymn "Great Is Thy Faithfulness", for that indeed was their experience.
          The trip provided us with special hours of fellowship.  Bill and Nancy are such gracious hosts and it was a blessing to spend time with them and my cousin Jerry and his wife Marianne.  We seldom see each other because we all live so far apart but we have so many precious memories of times together when we were growing up.  We have a unique heritage and a special bond even though separated by miles.
          Upon their retirement last year from managing Honey Rock, the Lord provided Bill and Nancy with a beautiful rental home in the woods along a lake.  We enjoyed the scenery and watching the wildlife during our visit.  Two evenings four deer appeared in their backyard and we missed, by about five minutes, seeing a large black bear.
          Each time we leave Rhinelander I have done so with tears, realizing that this could be the last time that we are together on earth. And, last June was the last time that we were with Aunt Ellen. Time marches on and life changes.  But we also realize that we will someday be reunited in heaven and that is the knowledge and hope that carries us through.  
          Before returning home we had one more special thing to do.  We drove over three hours to Madison, another one of our favorite spots in Wisconsin.  There we were able to spend time in Obrecht Gardens, a beautiful 60 acres dedicated to all sorts of gardens.  We always try to visit here when we are in the area.  It was another great visit, although since our visit was earlier than previous visits, there wasn't too much in bloom.  But it still was a wonderful way to end our visit.
           As I reflect upon our visit I thank the Lord for safety in travel and for the beauty of His creation.  But I especially thank Him for the special Christian heritage He has given me.  He is so good!

Monday, May 25, 2015

A True Story From A Pilot

          My lead flight attendant came to me and said, "We have an H.R. on this flight." (H.R. stands for human remains.)  "Are they military?" I asked.  "Yes," she answered   "Is there an escort?" I asked.  "Yes, I already assigned him a seat."  "Would you please tell him to come to the flight deck. You can board him early," I said.
          A short while later, a young army sergeant entered the flight deck. He was the image of the perfectly dressed soldier. He introduced himself and I asked him about his soldier. The escorts of these fallen soldiers talk about them as if they are still alive and still with us.
          "My soldier is on his way back to Virginia," he said.  I asked him if there was anything I could do for him and he said no. I told him that he had the toughest job in the military and that I appreciated the work that he does for the families of our fallen soldiers. The first officer and I got up out of our seats to shake his hand. He left the flight deck to find his seat.  We completed our preflight checks, pushed back and performed an uneventful departure.
          About 30 minutes into our flight I received a call from the lead flight attendant in the cabin. "I just found out the family of the soldier we are carrying is on board," she said. She then proceeded to tell me that the father, mother, wife and 2-year old daughter were escorting their son, husband, and father home. The family was upset because they were unable to see the container that the soldier was in before we left. We were on our way to a major hub at which the family was going to wait four hours for the connecting flight home to Virginia.
          The father of the soldier told the flight attendant that knowing his son was below him in the cargo compartment and being unable to see him was too much for him and the family to bear. He had asked the flight attendant if there was anything that could be done to allow them to see him upon our arrival. The family wanted to be outside by the cargo door to watch the soldier being taken off the airplane.  I could hear the desperation in the flight attendant's voice when she asked me if there was anything I could do.
          "I'm on it," I said. I told her that I would get back to her. Airborne communication with my company normally occurs in the form of e-mail like messages. I decided to bypass this system and contact my flight dispatcher directly on a secondary radio. There is a radio operator in the operations control center who connects you to the telephone of the dispatcher. I was in direct contact with the dispatcher. I explained the situation I had on board with the family and what it was the family wanted. He said he understood and that he would get back to me.
          Two hours went by and I had not heard from the dispatcher. We were going to get busy soon and I needed to know what to tell the family. I sent a text message asking for an update. I saved the return message from the dispatcher and the following is the text: "Captain, sorry it has taken so long to get back to you. There is policy on this now and I had to check on a few things. Upon your arrival a dedicated escort team will meet the aircraft. The team will escort the family to the ramp and plane side. A van will be used to load the remains with a secondary van for the family. The family will be taken to their departure area and escorted into the terminal where the remains can be seen on the ramp. It is a private area for the family only. When the connecting aircraft arrives, the family will be escorted onto the ramp and plane side to watch the remains being loaded for the final leg home. Captain, most of us here in flight control are veterans. Please pass our condolences on to the family. Thanks."  I printed out the message and gave it to the lead flight attendant to pass on to the father. The lead flight attendant was very thankful and told me, "You have no idea how much this will mean to them."
          Things started getting busy for the descent, approach, and landing.  After landing, we cleared the runway and taxied to the ramp area. The ramp is huge with 15 gates on either side of the alleyway. It is always a busy area with aircraft maneuvering every which way to enter and exit. When we entered the ramp and checked in with the ramp controller, we were told that all traffic was being held for us. "There is a team in place to meet the aircraft," we were told.
          It looked like it was all coming together, then I realized that once we turned the seat belt sign off, everyone would stand up at once and delay the family from getting off the airplane. As we approached our gate, I asked the copilot to tell the ramp controller we were going to stop short of the gate to make an announcement to the passengers. He did that and the ramp controller said, "Take your time."
          I stopped the aircraft and set the parking brake. I pushed the public address button and said, "Ladies and gentleman, this is your captain speaking. I have stopped short of our gate to make a special announcement. We have a passenger on board who deserves our honor and respect. His name is Private XXXXXX, a soldier who recently lost his life. Private XXXXXX is under your feet in the cargo hold. Escorting him today is Army Sergeant XXXXXXX. Also, on board are his father, mother, wife, and daughter. Your entire flight crew is asking for all passengers to remain in their seats to allow the family to exit the aircraft first. Thank you."
          We continued the turn to the gate, came to a stop and started our shutdown procedures. A couple of minutes later I opened the cockpit door. I found the two forward flight attendants crying, something you just do not see. I was told that after we came to a stop, every passenger on the aircraft stayed in their seats, waiting for the family to exit the aircraft.
          When the family got up and gathered their things, a passenger slowly started to clap his hands. Moments later more passengers joined in and soon the entire aircraft was clapping. Words of "God bless you," "I'm sorry, thank you, be proud," and other kind words were uttered to the family as they made their way down the aisle and out of the airplane. They were escorted down to the ramp to finally be with their loved one.
          Many of the passengers disembarking thanked me for the announcement I had made. They were just words, I told them, I could say them over and over again, but nothing I say will bring back that brave soldier.
[forwarded by JR Whitby]
          Please take time this weekend to pray for and thank God for all those brave men and women who today are putting their lives on the line for our safety and protection.  And remember the families of the many over the years who have given of their lives to provide our freedoms.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Check the drive

         There is no question that we senior citizens have seen many, many dramatic changes in our lifetime.  From cars to planes to kitchen appliances to television to houses to air conditioning and on and on, almost everything has been touched by change in our lifetimes.  But one of the biggest changes is that of technology. Most young folks today know little or nothing about party lines or telegraphs or crystal radios or silent movies or even black and white television.  Technology has changed our lives dramatically.
         And with the changes in technology has come a new vocabulary.  Many words and phrases now have completely new meanings.  Recently I came upon a poem written by Lisa Deutsch which shares some of these changes.  I thought maybe you would enjoy it.  Of course, if you are under 30 you might not understand it.  But here goes.

A computer was something on TV, 
from a science fiction show of note. 
A window was something you hated to clean, and
ram was the cousin of a goat. 

Meg was the name of my girlfriend, 
and a gig was job for the night. 
Now they all mean different things, 
and that really mega bytes.

An application was for employment. 
A program was a TV show. 
A cursor used profanity. 
A keyboard was a piano. 

Memory was something that you lost with age. 
A CD was a bank account. 
Compress was something you did to the garbage, 
not something you did to a file, 
and if you unzipped anything in public 
you'd be in jail for a while. 

Log on was adding wood to the fire. 
Hard drive was a long trip on the road. 
A mouse pad was where a mouse lived, 
and backup happened to your commode. 

Cut you did with a pocket knife. 
Paste you did with glue. 
A web was a spider's home, and a
virus was the flu. 

I guess I'll stick to my pad and paper, 
and the memory in my head. 
I hear nobody's been killed in a computer crash, 
but when it happens, 
they will wish they were dead.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


          Recently Pastor Ron Mahurin was the guest speaker in our morning worship services at church.  We have always appreciated his wisdom, his presentations and his practical applications of the scripture.
          On this particular Sunday Pastor Mahurin spoke on the life of Barnabas with the theme of encouragement.  He showed several examples of how Barnabas had been a great encourager to so many others and he shared ways that we could and should encourage others.
          We all need encouragement from time to time.  Life can be very hard and we can easily get discouraged by the challenges of everyday living as well as in serving the Lord.  At times like that, a sincere word or deed from someone can help get us back on track.  Hopefully you have experienced that, and, if so, thank the Lord for allowing that encourager to cross your path.
          But we also should be encouragers, too.  Each day we see folks at work, or school, or at home, or in church, who could be helped by the words that we say or the deeds that we do.  And we shouldn't miss these God given opportunities. Give a complement, write a note, give an unexpected gift, share a job with them.  But be sincere.  While there are those who will never encourage you, there are also some who always over do it and you soon wonder if they are sincere about what they say or do.  I have met a few people like that.
          My grandfather was a great encourager. He was especially good at making phone calls or visiting folks and giving them words of encouragement. He always had good things to say about folks, even those who treated him badly.  I remember several times in his messages that he would use the example of the old lamplighters whose job it was each evening to light the candles that illuminated the streets, so that folks could see through the night.  His presence and work made the night a little brighter for those who passed by.  
          And that is my desire.  May the lives of those who cross my paths be made a little brighter because they have sensed the love of Jesus in my life.  May I be an encouragement to them.
          Now if you are old enough, you might remember the popular song about the lamplighter.  And in case you've never heard it, let me close by sharing the words with you.

He made the night a little brighter
Wherever he would go
The old lamplighter
Of long, long ago
His snowy hair was so much whiter
Beneath the candle glow
The old lamplighter
Of long, long ago

You'd hear the patter of his feet
As he came toddling down the street
His smile would cheer a lonely heart you see
If there were sweethearts in the park
He'd pass a lamp and leave it dark
Remembering the days that used to be
For he recalled when things were new
He loved someone who loved him too
Who walks with him alone in memories
He made the night a little brighter
Wherever he would go
The old lamplighter
Of long, long ago
His snowy hair was so much whiter
Beneath the candle glow
The old lamplighter
Of long, long ago

Now if you look up in the sky
You'll understand the reason why
The little stars at night are all aglow
He turns them on when night is near
He turns them off when dawn is here
The little man we left so long ago
He made the night a little brighter
Wherever he would go
The old lamplighter of long, long ago

You can listen to it being sung right here.   LISTEN

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A Gift Refused

          So how do you react when a special thank you gift which you want to give to a friend is turned down by your friend?  Maybe you've never had this happen to you.  It certainly isn't a normal reaction ... at least it shouldn't be.

          One of my biggest concerns about churches is that the leadership seldom, if ever, thank their volunteers for their faithful service.  Now please don't get me wrong.  If volunteers are serving for thanks and recognition, their service is really worthless.  They should be willing to use their gifts to serve the Lord without any praise.  A verse which has been the basis of my Christian life for many years shares that standard.  Colossians 3:23, "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men."  We should serve to please God, not man.
          But let's face it, we are still human and a little appreciation once in awhile certainly can be a real encouragement.  Even though we know that our reward is in heaven, it does help when someone here on earth comes along and says "thank you" or "we appreciate your faithful service".  But that isn't part of the normal church conversation and that lack of encouragement often leads to loneliness, discouragement and eventually even to giving up.   And when that happens, unfortunately the normal reaction of leadership isn't to thank the person who served, but to begin the search to replace that leader.  Thanks is not a normal reaction.  Next up. Just move on.  It happens.
          With that in mind, 33 years ago, when we began our Awana ministry, I was concerned about how to express sincere appreciation to those Awana workers who serve faithfully each week.  While there are eternal rewards for their service, at times the nightly problems and frustrations can be very discouraging.  And when there are no visual rewards each night, the nights can at times be very tiring and emotionally draining.  It is hard at times not to become "weary in well doing".
          So my idea was to honor all the leaders at the end of the year with a special banquet where we would have a relaxing night with great food and great fellowship and we could thank them and honor them for their faithful service.  We learned we had to charge them a very small amount so that we could obtain an accurate count of those attending.  It started as a great idea which originally was appreciated by all those who served.
         Over the years this idea has grown from a small catered banquet, to one hosted by another church, to one held at a local restaurant and then for many years at an area  restaurant which provided a great buffet.  Then a few years ago, when that restaurant suddenly went out of business, we moved to the Conference Center at Millersville University.  It is a great facility with excellent food.  We couldn't ask for anything better.  We have a special gift for each who attends. We have a guest speaker give a short devotional and we just have a great time.
         Now the cost of doing this is quite high and we don't publicize this expense.  But over the years we have had a few good friends who have made this possible by giving special gifts.  This year, with the cost of the meal, the cost of the speaker, the gifts for each person attending and the service awards that were presented, it cost us about $34 for each of the 105 who attended. But our charge per person has remained $6.  Now that is a major bargain!
          But what continues to be discouraging to me is that a third of our staff doesn't even attend, even though this event is a special gift for them.  We even tell them in August to reserve the date so that they are available to attend.  But even that advance notice doesn't make any difference.  Now a few do have legitimate reasons - illness, surgery, etc., but most just don't reply to us or give us any reason for not attending.  And sometimes it might be better not to know why they don't come.  This year a few told me that they weren't coming because it just wasn't a priority for them.  I think those kind of  reactions hurt even more.
          Now as I asked when I started this blog, how should you react when a special thank you gift which you want to give to a friend is turned down by your friend?  Unfortunately I must admit that at times I've taken the lack of attendance somewhat personally and I am trying to learn not to do that.  I guess you learn that sometimes there is nothing that you can really do to show your appreciation, except to just offer the gift.  And if they refuse it, it becomes their problem.  They are the ones who miss out.   And that is life.
          Incidentally, I enjoyed myself again at this year's banquet.  The food was excellent, the speaker great, and the fellowship was special.  And the 104 others who attended thought the same and that was rewarding to me.  I am already looking forward to next year.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The End Of The Road

        After living for almost six years with three cars - a 2000 dodge, a 2005 dodge and a 2009 toyota - we decided it was time to finally downsize to two cars.  So we recently traded the two older ones in for a 2015 Rav4.  We had been saving for such a purchase for over ten years and we also bought during Toyota's year-end sales event.
          We have really been enjoying out new vehicle.  It has so many features that we never had before and never expected to have.  I hope that someday soon we will learn how to use all of them correctly.  For me one of the greatest features is the electronic seat control that allows me to set the seat so that I can get in the car easily, despite my back problems.  And by saving our favorite positions, the push of a button sets the seat for us individually before we get in.  That is so nice and helpful.
          However, the one feature that I am not used to yet is the built in GPS.  I may eventually go back to using the old portable one that we have used for years.  The new one really has its own mind.  It will continually attempt to get you back on its main track even when you are miles off its track and on a faster more direct route.  If you obeyed it your trip would end up being longer and more frustrating.
          The second thing about it that bugs me is the fact that every time you are approaching a "T" and need to turn, the GPS voice says you will turn left/right at Sherman St., "at the end of the road".  Now I guess that is helpful information but recently we heard "at the end of the road" so often that I felt like turning the voice off.
          But hearing that expression brought two thoughts to my mind.  First, we never know when an intersection will actually be at the end of the road for us.  My mother was killed when a teenager came through a stop sign and hit my parents broadside.  The way people drive today is alarming.  The Lancaster newspapers recently printed a story sharing statistics about how many local accidents were caused by drivers on drugs, especially heroine.  And so today we never know when a simple auto trip could end at the end of the road.
         But the expression also reminded me of the brevity of life due to things besides auto accidents.  And for the believer, the end of the road promises to be a beautiful place with a new home and life with our Savior and friends who have reached the end of the road before us.  But instead of it being the end of the road it will be a new beginning which will go on for eternity.  What a wonderful destination we have at the end of life's road.
         Now a GPS is a marvelous instrument.  I am constantly amazed how it recognizes where you are, how it knows all the roads and key locations around, how it recalculates so quickly, how it can tell you what the speed limit is and how long until you reach your destination.  But it isn't always completely correct and we do need to be careful how we use it.  And sometimes it can't contact to the satellite and then it is useless.  That happened to us once in Milwaukee traffic and that was an adventure without even a map.
         I wonder if the first GPS might have been the pillar of fire by night and the cloud by day that led the Israelites out of Egypt.  They didn't know where they were headed and didn't have maps, but God guided them just as He guides us today ... from where we are, to the end of the road.  And that is even more amazing than a GPS.  And He doesn't make mistakes or stop working.  As we trust in the Lord with all of our hearts and lean not to our own understanding, and we acknowledge Him in all of our ways - He will direct our paths. (Proverbs 3:5,6).  The perfect GPS!