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, July 29, 2017

And They Keep Calling

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

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Laugh With Me

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

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

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

Saturday, July 15, 2017

What a Birthday Present!

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

Saturday, July 8, 2017


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

Saturday, July 1, 2017

You Have Rocks In Your Head!

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

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