Welcome to my blog, or should I say to the ramblings of an old man. I doubt that my ramblings are of much value, but at least I have an opportunity to share them.  So, please be kind and humor me. If nothing else of value stands out in these thoughts, I hope that you at least sense the value I place on a daily walk with the Lord.  That walk is what has provided me with motivation and a sense of purpose throughout my lifetime.  My prayer is that you, too, are experiencing this direction and joy in daily living which is available to everyone who puts his trust in Christ.  So, thanks again for joining me.  Please don't go without leaving some comments here so I can get to know you better as our paths intersect today in this blog.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Changes In Worship Services

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

Saturday, August 12, 2017

You Can Minister

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

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Political Thoughts

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

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

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