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, October 21, 2017

A Life Of Generosity


             I continue to miss my father no matter how old I become.  He was a very wise man who loved the Lord.  He set an amazing example for me, not only by what he said, but by the way He lived.

            Dad had a very challenging time raising our family in the World War 2 years. His first teaching job, in Doylestown, PA, earned him just $1,200 a year.  As a result he was forced to leave us to live with his parents in Sunbury while he taught there because he couldn't afford to take us along.  He would return to be with us on weekends.  His work on the Manhattan Project and teaching Air Force cadets during the war, then teaching high school after the war, meant that we had to move almost every year until he could get a permanent job. He coached and worked extra jobs at night to support us. He couldn't even afford to buy a car until I was in second grade. I was in fourth grade when dad finally dad got a good permanent job as an engineer with RCA in Lancaster.           
But growing up I soon learned that all my parents owned really belonged to the Lord and was used for Him.  Later I discovered something that nobody else ever knew.  At times when our new church could not reach its budget and pay bills, dad, as treasurer, would quietly pay the bills from his own money. This continued for many years even during his senior years.  Other church leaders and pastors never knew of his sacrifice.  But all that he had was the Lord's and he lived that way, all of his life.
            The month before I began my first permanent job that had health insurance, our son had emergency surgery.  We were stuck with major bills and no insurance.  And on a beginning teacher's salary this was tough.  And there were other bills that kept us strapped financially during those days.
            One day I shared with my dad how hard it was to meet our obligations and still give regularly to the Lord.  He shared with me some of their experiences in very tough times and how the Lord always provided when they were faithful in their giving.  He suggested that I trust the Lord by giving faithfully, off the top of my income, and then see how the Lord would provide for our needs.
            We took his wise advice and never looked back.  And the Lord has provided all that we have needed … again … and again … and again.  Thanks dad for your advice and example.  And thank you Lord for your faithfulness and provision to us.
              I thought about this experience this week when I was listening to David Jeremiah in his series "A Life Beyond Amazing".  His presentation on "A Life of Generosity" really caught my attention.  Here is part of what he had to say.
            "As Americans we like to pat ourselves on the back and repeat the mantra that we are the most generous nation in the world.  Our government does give away a lot of money but that does not make us a generous nation.  Generous nations are  made up of generous people and it may shock you to learn that more than 85 percent of Americans give away less than 2 percent of their income.  And the numbers for evangelical Christians are not much better."
            "According to a recent study in Relevant magazine, only 10 to 25 percent of the people in a typical American congregation tithe (that is, give the biblical starting point of 10 percent) to the church, the poor, and kingdom causes.  The same report concluded that if the remaining 75 to 90 percent of American Christians began to tithe regularly, global hunger, starvation and death from preventable diseases could be relieved in five years.  Additionally, illiteracy could all but be eliminated, the world's water and sanitation issues could be solved, all overseas mission work could be funded and more than $100 billion per year could be left for additional ministry."
            Wow, those kind of possible results are stunning.  Now I don't know how one predicts those type of results, but even if they were only half completed, it would still be amazing.
            For 15 years I have served as financial secretary of our church and, unfortunately, I know more about people's giving than I ever wanted to know.  I often wish that I didn't know these things.  But, based on what I have seen over the years, the statistic that only 10 to 25 percent of people give a tithe is a very reasonable figure.  In fact it might even be too high.   While many do give very generously, a large percentage of members do not give a tithe, at least through the church.  But, at the same time, I am always amazed at how some folks who have so very little, give so much and so regularly.  And I am sure that the Lord blesses them for their sacrifices.
            There are times when I wish that I could talk to some people and just share with them the advice that my dad gave me about giving.  It is so sad that so many believers are going through life missing the blessings of giving back to the Lord a portion of what he has so graciously given them.  Too many believers today have their priorities wrong.
            Maybe we need to be reminded of 1 Timothy 6:7, "For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out."  And many of us have stockpiled more than we even know what to do with.  Even king David recognized that God was the source of his wealth. "For all things come from You." 1 Chronicles 29:14.   Who owns your money and possessions?  Are you living a life of generosity?
            Thank you dad for your good advice and example.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Breaking News


We interrupt this blog to bring you this special news bulletin.

To the citizens of the United States of America from Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II:

          In light of your failure in recent years to nominate competent candidates for President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately. (You should look up 'revocation' in the Oxford English Dictionary.)

          Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (except Kansas, which she does not fancy).  We will appoint a Governor for America without the need for further elections. It will of course be someone of proper English lineage, such as Dame Judi Dench or Michael Caine, but most certainly not Simon Cowell. 
          Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.
          To aid in the transition to a British Crown dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:
          1. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.
          2. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as 'colour,' 'favour,' 'labour' and 'neighbour.' Likewise, you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without skipping half the letters, and the suffix '-ize' will be replaced by the suffix '-ise.' Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. (look up 'vocabulary').
          3. Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as ''like' and 'you know' is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. There is no such thing as U.S. English. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take into account the reinstated letter 'u'' and the elimination of '-ize.'
          4. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not quite ready to be independent. Guns should only be used for shooting grouse. If you can't sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist, then you're not ready to shoot grouse.
          5. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. Although a permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.
          6. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left side with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.
          7. The former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling gasoline) of roughly $10/US gallon. Get used to it.
          8. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with catsup but with vinegar.
          10. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters. Watching Andie Macdowell attempt English dialect in Four Weddings and a Funeral was an experience akin to having one's ears removed with a cheese grater.
          11. You will cease playing American football. There is only one kind of proper football; you call it soccer. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like a bunch of nannies). 
          12. Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 2.1% of you are aware there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. You will learn cricket, and we will let you face the South Africans first to take the sting out of their deliveries.
          13. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due (backdated to 1776).
          14. Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 p.m. with proper cups, with saucers, and never mugs, with high quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes; plus strawberries (with cream) when in season.
God Save The Queen

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Technology


My father teaching children
as an engineer at RCA
          I love the technological age in which we live.  Computers and the internet have greatly changed our lives and I am enjoying it.  I think if I were younger I would go back to college and get a degree in technology or computer programming.. 
          But in honor of this, the 800th blog that I have posted on this site, I feel that I should at least make a few comments about some of the changes, like blogs, that have resulted from technological advances over the years.  I know that very little profound has ever been shared here in those 800 writings, and this one will not be an exception to that.  But thank you to the few of you who have continued to visit here over the years.  Either you have very few useful things to do with your time or you pity me and are trying to humor me and make me feel that my ramblings are somehow useful or interesting. Either way, thank you!  But as I was saying ...
           One of the few things that I have really missed since my retirement have been the regular in-service technology training programs that were provided for us by the school district.  It is so much harder to keep up with all the changes on your own.  But the younger generation has little problem doing this because they have grown up with it and have no idea what life was like before technology.
           So here are a few things from my past that have drastically changed with modern technology.
          A computer was something on TV, from a science fiction show.  A window was something you hated to clean and ram was the cousin of a goat.  Meg was the name of a girl and a gig was a job for the night.  Now they mean different things and that really mega bytes for those of us who are older.
          An application was for employment.  A program was a TV show.  A cursor used profanity.  A keyboard was a piano.
          Memory was something you lost with age.  Compress was something you did to the garbage, not something you did to a file.  And if you unzipped anything in public you might end up in jail for awhile.
         Log on was adding wood to the fire.  Hard drive was a long trip on the road.  A mouse pad was where a mouse lived and backup happened to your commode.
         Cut you did with a pocket knife.  Paste you did with glue.  A web was a spider's home and a virus was the flu.
          And words like e-mail, internet, rom, website, CPU, motherboard, modem, MIDI, joy sticks, Java, malware, social network, Facebook and wifi probably didn't even exist, or at least they weren't part of any normal conversation.  Can you define each of these?
          The speed of change in technology is unbelievable.  A year is a lifetime with technology.  Buy today and you will find a new and better product on sale in a few months.
          I guess one of the good things is that to the best of my knowledge, nobody has yet been killed in a computer crash.   However, your identity might have been stolen!

          So take a bit of time off today and enjoy a cookie.  Take a few bytes.  Just be careful not to attract any bugs with the crumbs.  You might also enjoy an Apple  (be sure it doesn't contain a worm) or some Mac and cheese, or how about some spam?
         If you've enjoyed this blog, just shout Yahoo!.  But maybe you want to first close your Windows so that those in your domain don't hear you.  
         And with that I will log off.  

Saturday, September 30, 2017

A Faithful Servant


          On Thursday we attended a funeral/memorial service for a longtime friend and member of our church who had served so very faithfully over the years, especially in ministering to children.

          For many decades our friend had taught children in our Sunday School, mostly those who were in nursery or preschool classes.  She skillfully planned and led many programs for special days such as Christmas and Easter.  In fact, twenty years ago she was part of the first class of members who were honored by our church leadership with a very special leadership award.  Many folks were touched by her ministry over the years.  She continued to serve faithfully until a few years ago when her health forced her to retire from teaching.
          She was also very active in Child Evangelism Fellowship in Lancaster County.  For years she taught Good News clubs and participated in CEF events.  For a number of years she corrected the CEF correspondence courses that children completed and sent to CEF.  Then she helped children online where she was known as Aunt Bea.
          When her husband died about twenty years ago she continued serving.  Eventually she had to sell her house and she moved in with one of her daughters where she lived until she died.  But she was still faithful in attending services, praying and supporting the church, as well as CEF.
          Now I serve as financial secretary for our church and often I know more about people's giving habits then I wish that I knew.  I knew that she had little income but unlike so many, she faithfully gave to the church right up to her death.  In recent months when attendance became a problem she faithfully mailed her tithe to me to be added to the offering.  The last one came just days before she died.  It reminded me of the widow's mite.
          Now, after living that type of life of sacrifice and service, and influencing so many folks for the Lord, you'd expect that she would have a special memorial service with a great response from friends, family and former students.  You would expect that many would come and respond to honor her.  That would only be proper for a faithful saint who served the Lord in so many ways for decades.
          But just the opposite actually happened.  Only about 30 - 35 folks were there.  This included six family members, a couple of her former Sunday School students, a few folks from her senior adult Sunday School class, and a number of longtime church members who worshipped with her for decades.  And her church leadership team was represented by our pastor who led the service and two elders. She had been a member of our church for nearly 60 years.  While the service was God honoring as she would have wanted, I was taken back by the lack of support from family, church family and the church leadership team.  I expected more and she really deserved much more.  But that was all the response she received from her fellow Christians after her death.
          However, her important celebration happened last Saturday when the Lord welcomed her into His presence where she will live eternally and receive her real reward. That was the recognition and thanks that she really deserved.  This is an event that we should all look forward to, not the praise of men here on this earth.  And, in addition, she is released from all of her pain and the problems of this pilgrim life.  And that, too, is a great reward.
          But as I review this service in my mind, I am reminded that we don't work here for earthly praise and awards.  We have been created to bring praise to the Lord.  We are His workmanship, created for good works to honor Him.  But sometimes, because we are human, our wrong expectations here on earth can leave us disappointed.  Unfortunately, our fellow believers are usually not very good at thanking others and honoring them for their service.  And that is something that I guess we need to understand and expect.  But maybe we each also need to learn to be more thankful and encouraging to others who do faithfully serve.
          But I do praise the Lord that our paths have crossed over the years and I am thankful for her faithful service.  Oh that others, including myself, would be this faithful in serving the Lord.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Help For Grandparents


          We had intended to attend the first annual Legacy Grandparenting Summit in Frisco, Texas last year  Our plane and summit tickets were purchased, our reservations were made.  But then the Lord allowed me to develop some physical problems and we had to cancel our trip.  That was so very disappointing.
         But we have been able to still receive bits of the messages presented by several of the outstanding speakers who participated.  And while you might not have grandchildren there might be some things that could still challenge you.  So I will share some of these with you.
          Josh McDowell has ten grandchildren ages 12 and under. He said in the 55 years and the more than 34,000 times he has he has been speaking to people, he had never before spoken to a conference on grandparenting, but he was very happy to be able to do so, as, after Jesus, his family was his greatest motivation. Josh shared two things for us to be aware of as grandparents -
          The internet - he shared how in 2012 children averaged 18 hours a week on the internet, 2014 it was 42 hours a week and in 2015 they averaged 77 hours a week. 
          Our grandchildren will look at porn. Period. We can not protect them from it. 50% to 70% become addicted to porn. You can not protect a child's innocence through ignorance - you do so through knowledge, a loving relationship and the power of Christ.
         This sounded discouraging, but he went on to say, while we can not protect them from porn, we can, and must, prepare them for when they see it the first time - if we do, they will survive. I found this both challenging and encouraging - the challenge to be intentional, focused and proactive and encouraging to know it is not really discouraging news. We can - and must - do something to prepare our grandchildren, so they know how to respond with the mind of Jesus! Encouraging for sure!
          Josh went on to share statistics from research he has been doing on porn and how it impacts children, youth and adults - including Christian children, youth and adults. He shared with us the key to raising grandchildren . . . we have to remember -
     Rules without relationship = rebellion
     Truth without relationships = rejection
     Discipline without relationships = anger and resentment
It matters so much for us as grandparents to invest in and to be committed to be intentional Christian grandparents! It matters what we do and building a relationship with our grandchildren is essential!
          Josh shared seven principles for raising children - while there are no guarantees, as our grandchildren have freewill, these seven "A's" will help us build relationships with our grandchildren which will transform them and their lives - and us as well! These seven principles will help us make the time we have count! (Download online for free - http://www.josh.org/resources/youth-family/7as/)
          1.  Affirmation - Romans 12:15 - we need to authentically rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn - share our grandchildren's sorrow at the moment, do not try to dismiss it or immediately make it "go away". Affirm how they feel when they rejoice and when they mourn. Identify with them and affirm their emotions.
          2.  Acceptance - be sure they know we love them unconditionally - this will help them feel secure. Romans 15:7 we need to love them like Jesus does - no matter what, they are created in the image of God and have infinite value, dignity, worth. When they know we believe these things about them, they will rise to the level of our opinion of them.  Acknowledge their effort more than their success, so they know you love them no matter what.
         3.  Appreciation - let them know they are significant. Significance = feeling and thinking I've done something worthwhile. Josh challenged us to catch them doing something right and then appreciate them.
         4.  Availability - this tells them they are important (and we absolutely know they are!!) Matthew 19 - Jesus was available for the children - great example for us. Josh shared how his children/grandchildren know they may interrupt him any time, because they are more important to him than anyone. Yes, they need to be polite and respectful, but he said adults understand if he stops talking to them for a minutes and says; "Excuse me a moment, my child/grandchild needs my attention, give me a minute." He shared how he was talking with President George Bush and his child needed him, so he said, "Excuse me sir, my child needs me." He shared how the president later sent him a note and thanked him for what he said. Told him he got in his car, locked his security out and called his two daughters!
          5.  Affection - our grandchildren need to know they are lovable! They need to hear us say we love them at least ten times a day and have appropriate physical expressions of love. Jesus said to, "love as I have loved you". Nothing is more powerful than the love of a dad or grandpa . . . even more powerful than the love of a mother and grandma, because it is unexpected to hear a dad or grandpa say and show their love.
         6.  Approach their world - gives them a sense of connection. 1 Corinthians 13:5 - "love does not demand its own way" - do what they want, step into their world; shows real love and you care about what they care about. Be a hero to your grandchild! Do things they like and be sure to connect what they like to God.
          7.  Accountability - Romans 14 - hold them accountable with reasonable rules and limits. Grandparents need to be careful - be quiet unless adult children give permission to help them raise their children and set limits with love. Never discipline your grandchildren without them knowing they are loved.
            Josh gave us much to think about - and act upon for sure as we all want to make the time we have with our grandchildren truly count!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Be Encouraged


Psalm 69:29-34
     I am suffering in pain, rescue me, O God by your saving power.
     Then I will praise God's name with singing, and I will honor him with thanksgiving.
     For this will please the Lord more than sacrificing cattle, more than presenting a bull with its horns and hooves.
    The humble will see their God at work and be glad.
     Let all who seek God's help be encouraged.
     For the Lord hears the cries of the needy. he does not despise his imprisoned people.
     Praise him, O heaven and earth, the seas and all that move in them.


           Recently I have been reading through Psalms and Proverbs.  No matter how often I do this, I always seem to find new thoughts and lessons.  And, often they are not only timely, but also what I need.
          For many years I have led our church e-mail prayer chain.  I take the requests that are sent to me, edit them and send them out by computer to about 90 folks who are on our chain.  We average about 40 requests per month.  We also have a written policy which we require all chain members to follow.
         A few days ago I received a request from a man in our congregation who has suffered for many years with a variety of physical challenges.  His wife also has suffered with many serious problems.  They are a loving, caring, sweet couple who depend upon the Lord.  They are often on our chain with requests.
         This time he shared a request for the chain and then shared some personal comments just for me.  He told me that "It seems our issues are like fleas, they jumped from one to the other."   I know exactly what he means.  I've sometimes share our needs with the expression that we seem to regularly experience a "new physical challenge of the month."  I understand what he is saying.  But despite our complete dependence on the Lord, the continuing issues can become very discouraging.  And I know this couple has also reached that point.
          Then a few days later I received what I felt was a nasty, critical e-mail from another member of our chain.  Now I reserve the right to edit and shorten the requests which I receive.  I always try to include all the important facts sent to me, but I try to eliminate extra details which I feel aren't really necessary for the prayer request.  And believe me, I do receive all sorts of requests - many are very long and poorly written, often with bad English.
         Well this person was very upset at me for often editing her requests and not including all that she has sent me.  And, yes, I have done that a few times with her requests because I felt that they were wordy with all sorts of unnecessary details.  The last time I actually used her complete request, although I admit that I accidentally forgot to include the phrase "thank you for your prayers."  I replied and apologized to her for missing this, but told her it was my job as editor to share just the key needs.  Well she did accept my apology but she bluntly told me that I had no right to edit what she sends.  And her criticism was not shared kindly with me.
          Now I admit that my first reaction was not good, although I didn't respond in a negative way to her.  But, I hadn't treated her requests any differently than the many hundreds that I have shared over many years.  And she was even a relatively new member of the chain and was telling me how to do my job.  It did take me awhile to calm down and try to be kind.
         But, as I thought it over, I came to realize that she was probably hurting and looking to share all of the details of her problems with everybody who will listen.  She probably is discouraged and lonely.  And I think the couple who responded to me about the fleas is also hurting and lonely.  And I really understand their situations - it happens to many, if not all of us, at times in our lives.  And we often handle such situations differently - some folks are very private and want to be left alone while others want many to know and maybe even pity them.
          Then I read Psalm 69 and what suddenly struck me was the part of verse 32 which says "Let all who seek God's help be encouraged".   What a powerful reminder.  I need to pray not only for the needs that I share on the chain, but also that the one with the need is encouraged.  And maybe they need that even more than the healing or the solving of their shared problem.  Pain and suffering can easily lead to despair and loneliness.  And that can lead to depression.  We all need to be encouraged, especially in times of stress.
         And from now on that request will be part of my prayer life for those who I know are in need. May God encourage them in their time of need. Why not join me and give some thought to including that request for others in your prayer life.  And maybe you will actually end up being encouraged as well.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Phishing


          I've never been a fisherman, although I think it could be a fun and relaxing activity.  However, if I were to ever try deep sea fishing, I'd probably spend most of my time hanging over the rail  losing everything I had eaten for the last week.  My dad never had the free time to spend fishing and none of my friends growing up were fishermen.  Later in life my brother started and he and his wife enjoyed many good times together fishing.

          But now there is a new "sport" with a similar name which is very dangerous and is invading most of our homes and lives.  It is called Phishing.
          According to the dictionary, phishing is the attempt to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details (and sometimes, indirectly, money), often for malicious reasons, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. The word is a neologism created as a homophone of fishing due to the similarity of using a bait in an attempt to catch a victim.  How do you like those big words? 
          If you aren't overly diligent you could be like a fish and get caught and lose money and maybe even your identity.  These schemes have been around as long as e-mail, but recently they have become much more sophisticated and tempting.  If you spend any time on the internet, using e-mail or the social media, you could end up being a victim.
          Now most of us have "won" millions in overseas lotteries.  We have been offered millions by foreign family members who need to get their money out of their country.  We have been offered jobs as mystery shoppers and the scams go on and on.  But these are easy to ignore unless you are dumb or looking for get rich quick schemes - as some folks are.
          But today phishing has become a little different.  In previous years it was usually easy to spot one of these attempts because the offers you received by e-mail often contained misspelled words or used bad English.  Sometimes the visuals they used were very poor.  It was rather obvious that they were fake and few would be tempted to click on any of their links.  And if one did, most folks were wise enough not to complete the resulting screens which asked for credit card numbers or social security numbers or other sensitive information.  Unfortunately, some were not that wise and got burnt.  And even if you didn't fill out this requested information, just answering the e-mail might have compromised your account or added some malware to your computer.
          But when it comes to stealing money or your private information, internet crooks soon learn to get much more clever.  They are cleaning up their e-mails and making them much more realistic than ever before.  How many of you have been receiving offers of free gift cards from Walmart, CVS or Giant or other big name companies?  They look so real and who doesn't want a free gift?  They are so tempting.  But often you can get your first danger alarm by looking at who the actual e-mail was sent by.  And most times you will see that it isn't from the company offering the free gift.  Don't risk replying or you might get a free gift - malware implanted in your computer.
          Some of the more recent ones appear to come from UPS or FedEx telling you that they tried to deliver a package to you but you weren't home.  And if you want the delivery you must respond and give them vital information.  Now, were you even expecting a package?  And if you were, a respectable delivery service would leave a note in your front door, not ask you for personal information online.  Don't be taken!
          Recently I received an e-mail from "Apple" informing me that "my" order was placed.  Since we had experienced a similar real fraud situation involving an Apple product two years ago, I was very suspicious.  I checked our credit card account, our bank account and our iTunes account and saw no evidence of any purchase.  So I decided to ignore it rather than click on the link provided to cancel the order.  Two times that week I received additional e-mails giving me a receipt for "my order" of $103.20.  All of these looked genuine with links to use to cancel the order.  They even used the Apple symbol. But no way did I want to risk clicking on these links, even to cancel an order which I didn't place.  I finally was able to get a call through to Apple.  They informed me that these were clever phishing e-mails.  They wanted me to forward them to their fraud department because other customers were also getting them.  I did that and haven't heard anything since, although these e-mails have stopped.
          Then a few days ago I received an e-mail from my bank saying that somebody had tried to access our accounts and that as a result our accounts were now locked.  To get them open I was to click on a link that was provided and enter all my information.  I knew my bank would not handle such an attempt in this manner.  I logged into my bank account and found that it was not locked.  I wonder how many folks were victim of this clever phishing attempt.
          Who knows what will come next.  But I've learned to not reply to links on such e-mails.  I also no longer reply to links sent to me in the name of folks who are on my mailing list.  Often these names have somehow been hijacked and are sent out in their name to create harm by adding malware to your computer.
         The electronic age is great, but it has provided many new ways for crooks to make a living and we need to be very diligent and careful.  It is so easy to get caught.  Many have been victims and I hope that you never will be.  Be wise and suspicious.  Remember, there are many bad folks out there in e-space.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

The Sad, The Bad, And The Good


          These past few weeks have been filled with all sorts of situations - the good, the bad and the sad.  Life sure can be interesting and challenging at times.
          The sad is obvious - Hurricane Harvey, without a doubt!  The pictures and stories have been incredible.  I just can't begin to realize what it must be like to have to be rescued and to lose everything that you had. How would you ever exist with the masses in one of the evacuation centers?  How would you adjust to having no home or vehicle? If you had serious physical problems, such as diabetes or heart disease, how would you get along without your medicine?  How would you adjust with all of your financial records destroyed? What would you do and where would you go when the centers close?  Would your work location ever open again and, if not, how would you earn any money to live on?  So much sadness, so much distress!  The picture with this blog is not one of sharks swimming in the ocean, although that might be appropriate.  This is actually a picture of the tails of airliners at the airport.  Incredible!
          Now my parents lived through major flooding in Sunbury.  I think the water nearly reached their second floor.  What I recall are the stories of how very hard it was to clean up everything after the water went down.  The mud and damage was terrible.  Sunbury solved their flooding problems by building a wall around the city and for decades now the wall has kept the city dry.  However, there were a couple of times the water did reach the top of the walls.
         We have never faced flooding, but we do have water problems at our house createed by bad decisions made by the builder of the house.  During heavy rain we must rely on our sump pump which has left us down a few times.  We fought a difficult battle years ago when Agnes devastated parts of Lancaster County.  A few years ago we lost our electricity when we had 11 inches of rain and my wife and I spent many hours throughout the night bailing water out of our sump pump well to protect our basement.  But that was just 11 inches, not 50+ inches and the electicity was restored quickly after the rain stopped.  I just can't imagine what 50+ inches must be like and I hope I never experience anything like it.
          However, I did read one Christian blogger who thinks Harvey might have been used by God to punish America.  Now I would never go that far and say something like that, although I can readily see why God would choose to punish this nation for its many sins.
          But this is a very sad event and my prayers are for the people, workers and especially the children who have had their lives changed dramatically.
          But then there is the bad.  And that title goes to North Korea and its insane leader.  He reminds me of Hitler, but maybe even more dangerous since he has an arsenal of nuclear weapons, rockets to deliver them, and no fear of using them.  Will he draw us into nuclear war?  Unfortunately, I think that is very possible and it could even happen much sooner than anyone ever expected.  Sanctions seem to have no effect and negotiations are useless. What else can be done without going to war?  Lord, come quickly!
          As a senior citizen, I recall the days of atomic bomb drills in schools when we practiced hiding under our desks.  What good would that have really done if we were attacked?  And folks built and stocked bomb shelters.  Should we be doing that today?  Who might hit us first, North Korea or terrorists?  A very bad situation, to say the least.
         But the good news for believers is that God is still in control and these incidents might just be signs that Jesus is coming soon.  And that is good news in the midst of the bad.  So we live each day trusting Him as we travel through a land which is not our final home.  This world is not our home, we're just a passing through!  Our final, eternal home is just ahead.
          The sad, the bad and now some more good news.  We have had some very beautiful weather here in Pennsylvania the past two weeks ... cooler temperatures, low humidity and plenty of sunshine. I love it!  It is so much more comfortable than most late Augusts have been.  I recall many years starting school, without AC, and the temps already in the mid 90's when we started in the morning.  Those days were so hard to bear for both teachers and students. I doubt that the students really learned much in those conditions. I would have loved to have this year's recent weather in those days.
         And this weather also marks the start of my favorite season - Fall.  Football returns this weekend, the leaves will soon change and show their beauty, and our favorite television shows will return.  And we will enjoy each Fall day that the Lord gives us and try not to think of the Winter which will soon follow (more bad).  But God is so good - all the time - in the sad, the bad and the good times.  Thank you Lord for your presence and provision.  Enjoy the day - this is the day that the Lord has made, rejoice and be glad!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

"Life Is A B _ _ _ _, It Really Is"


          Almost everyday, for many years, I've spent time on the BlueWhite Rivals board reading all sorts of comments about Penn State football.  I find it interesting to follow all the discussions about games, prospects, players and the future.  It keeps me up to date with my favorite football team, the Penn State Nittany Lions.

          But recently I was surprised to see a comment posted there with the title "Life is a B_ _ _ _ _, it really is!"  Here is part of what the writer had to say. "I have seen countless stories of those seeking prayers for family members in need. Cancer, divorce, pets, other ailments, etc. For the most part, you never think it will happen to you .... Well, my dad texted my brother and I saying that he had stage 4 lung cancer. My wife is a pharmaceutical sales rep in Oncology and she basically gave me the grim prognosis that if it's classified at this level, it's metastasized to other organs and is terminal. ... My parents are divorced and my dad resides by himself in Ponte Vedra, FL. I guess my point is that if you hear countless other stories from others, keep in mind that a family member of yours might be next. It sounds a little morbid, but in today's world, it's a reality."
          Yes, his story is very sad, but not uncommon today.  Life can be very depressing at times.  Hard experiences can happen to any of us at any time.  And the replies which he received were not too comforting.  Most had little that was really comforting or helpful to share.  "Hang in there, it will all work out, you will make it, life goes on, etc."  But then what do you say to one who obviously doesn't know the Lord and doesn't have any hope for the future?
          I took quite a bit of time to write my reply. I prayed before I wrote. Then, I tried to share with him, in a very simple way, how the Lord can provide strength and peace when you are His child.  But I doubt that it was of any help to him.  And he is probably right, "life is  a B _ _ _ _", especially when you don't have the Lord.
          Now as a believer we do know that we are just pilgrims here.  We are traveling through this life with the knowledge that our real, perfect home is ahead.  And we have the promises of the Lord that He will never leave us or forsake us.  And we can probably testify that He never has.  But life can be tough, even for believers.  One of my favorite poems/songs written by Annie Johnson Flint hangs in our bedroom.

God hath not promised skies always blue, 
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain, 
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

God hath not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He hath not told us we shall not bear
many a burden, many a care. 

God hath not promised smooth roads and wide,
Swift, easy travel, needing no guide;
Never a mountain rocky and steep,
Never a river turbid and deep

         Yes, as believers we are also not immune to the pain of this life.  I have cried with those who have lost their spouses.  I have struggled with those who were battling cancer.  I have prayed with those who have dealt with serious family and marital problems.  I have faced death in my own family.  Just a few weeks ago my wife was critically ill.  And together we have faced and continue to face several very serious physical challenges.  Life can be so hard and draining at times.   But there is one more verse to Flint's poem which sums it all up.

But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labor, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above, 
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.

          Lord, help that our head knowledge of your promises may become our heart knowledge, experience, hope and strength as we face the trials of this life.  May we sense Your presence and Your plan and Your peace as we walk through the dark valleys of our journey here on earth, led by our Good Shepherd.
          A friend recently sent me a link to a new song.  I can't say that it is one of my favorites, but the words struck home with me. "I know You're able and I know You can save through the fire with Your mighty hand.  I know the sorrow, I know the hurt would all go away if You just said the word.  But even if You don't, My hope is You alone."  LINK

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Changes In Worship Services


          If I were to ask you what changes, if any, in today's worship services you don't care for, I am certain that I might  get several different answers.  But if you are an older church attender I would predict that your number one negative change might be the replacement of hymns with worship choruses.  I hear that complaint over and over, especially from seniors. Missing the hymns probably is one of the major reasons that over 800 folks from around the world visit my hymn blog each week.
          I admit that I do miss the hymns.  They were a very influential part of my Christian growth and the Lord often brings them back to my mind at times when I need their messages.  But I also enjoy many of the new worship choruses.  I've learned to adjust to and accept the new approach, even though I do miss the old.
          My only complaint with the choruses is that almost weekly new ones are introduced and after a few weeks they are forgotten, never to be sung again.  Think about it.  How many of the choruses sung in your church a year ago do you remember and are still sung today?  With hymns we sang them so often over the years from hymn books that they became part of our memory so that they could be recalled by the Holy Spirit in times of need.  Will that happen in the future for this generation of worshippers who now sing choruses which have a very limited life span?  That is my major complaint about the new worship music.
          But surprise, the music is not my complaint nor the theme of this blog.  My complaint is not the fault of worship leaders but the fault of worship attenders.  And it is interesting that my complaint was shared recently in a secular column in the local newspaper by a Robert Olson.  The article was "Sometimes It's Good To Seek Our Silence".
          After a discussion about the need for silence, he wrote the following. "There was a time when you could go to church and experience silence. Now, my time before the service is spent listening to myself and others catching up on the busyness that we are all part of.  In spite of numerous pleas on the part of worship leaders, the noise at the beginning of the service is almost as great as the noise at the end of the service.  It appear that many worshipers prefer noise to silence."  And to this I add, right on!
          For many years I always used the time before worship services to meditate, pray and prepare my heart for the service.  It was quiet in the sanctuary and others did the same thing. It was a key part of my worship.  But times have changed.  Now we have very noisy discussions going on about all sorts of things that could easily be left for after the service. It's almost like before a sporting event. 
          The prelude has always been important to me.  I still try to listen to it to prepare for worship, but usually it is impossible.  People stop by to chat, even when I am trying to listen to the musicians, especially my wife.  Now I know that my wife, as well as our other musicians, spend hours preparing for the prelude.  Dianne will spend many hours over several weeks to prepare for a 15 minute prelude.  But few listen and when the chatter gets louder and she tries to play louder for the few who are actually listening, the talkers just talk louder.  And that is a fact.  It is not only rude to those who have practiced and are trying to minister, but it is rude to those who are trying to listen and meditate.  One former assistant pastor told me that to him the prelude is just background music.  And I guess, for most today, that must be the case.
          But to me, starting the worship service without an adequate time of heart preparation is like an athlete being sent into the game without a chance of properly warming up.
          The older one gets the more you experience change - some good, some not so good.  And when you think a change is not so good, there isn't much that you can do but try to adapt. Becoming critical or even bitter is the wrong reaction. And I guess that I must continue to adapt to what is happening today with service preludes since few appear to be concerned about it.  And I may be the only person in the whole congregation who misses the time of prayerful meditation before the worship service.  I guess I have probably become a dinosaur among church attenders.  
          But I will go on trying to listen to the prelude - especially when my wife is playing - praying and trying to prepare my heart for the service.  And if you stop by to talk, I won't be rude. I will still try to answer and be kind to you.  But please let your conversation be important and relevant, not about sports, politics or the news.  Leave those topics for us to discuss after the service.  

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!