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.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Chloe and Nxaha

            Do the names Cleo and Nxaha mean anything to you?   If not, here are some clues.  They both lived in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park.  They both wore tracking collars.  They were both recently involved in killings.  They are both Lions.
          Now I imagine that you recognized Cleo.  She became famous because she was recently killed by a trophy hunter from the United States.  The media picked this up and it spread like wildfire.  It was in the newspapers for days, with big headlines.  The internet and Facebook were filled with stories condemning the hunter.  TV personalities expressed their hate for the hunter.  Bob Barker of the Price Is Right said the dentist hunter should be stalked just like he said Cleo was.  Jimmy Kimmel cried over Cleo's death.   The media promoted out cries from all over the country for various punishments of the hunter who was even forced to close his dental practice and put many of his employees out of work.  The corrupt government of Zimbabwe called for his extradition so that he could be punished by the kangaroo courts in their crooked country where money and bribes do all the speaking.  The media promoted this story and the public responded with hate.  Unfortunately, even some of my good friends on Facebook cried for his punishment and the elimination of hunting.  Several airlines said that they would stop shipping products of hunts. This gentle, pet-like lion, Cleo, quickly became an international star.
          Unfortunately the dentist was judged guilty by the public before all the facts in the case were even known.  And we still don't know all the facts.  However, hunters must depend upon their guides to take care of all the legal procedures and lead them on legal hunts.  It would be assumed that his experienced guide did all that.  And it now appears that they did not set a snare for Cleo as reported.  Apparently the lion was drawn there by another animal which had died.  And, assuming he had all the legal papers, the dentist would not be a poacher but would have been approved to make the kill to help control the population of one of that country's most vicious killers.  Trophy hunting is essential to the very weak economy of that country and to the preservation and control of the animals there.
          But the purpose of this blog is not to defend the hunter or big game hunters. I don't really know if he did something illegal or not and neither do any of you readers. My purpose is to share the hypocrisy of the media and its many gullible followers.
         Now who is Nxaha?   He was a lion with a tracking collar in the same area where Cleo lived.  A few days ago he attacked and killed a 40 year old safari guide who was on a walking - not hunting - safari with six foreign guests.  Unfortunately such events are rather common in that area.  Cleo and Nxaha were not pets but vicious killers who attack villages and their inhabitants regularly.  They are feared killers.
          But, you say, I have not read or heard anything about Nxaha.  No you probably haven't. It's not something the media will share.  I read two paragraphs about it under "In brief" in our local newspaper.  I have not seen it on any network news program or on the internet or even on Facebook.  I've seen no comment from Bob Barker and I have not heard of Jimmy Kimmel crying over the sad death of this human guide.  And there have been no comments from animal rights activists either.  And most likely you won't hear anything.
           It just goes to show you that the media controls what we hear and molds public opinion.  And the life of a vicious lion is more important and newsworthy than that of a human life and certainly of the lives of thousands of babies who are killed daily.  What a sad situation.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Two Weeks

         My favorite season of the year is almost here.  I love the cooler temperatures that come with it.  I love to see the leaves change colors and become such beautiful displays of God's creation.  I love freshly picked apples.  I love the smell of fireplaces being used.  And it reminds me of the words from the great hymn "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" - "summer and winter, springtime and harvest, sun, moon and stars in their courses above, join with all nature in manifold witness to Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love".
          But I also love that the season brings the return of my favorite sport, football.  I look forward to watching the Eagles, the Steelers and the Ravens.  But in a little less than two weeks I get to watch my favorite college football team, the Penn State Nittany Lions. Watching them becomes a Saturday priority and I seldom miss a game.
          Many folks think that I must have graduated from Penn State since I have followed them so closely for many years.  I did attend one class there, but that is all.  However, while attending Susquehanna University, I traveled with the football team as the school's NCAA statistician for four years.  That was when they had great teams and I have many great memories of those years.  Then for 25 years I covered high school football games for area newspapers and that was an exciting job.
          I guess I always had an interest in Penn State football but it wasn't until I attended my first game at Beaver Stadium that I became hooked on the excitement of following their teams.  When I learned more about how to get there, where to park, and the seating arrangements, attending games became something I looked forward to.
          And after attending a few games with me, my wife began to enjoy the atmosphere as well.  There is something special about the fun of tailgating, smelling the food, watching folks prepare for the game and then seeing the band march to the stadium.  When our health was better we also used to enjoy walking downtown and getting caught up in all the excitement there.  Then there is the pregame festivities with the teams warming up, the band arriving and performing, the drum major appearing and making his flip to the cheers of thousands, and then the teams entering.  And of course the games are usually very exciting with sometimes more than 100,000 fans cheering on the teams.  All of this made a special day that we both enjoyed.
          But getting good tickets and finding good parking was a major issue.  When we first started going we would put a sign on our car "We Need 2" and then begin the trip to Happy Valley.  Sometimes we would be stopped by someone even before we got out of Lancaster County.  And almost always we made our purchase before even crossing the Susquehanna River above Harrisburg.  And I never paid more than face value.  And we were always successful, except once, and that was for the Alabama game.  But even for that big game we were stopped and offered tickets but at twice the face value.  I said no and at Lewistown we decided to head home and watch that game on television.
          The best years were the ten years when an elderly gentleman from Columbia used to sell me most of his tickets for the season.  They were good seats and during those years the handicapped parking was at the north end of the stadium, very near these seats.  We were able to get in and out very quickly and that was great.  But things changed.  He passed away and his son sold the seats to others or used them himself.
          Then they moved the handicapped parking to a different location, farther from the stadium.  And as we got older we also became more selective of seating locations.  We still were able to get some good tickets from some sources that I found, but we found that the handicapped shuttles would only run when they were full.  So that meant to beat the crowds at the end of the game we often had to run/walk a considerable distance to get to our car.  And as we got older this became more of a problem.
         The best experience was the year my oldest son was able to get a suite from one of his customers.  Outstanding view and accommodations.  Plenty of food and parking right next to the stadium.  A once in a lifetime experience for us.
         But the end of our trips unexpectedly came two years ago when they again moved the handicapped parking area, this time away from the stadium to an area hotel lot.  This meant not being part of the main tailgating and being forced to depend upon the shuttles which only run when they have a full load.  Too far to walk and too inconvenient. So now we spend our Saturdays in front of a television and while we can see the game very well, we miss all the excitement of being there which television can't provide.
          Will I ever go back again?  Yes, I would love to, if I could get good tickets with seats that are easy to get to, as well as reserved parking in one of the reserved lots close to the stadium.  But unless you know the right people, those are impossible or very expensive to get.  And I don't know the right people and I don't have a fortune to spend.
          Now what type of season will they have this year?  I have no idea.  They are rebounding well from the Sandusky scandal and the NCAA sanctions.  And that is a story for another blog.  Franklin has been a very successful recruiter but he hasn't yet proven that he is a good game coach.  And they are now playing in what might be the toughest conference in football with Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State.   But win or lose, I'll be watching and cheering them on!  Now less than two weeks to the first kick-off!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Safe and Quiet?

        If you ask a person what they think about Lancaster County, their answer will probably depend upon where they live.  If they haven't been here in recent years they will probably respond with things like it is a peaceful place filled with Amish and Mennonites.  It is filled with beautiful farms and houses with beautiful window boxes.  Horses and buggies are everywhere.  It is a quiet, safe area untouched by the problems of the world.
          Now there would be some truth to such replies.  We are blessed with some of the best farmland in the world.  There are areas of the county which have Amish and Mennonites and spectacular farms.  We have good schools, many churches, plenty of shopping areas, fine restaurants and good entertainment sources.  But things are changing and we are no longer untouched by the problems of today's society.  And safety and security are growing concerns.
           We now have only one daily newspaper and it is a shadow of what we used to have with two competing daily papers.  It is loaded with ads and many useless features and news articles are short and limited.  But last Thursday's issue highlights some of the changes we are facing in this county.
          On the front page was an article about an incident in Columbia involving the Confederate Flag.  A man, his daughter, her friend, and his girlfriend where recently attacked by a group at Walmart.  He was chased and followed by ten to 15 people carrying knives and yelling racist terms and making threats.  His truck was keyed and dented by fists.

          All of this action was apparently related to "rebel runs", the practice of flying a Confederate flag in the back of your truck and then driving through town.  These runs are organized informally.  250 trucks recently participated in a run in Ephrata and 50 took part in the one in Columbia.  They have also happened in other local towns.  Good old quiet Lancaster County!
          A second article talked about an Ephrata Township man who was charged with aggravated assault and making terroristic threats.  He is said to have punched and kicked a woman in a Walmart parking lot.  He reportedly confronted the woman because she had cut him off on the WalMart access road.  He pulled her unto the ground by her hair and punched and kicked her "numerous " times, injuring her.  Good old safe, quiet Lancaster County.
         A third article, hidden on page three,  told about bullets which struck the home of a military recruiter in Mountville.  Several shots were fired in a drive-by shooting.  Two rounds pierced the front window and entered the living room.  Fortunately the U.S. marine recruiter who lives there was not injured.  Good old safe Lancaster County.
          Now the good news is what was not in Thursday's publication.  The usual police report was not included, possibly because there was not enough space in this limited newspaper.  There were no reports of anyone actually getting shot - there is an average of one shooting per week in Lancaster City.  No news of drug busts.  No Turkey Hills or minute marts robbed. No bank robberies.  No pedestrians hit by a hit and run driver.  No prostitution arrests.  No homes broken into.  Actually, unless LNP just had no room to include them, this was an unusually quiet day in Lancaster County.
          Now I have lived here most of my life.  It has been a good area in which to raise my children and I doubt that there are too many places left that are safe and quiet.  Sinful man has been successful in ruining many of the things that humans long for.  And, unfortunately, it will only get worse.  And I am not being a pessimist, just a realist.
          But, as folks often say, I have read the end of the book and I know how life as we know it now will end.  There is a day when Christ will return and rule the world.  Only then will we who are His children experience true peace and the lives that we long for.  And that is the hope that we live with as things all around us get worse and worse. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A Question To Be Asked

          Recently I downloaded a small booklet from the Awana website with the title "The Question Nobody Asks About Our Children".  It was written by one of my favorite writers and speakers, Larry Fowler, who is Awana's executive director of global networking.  It shared similar concerns that I have had over the years with our Awana program, as well as serious trends I have seen in Christian families.
          Larry began by stating that the number one question that is asked by church leaders is "how many do we have?".  This question often drives programs, approaches and strategies.  Seminars and conferences share how ministries can increase attendances.  And Fowler says it is a good question - if we are serious about pursuing the Great Commission.  But if we only ask that question, ministry will be inadequate.
          Fowler says that the second question that must be asked, but seldom is asked,  is "how often do they come?'  He says that question will "challenge our approach to curriculum, cause us to reassess our organization, and pour fuel on the fire of parental involvement."
           Now to back up his premise, he consulted with several different churches and when they analyzed their attendance patterns they found the following.  One found that their children attended an average of 1.4 times a month.  Another found that the average child in their church attended just once a month.  Another found that 80% of their children attended less than 50% of the time.  The vast majority of their children attended approximately 15-18 hours per year.  Another reported that out of 154 unique check-ins, one had 100% attendance, 16 75% to 99%, 31 50% to 74%, 31 25% to 49%, and 75 less than 25%. A fifth church reported that of 1,231 individual children, only 52, or 4%, attended at least three times a month.  He also quoted similar statistics from other churches.
           Now church leaders, do you think figures at your church are really much different?  How do you really know?  And parents, what about the attendance of your children?
        Now Fowler talks about a fictional child named Zac.  Zac doesn't come often enough to build friendships.  When he reaches 12 or 13 and being with friends is his highest priority, he will begin to resist going to church with his parents.  He enjoys the energy and excitement of children's ministry but doesn't come enough to connect Bible stories and applications.  He will be in school 60 times as much as he will be in church.  Church is simply a minor part of his life.  And he will spend as much time with media consumption in just two days as he spends in church in a whole year.  He has no close friends at church, learns just a little and has no relationship with a spiritual mentor.  And, according to Fowler, "Here's the kicker: Zac's parents are relying on this pattern for the spiritual growth of their son. ... Zac's parents are less likely to do any spiritual training at home." His real spiritual input is about 15 hours a year.
          Now what is the answer?  Fowler says first, Zac's parents need to become committed to regular attendance.  Sports, vacations, sleeping often prevent this.  I thank the Lord for parents who were there whenever the church had services and they made sure I was with them. That choice was key in my christian growth.  Second, his parents need to serve in a children's ministry so they will bring Zac on a regular basis.  He needs to develop kid-to-kid relationships in church.  He needs to be connected to an adult leader who really cares about him and his regular attendance.  This is an area where I feel that we have really failed over the years in Awana.  Clubbers stop coming and/or drop out, and few leaders ever write or call or follow-up.  They just go missing and nobody seems to care.  And that is sad.  Finally, Fowler believes that the ministry needs to provide some incentives for regular attendance.
          In the booklet Fowler lists specific recommendations for the church, for the children's ministry, and for parents.  While they are too lengthy to fully discuss here, there were a few which stood out to me.  Churches need to redevelop an adult Sunday School program, develop intentional weekday ministries for kids, and promote regular attendance and participation.  He says that pastors in particular must promote this regularly.
         Children's ministries need to track their numbers, inform parents of attendance patterns, structure for relationships, and reinstate appropriate incentives for attending.
         And finally. parents must recognize their own attendance pattern.  Their being absent sets their kids up for spiritual failure and problems later in life.  If regular attendance isn't a priority for parents, it will never be for their children as they grow older.  If the church has multiple services, the parents need to choose one and stick with that one.  And finally, parents need to create opportunities for church friendships.  The number one factor in a child wanting to go to church is friendship - with other kids.
          Fowler concludes be saying, "If we only ask how many do we have and Zac stops coming, there will be a Tommy who comes.  There is no permanent empty chair that shouts Zac's absence.  Tommy will sit in it.  And the "how many did we have?" number doesn't change.  No one will even notice that Zac isn't there any more."  Sad, but  so true.  Unfortunately, not only true about children but adults as well.  If you miss church does anybody miss you?  Does anybody care?
         Is anybody really asking "How often do they come?"


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Joys Of Needing A Cane

          My parents always taught me to be considerate of and kind to those who were handicapped and to folks who were older than I was.  Any my Christian values have reinforced those lessons.  I have always tried to open doors for those who have needs, to give them room to move safely, to help them carry their things if needed and to be a help to them however I can.  And I have tried to do the same for elderly people who can't move too quickly anymore.
          But such actions appear to be decreasing in our society today.  I doubt that many teens and children are being taught manners, especially manners in helping those in need.  Much of that blame can be placed on parents who don't accept this responsibility and don't know what their children are actually doing. And many parents are just as bad and thoughtless and set a poor example.
          Now I guess by expressing such thoughts I am showing my age.  Some parents, adults, teens and children are courteous and considerate.  Some still have good manners.  And that is an encouragement to me.  But they appear to me to be a minority in an age where individual rights seem to trump common sense and good manners.  For many the attitude is "me first".
          Six months ago some physical problems forced me to start using a cane.  This has been an eye-opening experience.  I am slowly getting used to having folks rush ahead of me to get in a door at the mall or at stores.  I am getting used to those who let the doors close in front of me. I am getting used to being bumped and cut off.  I am getting used to motorists who don't slow down when I am trying to cross a street or go to my mailbox along our street.  In fact, sometimes I feel that some motorists actually speed up while I am at our mailbox and they see how close they can get to me.  I wonder how many points one gets for hitting an old man with a cane or at least making him almost stumble and fall.  And I haven't even mentioned being sprayed with water by speeding cars from puddles when it rains.
          But I guess my biggest disappointments have come in the way folks from so called Christian homes have acted around me and my cane.  Between our services at church we have a time of coffee and conversation.   Almost every Sunday I am almost run over by young kids who are running to get some food while I am trying to maneuver the opposite direction with my cane and my cup of coffee.  There are times that I have even spilled some coffee when hit by a youngster.  And never have I heard an "excuse me" or "I am sorry" in response. After all, I am in their way. Maybe I should spill the coffee on them or hit them with my cane, but such retaliation would prove nothing and would just get me in trouble with their parents.  And, by the way, where are their parents when this is happening? And I am not the only senior, with or without a cane, who must dodge these children each week.  Maybe this is a topic that should be addressed in our Awana program since it appears that it is not being addressed by parents.
           This summer we have spent two different weeks at a family Bible conference.  Since I am not able to stand for a long period of time and usually need my cane, we made it a practice to get to the dining hall early, sitting on a bench outside the entrance, to be near the front of the line.  That way, when the door opened I could get to the food line and get my meal without having to stand in line and balance my cane and meal.  But what usually happened was that just before the door would open, loads of children and teens would rush to the front.  And when the door opened they would push ahead of me and almost knock me over to get in. Food was more important than manners. And, unfortunately, some adults did the same.  Being a senior with a cane had no advantage and made no difference.  I was fair game and in their way.  And I ask again, where were the parents?   And  were the offending adults just that hungry?
          Years ago, when I was able, I often used to wait at the entrance door and hold the mob back until all the handicapped had a chance to enter the dining room first. I thought that was only fair and was helpful.  Believe it or not, not everyone, including some adults, thought that this wasn't fair and they said so.  Amazing!
          While I don't consider myself to be severely handicapped since I only need a cane, I have learned many lessons about people these past six months.  Showing good manners and being compassionate are no longer common traits and that is sad.  I have been learning myself to be more compassionate to those with such needs and I guess that is a lesson I always need to be reminded of.  And someday these offending folks will also grow old and experience physical problems.  Maybe then they'll understand what I am saying.
          But, let me sure to add, there are still those who do care.  I have seen that as well and I make sure to say "thank you" when I see such a person in action. I have had people let me go ahead of them and some have held a door open for me.  And there are parents who do teach manners and care about what their children are doing.  And that is a ray of light as I age and deal with new physical demands.