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.

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

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Red Seas

          One of the things I enjoy doing when I study Bible stories is to stop and think what I would have done or how I would have reacted if I had been there when it happened.  I think we often forget that the folks in these stories were human, just like us.  They had no idea how the situation would work out.  When we judge their reactions we have the advantage, unlike them, of knowing the conclusion.
         Recently I was reading about the Israelites leaving Egypt.  Their departure was sudden.  They left not knowing where they were really going or what they would face on their journey.  As much as they were probably relieved and excited to leave the Egyptians, there must have been that fear of the unknown.
          Then they encountered the Red Sea.  Suddenly they found themselves hemmed in by the sea and by the desert.   And then they saw the Egyptian army pursuing them from behind.  They were trapped with no apparent way to escape.  And out of fear they began to complain.  They were terrified.  They blamed Moses and asked him why he had brought them out of Egypt to die in this place.  They told him it would have been better to stay and serve the Egyptians.  Would we have done the same thing?  Probably, at least I think I would have.
          But as we look back we can easily be critical of them.  They had seen the amazing plagues and the miracle of the Passover before they left.  They had seen the leading of the Lord with the pillar of fire by night and the cloud by day.  They had experienced all of these miracles as well as many more.  We can ask why then didn't they have any faith that the Lord would provide ... in His time.  And, as we know, He did .... in His miraculous way ... in His time.
          But centuries later we too often face Red Seas in our lives.  And they often happen suddenly, without any warning.  And often we react like the Israelites.  We complain and wonder why the Lord has left this happen to us.  We often think He doesn't even hear us.  We wonder where He is.  And sometimes we may even blame Him for our circumstances.  And, like the Israelites, we tend to forget His faithfulness to us over the years.  We forget how He rescued us from difficult and seemingly impossible situations before.  We forget that He knows all of our ways, even thought we don't.  Maybe our reactions would be different if we knew the outcome as we do when we think of the Israelites impossible Red Sea experience.
          Recently several of our friends have faced Red Sea experiences.  Two were involved in accidents that left them paralyzed.  Another faced an unexpected suicide in his family.  Several others have faced other unexpected physical challenges.  We too have been facing a Red Sea experience and I admit that at times I have found myself wondering if God is really listening and why He has allowed this to happen. Where is He? As I've cried out to Him I wish that He would reveal how the Sea will eventually divide revealing a dry path. But He hasn't.  But then my mind is drawn to His promises such as "I will never leave you or forsake you."  And He hasn't.  I know He has said we should cast all of our care on Him and I am trying to do that.  I recall the many times He has faithfully parted the seas for us ... in His time.  And I know that He has never forsaken me. I remember His faithfulness.  And I know that while He might be silent now, He is there and He knows and He cares and He has a plan and a purpose that includes the Sea.
          We need to apply Moses' exhortation to the Israelites in our Red Sea situations.  "Do not be afraid.  Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD ...  The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your faith."  (Exodus 14:13 - 14).
          Someone has said, "Trust is not a passive state of mind.  It is a vigorous act of the soul by which we choose to lay hold on the promises of God, and cling to them despite the adversity that at times seeks to overwhelm us."
         "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.  When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you."  (Isaiah 43:2)
          God delights in carrying us through the darkest of times.  He is at work in our situation.  Trust in Him, and allow this truth to strengthen your spirit today.  Remember this when you hit your Red Sea, for you most likely will.

Sunday, October 4, 2015


         A few days ago, one of baseball's greatest players, Yogi Berra, passed away.   While he was well known for his skills on the baseball field with the New York Yankees, he was also known for the unusual comments which he made over the years.  People have called then "Yogi Berra-isms".   Recently I found a list of 50 of these and thought you might enjoy reading them.  So here goes.

1.  When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
2.  You can observe a lot by just watching.
3.  It ain't over till it's over.
4.  It's like déjà vu all over again.
5.  No one goes there nowadays, it's too crowded.
6.  Baseball is 90% mental and the other half is physical.
7.  A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore.
8.  Always go to other people's funerals, otherwise they won't come to yours.
9.  We made too many wrong mistakes.
10. Congratulations. I knew the record would stand until it was broken.
11. You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I'm not hungry enough to eat six.
12. You wouldn't have won if we'd beaten you.
13. I usually take a two-hour nap from one to four.
14. Never answer an anonymous letter.
15. Slump? I ain't in no slump… I just ain't hitting.
16. How can you think and hit at the same time?
17. The future ain't what it used to be.
18. I tell the kids, somebody's gotta win, somebody's gotta lose. Just don't fight about it. Just try to get better.
19. It gets late early out here.
20. If the people don't want to come out to the ballpark, nobody's going to stop them.
21. We have deep depth.
22. Pair up in threes.
23. Why buy good luggage, you only use it when you travel.
24. You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you are going, because you might not get there.
25. All pitchers are liars or crybabies.
26. Even Napoleon had his Watergate.
27. Bill Dickey is learning me his experience.
28. He hits from both sides of the plate. He's amphibious.
29. It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.
30. I can see how he (Sandy Koufax) won twenty-five games. What I don't understand is how he lost five.
31. I don't know (if they were men or women fans running naked across the field). They had bags over their heads.
32. I'm a lucky guy and I'm happy to be with the Yankees. And I want to thank everyone for making this night necessary.
33. I'm not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did.
34. In baseball, you don't know nothing.
35. I never blame myself when I'm not hitting. I just blame the bat and if it keeps up, I change bats. After all, if I know it isn't my fault that I'm not hitting, how can I get mad at myself?
36. I never said most of the things I said.
37. It ain't the heat, it's the humility.
38. If you ask me anything I don't know, I'm not going to answer.
39. I wish everybody had the drive he (Joe DiMaggio) had. He never did anything wrong on the field. I'd never seen him dive for a ball, everything was a chest-high catch, and he never walked off the field.
40. So I'm ugly. I never saw anyone hit with his face.
41. Take it with a grin of salt.
42. (On the 1973 Mets) We were overwhelming underdogs.
43. The towels were so thick there I could hardly close my suitcase.
44. Little League baseball is a very good thing because it keeps the parents off the streets.
45. Mickey Mantle was a very good golfer, but we weren't allowed to play golf during the season; only at spring training.
46. You don't have to swing hard to hit a home run. If you got the timing, it'll go.
47. I'm lucky. Usually you're dead to get your own museum, but I'm still alive to see mine.
48. If I didn't make it in baseball, I won't have made it workin'. I didn't like to work.
49. If the world were perfect, it wouldn't be.
50. A lot of guys go, 'Hey, Yog, say a Yogi-ism.' I tell 'em, 'I don't know any.' They want me to make one up. I don't make 'em up. I don't even know when I say it. They're the truth. And it is the truth. I don't know.