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, July 30, 2015

A Major Failure And Disappointment

         Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.  Sometimes a sure thing backfires and fails.  Sometimes you get taken in by a slick advertisement and then you are sadly reminded that advertisements are made to make a sale and often appear better than they actually are.
         If you read my blog of June 24,  "A Golden Crop", you may recall my dilemma in wanting to find a way that I could still grow tomatoes even though I could no longer physically dig up my patch to plant them.  It was during that time that I came upon an internet advertisement that said, among other things: "My neighbors laughed when I ordered ... now THEY ALL want a tomato garden like mine!"  The Garden Patch(TM) GrowBox(TM).  It's the perfect planter for you.  Comes complete with fertilizer, easy instructions and planting guide. • Grows your plants better  • Self-fertilizing  • Self-watering  • No weeding  • No bending   • Works anywhere  • No gardening experience needed.  • Poor soil, rocky, sandy … it doesn't matter anymore   • Guaranteed to work every time.
          Now doesn't that sound great?  How could I miss with such a deal?  So I took the next step and "invested".  In my previous blog I explained about all the costs and work that resulted from that decision.  But I looked forward to having great tomatoes - big, red and tasty.  And how could I go wrong when this season even actually turned out to be an exceptional season for growing tomatoes.  All of our friends have the best crop ever.
         But we have had the opposite experience.  First, we found that we had to lug water to these containers every two or three days to keep these large reservoirs filled.  I guess, as advertised, they were self-watering as long as we kept the reservoirs filled and that physically was a worse job than just digging the garden.  We did find that the plants grew and grew and soon began to produce little tomatoes.  But as each one began to grow, it developed a hard scale or it began to rot and that made it uneatable.  
         I've already picked and thrown about 30 of them away.  Those that are left to ripen are showing the same signs.  How many have we picked that we could eat?  To date, exactly zero.  How many do we expect to get?  I've been forced to drastically lower my expectations - Exactly zero.  We have no idea what has gone wrong, but it is a very major and costly disappointment.  And I believe that I have followed all the instructions completely. They were placed in a good location, I used good potting soil, we've kept them watered and the varieties planted were all well know ones that we have grown successfully before.
         Now they say that the results are guaranteed to work - EVERY TIME.  So I wrote to Garden Patch about our results.  They quickly replied with two offers.  The first was to help us diagnose what had gone wrong.  I sent them the picture shown in this blog for their review.  To date, they have not replied or provided any diagnosis.  The second offer from them was that if I sent the containers back they would refund my purchase price.  However, the shipping cases are long gone.  Why would I have saved them?  And the expense of packing and shipping them back was not part of their offer.  So maybe these marvelous containers will just end up in our weekly trash.
          We did buy a separate patio tomato plant which was not part of this experiment.  Unlike the others, it has produced several tomatoes for us, without any problem.  However, they are rather small and haven't gone very far.  So we will be visiting the local roadside stands in the coming weeks to get our nice ripe tomatoes.  We should have planned on that from the start.
         So, I guess the moral of the story is not to trust everything you see advertised on the internet. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  You are also never too old to learn a new lesson, especially an expensive one.  And, there are no shortcuts to growing a good tasty tomatoes.
P.S. - The company finally responded and claimed the problem was blossom end rot.  I really don't believe that was the problem because the marks and rotting were not at the opposite end of the stem.  And I had sprayed for that as they suggested.

Friday, July 24, 2015


          My pastor has been speaking on the book of Ephesians this year.  A few weeks ago his message was titled "Balancing the Scale" and was based on Ephesians 4:1-6.  One of the parts of his message was "Characteristics of a Worthy Walk".  He outlined five characteristics that should be part of our walk, including humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another, and unity.
          One of the illustrations he used was an incident between he and his wife in which his wife's mistake cost him valuable time and much inconvenience.  But he shared how the Lord led him to handle this with gentleness.  I imagine most of the men in the congregation wondered if they would have reacted the same way.  Well my test came two days later.
          A pair of pants that I had been wearing needed to be washed.  As I was changing pants my wife came and took the old pair to immediately put it in the washer.  Understandably she didn't want the dirty pants hanging in our bedroom when they could quickly be washed and ready to use again.  She thought I might need them.
          As I was changing, I grabbed my wallet and a few other items which she had taken out of the dirty pants.  But I couldn't find my keys.  Unfortunately, she had missed checking one of my pockets in which there were my keys, two key fobs and our cell phone.  And they were now all being washed in our clothes washer inside my dirty pants.  They were only in the washer a few minutes before we retrieved them, but that was long enough for a good soaking.  Now the items included the key fob to open our Corolla, the key fob needed to start our Rav4, and of course our only cell phone.
          We went to the internet for help and tried placing them in rice and later even using the vacuum cleaner to try to remove the water.  Thank the Lord I remained calm but I admit that dollar signs were floating around in my head.  I prayed and we left them in the rice overnight.  The next morning I was relived to find that both key fobs worked.  PTL.  But our cell phone still  looked like an enclosed aquarium and that wasn't what I wanted to see.
          Now let me explain about our cell phone.  I signed up for a plan through my employer about 20 years ago.  The plan gives me unlimited phone service for $29.95 a month, with no cancellation fees.  We don't text because it gets too expensive.  And living on a fixed income does not allow us to even have multiple phones or a smart phone.  We have lived successfully with one inexpensive dumb phone.  My main fear was that in replacing this damaged phone I would need to buy a new contract and pay for much more expensive features.  But I continued to pray and the Lord kept me calm.
          So off I went to visit AT&T at Park City, using my dry key fob. I went fearing what I would find as well as fearing the long walk to the store. This was troubling because my leg problems have limited my ability to walk very far, especially on hard surfaces.  And I continued to pray.
          When I arrived at Park City I was amazed to find that the closest parking space to the entrance was open.  I parked right there.  When I limped into the store I was stunned to see the exact duplicate of our phone hanging on the all.  The problem is that its purchase required a two year contract.  Surprisingly a saleswoman quickly came to my aid.  When I explained the situation she told me that she would sell this phone to me for just $15 plus tax and I could keep my old contract.  Now why was I so amazed when I had prayed about it?
          The Lord reminded me of the folks mentioned in the book of Acts who were gathered and praying for Paul when he was in prison.  When the Lord released him and he showed up at their door they didn't believe that it was him.  Sometimes the Lord answers our prayers despite our weak faith.
          The final obstacle was to replace the 50+ telephone numbers that we had stored, many of which we hadn't saved elsewhere.  So I sent out an e-mail to many of the folks who we call and within about 48 hours responses from most of them enabled me to open a new address book in our new cell phone.
          I am thankful that the Lord allowed me to be understanding and hopefully gentle in my responses.  I am not always that way.  However, I guess in now sharing my "gentle" reaction publicly, I have also failed one of the other characteristics in the pastor's message - humility.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


I just received a telephone call from the Imaging Center that my check is in the mail.  So after four years, three months and two days it appears that my bill, as mentioned in my last blog, is finally taken care of.  Special thanks to the office of Senator Toomey who represented me to Medicare and to the Imaging Center for paying me so promptly when Medicare finally said that they should refund my money.  But, no thanks at all to Medicare which showed incompetence in all of their dealings with me.  This has taught me to keep good records and continue to press the issue when you are treated wrongly, even against a giant like Medicare.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Another Chapter

       If you happen to be a regular reader of my blog, you just might remember the blog that I wrote on March 20, 2015 entitled "Three Years".  In it I shared the problem that I had with the incompetence and carelessness of some medicare employes.
         My complaint was based on the denial of payment of a claim for $285 for a dexascan that was ordered by both my gastroenterologist and my family doctor.  My wife had the very same test at the very same location about the same time.  Her's was paid for and mine was denied ... without explanation.  It was filed again, twice more, with different code numbers and each time it was still denied.  Apparently it was fine for a female to have the test but not a male.
         So I decided to use Medicare's appeal process.  I gathered the many forms needed, completed all the paper work required and sent it to the address which they gave me.  Then I waited and waited and heard nothing.  I finally assumed that it was just rejected again and eventually forgot about it.  But exactly three years later I received the packet back with a note that it was sent to the wrong address.  For three years it was there and nobody did anything with it.  That is gross incompetence in my estimation.
          I decided that I needed some help with this problem so I contacted the office of Representative Joseph Pitts and Senator Pat Toomey.  Pitts never even acknowledged my contact but Toomey assigned a person to my case.  And so, for about four months, this representative has been working on my appeal.  This was a great help and I commend the senator and his office for this.  The senator will get my vote when he runs again.
         But this has still been frustrating because Medicare has replied with such things as there is no record of service on this date - it wasn't even the date I had given them so of course there wasn't any service on that date.  Another time they claimed the appeal was beyond their "generous" time allowed for an appeal.  Of course it was - they lost it. But fortunately Toomey's office kept after it for me.  Finally Medicare agreed to review it again as an appeal from a beneficiary - whatever that means.
          And finally I received a four page Final Medicare Appeal Decision.  I was again turned down because Medicare does not cover this test.  Really?  They have for my wife.   Is this sexual discrimination?
          But the possible good news - Medicare says that the Imaging Center should have been aware that this would be denied and should have informed me of it.  They also claim that they can find no record of them informing me of this fact.  And I certainly don't remember it or I would have reconsidered having the test.  And because of this the Imaging Center is to refund my money, four years and three months after the test.
          I have submitted a letter requesting the refund along with the documentation that Medicare has sent me.  Will they pay me?  If so, how long will it take?  And will I then be "blacklisted" from future service there?   Who knows? I don't. This has been an "interesting" journey with many twists and turns.  Stay tuned to see what happens next.
          P.S. - My wife just had another one of these scans yesterday.  On her instructions it says that Medicare will pay for this once every two years.  So if that is the case, why wouldn't they pay for mine?  I guess I'll never know.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Working Together

       The Lord has blessed me in so many ways over the years, but one of those special blessings has been the opportunity to minister as a team with my wife for about 53 years.  This includes working together in a family ministry for 25 years, in Awana for 33 years, in leading music and hymn sings for many years, in things such as leading departments in Sunday School and preparing offertories for church, as well as numerous other situations.  It is always been a special experience.
          Working as a team just doesn't always work for many spouses.  Sometimes differences in gifts or personalities or opinions just prevent this from working smoothly.  We've known some who tried, but were much more successful doing their "own things".  God still used them, just separately.
         Recently I read a story about a situation involving a wife and husband that didn't have a "smooth" ending.  They were an "interesting team".  Hopefully it is just a story and not a real life situation.  Enjoy!
          A police officer pulls over a speeding car.  The officer says, "Sir, I clocked you at 80 mph. sir."  The driver says, "But officer, I had it on cruise control at 60, perhaps your radar needs calibrating."
          Not looking up from her knitting the wife says sweetly, "Now don't be silly dear, you know that this car doesn't have cruise control."  As the officer writes out the ticket, the driver looks over at his wife and growls, "Can't you keep your mouth shut for once?"
          The wife smiles demurely and says, "You should be thankful your radar detector went off when it did."  As the officer makes out the second ticket for the illegal radar detector unit, the man glowers at his wife and says through clenched teeth, "Come on, woman, can't you keep your mouth shut!"
           The officer frowns and says, "And I notice that you're not wearing your seat belt, sir. That's an automatic $75 fine."  The driver says, "Yeah, well you see officer, I had it on, but took it off when you pulled me over so I could get my license out of my back pocket."
           The wife says," Now dear you know very well you didn't have your seat belt on. You never wear your seat belt when you're driving."
           And as the police officer is writing out the third ticket the driver turns to his wife and barks, "WHY DON'T YOU JUST BE QUIET??"
           The officer looks over at the woman and asks, "Does your husband always talk to you this way, Ma'am?"
          "Oh heavens no, officer," she sweetly replies, "only when he's been drinking."

Monday, July 6, 2015

And The Lord Answers Again

               Music, especially church music,  has always been an important part of my life.  And the Lord really blessed me  by giving me a wife who plays the piano very well and also loves music.  I so enjoy hearing her play throughout the day as she practices or just plays for our enjoyment.  She has played most of her life and has spent over 55 years serving as a church pianist/organist in both Sunbury and Lancaster.   God has gifted her and blessed me with her special gift.  And she has used this gift to minister to many over the years in a variety of situations.
          Recently pianos have been part of four special answers to our prayers.  This situation started with our church piano and developed over many years.  The grand piano that our church had was donated by a former member of our church in memory of her daughter.  It was nice for a home but was not really adequate for our new large church auditorium.  It was often hard to keep in tune and it often bounced when played.  But only the pianists realized its shortcomings. Nobody else did or cared. The organ also had problems and some of our organists stopped playing it because of that.
         When we realized that a new piano was not and would not be a priority for our church leadership, we approached our pastor and asked him what would happen if the church received money for a new one.  He felt that replacing it, and maybe the organ as well, would be accepted if the funds became available.  While we felt that this might be an impossible task without any promotion by the church, we agreed to pray and think about it.
          And, very quietly, over a period of about three years $14,000 was made available for the church for a purchase.  During that time the two of us began to investigate the possibilities and the costs involved. We visited a few stores and watched the internet.  And then, a few months ago, we came upon the new Kawai CP1 digital grand piano.  My wife who does not care for the touch and sound of keyboards was astonished with the touch and sound of this particular piano. My wife fell in love with it and wished that she had one of her own.  It has 1,000 different sounds, uses the latest technology and has the touch of an acoustic grand piano.  The piano and organ sounds are actually much better than the instruments our church had. And when we inquired about the cost, listed at over $20,000, we were amazed when they told us that for the church they could deliver it for just under $14,000.  That was a God thing!
         When we shared that information with our pastor, he decided to take some of the church musicians to see it and play it.  They loved it.  We purchased it.  They removed the old piano and organ and this beautiful black grand piano was delivered and set up.  Since my wife is now only needed to play about once a month, she is looking forward to her first chance to finally play it in church next Sunday.  The purchase of the piano was prayer answer number one.  Actually there were even a few more answers to prayer because the Lord also took care of the removal of the old piano and organ.
          Now I knew my wife had fallen in love with this instrument so I proposed that we consider buying the Kawai CP2.  It has the very same internal parts of the CP1 but comes in a standard home style case.  And because of this it is much less expensive than the baby grand.  But there were three more challenges to take to the Lord in prayer before we could go ahead with the purchase.  First, how to find the money.  Second, how to get rid of our Korg M1 keyboard.  Third, how to get rid of our good piano.  All three challenges needed answers quickly if we were to purchase and save delivery costs by combining it with the church order.
         For over 40 years my wife has played for many weddings and funerals. For some of these she was given a financial honorarium.  After giving a tithe of these gifts to the Lord, I had always placed the remainder in the bank expecting some day to use this to take a big trip.  But with our developing physical challenges it has become apparent that this big trip probably will never happen.  So over the years the Lord provided the funds for the purchase even before we ever thought about such an expenditure. Another God thing!
         Next was the concern about getting rid of our expensive keyboard.  I had reservations about trying to sell it, especially after some of the stories I've heard about Craig's List sales problems.  I mentioned this concern in passing to the piano salesman.  Now they advertise that they do not take trade ins.  So I was shocked when he offered to take ours at a very fair price.  Another concern answered.
         One evening we were headed to York for a meeting and my wife was talking to her friend on our cell phone.  This friend had recently moved to a retirement home and had given her piano away because she felt that she didn't have room for it.  She also had been a church pianist.  While they were talking I think the Lord nudged me to have my wife ask her if she would like our piano. We offered to give it to her if she paid to have it delivered to her house. She was very surprised and said she'd think about it and measure to see if she had any room for it.  We also found out that when the piano movers delivered ours they would also be willing to take our old one to her for a very reasonable charge.  When we talked to her again a few days later, she was excited and readily accepted our offer.  In fact she told us that she had just been asked to begin playing again in her church but had to travel to practice since she no longer had a piano.   She was thrilled.  We were excited.  Transaction was agreed upon. The deliveries are now complete. Our old piano now has a good new home.  Definitely God things.
          So now three of us have new pianos and I am enjoying listening and helping my wife plan and develop new arrangements using a vast number of instruments.  In fact she just completed one for "Be Still My Soul" that actually has the sound of ocean waves in the background.  It is exciting to use this new ministry tool.  And it is even more amazing to see how the Lord provided and answered in His time.  God is so good.