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 21, 2018

Hymns #1


          Probably the biggest church controversy in recent years is the battle between those who love hymns and those who love worship choruses.   And sometimes this has even become nasty.  People have left their churches over these differences.  There are strong opinions on both sides.

          Now I do not frequently use blogs written by others, but a recent posting on Facebook took me to blogs by Tim Challies.  He has written two very interesting blogs on what we have lost and what we have gained when we "lost" our hymns.  Unfortunately the posting in Facebook only showed the one side, what we have lost.
         So I have decided to reproduce both of his blogs.  This week we will look at what he thinks we have lost.  Next week we'll look at what he thinks we have gained.  Then you can either keep or change your opinion.  I'm not going to express mine.
         Here is what Challies wrote on March 29, 2017.

         I don't think we should go back to using hymnals. But I do think there's value in considering what we lost when, over the course of a relatively short period of time, we gave up hymnals for PowerPoint projection. Not all of us, mind you, but most of us. It's worth considering because it helpfully shows what we stand to lose when we switch from one media to another, and especially when we do so quickly and without due consideration.
         If we were to go back in time twenty or thirty years, we would find that most churches had hymnals. They had hymnals because it was the best way of providing each member of the congregation with a copy of the songs. You'd hear it in every church: "Take out your hymnal and turn to hymn 154 …" And then hymnals went the way of the dodo and we began to look instead to words projected on a screen. Here is some of what we lost along the way.
         We lost an established body of songs. Hymnals communicated that a church had an established collection of songs. This, in turn, communicated that its songs were vetted carefully and added to its repertoire only after careful consideration. After all, great songs are not written every day and their worth is proven only over time. Therefore, new hymns would be chosen carefully and added to new editions of the hymnal only occasionally. Churches would update their hymnals, and, therefore, their established body of songs, only once every ten or fifteen years.
         We lost a deep knowledge of our songs. When we removed the hymnal, we gained the ability to add new songs to our repertoire whenever we encounter one we deem worthy. And we do - we add new songs all the time. As we add new songs with greater regularity, we sing old songs with less frequency. This reduces our familiarity with our songs so that today we have far fewer of them fixed in our minds and hearts. Few congregations could sing even the greatest hymns without that PowerPoint screen.
         We lost the ability to do harmonies. Hymnody grew up at a time when instrumentation took a back seat to the voice. Hymns were most often written so they could be sung a cappella or with minimal instrumentation. For that reason, hymnals almost invariably included the music for both melody and harmonies and congregations learned to sing the parts. The loss of the hymnal and the associated rise of the worship band has reduced our ability to harmonize and, in that way, to sing to the fullest of our abilities.
         It often seems like all we want from the congregation is their enthusiasm.  We lost the ability to sing skillfully. As congregations have lost their knowledge of their songs, they have lost the ability to sing them well. We tend to compensate for our poorly - sung songs by cranking up the volume of the musical accompaniment. The loss of the voice has given rise to the gain of the amplifier. This leads to our music being dominated by a few instrumentalists and perhaps a pair of miked - up vocalists while the larger congregation plays only a meager role. In fact, it often seems like all we want from the congregation is their enthusiasm.
         We lost the ability to have the songs in our homes. Hymnals usually lived at the church, resting from Monday to Saturday in the little pockets on the back of the pews. But people also bought their own and took them home so the family could have that established body of songs there as well. Families would often sing together as part of their family worship. It is easy to imagine a family singing "It Is Well With My Soul" after eating dinner together, but almost impossible to imagine them singing, "Oceans."
         It is probably too late to go back to the hymnal. I am not at all convinced we ought to. But it is still worth considering what we lost along the way and how congregational singing has been utterly transformed by what may appear to have been a simple and practical switch in the media. That little change from book to screen changed nearly everything.

          Now to hear the other side, come back next week.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

An Extravagant Lover


         At times I come upon blogs written by others that have encouraged me or state things in better ways than I can.  I feel that some of those are worth sharing with you.  One of those, "God Is An Extravagant Lover in Your Suffering" was written by a Rick Thomas.
         When I am going through difficult times I must often remind myself of Ephesians 2:10. "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."   That verse compliments what Rick has said below.


          I need to know that my frustrated hopes and dreams do not mean that God is not in my story. Contrary to my "man-centered thinking," the good Lord is choosing to write a story that is different from the one I expected.
          If God is with you, which He is, you must understand that He is doing good things for you. Though you may not perceive His mysterious will for your life (Deuteronomy 29:29; Isaiah 55:8-9), what He is choosing to write for you will turn out for your good (Romans 8:28), His fame, and the benefit of many people. The Lord's will for you is not about knowing all the facts, but about trusting the Author of those facts.
         There are times in your life that are excruciatingly painful, and there is nothing you can do to alleviate the suffering. You cannot pray it away, manipulate it away, or wish it away. A positive mental attitude will only last a day or two, but you soon return to the pit of sorrow and anguish.
         It is in those moments that the reality of "life gone bad" settles deep into your soul, and the current circumstances begin to define who you are. It is in those moments when you need a significant realignment of the soul.
         Though the fog is not lifting and there is no anticipation it will ever rise above the trouble in your life, you must rest in the assurance that God has not abandoned you. God is working His plans into your life.
        Your journey can go no other way than the way He has predetermined for you. It is the Lord who orders your steps (Proverbs 16:9). Before you ever entered into your suffering, God was there (Jeremiah 1:5; Ephesians 1:3-10). He was working, planning, strategizing, and implementing things in such a way that would forever change you.
         He is not doing this because He is harsh, distant, or uncaring. He is doing this precisely because He is kind, with you, and loves you. The Lord's love is more extravagant than you could ever imagine. When Job reflected upon these profound things, it caused a long reflective pause.
         "But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back? What he desires, that he does. For he will complete what he appoints for me, and many such things are in his mind. Therefore I am terrified at his presence; when I consider, I am in dread of him. God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me, yet I am not silenced because of the darkness, nor because thick darkness covers my face."– Job 23:13-17
          God is in your darkness, which removes the terror. Talk to Him today, even if it is only a faint heart cry. Bear your soul to your heavenly Father. Live in the truth that He is finishing what He began in you (Philippians 1:6). God is an extravagant lover in your suffering.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

How Are You?


          One of my pet peeves is the greeting, "how are you?"  It bothers me because probably 95% of those who ask the question, usually in passing, don't really want to know.  And generally I don't want to answer them anyway.           
         During the past couple of years the Lord has given me numerous physical challenges and I don't really want to talk about them to most people.  Not only does it take too much time to give a true answer, but it makes me sound like a complainer.  And who wants to talk to a complainer?  I know I don't.  So when they stick around for a reply I generally say "I''m hanging in there", and that seems to be enough.  In fact many just answer, "Good", even though that isn't really what I meant.  And the conversation is ended.
          But I am finding that I am not the only one who feels that way.  I recently came upon a response written by a Rev. James L. Snyder.  I thought I would share his comments from his article "How am I?  Let me Tell You!"  So enjoy!  (That comment also bothers me when a waitress says that.)
          An interesting aspect to people is their proclivity toward hypocrisy. By that I mean we say one thing but we really do not mean it or it does not really apply to us personally.
          I was complaining about this to the Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage this past week.  "Why is it," I said most curiously, "people really don't mean what they say?"  She responded by saying, "I always mean what I say."   Being the kind of husband that I am, I refused to contradict her reply. Therefore, I am not referring to her in these comments. People just don't say what they mean.
         For the past month, I've been having issues with shingles and nerve pain all the way down my right arm. It's very painful and I hope it goes away soon. Let it be clear that pain and me are not friends. The sooner the pain leaves, the better it's going to be for me.
         But I digress. My condition has been a very clear focus of my life these days. After all, it's my pain that I have to live with every day.   It happened just the other day when somebody that I was passing on my way into Publix said to me, "Hi, how you doing?" Well, I thought to myself, he asked, so I begin to tell him about my condition and all of the aspects associated with it. Within a few moments I could tell he was not very much interested in how I was doing.  I continued with all of the details and then he suddenly looked at his watch and said, "That's interesting, but I am late for an appointment and I have to leave right now."
         Well, okay, but after all, he asked the question I didn't. If he wasn't interested in how I was doing, why did he ask?   See how people say things they don't really mean?  This happened to me several times with people I had never met before. They asked the question about how I was doing, and when I began telling them how I was doing, they had no real interest in how I was doing.  That rather frustrated me. How I was doing was a very important aspect of my life and sharing my pain was someone else was something I wanted to do. However, nobody was interested in my pain.
         It brought me down to a point of discouragement. I had to stay home for several days because of the condition I was in. I could not drive and so I stayed home. Then something different opened up for me.  As I was sitting there, reveling in my displeasure and discomfort the telephone rang.  I answered the phone and it was somebody trying to sell me something. They began by saying, "Hello, how are you doing today?"
         That is all I needed to hear. I began to tell him exactly how I was doing with all of the pain and discomfort I was experiencing. I went on and on even though several times he tried to interrupt my little speech. He asked and so I was telling.   Three minutes into my little speech, I heard the telephone go "click" and there was nobody on the other end of the line. I sat back in my chair and smiled rather deeply. Why did this person asked me how I was doing if he wasn't interested in it?
         It was quite an afternoon, I'll tell you that. I don't know if the word got out that I was sick and at home, but the phone rang constantly all afternoon. Everybody asked me, "Hello, how are you doing?" And, I told them how I was.   All that afternoon I dominated the conversation of every telephone solicitor that called. I never allowed them to get a word in edge wise because they asked me how I was doing and I was going to tell them.
         My wife came home from the office and saw me smiling.  "What in the world," she said as she walked towards me, "are you all smiling about?"   "All afternoon," I explained to her, "people were calling me asking me how I was. And so I spent all afternoon telling these people exactly how I was." I then chuckled. She just looked at me and then broke out laughing herself. I found out the telemarketers are not really interested in "How you are." All they're interested in is selling something I really don't need. But I enjoyed the day telling them how I was doing.
           That's the way it is with most people today. They say one thing but they really do not mean it. They do not want to know how I am doing. It is just something they politely say when they do not know what else to say.
         David understood this when he wrote, "They speak vanity every one with his neighbor: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak" (Psalm 12:2).  How often does this happen in our daily life.  Then David said this about himself, "My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding" (Psalm 49:3).
          As I was sitting in my chair nursing my pain, I came to at least one conclusion. I am not going to ask people how they are unless I really want to know how they are.

          Thank you Rev. Snyder for sharing my thoughts.
          So how are you today?

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Kitchen Memories


          Sometimes childhood memories from many years ago suddenly come back to me.  Such was the case when we recently completed a jigsaw puzzle of an old kitchen.  While it wasn't really the same, it brought back many good memories of my Mammy Wise and her kitchen which seemed to be the center of all activity in their home. Mammy and Pappy Wise lived on Tenth Street in Sunbury for many years.  Pappy was an excellent carpenter and spent much of his life building caskets at a local company.  Everyday he walked to and from work, mostly along a railroad known as the Horn Railroad.  Today that railroad is gone - a victim of "modernization". He always had a large garden to help feed the family.  Mammy was a housewife and an amazing baker - more about that later.
          My grandparents had very little in the way of earthly items but they had a loving family and their house was always full of family and visitors.  We kids used to enjoy the front porch which had a swing.  We would swing for hours and watch the traffic and people go by.  Sometimes we would swing too wildly and hit the house and that usually brought us reprimands from the adults.
          On the main floor of their house there were two "living rooms", the kitchen and a pantry.  The middle room contained a large coal stove which was used to heat the entire house.  Floor registers allowed the heat to go to the upper floor and bathroom.  That always bothered me because the register in the bathroom was right next to the toilet and you could hear all the conversations going on in the kitchen.  And, most likely in the kitchen you could also hear many of the noises from the bathroom.
          Upstairs there were three bedrooms and my brother and I always had to share the back one which was also over the kitchen.  I never liked this because there wasn't a register opening in this room and it got very cold in the winter.  Also, the room had the door to the stairs which led to the attic.  And there were times that we could be in bed and hear the mice or rats running in the attic.  I didn't have many good nights of sleep in that bedroom.
          The basement also was known for having rats and mice.  The coal bin was there. with steep steps which must have been a challenge to climb when regularly bringing up the coal for the stoves.  I don't know if they had water problems down there, but there were wooden walkways over the dirt floor which led to shelves for canned goods and some of Pappy's equipment.  I didn't spend much time down there.
          On the small back porch they kept the wringer washer and there were many mornings when we stayed there that I would get up and the women were doing the wash.  Mammy also usually had sweet peas or morning glories growing on strings on the one side of the porch.
         But, as mentioned before, there was the kitchen.  The stove was also a coal stove on which she did all of her cooking and baking.  And it was always in use.  Mammy was an amazing baker and she always had loads of cookies and pies to offer all her visitors.  Maybe that is why so many came - all the time.  We would sit around the kitchen table and enjoy her large sugar and molasses cookies.  The adults usually had a cup of coffee to dip their cookies.  Then there were the pies - apple, cherry, peach, mince meat, montgomery and a favorite of mine - raspberry-peach.  And you had to visit at Easter when Mammy made her famous easter eggs.  They were huge - maybe even four inches long - coconut, peanut butter, cherry, cream.  Today they would cost a small fortune to make or to even buy.
          And while we would chow down - maybe for hours - the adults would sit and talk and share stories.  That is a tradition that we seem to have lost today.  Nobody seems to just drop in anymore to enjoy sharing stories, friendship, and even some food.  Our lives are now too structured, too full and too busy.  I think we have really lost something with our modern conveniences and busy schedules. Those times provided some of my best memories that came back to me while we completed the puzzle. I miss those special times and family members and wish that I could now hear more of the stories from those generations which are now gone forever.
          Maybe we need to bring back the kitchen coal stove. 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Senior Observations


          This week it is back to one of my favorite topics that I actually know something about - growing older.  Now, of course, this is something that we can't avoid.  And today is the oldest you've ever been but it is also the youngest you'll ever be.  So enjoy this day while it lasts.  And get ready to experience the following observations, if you haven't already.
~ Your kids are becoming you but your grandchildren are perfect!
~ Going out is good ... Coming home is better!
~ When people say you look "Great" ...  they add "for your age!"
~ When you needed the discount, you paid full price. Now you get discounts on everything ...  movies, hotels, flights, but you're too tired to use them.
~ You forget names .... but it's OK because other people forgot they even knew you!!!
~ The 5 pounds you wanted to lose is now 15 and you have a better chance of losing your keys -- than the 15 pounds.
~ You realize you're never going to be really good at anything  ....  especially golf.
~ Your spouse is counting on you to remember things you don't remember.
~ The things you used to care to do, you no longer care to do, but you really do care that, you don't care to do them anymore.
~ Your husband sleeps better on a lounge chair with the TV blaring than he does in bed. It's called his "pre-sleep."
~ Remember when your mother said, "Wear clean underwear in case you GET in an accident"? Now you bring clean underwear in case you HAVE an accident!
~ You used to say, "I hope my kids GET married ...  Now, "I hope they STAY married!"
~ You miss the days when everything worked with just an "ON" and "OFF" switch.
~ When GOOGLE, ipod, e-mail, modem were unheard of, and a mouse was something that made you climb on a table.
~ You tend to use more 4 letter words  ...  "what? "... when? "... ???
~ Now that you can afford expensive jewelry, it's now not safe to wear it.
~ Your husband has a night out with the guys, but he's home by 9:00 P.M.  Next week it will be 8:30 p.m.
~ You read 100 pages into a book before you realize you've read it.
~ Notice everything they sell in stores is "sleeveless"?!!!
~ What used to be freckles are now liver spots.
~ Everybody whispers.
~ Now that your husband has retired  ....  you'd give anything if he'd find a job!
~ You have 3 sizes of clothes in your closet ... 2 of which you will never wear.
~   Your mail is flooded with invitations to try new hearing aides, to join AARP or their many products or to choose a new Medicare plan.
~  Your address book is filled with names that begin with Dr. and your calendar is filled with appointments to visit them.
~  You get tired of reading lists like this one because you identify with too many of them.  Am I really that old?  Where have the years gone?

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Go Ye Into All The World


          "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."   Mark 16:15.
          Now here is an interesting question for believers.  Does this command given by Jesus really mean "all the world" or are their limits on where we are to go?  For example, must it be overseas?  Or must our ministry be limited to just a Christian organization?  Could one share the gospel in a secular place, maybe even in this country?  Should we support those called to share the gospel in a mission field in secular America rather than in the traditional third world countries where folks live in poverty?  Have you ever thought about these questions?  Has this influenced your giving and prayer support?           Now I imagine that most believers would answer that it means all the world, but in practice they feel that it means overseas. Traditionally I think we have just thought of missionaries as those who left this country to minister elsewhere in the world. Unfortunately, to many it certainly doesn't include being a missionary in the United States.  Let me give a few examples to help make my point.
          Early in my teaching career the Lord closed some doors for us when I considered going overseas to teach in a Christian high school.  Instead the Lord called me to be a missionary in the public schools of this country.  And He gave me a 39 year ministry as a teacher and administrator in the Penn Manor School District.  There he allowed me to lead a Bible Club, the Berean Club, for most of those years.  Sometimes we had as many as 70 students attending this club, on school time.
          The Lord also allowed me to develop a community, student-led Baccalaureate Service when the school dropped their program.  After a decade this grew to several hundred folks who attended this annual program with about two-thirds of the graduating class attending and participating.  Since it was not sponsored by the district, we held it in the largest church in our district which gladly gave us their building to use.  I give the Lord all the credit for this as well as for the many opportunities I had to express my faith over the years.
          Now back to my main point.  Over the years I encountered much criticism from believers who felt that I was not in the Lord's will because I was working in a public school and not a Christian school.  Probably if I had gone overseas to teach as a missionary they would have accepted my call.  But many could not accept me as a missionary to one of the biggest and most important mission fields anywhere - our public schools. I have a real burden for young bright Christians who feel called to teach in our public schools.  I know they can have a great influence there, living a godly life in an ungodly environment.
         Here's another example.  I have known several missionaries who have had major problems raising their support if their place of ministry was in the United States.  And that is so difficult because it cost so much more to live and minister in the United States than it does in many countries overseas.  Do people really see the need in what used to be Christian America as being less relevant than the need in other places in the world?  Do our churches see the need to support those who labor in the many places of great need in this country?  Personally, I don't really think that in many cases that they do.  Maybe they do in word but not always in action.
          Ministering in the United States can be much more expensive than ministering in many foreign countries.  Our cost of living is much higher than many, but not all, other countries.  A missionary here has many of the same needs that we have, such as housing, food and transportation, and yet often with much less support provided.  And, unfortunately, the same can be said about the way many churches financially support their pastors.  Too many people expect much, but give little to support them.
          My oldest granddaughter has been called to minister on a college campus with DiscipleMakers.  There aren't too many places that are more in need today than a college campus.  She has already experienced this ministry by serving as an intern for a summer at Penn State.  But she has run into difficulty raising her support and is only at 48% of what is required.  And part of the problem is that many folks don't see this as a real missionary effort, especially since it isn't overseas.  Really?  How narrow minded.  Now I believe that if the Lord wants her serving Him in this way that He will somehow provide her support.  But how much easier it would be if more Christians would see this need and join her team.  But would it be easier to raise the support if she went to the jungles of Africa or to the wilds of South America?  Maybe more would join her team if she would plan to live in a jungle hut rather than in an apartment in a college town.  I don't know, but I suspect that it might.
     So in conclusion, how about evaluating your thoughts and actions concerning missionaries.   Help me pray for sharp Christians to be called to serve in the public schools of this country where they can have a real impact for the Lord.  And help me pray for folks, such as my granddaughter, who are struggling to raise support to serve in vital mission fields, even if their mission field is in this country.
         Remember, "go ye into all the world", and don't forget that the world, believe it or not, includes the United States.  People everywhere need the gospel.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Fight Is On


          Like many of you, I had a great life growing up.  I didn't fear being bullied, kidnapped or shot.  I was able to safely walk to school, play outside with friends, ride round town on my bicycle, and explore and enjoy my neighborhood.

          For several years we even  lived in downtown Lancaster, just five blocks from the square.  I walked alone to school every day.  We walked to church both night and day.  I loved to explore the stores downtown, all by myself.  I enjoyed the city and never had any fear or reason to worry about my safety.  Decades later I had the opportunity to again explore that neighborhood - during the day - and I admit that I was very uneasy about my safety.  No longer would I do that at night.
          Today we live in a completely different era.  We are threatened by terrorists and now nuclear weapons.  Almost daily there are shootings - many deliberate and even some drive-bys.  We need to be alert in malls, in schools, and even in our churches.  Brutal robberies have become more common.  Dangerous drivers on drugs, alcohol or with distractions like texting and cell phones abound and threaten our safety.  Dangers surround us and we must live with it.
           And everybody seems to have their own solutions for the problems.  Many blame the government for our problems.  And while part of the blame might lie there, politics can't solve problems of morality, especially with the godless morality that we have seen displayed in government circles.
           Now there is a major push, especially by young people, for more gun controls. I do wonder why some of these guns are necessary for anyone, but I think that limiting them by the government sets a dangerous precedent.  What will they limit next - Bibles or churches because they aren't politically correct in today's society? Seems to me that this has happened elsewhere throughout history.  And I think criminals will continue to get guns, by any means, no matter what the government does.
          How about more money spent on mental health?  Sounds good and might be needed, but until we deal with spiritual health it will have little impact on our safety, no matter how much money is poured into it.  And who will determine who is unstable?  Will Christians be labeled as unstable?  What did Hitler do to the Jews?  Think about that.  It's a slippery slope!
          What about greater security in schools?  Good idea, but not a solution.  Most schools now limit public access to buildings.  I still wonder how the shooter in Florida gained easy access to the building.  Where were their security controls?  I did see a spacial on how one school has trained their students and teachers to lock doors, hide out of the view of folks in the hall and even use turned over desks as shields.  That seemed to me to be a good tool, especially for middle and high schools.  Arming teachers?  I would never have wanted to carry a weapon in school when I was teaching and it seems to me that this could cause too many accidents and other problems.
          I did read an interesting article that said that 75% of the shooters came from one parent families, without a father.  And 42% of students today do come from one parent families.  Maybe one of the major causes of this violence is the degeneration of the home.  And what can the government do about this?  With the immorality recently revealed in the lives of government and media leaders, the obvious answer is - nothing.  And what have churches done about this?  Too little.
          In my mind the obvious cause of what is happening today is the attack on the Bible and Christianity.  We condone killing of babies, so of what value is life?  We take down displays of The Ten Commandments, so what rules do people have to guide their lives?  The ACLU fights to eliminate all mentions of Christ and the Bible, so what of eternal value do they have to replace it?  Movies and games feature violence and even parents allow their children to participate but do not encourage them to participate in church or Christian activities such as Awana.
          Satan is alive and well, although it is not politically correct to talk about an actual Satan.  We are in a real spiritual war and right now it appears that evil is winning.  May Christians wake up to this fact and start putting on the Full Armor of God and depending upon the Lord for daily wisdom, guidance and protection.  Satan may win many battles, but Christ wins the final war.
            The hymn "The Fight Is On" by Lelia Morris reminds us of the battle.  The chorus says:
The fight is on, O Christian soldier,
And face to face in stern array,
With armor gleaming, and colors streaming,
The right and wrong engage today!
The fight is on, but be not weary;
Be strong and in His might hold fast;
If God be for us, His banner o'er us,

Saturday, March 3, 2018

To Teach Or Not To Teach?


Do you know what this is?
          One of the biggest challenges for educators today is choosing what content is no longer relevant to be taught, especially as technology changes.  And every time that topics are eliminated or de-emphasized, those changes are usually criticized by adults because those topics were part of the curriculum when they went to school, many years ago.
          It often appears that having gone to school makes one an "expert" on what should be taught and how it should be taught, even if that experience happened decades ago.
          Years ago I was often questioned when we greatly reduced emphasis on teaching long division.  We used to spend months teaching that with two, three and sometimes four divisors. It was brutal. My questions for those who complained were, first, what do you actually use it for anymore except maybe for finding averages.  And secondly, when you do division how do you do it?  Generally the reply was, I use a calculator.  And they were correct. Incidentally,today even my car computes my miles per gallon for me.
          I went through the same process decades before that when we used to spend several months in an Algebra class teaching logarithms. Tedious and boring! And what were they used for?  Engineers used them to do calculations involving multiplication, division and powers. Those who really needed to do those calculations carried thick books of log tables to do them. We even sold books of tables to students.  Logs were the foundations of slide rules - pre calculator technology.  But then who even remembers what a slide rule is?  We used to spend time teaching students to use them. Then they were replaced by calculators and computers.  I doubt that today's math teachers even know how to use logs for calculations and most have never used or even seen a slide rule.  Now logs do have important applications in engineering and mathematics, but not as a tool for calculations.
          Another topic that used to be a big one was Roman Numerals.  Now where does anybody use those today, except maybe to read a year on a cornerstone of a building or bridge or on a clock or the number of the current Super Bowl.  So should we spend weeks teaching that?
          Then a big one which is out of my field is the teaching of cursive writing.  I admit that I struggle with the fact that this has generally been eliminated.  But then I ask myself, is it really a skill needed in our future.  Computers can help us sign and read documents.  More things are being done electronically.  So is it necessary to spend months teaching this?  I really am not sure how much should be taught but I think folks should at least know how to write their name properly.  I see how some folks sloppily scribble their names on the checks that I process at church. I do enjoy a beautifully hand written cursive letter.  Does anybody actually write letters today?  I'll leave that decision to the "experts" and hope that they know what they are doing.
          But how about spelling?  That's an interesting question.  They still spend years teaching spelling.  Kids still regularly have spelling quizzes.  Is it necessary?  It certainly is important for crossword puzzles and spelling bees.  But today almost everyone uses a spell checker.  And I guess for some that makes writing so much easier.  But is it good? 

Eye halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight for it to say
Weather I am wrong or write
It shows me strait a weigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose before two long
And eye can put the error rite
It's rarely ever wrong.

Eye have run this poem threw it
Am shore your pleased to no
It's letter perfect all the weigh
My chequer toiled me sew!

          So what do you think?  Maybe spelling is still important.  Cursive?  I don't know.  Logs for computation?  Definitely not.  Although maybe kids today should be made to endure some of the pain that we had to bear in school when we were growing up.  But I guess that is another question for another blog.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Finally Home


At Pinebrook Bible Conference
          This week our world lost one of the great men of this century, Billy Graham.  But heaven gained a man who over the years had led thousands to prepare their hearts to enter that same final home.  He was a gifted evangelist who clearly and simply shared the good news of the Gospel all over the world with common people as well as with world leaders.
          Upon the news of his death I began to reflect upon several things about Graham that touched my heart.  The first was the trip that we made to Times Square in New York City to participate in one of his largest crusades.  We traveled with relatives from their  home in Connecticut and joined the throngs in the city.  Even though we were many blocks from Graham, we could hear the stirring music, his powerful message and his invitation.  It was a day that I will never forget.
          Now I might have seen him in person one more time, but I can no longer confirm it.  When I was in grade school I was visiting my grandparents in Bethlehem, PA.  I went with them one evening to hear a young speaker in the Rose Gardens there.  I think the speaker was Billy Graham, before he became well known.  But my grandparents are now gone and I have no way to be sure that this was the case.
          I was also touched over the years by listening to him on the radio and watching his many crusades around the world on television.   I will never forget being touched as I would see the hundreds leave their seats during his invitation to receive Christ.  The words of "Just As I Am", sung by his crusade choirs will never be forgotten.
          A few years ago we made a trip to Wheaton, Illinois, where we had the opportunity to tour the museum devoted to his life and crusades.  It was exciting to listen to his messages, view films of his crusades and look at the many materials that were displayed there.  But the unexpected highlight came at the end of our visit when we entered a room with a glass balcony surrounded by clouds.  It gave the impression that we were standing in the clouds.  And then the music began to play - the Hallelujah Chorus.  What an inspiring, unforgettable and unexpected experience that I shall never forget.
         But another thing that has inspired me have been some of the books written by Graham.  His last one, "Nearing Home" written when he was 93, is excellent.  One of the many themes in the book is his difficult adjustment to the death of his dear wife, Ruth.  In a section with the title "Living With Grief", he wrote the following.
         "As I write this it has been four years since Ruth went home to be with the Lord.  I feel her loss more keenly now.  Not a day passes that I don't imagine her walking though my study door or us sitting together on our porch as we did so often, holding hands as the sun set over the mountaintops.
       I have asked myself why this is the case; after all, shouldn't our grieving over the loss of a loved one fade as time passes?  Yes it should - and in some ways it has for me.  But in other ways it hasn't, nor do I expect it to. One reason, I think, is because my strongest memory at the time of her death was of her last days - her weakness, her pain, her yearning for Heaven. As much as I longed to have her stay with us, I also knew that for her, death could be a welcome release from the burdens of this life.  But with the passing of time, memories of the happiness we shared over more than sixty-three years of marriage come to mind.  I remember our last years together as my travels lessened and we had more time just to be together.  Those were some of the best years of our lives- almost as if we were falling in love again.  And with those memories has come a deeper sense of loss.
         The other reason I still feel her death so deeply, I think, is because mingled with my grief is a new sense of expectancy - the certain knowledge that someday soon the Lord will come for me also, and before long Ruth and I will be reunited in Heaven.  More than ever, I look forward to that day!"
          And this week that reunion happened.
          And then, in the final section of the book, "Our Final Home", he wrote "I was away so much, sometimes for months at a time.  But no matter how short or long the trip, when I landed in Charlotte or Asheville, I knew I was nearing home.  Home was a place of rest and peace, it also was a place of love and joy and security.  In a far greater way, Heaven is our home - our final home - our ultimate place of complete peace and security and joy forever. ... When we belong to Christ, we know that when we die we finally will be at peace - for we will be home. ... Heaven is our hope, Heaven is our future, and Heaven is our home!  I look forward to being home at last, and I pray you do also."
          And now Billy Graham is finally home.


Listen to a tribute to Billy Graham here.   TRIBUTE

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Spanish Flu


Pastor and Mrs. H.A.Kauffman
          We are living through a very serious and often deadly flu epidemic.   I pray that you and members of your family are not touched by it.  Please take all the precautions that you can.  Be safe. 
          The world has seen many previous influenza epidemics and one of them, a century ago, created a major change for my family and my heritage.
         The 1918 flu pandemic (January 1918 – December 1920) was an unusually deadly influenza pandemic, the first of the two pandemics involving H1N1 influenza virus. It infected 500 million people around the world  and resulted in the deaths of 50 to 100 million (three to five percent of the world's population),  making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history.
          To maintain morale, wartime censors minimized early reports of illness and mortality in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States. But papers were free to report the epidemic's effects in neutral Spain. This created a false impression of Spain as especially hard hit, thereby giving rise to the pandemic's nickname, Spanish Flu  This pandemic has been described as "the greatest medical holocaust in history" and may have even killed more people than the Black Death
         Even in areas where mortality was low, so many were incapacitated that much of everyday life was hampered. Some communities closed all stores or required customers to leave orders outside. There were reports that healthcare workers could not tend the sick nor could the gravediggers bury the dead because they too were ill. Mass graves were dug by steam shovel and bodies buried without coffins in many places.
          Pastor Horace A. Kauffman, my grandfather, was serving a church in Spring City, PA, during the epidemic.  He insisted on caring for his congregation and continued to visit them and help them.  As a result, he also caught the flu and died.  They could not hold a public funeral for him, so his body was displayed inside a building where folks could pay their respect by looking through a window.
          HAK was married to my grandmother and my dad was only 16 months old when his father died.  She was also pregnant with my aunt who was born several months later.  So they were left without any income.  And they had no place to live since their home had been the church parsonage.  I think that they soon moved in with relatives.
         Sometime later the district superintendent came to my grandmother and told her that she could not live as a widow with two children.  She needed to remarry and he had two names of men for her to consider.  The first man said that he was in love with another woman and could not marry my grandmother.  The second, Pastor Norman Henry Wolf, was a very close friend of Pastor Kauffman.  He said that he would be honored to marry her and raise Horace's children.
          And so they were married and God gave them a fruitful ministry together for many decades.  And two more daughters were born to them.  These daughters carried the name of Wolf, but the stepfather chose to have the other two children carry the name of Kauffman.
         The family did face many challenges in those difficult days.  One of these, which is hard to believe, is that the N H Wolf family was soon assigned back to the Spring City church where H A Kauffman had been ministering.  And they had to return to the same parsonage where he died.  My dad often remarked that when they moved there, as a youngster he didn't understand why he was given the large bedroom and the Wolfs chose a very small room for their bedroom.  Later he learned that his mother could not return to the bedroom that she and her first husband had shared.
          So the Spanish Flu, a century ago, created some real changes in my family.  I often wish that I knew more about my real grandfather.  I do know that I share a few things with him.  He went to college.  For a brief time he was a school teacher before he became a pastor.  He liked to write. And I can imagine that we share a few other things.  I do look forward to meeting him for the first time when I get to heaven.
          But God's provision is always amazing, even when our situations may seem impossible.  God gave me a very special step grandfather and I thank Him for that.  Grandpa Wolf was a major influence in my life.  He is probably the most godly man I have ever known.  Over my life I spent many times in his homes especially during my college days.  For a few years he was my pastor and he married us. I've always called him my grandfather, not my step grandfather, for he was a real grandfather to me.  
          God gave my father two great fathers and they are both part of my special heritage, one of the few positive things that came out of the Spanish Flu, one hundred years ago.  It is amazing how God leads our lives especially when we can't see the future.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

A Super Bowl Victory


          I have been a football fan for as long as I can remember.  It is my favorite sport.  For many years I have especially followed and enjoyed college football, and, of course, my favorite team is Penn State.

          To a some what lesser degree I have also enjoyed professional football despite the fact that I feel the players are seriously overpaid.  Years ago I liked the Pittsburgh Steelers when Franco Harris and Terry Bradshaw led them to several championships.  But most of my life I have followed the Philadelphia Eagles, even though following them has often been  very frustrating
          But this year has been different.  They had an outstanding young quarterback.  They had an explosive offense.  They overcame many serious injuries and played as a team.  They made the play-offs despite being an underdog in all of their play-off games.  And then they finally won a Super Bowl against what has been, for several years, pro football's top team.  It was a dream season.
          However, I think the main reason that I enjoyed following them this year was that they have an unusual number of players who are open about their Christian faith.  And their testimonies are solid.  They are not bashful about sharing their faith.  At the Super Bowl even their coach gave credit to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  The Bowl's most valuable player wants to be a pastor.  The player who scored the winning touchdown says his main goal is to win Disciples for Christ.  They even held a baptism in a hotel pool during one of their trips.  And they regularly have Bible studies which are attended by many of the team members.  I have found all of this amazing and I must admit that while I couldn't bring myself to pray that the Lord would let them win, I did pray that the Lord would give them a bigger platform to share their faith. And He has.
          The reaction of the public to the team's success was incredible.  People sang and displayed "Fly, Eagles, Fly".  Folks wore Eagle gear in all sorts of places.  One of my doctors wore an Eagles jersey when I had my appointment with him.  People produced special food in honor of the Eagles.  Businesses and even some churches displayed signs supporting them.
          So many old-timers shared that they felt they would never see a Super Bowl victory by the Eagles in their lifetime.  Even my eleven year old grandson remarked that he had waited all his life to see this happen.  But his grandfather felt the same and I had several decades of watching them lose.
         Then there was the big victory parade in Philadelphia.  Even WGAL, our local television station, carried the entire event.  And estimates of two million people flocked there to be part of this special celebration.  And nobody destroyed property or attacked the police as so often has happened at such celebrations in other major cities.  It actually was a great event to end a spectacular and unexpected season.  But there were a few things that bothered me.
          The Eagles pro-bowl center stirred up the crowd with his profane language.  He even urged the crowd to call out a profane chant.  In fact WGAL even cut off its coverage of part of remarks several times and apologized for it.  That was such a sad contrast to what many of the Christian teammates have publicly shared during the season.
         One of the players shared that he thought this day and celebration was like heaven.  It made me think that he didn't really have any idea what heaven will be like.  And if this was heaven, then we really have no hope.  Unfortunately, he is the one who probably has no hope.  I pray that he may respond to the testimonies of his teammates
          Then I was also amazed at how many people shared that this was the greatest day of their lives.  A Super Bowl win was really the greatest day of their lives?  Really?  How sad.  What are they living for, just a Super Bowl win?  What sad lives they must have.  And I am reminded again how much people really need the Lord and the real hope that believers have.
         Now I really enjoyed the excitement of the games, the parade, the results and the  celebrations. But I am thankful that I have a real hope for the future - something infinitely greater than a Super Bowl win.  I  have already experienced so many great events that the Lord has provided for me in my life, but I am promised so much more.    And while millions may sing "Fly, Eagles, Fly", I know that my song really is "Fly, Christian, Fly".  And sometime, maybe soon, that will happen.  Then I''ll be part of a much greater celebration than that one in Philadelphia.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

A New Hobby


          Maybe it is a new senior hobby.  Lately, because of physical problems, I have often sat in our car while my wife has done our grocery shopping.  And I have learned to enjoy watching people while I am sitting there.  Actually, believe it or not, it is really often fun.  People are interesting and often people watching can be fascinating.
          Recently we were shopping during the late morning.  It must have been senior shopping time because the average age of shoppers appeared to be about 75.  I was envious of some who moved so quickly without any apparent pain or difficulty.  Good for them!  But there were many more who were using canes and walkers and who struggled to get to the store.  Most of them were alone and doing what they had to do to survive.  There should be a way for folks like this to get some help with these necessities.
          I watched a large Cadillac arrive and it appeared that it had no driver.  Had the driverless cars reached our area?  No, not yet.  Out struggled a very short woman driver.  With her cane she maneuvered to the back door where she slowly unloaded her walker and then shuffled to the store to do her shopping.  I couldn't help question how many of these folks could still drive safely.  But then, what are they to do if they have nobody to help them shop for needed groceries.
          Later I sadly watched as another elderly lady came out with her shopping cart and proceeded to one of the parking aisles.  Then I saw her return and go to another aisle.  Soon it was apparent that she couldn't remember where she had parked.  I finally lost sight of her several parking aisles later.  I assumed that she either finally found her car or that she is still wondering around the large lot.  It reminded me of my wife's uncle who once drove downtown and parked in Sunbury.  When he was done shopping he walked home, only to discover the next morning that he didn't know where his car was.  I guess the older I get, the less funny that story becomes.  Most of us may reach that stage of life sooner than we expect.
         A second time I was there I noticed some things about drivers.  Some drove so slowly through the lot, holding up other drivers, while others sped through at unsafe speeds.  It is a wonder that there aren't more accidents or injured pedestrians in parking lots.  Of course, seeing how folks move their shopping carts in the stores I shouldn't have been surprised,  Despite that one television advertisement, I don't think too many folks really enjoy being hit in the back by a shopping cart.
         One more observation about drivers.  At Stauffers in Rohrerstown there is a big area in front of the store adjoining the parking lot which has huge painted yellow stripes.  It also has large STOP signs painted on both sides of this area.  It is to give the right of way to shoppers and to protect the shoppers heading back to their cars.  But my observation is that more drivers disregard the STOP sign.  In fact I observed 17 of 20 drivers not even slowing down at all as they drove through this area.  Fortunately there were no close calls, but it is dangerous and somewhat frightening when so many drivers ignore the regulations.
          But as I observed all of this action I began to wonder how many of these shoppers knew the Lord.  If you could judge from their facial expressions you might say very few.  Few had smiles and few seemed to enjoy this event.  I couldn't help but think of Steve Green's song, "People Need the Lord", and they do.  It led me to begin to pray for these folks even though I didn't know who they were or what their spiritual condition really was.  But the Lord knows each.
         So maybe it isn't so bad of a "hobby" - watching and praying for those who pass by,for people need the Lord.

Everyday they pass me by, I can see it in their eyes. 
Empty people filled with care, Headed who knows where? 
On they go through private pain, Living fear to fear.
Laughter hides their silent cries, Only Jesus hears.  
People need the Lord, people need the Lord. 
At the end of broken dreams, He's the open door.
People need the Lord, people need the Lord. 
When will we realize, people need the Lord?  

We are called to take His light 
To a world where wrong seems right. 
What could be too great a cost For sharing Life with one who's lost?  
Through His love our hearts can feel All the grief they bear. 
They must hear the Words of Life Only we can share.  
People need the Lord, people need the Lord 
At the end of broken dreams, He's the open door. 
People need the Lord, people need the Lord. 
When will we realize that we must give our lives, 
For people need the Lord.  People need the Lord.


P.S. - After writing this blog, I had another interesting experience watching people enter and leave another local grocery store as I sat in our car in the first row of the parking lot.  Sadly, I saw an elderly lady shuffling to her car with her walker which had two cloth shopping bags attached to it.  She finally reached her car, slowly got in and drove away.  I wonder how often she must make this difficult trip.
         Then I saw a middle age, rather "chunky" woman, dressed in very short shorts ... in January ... not a pretty picture.  And she was followed by another woman, probably in her late 70's, wearing a bright white coat and with ... bright orange hair.  Not sure if it was funny or gross.  Finally three young people - late teens or early 20's - appeared.  Decades ago I would have said they were hippies but now I would say they looked like they had just come from the hills of West Virginia.  They were in and out of the store in about five minutes and their only purchased item was ... a large bundle of ... toilet paper.  I had to laugh.  Surprisingly, it seemed like the majority of shoppers during that time purchased toilet paper.  Don't know if they had a sale or why there was a sudden need for toilet paper.
          As I said before, watching people can be an interesting and entertaining act.  You should try it sometime.  It can also be very relaxing and is inexpensive.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Discouraged?


          As you probably know, life can be very hard at times.  Even for believers, it is very easy to get discouraged.  And that can sometimes even lead to depression and bitterness, even though our mind tells us to trust in Jesus who cares for us.

         I find it is especially difficult to face the senior years.  You begin to lose your good friends and loved ones and life can get very lonely.  Few care about seniors and real fellowship is hard to find.   You often aren't needed for anything anymore.  You develop new and difficult physical problems and it becomes harder to get around and take care of yourself.  The cost of living sky rockets and your income doesn't.  A few people might ask how you are, but they really don't want an answer and they are too busy to help you anyway.  Been there, experiencing that.  It is often hard to stay positive.
          But we seniors aren't the only ones who face hard times.  Right now we know some younger adults who have suddenly lost their jobs.  Some are also facing difficult physical problems, including cancer.  Some have lost parents or are helping to care for them.  This too can be very discouraging.
         Then there are younger folks who are also experiencing trials.  We have a fourth grade girl in Awana and a 15 year old boy who goes to our church who have both been diagnosed with aggressive brain cancer. They are facing serious treatments and surgeries. We know of some other young people who have other serious physical conditions and some who are going through rebellion.  That too is hard and discouraging. Discouragement isn't limited to one age group.
           Now we know that Jesus is with us in the good and bad times.  I guess at times I wish that He would just talk to me and reassure me.  But He does speak through His word.  And I am not alone when I feel that way, for the Psalmist often lamented that He wondered if the Lord really was there and cared.  But He found that He was. And He always is.
          On a recent day when all the news and events around me seemed to get worse, I was reminded of a hymn which we no longer sing in our church services.  But we can still sing it and claim it in our hearts.
         
1   When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done. 
Refrain:
Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your blessings, see what God hath done;
Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.

2   Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, ev'ry doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by. [Refrain]

3   When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings, money cannot buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high. [Refrain]

4    So, amid the conflict, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey's end. [Refrain]

Listen to Guy Penrod sing this.   Count

          Now as you can probably guess, I have often been discouraged in recent months.  Sometimes it seems as though there is no solution to the growing problems, except heaven. And so I thought that I needed to try something different to try and develop a more positive attitude.
         For many years I have kept a journal, adding new entries once or twice a week.  Unfortunately, in recent months as I've recorded events, some of the entries have grown negative.  So I decided to start another journal - a praise journal.  Each day I will try to add a sentence about something positive that I experienced that day. You know, the things you often forget.  It has been interesting.  I've made numerous comments about having a good day breathing or exercising, a good day with my grand kids, safety in travel on ice and snow, problems solved and a variety of blessings I have experienced.  God has been good and I am hopeful that this new activity will help me stay positive as I face the many trials and difficult problems which haven't gone away.
         Are you discouraged?  Remember that you aren't alone.  Jesus promised never to leave us or forsake us and He won't.  Try counting your blessings and be reminded of what God has done.  Maybe a praise journal will help.
         
"I will sing to the Lord all my life, I will sing praise to my God as long as I live."    Psalm 104:33