Friday, March 31, 2017

UP Early and…
I woke early and decided it was house cleaning day. I almost forgot to post my blog andstripped the bed and started the wash. Then I began to vacuum and dust. I do have a question for the regular housekeepers, is it better to dust before vacuuming or vacuum first. To me it seems no matter what I choose to do, it infringes on the other. Vacuuming stirs up more dust and dusting pushes some of the dirt onto the floors. Are there any suggestions?
Today, there seemed less cats in the dust bin of the vacuum cleaner. I must be getting better with my cleaning schedule or the cat is shedding less. My bet is on shedding less. Even if my cleaning schedule is off, who will complain other than Willow, my cat? She would eat off my floors even if they aren’t “clean enough for people to eat off of.”
Lunch is already made. I just need to reheat the crock pot hot sausages, peppers, onions, and crushed tomatoes from yesterday. The big decision is whether I want a sandwich or to make some kind of pasta to serve with it. Either way, it doesn’t take much time or effort for either.
After cleaning, sweeping, washing and drying the sheets and pillow cases, I’ll want an easy meal for lunch. I may get energy to remake the bed before it is time to hit the hay. If not, I have a recliner. Just kidding, it’s always great to slip into a bed with fresh made, clean sheets. After all, it is spring cleaning time.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Sometimes Ugly Can Be Beautiful
I was reminded that ugly things in life and around me can be beautiful. As I was leaving my house, I noticed something that I was seeing and hoping it would disappear. The tired, dirty snow that had been pushed aside by the snowplows was still lining my yard. Its presence was an ugly reminder of the winter season and I wanted it to leave more quickly. At that moment, the rays of sun pierced the clouds and the ice crystals that formed by the melting and refreezing bristled with sparkles of light. The sun replaced this pile of dirty snow into a pile of glittering jewels.
Several days before, I photographed and shared a view from my front porch. It was another gray, cloudy morning. It seemed something depressing, but I looked more carefully to see the palest of orange tint at the horizon where the sun was rising. The hope of a sunny day wasn’t the beauty I was seeing. The moon was still in the sky and was nestled in the tops of the trees beside my house. There I found the beauty.
People are like that. Sometimes the least lovely on the outside can be the most beautiful, kindest people if we actually stop and take the time to really look. Some of the most conceited and ugly are those who God has graced with an outward beauty.
If we see only the ugly, we will see only the ugly in things and people. If we search for beauty, we are sure to find it.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Weary and Sore
So much going on and I can’t always say no. This past weekend I again helped with the Bearing Precious Seed. It is a group that is dedicated to print and provide the Word of God to missionaries. This group is based in Milford, Ohio and come to our church to assemble the Scripture of John and Romans t send to foreign countries and to provide the missionaries with those books of the Bible in the language of the country.
The work consists of unloading and setting up the boxes of covers, the printed word, the staplers, the trimmer, and boxes for the finished product. The print copies are torn into two sections, while another group folds the covers. The covers and the print copies are assembled at a table of more workers. Young people take the books to the staplers and attached together. Those booklets need trimmed at a large machine, then packed into boxes that will eventually be loaded into cargo containers and shipped. In a matter of about four hours, we assembled six thousand copies that are being sent to Sierra Leone.
Their government requested copies for the army and the police. Now, they have requested copies for each of their school students which will put a copy of the Scripture in nearly every home in Sierra Leone. Bearing Precious Seed plans on delivering 800,000 copies to them. It is an ambitious goal, but one with which we were able to help. My wrist held up, but my shoulders are sore.
Sunday was church, Sunday school, writers meeting, and then Sunday evening services. I find out this morning that I don’t rebound quite as quickly as I did several years ago and may need a nap before the day is out.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Birthdays and Anniversaries
Not all birthdays and anniversaries are greeted with joy and with celebration. Some events remind us that we are aging and many of us none to gracefully. Cakes, candles, and ice cream have long ago lost their appeal. Who likes the struggle just to blow out the bonfire of candles that top the cake in one breath, not me? Gifts, unless it’s a smaller house or a maid to keep clean the large home I now have are always appreciated, but what else is there that I need?
I’ve long ago surpassed the Pennsylvania speed limit and am fast approaching the seventy miles per hour speed limits out west. My body is wearing out. I just had wrist surgery to correct the pain and numbness caused by repetitious overuse.
I like to celebrate birthdays for my kids and my grandkids when I am reminded. Even though I bought calendars with their birthdays and anniversaries listed on the correct dates. I put them up and now I can’t find them. They were to be Christmas gifts last year.
There is one anniversary, I don’t have the need or like to be reminded about. It will soon be fourteen years since the passing of my wife, Cindy and eleven years since the passing of my mom, Sybil. Ovarian cancer claimed my wife while Alzheimer’s disease consumed my mother. The coincidence of my mom passing on the very same date three years later is astronomical, but it is something that happened. With my birthday and both of those anniversaries occurring in March, is there any wonder that March is not my favorite month?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Chestnut Ridge Historical Society
Last evening, I attended my first Meeting of the Chestnut Ridge Historical Society. The museum is located just off Route 711 across the highway from the site of the annual Flax Scutching in Stahlstown, Pennsylvania. The gallery claims a large room in a former red brick school building. This group of volunteers is dedicated to keep the historical records and the heritage of the Chestnut Ridge intact for future generations.
I was surprised at the number of displays that were present. Photographs, artifacts, journals, letters, miscellaneous memorabilia, and even a scaled down diorama of historic Stahlstown were protected in glass covered frames and display cases. Maps of the area adorned the walls.
The two speakers shared information of old time thrashing machines to the present day combines. They had logs and journals that their ancestors kept as records for the customers, how much grain was threshed, and the payments for using the threshing machines. They brought old black and white photographs of the stationary threshers that had been powered by steam driven tractors with iron wheels and belched great plumes of smoke.
The speakers, Bob and Matt Caton, a father and son team, also have displays at the New Centerville Farmer’s and Threshermen’s Jubilee that is held the weekend after Labor Day in the little town of New Centerville, Somerset County,  Pennsylvania. Antique tractors and farming machinery are on display as well as the replications of ways of life in rural Pennsylvania.
The next meeting of the Chestnut Ridge Historical will be held on Tuesday evening April 18, 2017 at 7 pm. Bruce Shirey will be sharing information on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. If you are available, the admission price is free.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Scraping the Barnacles Off My Brain
Trying to arrive at something meaningful to share with you sometimes is a frustrating and often nearly an unfruitful endeavor, so I am forced to share something that may be of little interest to many. Each morning I post a different postcard photo on Facebook. The postcards were left to me by my father Edson Carl Beck and my mother-in-law Retha Morrison. I have a boot box filled with them I decided to post a picture of them to share the history and geography represented by these souvenirs. Why should they be trapped inside a box collecting dust and mildew, food for silverfish?
Some of the cards are from as far back as the early 1900’s. Some show pictures of WW II scenes. Others express sentiment or celebrate holidays. The pictures are often photographs, while others are an artist’s rendition of a place, an expression of a thought or idea. These cards may have gold or silver gilding, made of copper, have raised forms, or can be smooth and glossy.
There are cards from different countries and cards from nearly every state in the union, sharing something deemed important. Animals, mountains, rivers, lakes, or buildings, may appear on the cards. Some buildings or views no longer exist, while others have been saved, restored and preserved.
Some of these cards are advertisements for attractions, motels, restaurants, or businesses. The stamps on the reverse sides are just as diverse, ranging from one cent United States postage fees to the stamps of foreign countries.
Many of the greetings written and passed along in the mail to waiting friends and relatives are mundane “Wish you were here” sentiments to expressions of love and genuine concern. The writing, often in pencil, has faded to the point it is barely legible.
Each card becomes a key to the past, unlocking my heritage and giving insight to my grandparents and recollections of friends that would probably be lost. I have become their guardian to pass them safely along to my children.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Tough Old Birds
My kids were upset with me yesterday, several hours after my carpal tunnel surgery and a nap, I dressed warmly and went outside to clear my driveway of the accumulated snow. But I come from a long line of tough, hard headed old birds on both sides of the family.
On my mother’s side, Granddad Raymond Miner worked a farm during the day and mined coal at night to support his wife and eight children, even to the point of him doing double the work so that my one uncle could sleep instead of loading coal.
My granddad Edson Beck once developed a toothache so bad that he heated the rat tail handle of a rasp file to red hot and burned the nerve out of a decayed tooth. It wasn’t easy to make the trip to visit a dentist. He would climb to the top of a ladder cleaning out gutters on his three story home until he was nearly 90. He was rescued from this task when my brother-in-law bought the house and took over the duties. He lived to the age of 94.
My dad, Edson Carl Beck often surprised me with his quiet strength. One example occurred when he was 80, climbing onto his rooftop and shoveling the heavy snow off the top of his two story home. Is it any wonder that my kids were upset with me? Mt dad lived until he was 90.
I read my discharge instructions after my surgery quite well. They told me not to drive for 24 hours and that I could return to work with the restrictions of not lifting greater than five pounds. I saw the snow in my driveway needed removed, so I did it. The plastic shovel and each scoop of snow was less than the five pound weight limit. I pushed the scattered snow onto the shovel using my unaffected hand and arm until I had a full scoop, then I’d use the crook of my wounded wing to hoist the snow out of my drive. A person doesn’t have to work hard to get things done. My arm didn’t fall off and other than the expected stiffness and soreness this morning, my wrist feels quite good. The shoveling yesterday helped to work off the after effects of the anesthesia more quickly.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Attack of the Snowplow Men
Dear Frank,
I shoveled a narrow, one person path to the end of my driveway, surveying the task that awaited me. The closer to the main highway I got, the more I understood the daunting, Herculean work load that presented itself to me. The snowplows came through, throwing up a two foot wall of compressed and compacted snow. Using my shovel, I nibbled around its edges hoping that perhaps this was some kind of an illusion, perhaps a nightmare that would disappear if I could only wake up. Not so, and my elbow was aching from the last round of the white sands of imagination.
Fingers aching, I went back into the basement to toast them over my wood burner. I finally took your advice and pulled out the snow blower that had been collecting dust in my cellar. I am mechanically dyslexic and try not to use machines with more than one moving part other than my automobile, but between the size of the task ahead and the ache in my elbow, I decided to use it.
After filling the tank with fresh gasoline, priming, and choking, I dragged it outside. Pulling the starting cord, priming, and pulling the cord again multiple times, amid a cloud of dark exhaust fumes, it coughed to life and I began to sweep across my driveway, belching huge plumes of the white winter snow that had been deposited by the wind and the snowplow operators. Back and forth through the eighteen inch snow drifts and the plows’ attempt to block me in and lay siege to my home.
A smile crept across my face as I neared the finish line. With no teens nearby and the pains of age, I chose the option that you prodded me to use years ago. Thanks Frank.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Heaven or Hell
I just read a post that a priest believes Hell was invented by religion to control people. More is said about Hell than Heaven in the New Testament. Hell is a reward for those who do not accept the gift of salvation offered by God Himself. This loving God sent His offspring, His only begotten Son to lay aside His glory, come to Earth in the form of a man, and to die on a cross to expunge and cover our sins. The Word of God describes as a place of eternal torment, a place of darkness and pain, a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth for sinners who reject that gift.
I wonder what books this person studied in seminary school. Did he ever read the Bible? Does he believe the Bible is the Word of God, written in its entirety with inspired truth? How can he say that Hell is not a real place with so many warnings about it? Since he doesn’t believe in Hell, does he believe that Heaven is the reward for those who choose the redemptive powers of Christ’s blood? If this priest does accept that there is a place called heaven, how can he selectively choose which subjects he will believe in and which ones he won’t? Either the entire Bible is true in its entirety or it is not. Handpicking which ideas match yours and tossing out all others is wrong and just foolish.
I’ve heard arguments that “It was just men” who wrote the Bible. It’s true men wrote as they were led by the Creator. But without divine inspiration, how can we explain thirty-nine books of the Old Testament and twenty-seven books of the New Testament were written by almost as many men and yet coincide without contradiction or error? If there was even one lone error, non-believers would be shouting it from the rooftops.
If this believes the Bible upon which his religion is based is false, how can he continue to call himself a priest of that religion? Wouldn’t that make his entire religion false? How can he be faithful to the teachings of his false religion? Doesn’t it make the garb that he wears a lie as well? Why is he even wearing the frock? Faith and belief are the core precepts of the Gospel. How can he continue to call himself a man of God when he doesn’t believe one of the Bible’s fundamental tenets?

Friday, March 10, 2017

Tongue Blades and Scalpels
When visited my family doctor for a follow-up and I was sitting in the examination room, waiting for her to make her appearance, I noticed a glass jar with a metal lid. Inside was a bundle of tongue blades. The sight brought back memories. Not the tongue holding, throat gagging kind, but of my enlistment in the Navy. Like many others, there was often little to do in the off duty hours. To pass the time, I began to whittle the thin wooden arm boards and the tongue blades.
From the arm boards, I created wonderful things like a hand with one finger pointing skyward and a pair of elephants wearing crowns. Don’t ask me why. It was something to do. My most energetic project was a storage box, six inches, by three and a half inches by four inches with dove tailed corners. On the lid I carved a bunch of grapes, with leaves and tendrils.
Using the tongue blades, I would attach the repurposed blades onto model HO gauge flat cars I purchased to create box cars and even a caboose with its raised cupola. The doors on the box cars were moveable, sliding to the side and the inside of the caboose had beds, chairs, and a pot belly stove.
I constructed a trestle bridge, an engine house, a water tank with a moveable arm, and tunnel portals. My largest and most intricate undertaking was to create a train station. Long hours went into shaping the many tongue blades into a shingled roof, scored walls, and floors. To furnish the inside that could be seen through split tongue blade frames, I built benches, made teller windows, trunks, hand carts, and the other various things that were usually found inside. I made a clock with its painted face to hang on the wall

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Keep My Heart Open
Since Sunday, the Mt. Zion Community Church has hosted two of the many missionaries out teaching and preaching about the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. The first person to speak was Sam Slobodian. He is a director for Baptist International Evangelistic Ministries and coordinates and assists many missionaries. Pastor Slobodian has a special interest in the people of Russia. He is walking in the steps of his father, reaching those that the Iron Curtain once tried to remove any mention of Christ and to control its people with an iron fist, but the courage of men like he and hoi father and women like his mother carried on, sharing the Gospel. In the past, they were responsible for preaching God’s Word even smuggling Bibles at great peril.
Our other guest missionary is Pastor Steve Nissley who is assisting the boat ministry in Greenland and assisting the Shulls to spread the Gospel in this forgotten country of the world. He is a Maine hardened minister and sailor.
Right now, the Shull family is the only Baptist missionaries in Greenland. Until last year, their outreach was limited because of a lack of a boat. A boat is the only way to reach the many villages and towns, Greenland’s lack of roads make boat traffic the only way to go.
Captain Steve Nissley will be helping the Shulls get their outreach afloat. Another family is on deputation to join this endeavor in Greenland is the Wright family. (This is the missionary that my cell phone gave a blessing by playing the theme to Popeye the Sailorman as he presented the beginnings of the boat ministry.) When I mentioned it to Captain Steve, he said the Shull children call him Pop-pop the Sailorman. These youngsters are his grandchildren and Pop-pop is the right name for him.

Monday, March 6, 2017

This past Sunday as I sat in my pew, I watched as the children and teachers left the sanctuary to go and practice their part for the Easter services. There are several steps up and into the connecting classrooms. The kids bounced down the aisles filled with the exuberance of their youth. When they reached the stairs, they bounded up them, feet barely touching the carpet. Each step was an adventure; each step was a familiar, pleasurable and joyful experience. It was a celebration, escape sitting quietly on a hard wooden pew.
Behind them trudged the teachers, following like shepherds guiding a flock of lambs. When the adults reached the stairs, they dutifully lifted feet and legs to push themselves upward, shifting weight from one level to the next. Gone was the intrinsic, boundless energy of the child, replaced with the duty of an adult. Time and the extra weight of a full-grown body as well as carrying the weight from the concerns of a grown-up world have changed all of us. It has stolen our youth as our bodies have aged.
I can still see that youthful energy trapped inside many of us by the twinkle of the eye and the ready smile, but too often, this frail mortal shell and aging cage will not allow these inner children to escape.
I can remember in my youth, having to memorize short poems and songs to prepare for Christmas and Easter programs. I remember how unnerving it was for me. How consumed I was with the feeling of stage fright that accompanied each appearance. I recall standing on the raised dais at the front of the church, parents, teachers, and other church members staring at me. I feared that I would forget or somehow flub my lines. How did I ever survive? It had to be the resiliency of youth. Keeping the youthful experience, priceless. Don't leave home without it.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Grandparent Day
Yesterday I went to my granddaughter Hannah Yoder’s elementary school for grandparent day. The visit lasted about half an hour. It was half an hour of sitting on a tiny tikes chair and reading with her. I had a great time and the chairs were much roomier than the ones in the lunch room from a different school function. It was a time of interaction with my granddaughter and a few of her other classmates.
While I was waiting for this momentous occasion, I was talking with some other grandparents and waiting in the lobby out of the wind and cold. One man was nearly as conservative as I am. We connected on several things, one of which was being privileged to live in the United States and another was the lack of respect for life and for the respect of others today.
Several of the other grandparents, I was privileged to work with at Mt. Pleasant Frick Hospital and it was great seeing them again.
I even bumped into one of my high school classmates. She mentioned a story I’d completely forgotten and still don’t remember, so I’ll have to share her recollection of the incident. One night, she brought one of her children to the hospital because of an illness. While they were there, a rowdy, obnoxious man who’d obviously been consuming alcohol was brought in on a wheelchair. He continued to be disruptive to the other people in the emergency room waiting to be treated.
I don’t remember this, but she said, “You went behind the desk and came out holding a fly swatter and waved at him and saying, ‘If you don’t settle down right now, I’m going to use this on you.’ You waved the swatter in front of his face. He settled down quickly.”
Let me say that this was not my usual bedside manner, but it worked.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

More Morning Sneezing
In my attempt to downsize my near hoarder-like house, I have been spending time in my dust collecting basement moving, sorting, sweeping, and discarding the flotsam and jetsam that has accumulated from me, my wife Cindy, my three children in the thirty years that I’ve called this place of residence, home. Little by little things that have been worn have found a nesting place in my attic, basement, and unused bedrooms, so little by little I am bound and determined to whittle it down to size. In the future, I can see a yard sale to pass along these treasures to other collectors, to others who appreciate and need these slightly used items, and will again return them to a useful life.
Doing this chore is nothing to sneeze at and yet that is exactly what I am doing. Either I am starting my third head cold or the dust from the ages has me sneezing and my nose running. Because I don’t feel ill, and am not running a temperature, my bet is the dust.
My sneezes are loud and disruptive for those around me. Often I will stifle them. People would complain and say I was going to collapse a lung, but because I expelled the breath from my lungs, there was no air left to sneeze.
I can’t remember my grandfather Edson Beck ever sneezing. I am sure that he did, but they must not have been memorable ones. My grandfather Ray Miner softly sneezed sounding like Rass-hole. My mom, Sybil Beck sneezed with a soft Choo-Choo. Other folk who sneeze aren’t as memorable, but am thankful for the makers of soft tissue.