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.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Inexpensive But Lasting

          June is the month for weddings.  I guess every girl dreams of having a beautiful wedding and being treated like a queen.  But, unfortunately, weddings have become terribly expensive. Today the average wedding cost in the United States is $26,444.  Couples typically spend between $19,833 and $33,055.  Couples in our area must be a little more frugal because  in our zip code they only spend between $16,467 and $37,445.  And that also depends on the size of the wedding.  It is reported that a single guest could add between $141 and $173 to the overall cost.  All of this for a one day celebration.
          Oh, by the way, these costs do not include the honeymoon.  And today couples must have an exotic week in the Caribbean or somewhere else overseas. That is expected. The wedding would not be complete without an expensive trip. 
          Now most of my readers would probably call me cheap since I think this extravagance is crazy. If you have that kind of money wouldn't it be better to put it towards a down payment on a house or to pay off the college bills?   Sadly, many marriages today even break up before all the wedding bills are finally paid.
          Now I know times have changed over the years, but today's peer pressure has forced many couples into having elaborate weddings.  They seem to need to top their friends.  But let me share with you a different wedding that took place a number of years ago.
         In this case the bride had a job earning a modest income.  The groom had just completed his junior year in college.  They were in love and had been dating over two years so they decided to get married prior to his senior year.  She already had a car and with her job they could rent a small apartment and make it until he graduated and found a regular job.
          To save money she borrowed a beautiful wedding gown from a cousin. Her mother was able to make the dresses for the girls in the party.  The men decided rather than renting expensive tuxes to wear dark suits.  Actually the groom wore a wool suit which he had purchased even though it was a June wedding.  According to today's prices, they saved over $1,600 by doing this.
          The bride and groom had to purchase their own flowers and decorations and they did purchase some modestly priced flowers for the wedding party and family members.  Today the average cost for wedding flowers is $1,579.
           The groom's previous college roommate was a photographer.  As a wedding present he donated his services and he did a very nice job presenting them with an album of 8x10's.  Today the average wedding spends $2,778 for pictures and videos.
            For the wedding service they used the church where they had been attending and where the groom's grandfather was pastor.   The grandfather was thrilled to do the wedding ceremony for his oldest grandchild.  This added to the special memories the couple still has today.  The entire congregation was invited to attend the service and as a result the church was filled.
           For a reception they rented the local YMCA.  The food was prepared by ladies from the church and included sandwiches, chips, cake and ice cream.  It wasn't elaborate but it was well received and well done.  The average couple locally spends an average of $11,784 on a venue, catering and rentals.  And this approach and location apparently had no effect on the gift giving as the couple was overwhelmed by the many gifts given to them by those who attended.
          Now the couple also didn't take an elaborate honeymoon.  In fact the bride's boss would not even give her time off for a honeymoon.  But she took Monday off anyway and the couple was able to travel to Watkins Glen for Sunday and Monday.  A few years later they were able to take a spectacular summer trip to Florida. There the groom studied computers at Florida State while the family stayed in an apartment complex with families from all over the country who were there on a National Science Foundation grant.
          It was not an extravagant wedding by today's standards, but it was beautiful and meaningful, not only for the bride and groom, but for the many who attended. And the young couple did not begin life together burdened with expensive wedding and honeymoon bills which might have taken years to pay.  For you see, money and expensive things do not always bring happiness.
         And the Lord has continued to bless this couple who have now experienced 54 years of marital bliss. They are more in love now than ever.  And on June 2 this bride and groom, Dianne and I, will celebrate another special anniversary celebration.  God has been good and has provided all that we have needed!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Teaching School

          We are entering one of the three times of the year that I always looked forward to in my 39 years of teaching. The first time was the beginning of the school year, or the beginning of a new semester, when you received a new group of students.  The second was the day before Christmas vacation when I was able to have some fun with my students and also prepare for a nice, needed vacation.  The third was the end of the year when you could look forward to a change of pace for a few weeks.
          And with the end of this school year approaching so quickly I have decided to share with you some interesting comments that were made by Jeff Foxworthy.  Now if you've never been a school teacher, you may not understand these or you may think they are terrible.  In that case I say, get on the gravy train and become a school teacher.  Then you will understand and while you may never say them, you will probably at least think them.  So if you are a school teacher -
          * You believe the playground should be equipped with a Ritalin salt lick.
          * You want to slap the next person who says, "Must be nice to work from 8 to 3:30 and have summers off."
          * It is difficult to name your own child because there's no name you can come up with that doesn't bring high blood pressure as it is uttered.
         *  You can tell it's a full moon or if it's going to rain, snow, hail... anything!!! without ever looking outside.
         * You believe, "shallow gene pool" should have its own box on a report card.
         * You believe that unspeakable evils will befall you if anyone says, "Boy, the kids sure are mellow today."
          * When out in public, you feel the urge to snap your fingers at children you do not know and correct their behavior.
          * You have no social life between August and June.
          *  You think people should have a government permit before being allowed to reproduce.   
          * You laugh uncontrollably when people refer to the staff room as the "lounge".
          * You encourage an obnoxious parent to check into charter schools or home schooling and are willing to donate the U- HAUL boxes should they decide to move out of district.
          * You think caffeine should be available in intravenous form.
          * You can't imagine how the ACLU could think that covering your students' chairs with Velcro and then requiring uniforms made out of the corresponding Velcro could ever be misunderstood by the public.
          * Meeting a child's parent instantly answers this question, "Why is this kid like this?"
          * You would choose a root canal over a parent conference.
          * You think someone should invent antibacterial pencils and crayons... and desks and chairs for that matter!
          * The words "I have a college debt for this?" has ever come out of your mouth.
          * You know how many days, minutes, and seconds are left in the school year!
Now you say you don't understand these remarks.  Well then that means you've never been a school teacher.  Teachers understand them quite well!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Read Between The Lines

          For many, many years the assignments of pastors in our denomination were done by a committee at annual conference in October.  This meant that every fall a church could suddenly find a new pastor when they arrived for services on Sunday.  And for pastors and their families this was always a time of great stress since they did not know in advance if they would suddenly be changed and have to move.  This was really a time of stress for congregations, pastors and especially their families.  The first five pastors of our church came through this process.
          But then things changed and churches were allowed to fill their pulpits with men of their choosing.  When a pastor resigns or retires the church now can form a search committee and begin looking for their next pastor.  Candidates can be interviewed.  They can be asked to preach.  They can be voted on by the congregation.  And sometimes this process can take months or even years to finally complete.  It too can be a stressful time for a congregation.  We have only had to go through this revised process twice in our church and both times I served on the search committees.
          Now for the candidates, one of their challenges is determining what the search committee really means by their statements.  Sometimes they need to "read between the lines" when they are being interviewed.  Here are some of the statements that might be made and what might really be meant by the committee that makes them.
          What the committee said: "We have a long and distinguished history as a congregation." - What they meant: We haven't done anything worth a hoot in the last decade. 
         "We don't have stereotyped expectations for our pastor's wife." - She doesn't have to play piano for junior church. But naturally, she'll want to head up the women's group. 
         "We want a pastor who's an outstanding preacher, a compassionate counselor, a successful soul-winner, a gifted teacher, a strong motivator, and an efficient administrator." - We have no clue what we want, but we suppose you'll do. 
         "What is your philosophy of ministry?" - What tricks do you have to increase worship attendance? 
         "Our attendance has been declining, but our church has a lot of potential." - You're our last hope before we close the church doors. 
        "We want a pastor who can bring energy and life to worship." - We need someone to get the organist to play the hymns faster. 
         "We plan to repair the parsonage just as soon as we get a new pastor." - We plan to have our new pastor repair the parsonage. 
        "We think many former members will return if we get the right person as pastor." - If you don't get them back, it's your fault. 
         "The chairman of our search committee has opened his home to you for your candidating weekend." - Try to ignore the boa constrictor and nude pin-ups in his son's room. You know how teenagers are. 
        "We'll be happy to pay you for your moving expenses." - Up to the budgeted $375. 
          "Don't worry. We'll be here to help you get acquainted with our church." - We'll watch you like a hawk, because we're scared to death you might do something that will embarrass us. 
         "You'll have two weeks of study leave and four weeks of vacation annually." - And whenever you take any time away, someone will say he wishes HE had such an easy schedule. 
         "How much do you need to live on?" - That'll be your salary for at least five years. 
          "As the church grows, your salary will grow, too." - Fat chance! 
          "You won't have to fight traffic getting to the office every morning." - The parsonage is attached to the back of the sanctuary, and the baptistry doubles as your bathtub. 
         "We're an easy bunch to work with." - We'll take is easy while you do the work. 

(Thanks to James Dyet, David Goetz, Brian Larson, Mark Galli, Richard Doebler and Jim Berkley in Leadership, Vol. 13, no. 4 for these observations.)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Unusual Mother's Day Memories

          Mother's Day is a special day for most people.  It is a time to thank mothers who are still alive and to remember those who have passed on.  Hopefully if your mother is still alive you took time to be with her or to talk to her on the phone if you were many miles away.  Both my mother and my mother-in-law are now home with Jesus and while I miss them and wish that I could talk to them again, I know they are in a much better place.
          So why would I discuss some fathers around Mother's Day?  Well Mother's Day has another significance for me since it was on that special day (March 10, 2009) when the Lord saw fit to take my brother home to be with Him.  And I miss him.  He was a special person.  He loved the Lord and served Him faithfully.  He was a friend and I could share my concerns with him and he always seemed to have wisdom to share with me.  I have many special memories of times and events that we shared together.  I was proud of him and pleased to call him my brother.
          In reflecting upon my memories of my brother I came to realize that the Lord placed many godly men in my paths over the years.  And most of them are now home with the Lord.  Of course there was my father and my grandfather and my uncles.  And there were men like Pastor Jansen Hartman, Charlie Mann, Roy Hertzog, Leonard Buck and Pastor John Dunn who influenced me at key times in my life.
          My friend Norman Zellers from Sunbury was a special friend.  He and his wife were responsible for getting Dianne and I together.  We had many great times of fellowship over the years.  It was my privilege to sing with Norm and the Gospel Four for many years in churches and weekly on the radio.  There were times that I accompanied him on his route delivering Middlesworth Chips.  We had much in common.  He was a special male influence who is also now home with the Lord.
          Then there was my friend Gary Varner.  My wife and I used to sing with Gary and his wife in a mixed quartette.  Our wives used to play piano and organ duets in church. Together we started and ran several fellowship groups in our church. Their daughters and our sons grew up together and are still friends today, as are our granddaughters.  We both loved music, sports and the Lord.  He was a gifted Bible teacher and a faithful friend.  He helped us move and was willing to help us with any needs that we had.  He, too, was a special male influence who is also now home with the Lord.
          And I can't forget my friend Ralph Michel.  We served together in our church.  We took several memorable vacations together.  We were in their will to take their children if something should happen to he and his wife.  We both suffered from arthritis although his was much worse than mine.  He too enjoyed sports and we just enjoyed being together.  But while he was a special male influence in my life, the Lord also has seen fit to take him home.
          When I began my college life I met Jim Herrold who was in the room next to me.  He was a young Christian from Shamokin and I had known his future wife for years.  We quickly became close friends.  He was also a math major.  For two years we roomed together until we both got married.  We were in eachother's weddings.  Then the Lord worked it out that for three years we taught math in classrooms next to each other at Penn Manor.  Our wives and children became very close during those years and spent much time together. Later, when they moved to Pinebrook, we used to spend much of our summers there with them while we taught the children and helped with the music ministry. We visited with them years later, just after it was determined that his wife had terminal cancer.  That was a difficult time.  We visited with him again after his wife died and our friendship was very special during those difficult times.  When Jim remarried I was again his best man and we continued to have special times together.  Jim was special because he was a real prayer partner.  Often he would ask what needs I had and he would remember them in prayer.  I really miss that.  But the Lord also took him home.
          It is very hard to lose close friends.  And their deaths left holes in my life.  I don't know why God took each of them home so early in life.  You think He would have given them many more years here to serve Him.  But that was not His plan.  And His ways are always right.  I just thank the Lord for the years that we were friends and the influences that each had in my life.  God is good - all the time.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Does Prayer Change Things

         The following was written by Teressa Vowell and after my recent blogs about prayer, I thought it might be a good reminder of the results of prayer.  Hopefully this will remind us and challenge us to be prayer warriors and to exercise our faith in the Lord.

They say that prayer changes things, but does it REALLY change anything? Oh yes! It really does!

Does prayer change your present situation or sudden circumstances?   No, not always, but it does change the way you look at those events.

Does prayer change your financial future?  No, not always, but it does change Who you look to for meeting your daily needs.

Does prayer change shattered hearts or broken bodies? No, not always, but it will change your source of strength and comfort.

Does prayer change your wants and desires?  No, not always, but it will change your wants into what God desires!

Does prayer change how you view the world?  No, not always, but it will change whose eyes you see the world through.

Does prayer change your regrets from the past?  No, not always, but it will change your hopes for the future!

Does prayer change the people around you?  No, not always, but it will change you - the problem isn't always in others.

Does prayer change your life in ways you can't explain?  Oh, yes, always! And it will change you from the inside out!

So does prayer REALLY change ANYTHING?  Yes! It REALLY does change EVERYTHING!