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, April 22, 2017


          One of the major news stories over the past several weeks has been the failed attempt to approve a new national plan to replace Obamacare.  No matter what you think about this process, all of us are caught up one way or another in the many problems associated with healthcare.  For many it is a very expensive journey.  For some it has been a growing problem of finding doctors and enduring long waits for appointments.

          Unfortunately, in the past two years I've had more experience with these problems than I ever dreamed that I would.  In the first three months of 2017 alone I had 16 doctor appointments, four dentist appointments, a visit to the ER, a Spect Bone Scan, a cat scan, and numerous blood tests, treatments, and trips to the pharmacy.  And without answers, there are many more of these to come.
          Recently my wife and I discussed the many changes that we have seen in health care over seven decades.  Now I don't recall much about going to the doctor until I was probably about seven.  I do know that when I was four I had my tonsils out - in a doctor's office - in Bethlehem.  All that I remember about that was the terrible smell of the either and at times I wish I could forget that. Now I can't imagine any doctor today who would do that surgery in his office.  And why in Bethlehem?  I really don't know - maybe the doctor went to the church where my grandfather was pastor.  I wish that I would have asked my parents more about that experience.
          I do know that back then doctors did make house calls.  I can remember the doctor coming to visit my sister when we lived in Lititz.  My wife recalls many doctor home visits after she broke her leg in Elizabethtown.  Today the closest thing to a home visit might be a telephone call or a contact through their portal.  However, one doctor told me that he doesn't like to do this because he doesn't get paid for such a service. 
          Of course, today there are urgent care facilities and emergency rooms.  I've never yet used the urgent care places but if you go to the ER, be prepared to spend hours there.
          And speaking of hours, one of the memories we have is usually waiting many hours in the doctor's waiting room just to see the doctor.  It wasn't until we began to go to Dr. Bryson, in 1963, that we saw a doctor who had appointments.  Prior to that you just went to his office, signed a list, and then waited for your turn.  Sometimes that meant hours of waiting and that was terrible when you were really ill or had a sick child.  Now you need an appointment  and sometimes you still sit and wait to be seen.  Fortunately there are some who do run on time.  But sometimes just getting an appointment can be an adventure.  I have often had to wait several months to see a specialist.
          And specialists are also something that has changed.  In our younger days the family doctor seemed to care for most of our needs.  I guess there were specialists, I just don't recall ever needing them. Now there are specialists for almost everything.  In fact, between my wife and I, there are currently 15 different specialists who care for our various needs.  And in some specialty areas there aren't enough of them which means you wait even longer to get an appointment.
         Specialists are also causing another problem.  They make more money than family doctors, so fewer medical students are going into family medicine.  As a result there is a growing shortage of family doctors and as older ones begin to retire there are not replacements available to hire.  The practice that we go to has three experienced good doctors retiring.
          HIPPA has also created changes.  Gone are the days when doctors could freely share information with family members.  If parents don't list their children on the HIPPA policy form with each doctor, the children will not be given vital information about their parents when they may need it.  This could create a serious problem.  Of course that does eliminate some of the unfortunate things that happened before HIPPA.  Actually, our doctor informed my father-in-law that my wife was pregnant before he told us.  That is how we learned about it.
          With the electronic age, portals have become required and I like that.  We can now review test results and vitals, keep track of appointments, review reports of our visits and recommendations, and even communicate with our doctors through these portals.  However, because of the lack of standardization, I presently have five portals and my wife has four.
          Well times are changing and who knows what changes we'll see in the next decade. Actually we just heard that our family practice has been bought out by a large area hospital.  That will create additional changes, including a few of our best family doctors deciding to retire early. I imagine we will see more family practices bought out by the hospitals, more specialists, more use of technology, longer waits for appointments and treatment, more retirements of experienced doctors, more paperwork and regulations for offices and, of course, higher costs for us.  The day of the family doctor who knew all about you and your family, provided care and medicine from his office or a home visit, and gave individual attention to your needs, is gone.  We really are becoming just numbers in an expanding complex of medical "care".
          But what can one do or say.  We need the medical profession and just have to adjust to the changes.  And we need to remember that no matter what really happens with the profession, our final care is really in the hands of the Great Physician.  And He does care for us.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

One Solitary Life

He was born in an obscure village, 

The child of a peasant woman. 

He grew up in another obscure village 
Where He worked in a carpenter shop, 
Until He was thirty when public opinion turned against Him.

He never wrote a book. 
He never held an office.
He never went to college. 
He never visited a big city. 
He never travelled more than two hundred miles 
From the place where He was born. 
He did none of the things 
Usually associated with greatness. 
He had no credentials but himself.

He was only thirty three.

His friends ran away. 
One of them denied him. 
He was turned over to his enemies 
And went through the mockery of a trial. 
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. 
While dying, His executioners gambled for His clothing, 
The only property He had on earth. 

When He was dead 
He was laid in a borrowed grave 
Through the pity of a friend. 

Nineteen centuries have come and gone 
And today Jesus is the central figure of the human race 
And the leader of mankind's progress. 
All the armies that have ever marched, 
All the navies that have ever sailed, 
All the parliaments that have ever sat, 
All the kings that ever reigned put together, 
Have not affected the life of mankind on earth 
As powerfully as that one solitary life. 

Dr James Allan Francis © 1926.

May you and your family have a glorious Easter season as you contemplate the price that was paid for us on the first Good Friday, the joy and victory that was provided for us on that first Easter Day, and the glorious hope that we have for the future because of what Jesus Christ has done for us.  
He is risen!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Grand Prix

          On April 19 we will hold our annual Awana Grand Prix in which our clubbers make cars from blocks of wood.  They then enter them for design trophies and also race them on our large aluminum track for speed trophies.  It is an exciting night and our final big night of the season.  The Grand Prix is very much like the Pinewood Derby that scouts feature.
          Now one of our rules is that while a parent or friend may help the clubber build the car, the clubber must do at least 50% of the work.  But this rule is hard to enforce and we must hope that it is honored.  And when you see some of the cars you unfortunately get a very strong feeling that it isn't always observed.  And that is so sad and disappointing, but there really isn't anyway to disqualify a person when they claim they followed the rule.
         With that problem in mind, I recently came upon a story about a similar situation in a Pinewood Derby.  Now I have no idea if it really is true, but it is interesting, especially for anyone involved in Awana.  It was written by a Peggy Porter.  Here it is with the title "Simple Prayer".
          My son Gilbert was eight years old and had been in Cub Scouts only a short time.  During one of his meetings he was handed a sheet of paper, a block of wood and four tires and told to return home and give all to his "dad".  That was not an easy task for Gilbert to do.  Dad was not receptive to doing things with his son.  But Gilbert tried.  Dad read the paper and scoffed at the idea of making a pinewood derby car with his young, eager son.  The block of wood remained untouched as the weeks passed.
         Finally, as his mom, I stepped in to see if I could figure this all out.  The project began.  Having no carpentry skills, I decided it would be best if I simply read the directions and let Gilbert do the work.  And he did.  I read aloud the measurements, and the rules of what we could do and what we couldn't do.   Within days his block of wood was turning into a pinewood derby car.  It was a little lopsided, but looking great (at least through the eyes of a mom).  Gilbert had not seen any of the other kids cars and was feeling pretty proud of his "Blue Lightning"  - the pride that comes with knowing you did something on your own.
         Then the big night came.  With his blue pinewood derby in his hand and pride in his heart we headed to the big race.  Once there my little one's pride turned to humility.  Gilbert's car was obviously the only car made entirely on his own.  All the other cars were a father-son partnership, with cool paint jobs and sleek body styles made for speed.   A few of the boys giggled as they looked at Gilbert's, lopsided, wobbly, unattractive vehicle.  To add to the humility, Gilbert was the only boy without a man at his side.  A couple of the boys who were from single parent homes at least had an uncle or grandfather by their side. Gilbert had "mom."
         As the race began it was done in elimination fashion.  You kept racing as long as you were the winner.  One by one the cars raced down the finely sanded ramp.  Finally it was between Gilbert and the sleekest, fastest looking car there.   As the last race was about to begin, my wide eyed, shy eight year old asked if they could stop the race for a minute, because he wanted to pray.  The race stopped. Gilbert hit his knees clutching his funny looking block of wood between his hands.  With a wrinkled brow he set to converse with his Father.  He prayed in earnest for a very long minute and a half. Then he stood, smile on his face and announced, "Okay, I am ready."
          As the crowd cheered, a other boy named Tommy stood with his father as their car sped down the ramp.  Gilbert stood with his Father in his heart and watched his block of wood wobble down the ramp with surprisingly great speed and rush over the finish line a fraction of a second before Tommy's car.  Gilbert leaped into the air with a loud "Thank you" as the crowd roared in approval.  The Scout Master came up to Gilbert with microphone in hand and asked the obvious question, "So you prayed to win, huh, Gilbert?" To which my young son answered, "Oh, no sir.  That wouldn't be fair to ask God to help you beat someone else.  I just asked Him to make it so I don't cry when I lose."
         Children seem to have a wisdom far beyond us.  Gilbert didn't ask God to win the race, he didn't ask God to fix the outcome, Gilbert asked God to give him strength in the outcome.  When Gilbert first saw the other cars he didn't cry out to God, "No fair, they had a fathers help".  No, he went to his Father for strength.  Perhaps we spend too much of our prayer time asking God to rig the race, to make us number one, or too much time asking God to remove us from the struggle, when we should be seeking God's strength to get through the struggle.  "I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:13
         Gilbert's simple prayer spoke volumes to those present that night. He never doubted that God would indeed answer his request.  He didn't pray to win and thus hurt someone else. He prayed that God supply the grace to lose with dignity.  Gilbert, by his stopping the race to speak to his Father, also showed the crowd that he wasn't there without a "dad", but that His Father was most definitely there with him.
          Yes, Gilbert walked away a winner that night, with his Father at his side.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Could of ... should of

          I am so thankful that as I look back over my life that I don't have any serious regrets.  Through God's grace, His provision and His faithfulness, I have experienced His blessing and guidance over the years.  He has provided all that I have needed and even more.  I have had a good life.

          But I wanted to clarify that fact before I share today's blog. As probably is the case with each of us, there are some things that I could have done better or at least differently.  But please understand, I am not complaining.  
          For example, I wish that I had done more to thank my parents for all the sacrifices they made to provide for me.  They lived through very difficult times and circumstances when I was growing up, and now, after raising my sons, I realize more than ever what they did for me.  Hopefully I treated them with love and respect, but I wish now that I could thank them even more.
         I also wish that I had visited them and my in-laws more often as they grew older.  I now realize how older parents value visits from their children and grandchildren. They make our day and we look forward to them. After the deaths of my mother and mother-in-law, we tried to visit our dads regularly.  But we could have and should have done more.
         I wish that I had spent more time with my brother during his 15 year battle with cancer.  He endured so much pain but yet he was always so positive and caring for others.  His Christian life put mine to shame.  I guess I never thought that the Lord would take him home at such a young age and now I wish that I could talk to him again.  He always encouraged me.
           I wish that I could thank my seventh and eighth grade English teacher, Miss Enck, for all that she taught me about English and writing.  You never dared to go to her class unprepared.  She was tough, but fair and she had high expectations. I learned more from her in two years than from all my other English teachers combined.  But I never thanked her.
          I also wish that I could thank my college math prof, Dr. Robinson.  Not only did he teach me to enjoy math, but he encouraged me to become a teacher and his advice helped me enter a 39 year teaching career that I thoroughly enjoyed.
         I wish that I had taken Spanish.  Instead I spent years "learning" Latin, French and German and today I can only remember a phrase or two from those languages.  That was wasted time.  If I had learned Spanish I could communicate with so many folks who now are part of our community.  That would have been much more practical.
         I also wish that I had continued my piano and trombone lessons so that I could play those now that I have time to do so in my retirement years.  But we never owned a good piano when I was growing up and it wasn't much fun to play the old one that was in our basement.  I did play the trombone in the high school band for six years but didn't have much incentive to play it after graduation.  Then I gave it to my grandson.  Now I think I might enjoy it once again, but probably no longer have enough "wind" to do so.  I also wish that I had learned to play the cello and baritone.
         I wish that I had spent more time talking to my parents, grandparents and other relatives about their lives and especially their childhood days.  The history and their experiences are now of real interest to me, but most of these details are now lost and gone for good.
          I wish that my parents would have had enough money to have my buck teeth straightened.  My problem isn't obvious to many, but I have a terrible time biting some things, like onions, and at times that can be embarrassing.  I could have had it taken care of when I was an adult, but then I had sons who needed to have their teeth taken care of and that was a greater need.
        And I wish that I had spent more time with them when they were growing up.  It is amazing how time flies and those years are gone so quickly.  I spent many hours working extra jobs to pay our bills, but that took time away from them. Maybe I should have done more with them.
          I wish that I still had my extensive baseball card collection which now would be very valuable. I had all sorts of complete sets spanning many years and many types.  I was a serious collector growing up.  Unfortunately, it all "disappeared" from my parent's attic and is now only a memory.
          I wish that I had more knowledge and training in computers.  I also wish that I had had access to all the technology that is now available when I was teaching.  As a teacher I was able to keep up with things and was one of the first to use graphing calculators in my classes.  I also purchased and established the first computer lab in Lancaster County.  But then I was able to attend and even lead training and inservice sessions which are no longer available to me.  Losing that access for 15 years is like a lifetime with technology. And the recent explosion of technology makes it very difficult for a "senior mind" like mine to keep up with technology without help, money and access.
          And finally, I wish that I had listened to my dad over 40 years ago when he told me that one day I would regret planting all the pine trees and bushes that I did when we bought our house with its "bare" yard.  Then we planted dozens of little seedlings which we purchased for just ten cents.  Today many of these "seedlings" are now well over 60 feet tall and have already cost us thousands of dollars to have them trimmed or removed.  Dad was right.
          I guess we all could say ... could of, should of ... about many things in our lives. But I'm not complaining.  God has been so good.  I have had a good life and I thank Him for my many, many blessings.  Have a good week!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Matthew 22: 8-11

          It is always so interesting to see how scripture, though written centuries ago, is so relevant to situations today.  And when reading passages you've read many times before, the Holy Spirit points out a truth that is relevant to a current issue you are facing.  Once again, recently, this was the case for me as my daily reading was Matthew 22: 8 - 14
          8 "Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.' 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.  11 "But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, 'How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?' The man was speechless.  13 "Then the king told the attendants, 'Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'   14 "For many are invited, but few are chosen."
          To me this parable is a reminder that not every person who claims to be a Christian really is one.  They may act like they are, use religious vocabulary, and fool many believers, but they will not enter heaven's gates because they haven't been born by the Spirit.
          Have you ever wondered how many of the people who sit in your worship services are really born again?  What about the members of your praise team, your ushers, your church employees and maybe even your deacons and elders?  Being a church attender or leader does not mean that you are a born again member of the real church.  People attend church for many reasons.  They like the music, they enjoy the people, it makes them feel good, it sets a good example to others, they enjoy the atmosphere.  And they may pick up the vocabulary and even use it.   But they may not have the "wedding clothes".  And their destination is hell, a topic we don't talk much about today.  They will be eternally "speechless" and "in darkness" with "weeping and gnashing of teeth".  So very sad.
          This scripture and reminder hit home for me as I thought about the many experiences that I had during the recent rugged presidential election.  A number of my Facebook friends, including some who grew up in evangelical churches, continued to post articles from liberal bloggers which condemned statements supposedly made by so called born again people.  Many of these statements were really off base and based on these the bloggers ripped evangelicals.  The statements certainly didn't show any evidence of coming from actual true believers, even though they may have called themselves "Christian".  As a result, these liberal bloggers, part of the "Not My President" movement, also became members of the "Not My Jesus" movement.  And their conclusions, based on these sad statements,  condemned all Christians and evangelical churches.  They wrongly assumed that these "spokesmen" represented true believers, which they didn't.  And I must admit, at times their wrong conclusions really hurt.
          Unfortunately, today it is easy to call yourself a Christian and speak as though you are one.  After all, if you are a conservative and live in America, you must be a Christian. I guess that is what the term Christian has come to mean in today's society.  And people incorrectly believe what is being said as being representative of all true believers, what they stand for, and for what the Bible says.  As we approach the end times, this will become a much bigger problem as deception increases and more discernment is needed.
          Now as I read those stinging Facebook postings, my natural desire was to post replies and try to defend the true Christian faith.  But I chose not to fight that battle in the heat of the presidential election when opinions were so strong and alternative viewpoints, which often included the truth, were interpreted as being offensive and usually not even considered.  However, I would have liked to ask some of my friends how they could have grown up in a solid evangelical church and now accept these claims as coming from true believers.  Of course, this passage from Matthew 22 probably answers that question.
          I imagine that one day when we are in heaven we may be amazed at who is there and who isn't.  Calling yourself a Christian and "playing" the game doesn't make you born again.  Jesus is the only way to heaven.  And only the Lord knows our heart.
         So I will continue to pray for these friends as well as for the people who serve me at church or sit around me during worship services.  Only the Lord knows their hearts and whether they are part of the true Church. My prayer is that if they aren't, that they will make that decision before it is too late.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

March 18, 1958 - 59 Years Ago

My home - March, 1958
        It was Saturday, March 18, 1958 - 59 years ago today.  I was excited because my high school choir director was taking me and a classmate of mine to Harrisburg to hear the concert of the district high school choir.  At that time beither of us knew that the following year, our senior year,  both of us would audition and be named to the choir.
         What we also didn't know was that an unexpected snow storm was about to hit.  The morning weather forecast made no mention of snow, except for the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal which did call for a few snow flurries.  But by late afternoon a light rain began to change into big wet snowflakes.  I don't recall these huge flakes, but one report said that some of them were two inches in diameter.  And the snow fell for over 28 hours and had a huge impact on the region. While only 13" of heavy wet snow accumulated in Lancaster city, 2 to 3 feet of snow fell across the higher terrain of northern and eastern Lancaster county, including Lititz. About 30" fell in the Ephrata/Adamstown area and an astounding 50" was measured at the Morgantown exchange of the PA Turnpike.
          In Harrisburg we first stopped for a brief visit with our choir director's mother and then we headed for the concert.  When the concert ended we were surprised to find that several inches of snow had fallen and we began our trip home to Lititz through heavy snow.  I don't remember how long that trip took, but it was memorable.  Numerous times we had to push our car as well as cars that were stuck on the highway blocking our way.  At times the highway was impossible to see.  But thankfully some how we finally got home.  It was a scary trip that I will never forget.  Later, after becoming a teacher myself, I began to realize what a difficult experience it must have been for our director to transport two of his students through that dangerous experience that night.  I hope that I thanked him.
          But that wasn't the end of the experience.  Under the weight of the wet snow, it didn't take long for trees to start snapping. Wide spread power outages took many days to restore and even the PA Turnpike was closed for a number of days. Drivers were stranded on the Turnpike. Even the trains of the Pennsylvania Railroad capitulated that last full day of winter. There was no service at all between New York and Washington after a power failure at Havre de Grace. Six passenger trains were stranded there.
          By March 20, the newspaper was calling it a "sneak storm" that left 75,000 homes without electricity, with "no estimate of restoration."  Meteorologists now suspect that this storm was a powerful "nor'easter" that blew up the Atlantic coast.  Milder temperatures at the shoreline meant that larger accumulations came inland.  Philadelphia and New York City each got 11 inches.
          The storm cut off all access to Lititz for over a week.  Huge drifts closed the Lititz Pike (Route 501) and all the smaller roads into town.  There were pictures of drifts as high as the telephone poles near the Lititz Airport. Half of Lititz lost electricity.  Fortunately our half of town retained power.  My friend actually stayed at our house for several days because his parents had no power or heat at their home. Shrinking supplies of necessities also created a problem for borough residents.  Several days later, a train was finally able to get through the drifts to deliver bread, eggs and milk to the residents.
          As I recall this experience, I can't help but be thankful for the Lord's protection, especially on that dangerous trip home.  
          But I also recall how times have changed things.  Today we have instant weather updates available on television, radio, smartphones and the internet.  None of that existed in 1958.  And today we have huge modern plows and blowers to open the highways and we have workers trained to deal with these situations.  But, unfortunately, drifting and loss of electricity are still dangers to deal with.
         And so when people think winter is over when we hit March, my wife and I often reply, "We remember 1958", and we do!
          As I was doing some research for this blog I came upon an interesting video of the "Storm of 1958".  Here is a link in case you are interested.   1958.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

To Go Or Not To Go?

          There are some difficult decisions that we must suddenly make during our lives.  One that I have had to make several times is should I go to the emergency room for a health concern.  I faced this again a few days ago when a new physical problem was creating pain. I considered going to our family practice where I would be seen in a very short time.  But I knew that with the problem I had that they would no doubt send me some place for additional tests.  Then I would need to wait a day or two for the diagnosis and any needed treatment.
         On the other hand, while it would take much more time, going to the ER would provide the needed tests and diagnosis and, if even needed, admittance to the hospital.  So, very reluctantly we headed to the hospital's ER.
          Well the first problem developed when there were no parking spaces left for ER patients - all were taken.  So we were sent to the main parking garage where we had to wind our way to the roof - level 5 - to find one of the few remaining open spaces.  That parking was on the opposite side of the hospital from where the ER was located.  So we had to go down to the basement and walk through the entire hospital to get to the ER.  Parking and walking time - 30 minutes.  I'm glad I wasn't having a heart problem.  Oh yes, three other groups of patients that were headed to the ER parked with us, but they were able to walk faster and checked in minutes before us.  That meant we were now four slots behind the others who were waiting to be seen.
          We checked in and were surprised and encouraged at how empty the waiting room was at that time.  Then we sat and waited for another 20 minutes until we were called to have my blood pressure checked and my medicine list updated.  Then back to the waiting room, this time to sit for 25 more minutes before having some blood and urine tests done.  Then back again for another 50 minute wait until they came to take me back to wait for a doctor.
          As they pushed me back to a room, we were shocked at how full they really were. People were not only in the rooms but in the hallways.  I guess this is why we had to wait so long.  Fortunately, I was at least given a room where we had some privacy.  There a nurse helped me settle in and hooked me up to monitors.  We waited awhile for a doctor to appear and when he did, he reviewed what  my tests had showed, asked a number of questions, shared what he thought they would do (much of which for some reason didn't happen), and then he left.  I would see him briefly one more time before we were discharged.
          As a diabetic who hadn't eaten since breakfast, I asked three different folks to check on my sugar, but to the best of my knowledge none of them did.  One nurse said she could get something for me to eat or drink, but she never did.  When I finally got home I found that my count was very low and I needed something immediately to eat.
          I was expecting, and maybe even hoping for, more tests.  But based on what they saw on my blood and urine tests, they diagnosed a very severe urinary tract infection and gave me an IV of an antibiotic.  Ironically, seven days earlier I had a urine test to check for an infection at my family doctor's practice, and they saw no signs of an infection.  However, the ER also did find some signs of other potentially serious problems and asked that my family doctor follow up on these. 
          So about six hours after leaving our house, we arrived back home - still with pain and discomfort - but with some meds to try and deal with the infection while they waited for the results of a culture which had to be sent away to be examined.  Incidentally, the ER called me Saturday evening to tell me that the culture indicated that I was given the wrong medicine.  I was able to find a pharmacy Sunday morning where I could obtain and begin a different med.
          Now I never know when to go to the ER with a problem.  You need to expect spending a big portion of your time there just waiting and today they were apparently very busy.  Normally parking isn't such a horrendous problem.  Most of the people there were kind and caring. However, the girl who took my blood did a very poor job and I don't usually mind having that done. Now would I have gotten the same diagnosis and meds if I had saved five hours by going to my family doctor?  Probably, except for the IV.  Oh well, I didn't have any serious plans for the day and it gave me another memory as well as something to write about.
          The way these past two years have gone for me physically, I am beginning to realize that the Lord must have many more lessons for me to learn before He calls me home.  So I guess I need to be more patient and be a better student in His schoolhouse.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Do We Believe?

          In a small Midwestern conservative town, a business owner began to construct a building for a new bar. A local fundamental church started a campaign to block the bar from opening with petitions and prayers. Work progressed, however, right up until the week before opening, when a lightning strike hit the bar and it burned to the ground.
          The church folks were rather smug in their outlook after that, until the bar owner sued the church on the grounds that the church was ultimately responsible for the demise of his building, either through direct or indirect actions or means.
          In its reply to the court, the church vehemently denied all responsibility or any connection to the building's demise.
          As the case made its way into court, the judge looked over the paperwork at the hearing and commented, "I don't know how I'm going to decide this, but as it appears from the paperwork, we have a bar owner who believes in the power of prayer, and an entire church congregation that doesn't!"
          While this story is most likely fiction, it does remind me of a similar true story shared in the book of Acts.  Peter was in prison and the believers were gathered in a home praying earnestly for his release.   And God did a miracle and sent an angel to wake him from sleep and release him from prison.  Peter didn't even really understand what had happened until he felt the cold night air on his face.  It was a miracle, an answer to prayer.
          When the angel left, Peter headed to the house of Mary, the mother of John, where many people were gathered praying.  He knocked at the outer gate and the servant girl, Rhoda came to answer the knock.  When she recognized Peter's voice she was so overjoyed that she forgot to open the gate, leaving Peter standing outside.  She ran to the folks inside and called out that Peter was standing at the gate.  But the folks told her that she was out of her mind and that it must be an angel.  But Peter kept knocking and the Bible says that when they opened the door and saw him - they were amazed!
         It is interesting how these folks were praying for a miracle and Peter's release, but when God answered they were amazed and at first didn't even want to accept the answer to their prayers.
          But are we really any different than these folks?   How often do we pray and not really expect an answer?  Are we amazed when God answers?   I must say at times I am just as guilty as these folks were.  
          And probably I am not the only one that is guilty.  I think that one of the biggest failings of the church today is that we do not exercise the power of prayer despite the many promises given to us about prayer.  Few today are real prayer warriors.
          Not only is prayer no longer an important part of our services, but even today's church music seldom mentions prayer.  There are so many great hymns that we once sang that reminded us of the power of prayer and the importance of it in our spiritual lives.  I close with the words of one of these great hymns that I have not heard sung in years.

1.     Fear not, little flock, from the cross to the throne,
From death into life He went for His own;
All power in earth, all power above,
Is given to Him for the flock of His love.
Only believe, only believe;
All things are possible, only believe;
Only believe, only believe;
All things are possible, only believe.

2.     Fear not, little flock, He goeth ahead,
Your Shepherd selecteth the path you must tread;
The waters of Marah He'll sweeten for thee,
He drank all the bitter in Gethsemane.

3.     Fear not, little flock, whatever your lot,
He enters all rooms, "the doors being shut,"
He never forsakes; He never is gone,
So count on His presence in darkness and dawn.

So how is your prayer life?   How is your faith?

Saturday, February 25, 2017

It's So Much Fun ... I Guess!

          Slide rules, logarithms, party lines, maps, AM radio ... that was the "technology" of my childhood.  Today most folks don't even know what those things were, except maybe AM radio.  But how things have changed in my lifetime.  Today almost everyone uses computers, smart phones, ipads, bluetooth, apps, texting, GPS's, Netflex and much technology that I don't even understand ... or need or want.         
          Now I am still in the early technology phase - computers, cell phones, e-mails.  I don't have a smart phone, as much as it might be convenient to have one.  Living on a fixed retirement income I simply can't afford one in my budget, although someday I may be forced to give something up - like food - to get one.  My cell phone at $30 a month is presently sufficient. However, It does bother me that folks today are so addicted to texting and playing games on their phones. The phones control their lives.  And I really do get upset when I see people chatting and texting while driving.  That is not only very inconsiderate, but actually very dangerous.
          Now I do spend much time on the internet and using e-mail.  Both are real timesavers for me.  And, as I found out the last few weeks, my life is really tied into my computer.  I use it for all my records, my finances and much of my purchasing.  I also use it for church and Awana records and information.  It contains my mailing lists.  I use it to do my taxes. I operate a website and two blogs. I am amazed at how much of my life is contained on my harddrive.  This became very evident to me the last few weeks.
         For a few months I have been having a problem with occasional crashing of my computer.  But every time it happened, I was able to get right back on again - Inconvenient, but nothing lost.  I went to the Apple Genius Bar at Park City for help.  In the past they have been very helpful with problems, but this time the technician didn't even want to run any tests. He just wanted me to buy a new computer.  But a new computer would create a real problem because of the expensive software that I use that would not work on the newer operating systems.  I talked to a few other people about the problem but didn't receive any solutions, so I just lived with the crashes.
         Then, several weeks ago it died - really died.  And I was in trouble.  I went back to Apple and this time a technician was very helpful. He ran some tests that should have been done by them before and said that I needed a new logic board.  And then he told me that they no longer make them so Apple couldn't help me.  But he did suggest a company near Mt. Joy that specialized in difficult computer problems.
         I headed right to their office and they agreed for about $80 to take it and run more tests.  The next day they called and told me that they couldn't fix it but that they could send it to a company in New York that often can rebuild internal parts.  $ $ $  Because I was now becoming desperate, I agreed.  I did have back-ups, but no computer to guarantee that I could even use them.  However, after much work and prayer, I was able to save most of my back-ups to my wife's computer.  So not all was lost. That was a major relief.
         Almost two weeks later my computer came back but the company in Mt. Joy called to tell me that I also needed a new harddrive.  $ $ $ $  But what could I do?  I needed the computer.  A day later I picked it up and took it home to restore my files.  But the computer wouldn't accept my data.  So back to Mt. Joy, agreeing to pay them to do it.   $ $  The next day I picked it up - it was working - took it home and once again it crashed.  Back to the company again and they tried to restore it.  This time they found that some of the data was corrupted but they couldn't find which files were corrupted and that prevented loading my back-ups.  We were stumped again.  Then that night I came up with the idea - actually the Lord answered my prayer - that maybe they could use my wife's hard drive and copy it to my computer.  They agreed - they did it - it worked.  And I am now using it to write this blog, update all my files and begin to file my income tax.
          Computers are great - when they work.  But remember to always back up your data - that is the only chance you have to "get your life back" when your computer crashes.  And pray that your back-ups don't get corrupted.
          I won't take time to share the other events of this week .. three root canals ... a new pump for our well ... several doctor visits.  After all, it is only money, and God is good, all the time. He has provided all that we need.  Now if I only owned an iPhone, I could text that to everyone!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

To God Be The Glory

         I have always enjoyed writing.  I may not have ever been very good at doing it, but I've always enjoyed it.  For over six decades I have had many opportunities to do so, mostly for newspapers such as the Lititz Record Express, the Sunbury Daily Item, the Lancaster Sunday News and the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal.  And for years I wrote promotional pieces for the Penn Manor School District.
         I've also always wanted to write a book, but never have found a good topic.  However, I once did have a chance to be a consultant for a Geometry textbook published by Addison Wesley.  I also did editing work for Books in Print and I spent many years writing math questions for various state and national testing organizations.
          So a few years into retirement I decided to try writing a blog for the internet.  In September of 2008 I launched Barry's Blog, this weekly posting on all sorts of stupid topics.  I still do this each Saturday but it has never grown.  Over the years I have only had about 25,000 hits, usually about 40 a week.  It has never been too exciting to others - just like this one - and I am considering giving it up.
          However, in October of 2008, I decided to combine my desire to write with my interest in music and I began a weekly hymn blog.  Never did I anticipate how this would be received.  It quickly turned into a real ministry. I am surpassing 200,000 hits.  While I generally now have abut 700 hits a week, a few weeks ago I actually had over 1,000 in one week.  I am amazed and humbled.
          While the majority of my readers are from all over the United States, they have come from all over the world.  The second biggest total - 24,948 hits - have come from Russia. Other countries in descending order are the United Kingdom, Canada, the Philippines, Australia, France, Germany, Ukraine, South Korea and, are you ready for this?  The United Arab Emirates!    Others have come from Australia, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Brazil, South Korea and Spain.  And their could be others.
          Some of the readers leave comments. Ones like this make me rejoice that the blessings are spreading beyond the blog. "We sing hymns at the retirement home where I minister. The stories behind the hymns are sermon enough, and lead to teaching and resulting prayer. The Holy Spirit is using your hymn stories to minister to the elderly residents, that they may finish their race STRONG! Thank you! on O THAT WILL BE GLORY FOR ME" 
          And some readers have even shown a personal interest in me, even more than most folks that I come into contact with in my daily activities.  "Thank you for sharing one more! I check your blog every Sunday, and since you never missed the weekly hymn, I became a little worried about last Sunday missing and prayed for you during the week!Wishing you the best, A reader from Brazil." (Note, that week I was in the hospital and in need of prayer.)
          Then this past week I received a telephone call from one of my readers in the state of Washington.  He called to tell me that Paul White, composer of Jesus, Wonderful Lord, was his uncle.  He told me all about his uncle's life as well as many of his relatives, some of which are actually attending college a few blocks from my home.  It was a very interesting surprise call and a nice connection with a brother in the Lord on the opposite coast. 

          To date I have written about almost 450 different Gospel songs.  Now I don't have a good way to accurately know which have had the biggest impact on my readers, but their are some statistics which indicate that the following have received greater interest than others.  "I Shall Know Him", "What a Day That Will Be", "Peace, Peace, Wonderful Peace",  "No One Ever Cared For Me Like Jesus", "Until Then", "He Giveth More Grace", "Holy Spirit Breathe On Me", "Master The Tempest Is Raging", "All That Thrills My Soul Is Jesus", and very surprisingly, "In This Very Room".  Incidentally, if you'd like to read any of these, they can probably be found by doing a google search.  I've had enough hits now that they generally show up when doing such a search.
          Lord willing, I will try to continue this ministry as long as I am able.  It has become much more difficult since it is becoming harder to find Gospel songs that are correct theologically that haven't already been written about in my blog.  It is also very hard to find videos of many of these, especially the old ones.
         The other challenge is that so many of the very best hymns were covered in the early years and, as my readership has grown, these newer folks have never seen them.  So I've started a new feature once a month called Timeless Hymns where I feature again one of those hymns that are extra special.
          Now, like many of my blogs, I have probably bored you with all these details about what I have done. I didn't want to draw attention to what I have done but to enlist you as a partner in this ministry. My hope is that you will recognize what God has been doing with my hymn blog and that you will pray for me and join me in praying for this outreach and the hundreds who are reached each week.  To God be the glory!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

An Orphan?

          I guess that when you are young you never think about all the changes and challenges  that you may face as you enter your senior years.  And then, wham!  You suddenly are there and you face things you never thought about.  If you haven't yet reached that stage of life, just beware - it comes quickly.
         One of the biggest changes involves your health.  Hopefully you are able to afford health insurance whose costs rise each year, especially when you are on a fixed income with no annual increases.  And I've never expected that I would have three major surgeries and two additional hospital stays in less than two years.  But I did.  And I never thought about living with health problems that confound the doctors.  Nor did I ever think about having problems walking.  But it happened anyway.
         I never really thought about days when I would struggle to take care of my property.  I did, however, think about the time when I might need to pay folks to do some of this work.  But that becomes expensive - if you can even find somebody to do it.  Because of our heart problems I have been looking for somebody I could pay to do my snow removal.  But I can't find anybody. But the repairs, upkeep and needs go on anyway. Frustrating.
          Then there is the increasing cost of living when you are on a pension that hasn't increased in 15 years and never will.  But things still increase - taxes, fuel, food, clothing, medical costs, medicines, home repairs, auto repairs and almost everything. 
          But that is enough of being negative.  I'm not really complaining.  God has been so good and has given me all that I really need. He hasn't forgotten me and He knows my needs. I have been blessed and am so much better off than so many other seniors. 
          Now I do miss my mother and father who are both with the Lord.  Mother was taken home in an auto accident 23 years ago.  Dad was taken home about this time of the year eight years ago.  After mother's death we went out to eat with Dad almost every Friday night and Sunday's after church.  I especially miss those times because of Dad's wisdom and advice.  He could repair almost anything, he was astute at financial matters,  he studied and understood the Bible, he had a wealth of practical wisdom gained through difficult life experiences, he was a wise counselor, he modeled real faith and service for the Lord, and he had a tender heart.  And I miss my times with him.  But I would not want either back to face the challenges of the world in which we now live.
          I never thought about the days when I would be an orphan, but in one sense that will happen to most of us.  As our parents age we can anticipate that day, even though we certainly don't look forward to it.
          But a few days ago I heard an old hymn that comforted me by reminding me that I am not an orphan.  I actually have a Father who holds the wealth of the world in His hands.  He has adopted me and now I am an heir to a mansion, a robe and a crown.  You see, I am a child of the King.  And as the cares and changes of growing older come, I need not fear or despair.  I am His workmanship and He holds my life in His hands.  All is really under His control.  And He is always just a prayer away with His guidance and peace and strength.  What more could I want?
          Now I don't who really reads my crazy blog, so I don't know your needs.  But I am sure that you do have needs and things that worry you.  It might not be the challenges of growing older.  But no mater what your concerns may be, maybe, if you have accepted the Lord's free gift of salvation, the words of this old hymn might be the reminder that you need today.         
1.     My Father is rich in houses and lands,

He holdeth the wealth of the world in His hands!
Of rubies and diamonds, of silver and gold,
His coffers are full, He has riches untold,

I'm a child of the King,
A child of the King.
With Jesus my Savior
I'm a child of the King.

2.     My Father's own Son, the Savior of men,
Once wandered on earth as the poorest of them;
But now He is pleading our pardon on high,
That we may be His when He comes by and by.
I'm a child of the King,
A child of the King:
With Jesus my Savior,
I'm a child of the King.

3.     I once was an outcast stranger on earth,
A sinner by choice, an alien by birth,
But I've been adopted, my name's written down,
An heir to a mansion, a robe and a crown.
I'm a child of the King,
A child of the King:
With Jesus my Savior,
I'm a child of the King.

4.     A tent or a cottage, why should I care?
They're building a palace for me over there;
Though exiled from home, yet still may I sing:
All glory to God, I'm a child of the King.
I'm a child of the King,
A child of the King:
With Jesus my Savior,
I'm a child of the King.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Snow No More, Please

          This year brings back many memories of two major events that happened about this time. a year ago.  First, we had a major snowstorm, 30+ inches if I remember correctly.  And second, a couple of days later, I ended up having five by-passes done.  I especially remember how the Lord handled these very unexpected events for us.
          You might remember my blog which described our adventures with snow removal.  I hadn't been feeling well and was scheduled for a heart cath the day after the storm.  So it wasn't safe for me to try and clear the snow.  And with her pacemaker, Dianne couldn't do that either.  But the Lord took care of it all for us
          First, our neighbor, Tom, surprised us and showed up and used our snow blower to clear a path for us to get out of our house and a path to get our car out to the road.  When Dianne tried to use the snowblower to clear the other half of the drive so we could get our second car out, another neighbor, Matt, came with his plow and did it for her.  We had never even met him before. Then the third answer came when another man, who was helping another neighbor, also plowed out our mailbox.  Now why did I even worry about all of this - the Lord had it all planned and under control.
          Now that brings us to 2017.  I  used to like snow - when I could use my snowblower and it meant a day off school.  But now neither my wife or I should be clearing it because of our heart problems.  I still  like snow, but only when it just falls on the grass and not on the streets or pavements.  And I actually hate it when ice is involved.
          And as the snow season approaches again I admit that I have become "anxious" about how we will handle it this year.  Anxious?  Worry?  Are they the same thing? But we have found nobody to help us out this year.  Folks say just pay somebody, but I can't even find somebody to pay.  Matt has moved and Tom is moving to Wisconsin.  So much any able bodied folks in our neighborhood who might be kind enough to help us.  We did have a man who was supposed to help us last season, but he usually failed to even show up.  Another area man that we talked to who does plow felt that we were too far off his route to help us and he already has too many to plow.  Another man said he might consider using his plow to help us but he first wanted to come and look at our property.  To the best of our knowledge he has never shown up to even do that.  And we are just too far away for our sons or grandchildren to help us, although we know they would be glad to do so if they lived closer.
          So what will we do?  I guess there are four possibilities.  First, we could give it a try with our heart problems and hope we survive.  Second, I guess we could develop ulcers worrying about it.  Third, we could decide to just be snowed in until days later when the snow has finally melted.  Or finally, I guess we could ...  wait ... and see how the Lord works it out this year.  Hopefully, once again, He has a plan for this.  He just hasn't shared it with us ... yet.
          In anticipation of the snow, we have run into another problem.  We purchased orange stakes to mark our driveway to guide whoever does clear it.  Last year the stakes were stolen several times.  So far this year several have been removed twice.  But fortunately, both times I found where they were thrown and have been able to put them back in.  I guess many of  today's youth have no appreciation for the problems faced by seniors like us.  I would love to find out who these vandals are and then try to get them to shovel my snow this season.  I would even pay them.  But I guess that is just wishful thinking.
         So I guess we'll just try to settle back ...  relax ...  quit worrying and see how the Lord will handle things this year.  But you probably won't hear me singing, "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!"

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Senior Encouragement

          I don't know if you are a senior, but if you aren''t you probably have relationships with seniors at home, in your neighborhood and especially in your church.  I recently read an interesting article on the internet about "Five Ways to Motivate and Encourage Seniors", written by Preston Ni in Psychology Today. It is an excerpt from his book: "How to Communicate Effectively with Seniors".  I thought that it was worth sharing with others.  So here is what Dr. Ni has to suggest.
          The post-World War II Baby Boomer Generation (born 1946-1964) is reaching their senior years in ever-growing numbers, and representing an increasingly larger segment of the population. Higher standards of living and medical advancements are extending life expectancies in many countries to well above the age of eighty.  Caring for, and having successful relationships with older adults often require unique interpersonal skills and strategies. Below are five ways to encourage and motivate older adults.

1.  Encourage Few and Manageable Goals
Primary Needs Fulfilled: Independence, Relevance.
Secondary Needs Fulfilled: Companionship, Security.
          Young people and adults in their prime are frequently reminded to set and accomplish goals. Goals can be beneficial for many older adults as well. Being goal oriented can instill motivation, a sense of purpose, and pride in accomplishment. In the cases of seniors, create few and manageable goals daily, be it doing ten stretches, completing a small craft project, or something as simple as finishing a cup of juice. Facilitate and assist along the way. Offer encouragement with each baby step, and compliment when the task is complete. Being acknowledged for completing a seemingly simple task (to us) can sometimes make a senior's day!

2.  Encourage Affirming Self-Identify

Primary Needs Fulfilled: Relevance.
Secondary Needs Fulfilled: Companionship, Emotional Security.
          "Many, many elderly have such fascinating life stories. If only someone would listen." — From the Internet
         It may be hard for some to imagine, but every older adult was at one time young, and likely full of energy, passions, ambitions, and dreams. Their younger days, if you care to ask them, were often full of adventures, romances, and many other tales from their book of life. Many, if you only care to learn, would be happy to share stories with you, show you pictures and objects, and reminisce in the glories of their past.
          If the older adult lives away from her or his own home, such as at a long-term care facility, surround the living environment of the senior with positive memory anchors such as photos, postcards, posters, artifacts, fragrances, music, movies, trophies, honors and awards, etc. Let these items increase the richness of the older adult's living environment, and serve as easy conversation topics. If you're a family member, with each visit bring one or two items which may help the older adult evoke pride or fond memories from the past. Ask questions, and listen to the tales.
          Encouraging an older adult to construct her or his biography by articulating an oral and/or written history is a wonderful form of psychological resourcing which keeps the elderly cognitively, emotionally and socially active. It enhances self-esteem, and uplifts the spirit. As you listen to the stories, ask questions to deepen the rich and vivid details of their recollections. Watch her face light up and her smile widen as she shares her tale.

3.  Encourage Technologies
Primary Needs Fulfilled: Companionship, Relevance.
Secondary Needs Fulfilled: Independence, Security.
          The internet and social networking are wonderful opportunities for older adults. More and more seniors are connecting with family and friends via technology. Family and friends, in turn, often find such connections convenient and less stressful. In addition to social benefits, on-line connections also provide regular chances for family and friends to "check in" on the seniors' physical, mental, and emotional well-being that would otherwise not be possible. Connecting on the internet does not replace the physical intimacy and emotional closeness that may come with face to face interactions. However, many older adults would feel much more alone without social networking. Studies show that social networking platforms that were once populated primarily by young people are now increasingly embraced by older adults.

4.  Encourage the Feeling of Usefulness
Primary Needs Fulfilled: Relevance, Independence.
Secondary Needs Fulfilled: Companionship, Security.
          Many cognitively active older adults want to feel a sense of usefulness, even if their physical functions are limited. Identify and introduce conversational topics or tasks where the senior can feel wanted and needed. For example:  Ask them for advice on practical as well as important life matters. Converse with them like they're mentors.  Ask for their opinions on certain decisions you need to make.    Introduce manageable projects or tasks for them to be in charge of where they'll feel a sense of accomplishment.
          (Personal note - In my opinion this is one area where most churches fail today.  Seniors and their experience are not valued or used.)

5.  Encourage Adaptive, Flexible Coping skills
Primary Needs Fulfilled: Independence, Security.
Secondary Needs Fulfilled: Relevance.
          As an older adult experiences increased cognitive and/or physical limitation, facilitate various types of coping skills to help the senior adjust with dignity. These can include:
 but workable goals as previously mentioned.
Divide and conquer: break tasks down into baby steps that are more manageable.
Assist the senior in identifying more realistic goals.
Assist the senior in selecting alternative means to accomplishing goals.
Allowing the senior to do what she's able, while helping just enough to complete a goal.