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 29, 2017

Prayer Distractions

          As I was recently reviewing the Easter story I came upon the familiar story in Mark 14:32-40 where Jesus leaves His disciples while He goes to pray in Gethsemane.  Here is the passage from the Message. 
          "Then they came to a place which was named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, "Sit here while I pray." And He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch."  He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will."  Then He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, "Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour?  Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." Again He went away and prayed, and spoke the same words. And when He returned, He found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him."
          Now I think that over the years I have often asked myself how the disciples could have fallen asleep while Jesus prayed. Now I know they were probably exhausted and needed sleep.  The human body does have its limits.  But they were on the verge of being part of the most important event in history.  And more than that, they were with Jesus, God's Son.  Don't you think that you would be extra alert and observant?  You wouldn't want to miss a minute of what was happening.  But I guess that I have always been amazed at their reactions - especially when they fell asleep the second time.  I have always blamed them for carelessly using their precious time with Him.
         But now I have a different viewpoint.  I realize that I am no different than they were.  I am just as guilty.  I have also failed ... many, many times.
          First of all I can come into His presence at any moment and I am actually in the presence of God.  How amazing and special.  I recall that in 1984 when I went to meet President Reagan on the White House Lawn that it took me weeks get prepared for this event.  And then there were also so many security approvals that had to be done days in advance, as well as on the day of the visit.  It was not easy to get to meet and talk to the most powerful man on the earth.
          But what an amazing thing that we can come to the Creator of the universe at any moment and in any location.  And through His death and resurrection we have all the approvals we will ever need to have immediate access to Him, at any hour of the day or night
          Then, however, comes my problem - like that of His disciples.  I am ushered into His presence and begin to praise Him and thank Him.  Then I begin to ask for things and before I know it my mind has gone elsewhere or I have fallen asleep.  It is so embarrassing and it happens over and over, no how often I try to avoid it.  I might as well have been part of the group of disciples that night. We are no different.  And,  we may have even snored together.
          But I have a feeling that I am not the only one who deals with this sad and difficult problem.  Years ago I heard the well known pastor, Oswald Smith, share that he too had the same problem.  The only way he had found to overcome this was to walk and pray out loud.  At times this has also worked for me.  But it isn't always convenient to do this.  I've also found that having a written prayer list or journal helps as well, although using that is not always very spontaneous. When I pray I try to concentrate on who I am talking to, but I admit that I still often struggle with the battle of the mind and tiredness.  And I hate to admit this to others, although God does know all about my shortcomings.
          One of my favorite newer songs that, unfortunately, I seldom hear being sung anymore, reminds me of where I am when I pray, who I am talking to, my desire when I pray, and what I want to experience in my prayer life. Maybe I need to sing this more often as I prepare to meet with Him in prayer.   Meditate upon these words today.

Down at Your feet, Oh Lord
Is the most high place
In Your presence, Lord
I seek Your face, I seek your face
There is no higher calling no greater honor
Than to bow and kneel before Your throne
I'm amazed at Your glory, embraced by Your mercy
Oh Lord, I live to worship You

If you don't know this chorus or if you want to use it to supplement or introduce your prayer time, here is a link to it.      PRAYER

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!