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 12, 2017

You Can Minister


          There are often times that believers would like to minister to others but don't know what to do or how to do it.  Many might not have the gifts to teach a class or provide special music in worship services and they feel that because of this there is nothing worthwhile that they can do.  Sometimes physical problems or age do limit what one can do and it is easy to get discouraged and feel worthless.  But God has granted all of His children gifts that can be used in important and maybe sometimes very quiet ways. There is no retirement in using our gifts to minister.  We just need to be willing to look for opportunities and then take them.
           Now, if one is physically able, there are many numerous ways to serve.  You could be a helper in Sunday School, VBS, Awana or serve as an usher in church.  You could help visit shut-ins. You could help some physically challenged folks with their house or yard work or even snow removal in the winter - wow, would I appreciate such help at this point in my life. There might folks in your neighborhood who can use visits or help. You could help serve at luncheons for funerals or special church gatherings. Or maybe you could volunteer in a hospital or a nursing home.  That can be a vital ministry.
          But maybe you've reached the point where physically you can no longer do such things.  If you are serious about ministering there are still so many ways that you can serve the Lord.  Maybe the church office has special needs, like folding bulletins or preparing mailings. Maybe you could use the telephone to call and welcome visitors who attend a worship service.  The telephone can still be a useful tool in reaching not only visitors to your church, but those who are shut-ins or lonely.  And there are so many today who need to hear a voice of cheer, even if it is brief.
          The U.S. mail and, in this day and age, e-mail are great tools to use to minister.  Notes of encouragement are a great way to minister.  During recent months as we've faced numerous physical challenges, I have received a couple of very unexpected notes from folks that I don't even know very well.  They were timely, sincerely appreciated and so helpful.  Look for folks who need to be encouraged.  Look for folks who minister, often behind the scenes, who probably never get thanked for their service.  A thank you note would lighten their day.  Look for folks who are facing difficult challenges and let them know you are praying for them.  And then, be sure to pray for them, don't forget them and follow up to see how things are going.  That means so much.
          And that leads to another important and vital way to minister - prayer.  The older I get, the more I understand the power and need of prayer.  And I am learning that as I am becoming much more limited physically, that I have much more time to pray.  Ironically the first duet that my wife and I ever sang in a church had the title, "In the Secret Service of Prayer".  Prayer can be a secret, but vital ministry that all of us can do. Don't take it for granted.
          Be creative and look for other ways to help and encourage others.  Many years ago we began a quiet ministry of sending birthday cards to those who attend our church.  Now my wife is really the one who carries this on today.  And yes, cards have become very expensive. We do save some money by putting them in the church mailboxes.  Is it worth the cost?  Without a doubt!  Hardly a Sunday goes by that somebody doesn't tell us how much our card has meant to them.  People just don't send birthday cards anymore and most folks who do receive one really appreciate it. It even means more if a personal note is included.  A card shows the one who receives it that somebody does care. Now, if the cost for cards is too much, there are always free electronic cards or personal e-mails or you can make your cards on the computer or by hand.  People just appreciate having somebody think about them.  
          And don't neglect opportunities to minister where ever the Lord places you.  My wife had amazing opportunities to minister to several nurses while she spent six days in the hospital. She didn't want to be there but the Lord gave her a special audience. Maybe that is part of the reason the Lord placed her there.  But that might be a topic for another blog.
         Just remember, we are never too old or physically challenged to be able to minister for the Lord.  We just need to be willing.  And it will also be an encouragement to you as you serve others.  And maybe you need that as well.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Political Thoughts


          We live in difficult times.  I feel that the future of our democracy is being threatened.  Politicians have become fully partisan, voting only for the party line. Everybody wants to investigate others from the other side of the aisle.  Despite a democratic election, part of the country will not accept the winner as their president.  Leaders of one party, the liberal media and Hollywood personalities all seem more interested in bringing down the current government than actually working to solve this nation's problems.  Politicians seem only interested in getting themselves reelected and taking care of themselves.  Mob rule might be the future law of the land.  Yet, despite these growing problems, we still have the best government in the world.

         With this in mind, I am sharing a number of interesting quotes that somebody sent to me.  Unfortunately I don't know who to give credit to for compiling them.  But there are some great truths in these quotes.
          1.  In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm,and three or more is a congress.    -- John Adams
          2.  If you don't read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed. -- Mark Twain
          3.  Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But then I repeat myself. -- Mark Twain
          4.  I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle. --Winston Churchill
          5.  A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul. -- George Bernard Shaw
          6.  A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money.  -- G. Gordon Liddy
          7.  Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.   --James Bovard, Civil Libertarian (1994)
          8.  Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries.   -- Douglas Case, Classmate of Bill Clinton at Georgetown University .
          9.  Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys. -- P.J. O'Rourke, Civil Libertarian
          10. Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.  -- Frederic Bastiat, French economist(1801-1850)
          11. Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.    --Ronald Reagan (1986)
          12. I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts. -- Will Rogers
          13. If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free! -- P. J. O'Rourke
          14. In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other. --Voltaire (1764)
          15. Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you! -- Pericles (430 B.C.)
          16. No man's life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session. -- Mark Twain (1866)
          17. Talk is cheap, except when Congress does it. -- Anonymous
          18. The government is like a baby's alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other. -- Ronald Reagan
          19. The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery. -- Winston Churchill
          20. The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin. -- Mark Twain
          21. The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools. -- Herbert Spencer, English Philosopher (1820-1903)
          22. There is no distinctly Native American criminal class, save Congress. -- Mark Twain
          23. What this country needs are more unemployed politicians --Edward Langley, Artist (1928-1995)
          24. A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have. -- Thomas Jefferson
          25. We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office. -- Aesop

 FIVE INTERESTING THOUGHTS
          1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity, by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.
          2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.
         3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
         4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.
         5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work, because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work, because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

And They Keep Calling


          There are few things as disturbing to me as robo calls or phone calls from solicitors.  And they usually come when we are sitting down for supper.  Now, probably like many of you, I have reacted in numerous ways, including hanging up, telling them I'm busy or with various other remarks.  One time a person called offering me a chance to change my electric supplier.  I replied that I was Amish and we didn't use electricity.  I must have really taken him off guard because he apologized to me for calling before he hung up.
          I've recently read "Extreme Grandparenting" by Dr. Tim and Darcy Himmel, and I came upon a very interesting way to handle these calls in a section entitled "Character Trait #1: Contagious Faith".  The story is about a senior lady named Mildred.  She had buried her husband over a decade earlier and was known for her faith.   And here is the story as shared by the Himmels.
         "When Mildred's grandson was spending a few days at her home in Tennessee, one or more phone solicitors would call each evening around dinnertime.  The grandson answered the first call, gave the caller a polite "Thanks, but no thanks," and hung up.  
          Grandma Mildred answered the next call, but instead of dismissing the solicitor as an intruder, she said, "You know, I'm an elderly woman with limited finances, and most likely I will have to turn down your request.  But I would be glad to listen to your presentation if you'll promise to let me ask you a few questions and visit with you briefly when you're through."  The person on the other end agreed, figuring it was better than an abrupt dial tone in his ear.  
          After she heard him out and politely told him why she wouldn't be able to accept his offer, she asked him questions about his life, his family, his hopes, and his fears.  She said, "Honey, I'm getting older, and I've got lots of time on my hands.  I'll be glad to pray for you.  Is there anything you'd like me to bring to God?"
          Her grandson was stunned.   She prayed with the young man on the phone and wrote down his needs with a promise to pray for him every day for the next month.  It turned out that she had been doing this for years.  Her prayer notebook was full of names of phone solicitors for whom she had been praying.  Because they had her number anyway, she'd encourage them to call her back in a month or so to let her know how things were going in their lives.
          What her grandson saw most of all in Grandmother Mildred was how much her faith had given her an intense love for people - even total strangers trying to get her to switch over her phone service or credit cards."
          Amazing.  Now I wonder if I will ever have the courage to try this.  It certainly is a better approach to these annoying calls than what I have done.   
          Now one word of caution.  There is a scam involving robo calls where if you say "yes" they will record your voice and tie it to a purchase that is almost impossible to get our of.  So if you have the courage to try Mildred's approach, guard your responses carefully.
          Maybe robo calls could be turned into a real ministry.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Laugh With Me


          One of the real challenges of aging is to remain pleasant and friendly and retain a good sense of humor, even as physical disabilities and loss of freedoms invade your life.  So many senior adults grow bitter and complaining and are discouraging to be around.  I pray daily that this won't happen to me, but at times it is hard to avoid.

          Many months ago a good friend, Nell Ruch, sent me a copy of an article, "Why Your Sense of Humor Fades the Older You Get."  It was published in 2012 but I don't know the name of the author.  I decided to share it for two reasons.  First, we seniors need to understand what happens to us.  Second, you young readers need to understand the challenges of aging and how to try and deal with us.  So here is the article.

          Along with aging come an array of health concerns and research from the University of Glamorgan shows that our sense of humor may decline as we age too. There are many benefits to having a sense of humor and laughing once in a while. Research has shown that laughing can reduce pain, achieve greater happiness and increase your immune system response among other health benefits. All of these benefits will help with all of the struggles that aging can present. If you want to feel younger, trying to maintain your sense of humor may be the best anti-aging remedy.
Aging Leads to a Poor Temperament?
          The researchers from the University of Glamorgan discovered some pretty bleak findings related to aging and laughter. The carefree lifestyle of babies may be the reason that they laugh on average 300 times per day, but this positive attitude doesn't last for as long as you would expect. Teenagers, on the other hand, are more likely to laugh at someone else's misfortune but only laugh six times per day. People in their twenties laugh even less at four times per day. People in their thirties laugh five times per day which the researchers attribute to having children which may help to restore their sense of humor and make them feel younger. 
          Once an individual hits the age of 50, they laugh only three times per day and it gets worse once you get to 60, laughing only two and a half times per day. The researchers also found that joke telling also decreases as we age with 600 of the 2000 participants not being able to recall telling a joke in the previous year. The study also found that people over the age of 50 were also more likely to complain and spend time worrying. The findings from this study suggest that aging makes us take life a little too seriously. If you want to feel younger, perhaps laughing a few more times throughout the day would help.
Laugh a Little for Anti-Aging Benefits
          There are many anti-aging and health benefits of laughter including: boosting immunity, decreasing stress hormones, decreasing pain, relaxing muscles and preventing heart disease. Additionally, laughter can provide you with mental health benefits including: improving mood, decreasing stress and anxiety, and increasing happiness. Laughter can also help with your social life by improving teamwork, strengthening relationships, enhancing teamwork and helping to resolve conflict. All of these benefits can help you to feel younger and be healthier.
How to Feel Younger as you Age
          If you want to keep laughing during the aging process, here are some suggestions to help you along the way ….
1. See a movie – a comedy of course!
2. Connect and laugh with friends – life is busy, but maintaining social connections is an important anti-aging tip to help you feel younger. Going to a comedy club or going to see a movie with some friends is a great way to experience the anti-aging benefits of laughter.
3. Laugh at yourself – instead of getting embarrassed or frustrated, try to skip ahead to the future and see how funny the moment actually is.
4. Smile, even if you don't want to – studies have shown that you get the same health benefits whether your smile and laugh are genuine or fake. So, even if you don't feel like smiling, just do it.
5. Pay attention to children – aging can shift our way of thinking, kids know how to enjoy life, laughing along the way. Watching them may be a gentle reminder to enjoy life.
          Aging can come with unwanted worries and stress, but laughter may be the best anti-aging medicine. Tell a joke to a friend, share a laugh with a loved one and try to maintain your sense of humor with life. It will help you to feel younger and it will provide you with many health benefits that will help you live a longer, happier life.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

What a Birthday Present!


          Maybe it is time to change the name of this blog.  Maybe I should call it something like Barry's Medical Blog because lately it seems that lately medical issues have become the most frequent topic here.  Maybe that is one of the reasons my readership here has declined recently.  But for some reason it appears that God has more lessons He wants this old man to learn and share in his senior years.
          It was noon last Saturday when my wife decided to cut our grass because she thought it might be too hard for me to do with my painful back.  She was feeling well.  But 15 minutes after finishing she suddenly became very ill.  She said that she was having the worst gas that she had ever had.  But when she got progressively worse, I called our doctor's answering service and they promised a doctor would get back to me.  But despite three calls, their return calls never came.  They later claimed that our phone was blocked and they couldn't get through.  I still don't understand that since we never have blocked any calls and others got through.
          An hour later she began to throw up, over and over again.  She obviously was getting worse.  So I called the ambulance and we were off to the ER.
         Unfortunately, the ER was overloaded and it took about seven very difficult hours before they decided to admit her.  Part of the problem was that Lancaster County had 70 overdoses on synthetic marijuana that night, and most of them must have been sent to the LGH  ER.  The place was nuts.  We even saw folks taken out in handcuffs.  Police were everywhere.  We heard one driver who had caused an accident say that she had just had a small amount of marijuana.  There were trauma cases being treated.  It was very hard to get anyone to help my wife at a rate which we felt she needed.  A cat scan eventually indicated that the problem probably was coming from her gall bladder.
          Finally in a hospital room, they spent Sunday having her examined by a host of different specialists.  But they would not allow her to have anything to eat or drink, not even ice chips.  Their concern was that a stone might be blocking one of her ducts, so an MRI was scheduled for Monday.  Finally they allowed her to at least have ice chips to suck on.  Thankfully the MRI showed no blockages or they would have had to gone down her throat with a scope to try and remove it.  Surgery was scheduled for Tuesday - her birthday.
         Then the next setback happened.  The nurse suddenly informed us that they had discovered a blood infection.  That meant a whole new team - the infectious doctors - were now in charge of her treatment.  I was concerned and worried and she just got weaker.
          Then Tuesday she celebrated her birthday by having surgery.  Praise the Lord, that went well.  She did not even need pain medicine and she quickly began to look and act normal again.  She was finally able to begin eating.  We shared jello that night to celebrate her birthday.  And while the blood cultures showed some improvement, the blood infection was still a major concern.
         On Wednesday they began to talk about possible discharge but they decided to hold off until at least Thursday to see if her blood cultures would improve.  And the antibiotics that she was being given for the infection stirred up her ulcerative colitis and she had to use the bathroom too frequently.  But, by that evening we had her out of bed and sitting on a chair.  When I left that night we felt so positive and confident that she would be home the next morning.
         Then at 5 am I received a phone call from my very distressed wife telling me that she was placed in isolation.  We were stunned.  I couldn't get in immediately to be with her because I had an early morning appointment with one of my specialists that I really couldn't miss.  It turns out that he discovered a new urgent problem that I had and I ended up being given an antibiotic - the same one given to Dianne.  Thankfully, just before I saw the specialist, I heard that two of my wife's main doctors felt that the isolation was an over reaction by one of the nurses and wasn't necessary.  So they removed it and began plans to discharge her.
          Finally, after lunch we were able to return home.  There is still no word on her last blood culture but the doctors are confident that her meds will take care of it.  She is extremely tired and weak, but she is home.  Unfortunately, she is now dealing with her UC which she has wrestled with for 25 years. Right now it is almost like starting this tough battle all over again.  Your prayers for that and her strength will be appreciated.
          There are many lessons that I have learned through this experience. First, I've learned how hard it is to be the spouse of a very ill partner.  I kept wishing that we could change places as had been the case too often during the past two years.  I learned how hard it is to wait when those nurses caring for you are overworked and not always right there to give you answers.  I learned again how nice the nurses can be.  Actually four of those who worked on her had worked on me previously and we recognized each other.  Some were almost like family members and went out of their way to help us.
          We also learned how much of a mission field the nursing staff are.  And while we saw no spiritual results, Dianne had some amazing opportunities to share Jesus with them.  They were so willing to share with her. Maybe that was because most of them didn't have mothers or responsible, caring adults in their lives.  She heard stories of broken families, abuse and situations that were unbelievable.  We pray that what was shared by Dianne will someday be used by the Holy Spirit to bear fruit in their lives.
          And, most importantly, the Lord again showed me the power of prayer.  We had so many people praying and we saw evidence of specific answers during the week.  I don't know how one gets through situations' like this without the Lord and without the support of believers.  We have an amazing God.  Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus!
         Please continue to pray for my wife.  The doctors shared that she was a very, very sick women and she still has a long way to go, especially with her UC.  Your prayers will be so appreciated.  And maybe that is why I was led to write another "medical" blog.  

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Memories


          For the past 45 years Pinebrook Bible Conference has been a major part of our lives.  There, over the years, we have had the opportunity to minister to thousands of children, adults and seniors.  It has also been a place where we have grown spiritually through the ministry of many gifted Bible teachers and pastors.  It has also been a place for us to vacation, despite the somewhat "spartan" rooms.  And we have loved the fellowship of so many friends that we have met there over the years.  Pinebrook does have a special place in our hearts.
          However, I still have many great memories of years before Pinebrook when I would often spend several weeks in the summer at our Mizpah Grove Camp Meeting in Allentown.   Now those folks who think the facilities at Pinebrook are not up to "Marriott standards" would never have made it at Mizpah Grove. 
          When I was in elementary, junior and senior high, and college I spent many summers there as a camper with my family and later with my wife and two sons.  I also spent several summers there working in the store and helping to set up and then tear down the tents.
          Mizpah became a tent city for several weeks each summer.  Hundreds of folks would come for a week to live in a tent.  Folks like me were hired to build floors and often to also install a wooden board as a shelf between the tent poles.  Some families rented two tents, one behind the other.  Many folks brought portable beds and dressers while others, like my family, built bunks and filled them with straw.  They weren't too bad to sleep in if you weren't allergic to the straw.  And of course there were always bugs to torment you.  Little worms were common after rain.
          There were a couple of permanent buildings including a few with toilets, sinks and showers.  It was an adventure when you had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night or when it was raining.
         Many folks brought their own gas stoves to cook their meals.  Many used ice chests to keep food cold. Every morning the ice truck would drive through the grove and folks could purchase blocks of ice for 5, 10 and 25 cents.  A number of years I helped on the truck and that really was fun.  We'd first travel to a nearby ice plant where we would load up with blocks of ice.  Then we would deliver right to the tents.  
          Others purchased their meals in the dining hall which served good food at a reasonable price.  When I was camping with my family we generally made our meals since in those days we couldn't afford to eat out.   There was also a snack bar/store, where I worked for several summers, which served ice cream, drinks and some food supplies.  I worked there for about three summers and thoroughly enjoyed that.  After the evening service we would sell barbecues or hot dogs and there was always a big crowd lined up to purchase these.  Some nights we ran out of these.
          Most of the time was spent going to services.  There was an early prayer service in a large tent.  In the morning there were always two other services with pastors from our denomination speaking.  That was a good way to find out which pastors were good in the pulpit and which were just average.  The afternoon featured a program for children.  Sometimes after supper there would be a meeting for teens.  But the big event was the evening service which would feature great congregational singing, choirs and special music, and a special visiting evangelist.  These were memorable services in which many folks came to know the Lord or to dedicate their lives to His service.
         There was very little in the way of recreation - ping pong and shuffleboard were available.  A nearby elementary school had a cement area where the men usually played softball in the afternoon.  Right field was so short that outfielders often had to play on the street.  Some folks went to nearby tennis courts and others ventured to the Lehigh River for swimming.  Otherwise folks spent their "free time" in fellowship, reading or taking a nap.
          The weather was often interesting.  Gentle rain on the tents was soothing - unless it happened at night and you had to go to the bathroom.  When heavier rains would come they had large curtains that could be lowered to protect those sitting in the large Tabernacle.  The last year of Mizpah a large afternoon storm ripped down many of the tents, including ours.  When it was really hot, sleeping could be a challenge and often we had to sleep with the tent flaps open to try and get some air.
          One of the lasting benefits of Mizpah were the friendships that developed during those weeks.  Many of the teen friendships eventually led to marriages.  That is probably why so many folks in our denomination are related.  It was a good place to meet Christian friends.
           Now Mizpah is just a memory for most of us.  The land was sold to the Allentown School District after our church bought Pinebrook.  I believe that their board had planned to build a school there, but that never happened.  We recently went back to the grounds.  Weeds were everywhere, but we were still able to locate the main aisle and the foundations of some of the permanent buildings that once were there.  The large tabernacle had been purchased by another camp and moved, but some of its markings were still visible.  But if you had never been to Mizpah, you'd have no idea of what happened there in the lives of thousands a half century ago.  
          But there are many great memories for some of us seniors who met the Lord there.  It was a key part of my life which I will never forget.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

You Have Rocks In Your Head!


         I have rocks in my head!   That sure sounds like a real put-down.  But, as I've recently learned, it is very true. Please don't get angry with me, but you have rocks in your head as well.

          When they first told me that while I was in the hospital, I thought one of us must be crazy.  But it turns out that these rocks, or crystals, officially known as otoconia, are part of God's amazing creation and are there to control our balance.
          Now if you are wondering why I am discussing this, it is because of my recent hospitalization and my bout of Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, or BPPV.  If you didn't yet read it, you should go to my previous blog of June 24 for more details.
           The inside of the ear is composed of an organ called the vestibular labyrinth. The vestibular labyrinth includes semicircular canals, which contain fluids and fine hairlike sensors which act as a monitor to the rotations of the head. An important structure in the inner ear includes the otolith organs which contain crystals that are sensitive to gravity. These crystals are responsible for sensitivity to head positions,    
          In patients with BPPV, the otoconia are dislodged from their usual position and migrate over time into one of the semicircular canals (the posterior canal is most commonly affected due to its anatomical position). When the head is reoriented relative to gravity, the gravity-dependent movement of the heavier otoconial debris (colloquially "ear rocks") within the affected semicircular canal causes abnormal (pathological) endolymph fluid displacement and a resultant sensation of vertigo. This more common condition is known as canalithiasis.   In rare cases, the crystals themselves can adhere to a semicircular canal cupula, rendering it heavier than the surrounding endolymph. Now that is a mouthful ... or at least an earful! Upon reorientation of the head relative to gravity, the cupula is weighted down by the dense particles, thereby inducing an immediate and sustained excitation of semicircular canal afferent nerves. This condition is termed cupulolithiasis.
          Now here is my non-medical interpretation of the previous paragraph.  Your rocks get dislodged, go into the canals where they disrupt your balance resulting in horrendous, tornado like vertigo. Changes in the movement of your head can bring on these events.  Mine were usually caused by trying to lie down or get up.  Sometimes it was just movement of my head from left to right.
         Fortunately the individual events only last a few minutes although they sometimes include nausea. BPPV can result from a head injury or simply occur among those who are older. A specific cause is often not found.  I have no idea what brought on mine unless it was the extensive dental work I have had in recent months and still need in the weeks ahead.
          The good news for most of you is that usually it affects those 50 to 70 years old - except for me since I am 76 - and only about 2.4% are ever affected at some point.  I am wondering, if I am really part of the 2.4%, should I try playing the lottery?  I guess not - those winners would be a different 2.4%.
          The major way to regain normal functioning is to do something to get the rocks back in place.  Maybe you could do that by hitting your head with a hammer or standing on your head.  There is a maneuver that does not address the actual presence of the particles (otoconia); rather it changes their location. The maneuver (see the picture above) aims to move these particles from some locations in the inner ear which cause symptoms, and reposition them to where they do not cause these problems.  I had two of these very painful maneuvers done by a physical therapist.  They lay you down with your head hanging over the table and that sets you off.  Then they twist your head to your armpit which makes it worse.  They hold it there a few seconds which appears to make the crystals move.
          It took two of these treatments to make me feel normal again.  On the third appointment the therapist was not able to make it explode again.  PTL!  She released me but is holding my account open for a month in case it comes back.  Please pray that it doesn't.
         So there is your health lesson for this week.  It is probably more than you ever wanted to know about something which I hope never happens to you.
         But this has been an interesting reminder to me of how intricate God's creation really is.  Amazing!  He even made the small crystals to control our balance.  What an awesome God!
         And yes, I have "rocks" in my head, but so do you!        

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Round And Round And Round

        Growing up as a teenager one of my favorite secular songs was "Round and Round", sung by Perry Como.  That was back when love songs were sensible, clean, and easy to sing, unlike today's music.  Now I will admit that like many things from years ago, I had forgotten most of the words until I did a search for them. But what I did remember were phrases like "find a wheel and it goes round, round, round" and "your head goes spinning round, round, round 'cause you've found what you've been dreamin' of."
          Now it is strange how these words have come back to me in recent weeks as I've suffered from a severe case of Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, or BPPV, which landed me in the hospital for four days and complicated my life.  My head had been "spinning round, round, round" but not because I've found what I've been dreaming of.  Such a dream would be more like a nightmare.
          On our 55th wedding anniversary, Friday, June 2, we led a hymn sing at Pinebrook.  To cut down on travel we stayed two nights at a motel in Bethlehem.  The Lord answered prayer and the sing went very well. Friday was a great day.
          But on Saturday morning, when I woke up, I found the room exploding.  When I tried to get up everything was rocking like a tornado.  I was worried that I was going to end up in a hospital in that area, maybe with a stroke.  But I was able to get stable and I told Dianne that we had to get home as quickly as possible.  In about five minutes we packed, loaded the car, and she drove us home.  When we got home I called our family practice only to find that they were closing for the day.  However, when they heard my problem, one of the doctors agreed to wait and see me.  She diagnosed my problem as vertigo, prescribed a med and sent me home with the warning that if it happened again I should go to the ER for a full evaluation.
         The remainder of the day I was relatively fine.  But when I tried to go to bed that night my life exploded again - worse than before.  I knew I had to go to the ER but didn't think I could get there in the car, so we called an ambulance.  In the ER they put me through a series of tests, including a CT scan which was horrible because of my "tornado" problem, tried unsuccessfully to get me to walk, and then, about 3 am, decided to admit me to the hospital.  That was actually fine with me because I really was too scared to go home.
         During the next four days I had a variety of tests, including an MRI of my brain - yes they could fine one. I also had a heart monitor, an IV and blood tests.  I saw about five different doctors from the Internal Medicine Specialists, but only found out what I didn't have.  I was checked by a physical therapist who didn't think I was a candidate for vestibular therapy as they had expected.  As the days went on my serious problem came only whenever I tried to get up or when I tried to lay down. The elevated bed helped me with that.  Apparently BPPV isn't the same as "normal" vertigo that many suffer with.  Then finally, after two successful walks in the hall, they decided they couldn't help me anymore and sent me home.
          One of the "bummers" of the hospital stay was the fact that the first two nights I was in a nice, quiet single room on the observation floor.  But then when my time there expired,  they officially admitted me to the hospital and moved me to a semiprivate room. Fortunately, my fellow patient was fine to live with, although I missed the privacy.
          My stay at home was mixed - some good days and some bad ones. I went to the doctor twice and still have more visits scheduled. I did start vestibular therapy which at times was very painful and disruptive.  I learned that there are "stones" in your ear which control balance.  At times they can spill into your ear canals and create vertigo. (More about this in next week's blog.) The procedure to get them back where they belong usually brings temporary severe vertigo.  My sessions were not fun but appear to be the only way to get things back to somewhat normal.  Shots and medicine given to me did little but make me sleepy.  
          I am amazed how as soon as people learn that I have vertigo, they tell me that they have also suffered with it.  They give all sorts of advice and horror stories.  Now I must admit, that like many, I never felt that those who had vertigo really suffered more than a few days.  Most were helped with medicine.  However, I now know that there are different types of vertigo.  For some it is moderate dizziness and nausea, like being on a merry go round.  For others, like me, it is like being in a tornado where you need to quickly find something to hold on to while the world explodes around you.  And for those who have experienced this form, I apologize for not having been more sympathetic. I didn't know how you were really suffering. The attacks can be worse than kidney stone pain because you lose complete control. But, fortunately, they don't last nearly as long as kidney stone pain does.
          So that is my new physical problem of the month and I will appreciate your prayers for me. Maybe I need to write a book about all that has happened to my body in the last two years.  But who would read it?   The Lord is still good and continues to teach me many lessons which I guess I still need to learn.  I feel His presence in my life and have spent many moments talking to Him.  I am reminded often that I am His workmanship and that He knows all my ways.
          When we had our family ministry we often taught Bible verses by singing them to tunes which I had written.  One of my favorites was Psalm 139:3 (KJV). "Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways."  Being a math teacher I often think of the compass that we use to make circles.  So this verse reminds me that God encircles my life with His love and care.  My path represents my daily activities.  The lying down are the times that I can't be active, especially times of illness or injury as I have been experiencing.  And all my ways means what it says - ALL MY WAYS - the good and the challenging.  And,PTL, I have found that true.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Father's Day


           Father's Day is a celebration honoring fathers and celebrating fatherhood and the influence of fathers in society. In Catholic Europe, it has been celebrated on March 19 (St. Joseph's Day) since the Middle Ages. This celebration was brought by the Spanish and Portuguese to Latin America, where March 19 is often still used for it. Many countries in Europe and the Americas have adopted the U.S. date, which is the third Sunday of June.              

           A bill to accord national recognition of the holiday in the United States was introduced in Congress in 1913 but it didn't get anywhere. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson went to Spokane to speak at a Father's Day celebration and he wanted to make it an officially recognized federal holiday, but Congress resisted, fearing that it would become commercialized.  Now how would that ever happen in the U.S. Commercialized, never, at least not until Hallmark would see a way to exploit it.
          In 1957, Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith wrote a Father's Day proposal accusing Congress of ignoring fathers for 40 years while honoring mothers, thus "[singling] out just one of our two parents". In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father's Day. Six years later, the day was made a permanent national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972.
          And that brings us to this year when we celebrate this special day on June 18.  Now I must admit that our family never made a big thing out of this day as some folks do.  We usually sent a card, wished them a happy father's day and sometimes visited with them.  However, now that both my father and father-in-law are gone, I wish that I had done more for them.  We miss them both but have the comfort of knowing where they are.  But there are many days when I wish I could call my dad, share with him events in my life and seek his wise advice.
          We have decided to do one special thing for them this year.  On Sunday Dianne is playing the offertory and she has put together a simple medley of their two favorite hymns.  I have prepared a visual presentation to accompany her playing.  This is our way of remembering both of them this year.
         Music was an important part of both of our homes growing up.  Dianne and her sister sang solos.  They and their mother played the piano.  Her father played the guitar.  And hymns were important to them.  My family sang several times in church as a family.  My sister sang in the Kauffman Trio with my wife and sister-in-law. Dad played the harmonica. I played the trombone and sang with many groups.  Every time my family traveled together we sang hymns in the car.
          My father-in law's favorite hymn was "There's Room At The Cross For You".  He had the gift of evangelism and wanted to share with everyone the life changing experience he had in his adult years.

(1)    The cross upon which Jesus died
Is a shelter in which we can hide
And its grace so free is sufficient for me
And deep is its fountain as wide as the sea.
Chorus:
There's room at the cross for you
There's room at the cross for you
Though millions have come, there's still room for one
Yes there's room at the cross for you.

(2)   Though millions have found him a friend
And have turned from the sins they have sinned
The Savior still waits to open the gates
And welcome a sinner before it's too late. Chorus: 

(3)   The hand of my Savior is strong
And the love of my Savior is long
Through sunshine or rain, through loss or in gain,
The blood flows from Calvary to cleanse every stain. Chorus:

     My father grew up in a pastor's home and came to know the Lord as a child.  He, too, had a burden for the lost and looked forward to the time when he and his family would be reunited around God's throne in heaven.  His favorite was "Oh That Will Be, Glory For Me".

1.     When all my labors and trials are over,
And I am safe on that beautiful shore,
Just to be near the dear Lord I adore,
Will through the ages be glory for me.
Refrain:
O that will be glory for me,
Glory for me, glory for me,
When by His grace I shall look on His face,
That will be glory, be glory for me.

2.     When, by the gift of His infinite grace,
I am accorded in heaven a place,
Just to be there and to look on His face,
Will through the ages be glory for me. Refrain

3.     Friends will be there I have loved long ago;
Joy like a river around me will flow;
Yet just a smile from my Savior, I know,
Will through the ages be glory for me.  Refrain

          I thank the Lord for a godly father, father-in-law and even grandfathers who loved the Lord and set wonderful examples to me.  I have really been blest.
          Now if your father is still alive, don't you dare miss this special opportunity to spend time with him on Father's Day.  If you don't, someday you may regret it, after he is no longer here.
          If you don't know these two hymns, here are links that will allow you to hear them.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Senior Alphabet


        Do you remember the new math or the modern math that you might have experienced as a student?   Our approaches to many things have changed over the years as we've looked for ways to make things more meaningful and easier to remember.
        Well our alphabet hasn't changed, but maybe the ways we use it have.  It appears that cursive writing is now out but keyboarding has now become essential for students today.  And in some cases the alphabet's meaning and representations have changed.  So, in case you've never seen it before, here is  "The New Alphabet for Older People".

A is for arthritis
B is for bad back
C is for the chest pains. Corned beef? Cardiac?
D is for dental decay and decline
E is for eyesight--can't read that top line
F is for fissures and fluid retention
G is for gas (which I'd rather not mention) and other gastrointestinal glitches
H is high blood pressure
I is for itches
J is for joints that are failing to flex
L  for libido--what happened to sex?
Wait!  I forgot about K for bad knees.  (I've got a few gaps in my M-memory)
N is for nerve (pinched) and neck (stiff) and neurosis
O is for osteo-  P is for porosis
Q is for queasiness. Fatal?  Just flu?
R is for reflux--one meal becomes two
S is for sleepless nights counting my fears
T is for tinnitus - bells in my ears
U is for difficulties urinary
V is for vertigo
W is worry  about what the X--as in X-ray - will find.  But though the word "terminal" rushes to mind,
I'm proud, as each   Y - year - goes by, to reveal  A reservoir of undiminished  Z - zeal - for checking the symptoms my body's deployed, and keeping my twenty-six doctors employed.

Maybe somebody could put this alphabet to music.   But I guess that would be a waste of time for we seniors would soon forget it anyway.

So there you are.  What, you say you don't understand this.  Well, hold on sonny.  Your day is coming, sooner than you would expect!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Retirement


          It's so hard to believe that it is now 15 years since I retired after 39 years in the Penn Manor School District.  The years have flown by so very quickly.  Most folks can't wait until they can retire.  Often they have visions of traveling, or playing golf everyday, or sleeping late, or spending time with their family, or all sorts of "exciting" things.  And sometimes for some people those dreams do come true. But retirement often ends up being something different for others.
          Now, as usually happens when you get older, nobody really cares about your experience or opinions.  But even so, I have seen enough of what happens in retirement to think that my advice could be useful to some who haven't yet retired.  But, then again, it probably isn't.  But because it is my blog, I'm going to share it anyway.
          First, consider the cost of medical care.  You may have been healthy all of your life but then suddenly it hits you.  All sorts of physical problems develop as you age and care is very expensive.  You may see more doctors than you ever knew existed.  So make sure that you have good medical insurance and the funds to afford it.  In the first five months of 2017, 21% of our income has gone to medical insurance, doctor visits, tests and medicine.  Now I realize that this might be somewhat excessive, but it happens.  Medicare is good but it only pays 80% and doesn't include dental or vision coverage.  You will probably need to purchase a supplement plan to cover the remaining 20% as well as your medicine.  Make sure that you plan for this before you retire.  Maybe you'll be lucky enough to be covered by a company plan after you retire, but that now is unusual and something that we don't have.
          Second, make sure your finances are in shapeMake sure you pay off all of your debts before you quit work.  Prepare a retirement budget and try living on it a few months to see if it is realistic.  Hire a good financial advisor to handle your investments - not one who profits on selling and investing your money, but one who charges a set fee.  Now as long as you remain healthy, you can always get another job to provide income, but that might not be your vision for retirement.  And remember, taxes, gas, food, repairs and all those necessary things will continue to rise in price after you retire.  If your money is invested, remember investments can rise ... and fall.  If you are on a fixed pension, as I am, prepare to live the remainder of your life without a raise. I will never get one. And if you depend on social security, remember that the few dollars it might increase annually is usually lost in the increase costs of medicare coverages.
          Third, make sure you have hobbies and other interests to fill your days.  As much as you may want to quit working, life can become very boring and depressing if you don't have other things to do. Too many people go into depression or even die right after retiring because they have nothing fulfilling to do.  Some love to travel, and that is great if you can afford it.  Many of our close friends are constantly on the go and I am glad for them.  But our budget doesn't permit that, so instead we stay at home and involve ourselves as volunteers in ministry. There are so many things you can volunteer for and help others as you now have the time.  Our service at church and at Pinebrook are things that we enjoy and look forward to.  
         Fourth, make sure that you are emotionally ready to retire.  We all think we are ready to do so, but sometimes our identity is tied to our work and it becomes very hard to separate ourselves from it.  My boss once told me that you will know when you are really ready to retire and he was right.  But it was still very hard for me after being there for 39 years and often going in to work on weekends and during vacations. I loved the classroom and my students, but I didn't enjoy the increased requirements being imposed by the state and the district.  I did struggle for several months after I left, until the Lord provided me with two classes to teach at Millersville for a semester.  That was the interlude I needed.  Then those 39 years really became "another lifetime" for me.
          Fifth and most important, trust the Lord with your decision.  Proverbs 3:5,6 is vital for any believer in Christ.  Trust Him to lead you and guide you.  A year before I finally retired, I was being offered another job in ministry that I really felt I wanted.  But at what I thought was my final interview, I was shocked to find that the job was no longer being offered to me.  It was an adjustment, but I accepted it as the Lord's Will.  And what I didn't know at that time was that in order to get themselves a big pay raise, the PA House and Senate were approving a bill to not only raise their salaries but also the pensions of future retiring teachers.  By staying instead for my 39th year in teaching, I received a major and very unexpected increase in my pension.  God knew all about that when I didn't.  Looking back I can see how he was guiding all that was happening in my decision.  And He will do that for you, too, as you trust Him.
          I have enjoyed retirement despite numerous physical challenges.  We have not been able to travel as we expected, but we have  had many ministry opportunities to continue to serve the Lord and that has been very special and rewarding.  Yesterday we again led a hymn sing at Pinebrook.  And the Lord has provided all that we need and we know that He will continue to do so.  Psalm 37:25, " I have been young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread."

Saturday, May 27, 2017

When To Keep Your Mouth Shut


          I imagine that if your are human you've probably been guilty of "open mouth insert foot" sometime during your life.  I would be too embarrassed to share situations where I have done that.  But the problem isn't a new one, because many years ago Solomon and other Bible authors had much to say about when we should keep our mouth shut.  In fact in Proverbs 21:23 we read, "Whosoever keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from trouble."  Great advice!

          Recently somebody sent me a list of 20 items from the Bible which tell us when we shouldn't open our mouth.  They are great reminders, and even though you might not need these reminders, as I do, I've decided to share them with you.  So here are 20 times you shouldn't open your mouth.

1. In the heat of anger - Proverbs 14:17
2. When you don't have all the facts - Proverbs 18:13
3. When you haven't verified the story - Deuteronomy 17:6
4. If your words offend a weaker brother - I Corinthians 8:11
5. If your words will be a poor reflection on the Lord or your friends and family - Peter 2:21-23
6. When you are tempted to joke about sin - Proverbs 14:9
7. When you would be ashamed of your words later - Proverbs 8:8
8. When you are tempted to make light of holy things - Ecclesiastes 5:2
9. If your words would convey a wrong impression - Proverbs 17:27
10. If the issue is none of your business - Proverbs 14:10
11. When you are tempted to tell an outright lie - Proverbs 4:24
12. If your words will damage someone's reputation - Proverbs 16:27
13. If your words will destroy a friendship - Proverbs 25:28
14. When you are feeling critical - James 3:9
15. If you can't speak without yelling - Proverbs 25:28
16. When it is time to listen - Proverbs 13:1
17. If you may have to eat your words later - Proverbs 18:21
18. If you have already said it more than one time (then if becomes nagging) - Proverbs 19:13
19. When you are tempted to flatter a wicked person - Proverbs 24:24
20. When you are supposed to be working instead - Proverbs 14:23

          Great reminders for each of us.  Let me close with one of the verses that I quote to myself most often, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer."  Psalm 19:14.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

To The Beach


          It certainly was needed and, although it was only for three days, we needed a brief break and a short vacation.  Due to continuing physical problems, numerous doctor tests and appointments, and many church commitments, we have been unable to get away, even for a few days, for over two years.  The last time we took a "real non-working" vacation was almost two years ago and it lasted about 15 hours since Dianne was hit with shingles just after we arrived.  She still suffers from that condition.  We had to go right back home to see the doctor.  Oh yes, a week later I had my second back surgery which was not very successful.
          Several times since that "memorable vacation" we tried to schedule another getaway, but each time we had to cancel at the last minute because of physical problems.  And a planned trip to Texas was also called off because of our problems, even though we lost the cost of our airfare and conference registration.
          Unless we are visiting relatives, such as in Wisconsin, or attending a conference, as we had hoped to in Texas, my idea of a vacation is to rest.  I realize that most of our friends and blog readers would prefer much more activity, but at this point in life that is not what we want or need.
          Since I retired, our preference for a brief getaway has been to go to Ocean City, Maryland, for a few days and stay in the Courtyard by Marriott on the boardwalk.  Now it is rather expensive so we can only go off season. But then it is more economical and usually not crowded. We get a room on the third floor with a balcony which overlooks the boardwalk, beach and ocean.  We love it.  Now this might surprise you, but we don't even touch the beach or go to the ocean.  Recently we haven't even walked the boardwalk due to our problems with walking.  We don't go to expensive restaurants since our budget doesn't permit it and most are closed off season anyway.  Our favorite restaurant, Chick-Fil-A, is close and open weekdays and gets most of our business.
          On our recent trip I did what I love to do.  I sat on the balcony, watched the folks pass by on the boardwalk, read, slept and enjoyed watching the ocean waves.  I also did some meditating and talking with the Lord.  That was my type of vacation.
          I really enjoyed watching the people.  All types were there - young, old, in between, skinny, fat, skateboarders, runners, bikes of all types, handicapped scooters, folks with canes, school groups. fishermen, deaf folks, and those of many different cultures and nationalities.  It was fascinating just to watch them.
          It seemed that the majority of the teens and 20's were carrying their smart phones with them and were texting as they walked.  Now, probably because I am old, I don't understand that.  We don't have a smart phone and don't text because we can't afford it. But if we did, why would I want to spend every moment of my vacation talking or texting?  How is that relaxing? Now I understand how a cell phone is good to have if an emergency would develop, but to spend all your time texting doesn't make sense.  You miss all the beauty of God's creation in the surf and beach and sky.
         But I had another observation as I watched folks pass.  I couldn't help but wonder how many knew the Lord.  I thought of the many people groups represented and the need to share the Gospel with them.  The first line of the song "People Need the Lord" kept going through my mind - "Every day they pass me by, I can see it in their eyes. Empty people filled with care, headed who knows where. On they go through private pain, living fear to fear. Laughter hides their silent cries, only Jesus hears."  Sadly, how true.  I also thought of the children's song we used to sing, "Jesus Loves the Little Children" and "Jesus Died for all the Children".  I guess those words are no longer "politically correct" because of the colors mentioned.  But that doesn't change the truth and need of the words. So many people from all over the world, enjoying the beach now but probably headed for hell without the Lord.
         But the best part of this brief vacation was the time spent enjoying the beauty of God's creation and spending time with Him.  The beauty is incredible and His presence is amazing.  The weather was outstanding.  The waves were relaxing to watch.  The sunsets were spectacular with various shades of purple, pink and blue.  I don't know anything about ocean currents, but I couldn't help wonder how many miles the water traveled and how many countries these waves may have touched over the years. It is hard to even visualize how vast the ocean really is.  And as I watched and marveled and meditated another children's song kept going though my mind.
        Wide, wide as the ocean, high as the Heaven above.
        Deep, deep as the deepest sea, is my Savior's love.
        I, though so unworthy, still am a child of His care.
        For His Word teaches me that His love reaches me everywhere.
Thank you Lord not only for your beautiful creation but even more for your love which reached out to me even when I was unworthy.  And thank you that your love can reach one everywhere - even those who passed by me on the boardwalk during these days. May many come to know You and experience the new life which only You can give.