Steve Schappell-My Blog

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Do you want to get well?



I am taking a Disciple course at my church on the Gospel of John, and I am very excited.  For years, I have wanted to be involved in this course that the pastor teaches, but have been either involved in, or co-leading our "Men's Fraternity" classes.  This year, I wanted to sign up, but missed the sheet, and was told the class was full.  It was still in our bulletin, so I emailed our Pastor, and due to demand, he created (2) class nights.

Tonight was on John Chapters 5 and 6.  This includes the Man at the pool, Feeding the 5,000, Jesus declared the Son of God, and being the Bread of Life.

Part of our discussion was in John Chapter 5, Verses 1-14.  Let me give you some context before I lay out the passage.  Many of the Jews believed that if you had a disease, or infirmary, that you had sin in your life and were to blame.  There was a belief though, that at springs or pools, an angel would come down, perhaps annually, and stir the waters.  They believed that the one who was first in the pool would be healed.  Our story takes place in Jerusalem, by one of the gates to the city, at a pool called "Bethesda."  Here is John 5: 1-14 (NIV)

The Healing at the Pool

Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda[a] and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. [4] [b] One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”
11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’
12 So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”
13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.
14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”

So before tonight, here is my perspective on this story...
As the story starts, we read that there was a man there for 38 years!  To me, that was a long time.  I wondered how could he stay there for that long.   Now, there are others there-lame, blind, etc...but Jesus goes to this man only and says "Do you want to get well?"
The question to me was one of a spiritual condition, not a human one.  Do you want to be well spiritually.  It is a direct question, and one that the man deflects.

The man tries to explain how he needs help to get to the water.  Someone is always faster than him.  It made me wonder, "Well then, move closer to the waters edge!"

 I wondered why Jesus asks this question to him.  If he wanted to get well, would he not have tried harder to be healed?  (More on this later)

The response from Jesus is direct.  "Get up!  Pick up your mat and walk."  Here was some action.  Not pity.  Just get up and go.  Right into the hands of the Jewish leaders.  The healing was on the Sabbath, where no work was to be done.  And even carrying something, like a mat, was forbidden.

I realized here that Jesus never gave his name to the man.  He did not say, "Hey there, I am Jesus and I can heal you."  The man did not know who he was at the time.  Later, Jesus found him at the temple and said "See you are well again.  Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you."
I did wonder what that meant.  Stop sinning.  Was he doing something wrong on the Sabbath?  What worse thing could happen to him?  For me, it was a healing story that spoke to our spiritual condition.

Our Class Discussion...
Then, we had our class tonight.  And our mind-blowing discussion about these chapters.  This is why I was excited and wanted to run home and type this out.

Jesus asked if the man wanted to be healed.  We assume the question was regarding a spiritual condition of the heart.  Or maybe a physical healing.   The bible says he was an invalid.  We don't know what his condition was.  However, he was there for 38 years.  He was fed, had water--and get this, had an easy life.  He did not have to work hard for anything and was still fed and clothed somehow.   We can say 38 years!  How cold he do that.  Then our Pastor said, what about us?  Some of us work the same job for that long.  Or have a routine that can last that long.  Suddenly 38 years does not seem that long.

Asking the question then about getting well implies that if the man answers yes, then the simple life he had would change.  If he were healed, he would have to leave, maybe work for a living, or change his lifestyle.

The man's response was that the water would heal him, if we could make it there before someone else.  He did not know there was another way.  He said there was no one to help him.  He was stuck in that situation.  Or perhaps, he did not want help, as he was used to his situation.

Jesus responded with a command.  Get up and walk!  Jesus knew it was the Sabbath.  He knew that this act would rankle the Jewish leaders.  

Later on Jesus was looking for the man and found him at the temple.  By now, we feel that the man knew it was Jesus who healed him.  We are sure that others in the temple had identified him by name, or saying he was the miracle worker, or the prophet.  He tells the man not to sin anymore or worse things will happen to him.  We discussed that as a group, and looked at what some bible scholars have speculated.  This put the whole story into perspective and had it all make sense.

What if the man was faking it?  What if his infirmary was not severe?  Suppose he was getting by and not having to do much, and living rather easily.  Along comes Jesus and calls him on it.  He knew the man's condition, and knew if he asked the question "Do you want to be well?" it would evoke a response.  Jesus tells him to pick up his mat and go.  The man does that and leaves.  

Later, when Jesus tells him that he is well and to sin no more.  We wondered, was the man's sin lying to people that he was an invalid.  Jesus told him not to do that anymore, or worse things could happen to him.  We learned that the Bible was teaching that you sin is your own.  That you would be judged for your own sin.  The worse part would be that is he keeps sinning, he would become one of the Goats, in the Parable of the Sheep and Goats, where Jesus separates the two.  The sheep go into the Master's pen, and the goats go into the fire.

Anyway, we do not know for sure, and we do not want to take away from a healing miracle that Jesus is listed as doing.  This was just and interesting perspective on a story from one chapter in the Gospel of John.   I am excited for the new perspectives I am gaining from the class and wanted to share that.  

What are your thoughts?

  

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Radio Days...

"Good evening Beaver Falls, My name is Steve Schappell. And I'm Brian Johnson,  And together we are THE MEN, Thursday nights, 9-midnight on FM 88.3 WGEV..."

With those words, my college pal Brian and I started off our weekly 3 hour radio show at our college radio station.  From 1984 to 1988, we were THE MEN, a combination of comedy, music and mayhem.  We took our theme from a song by the band, A.D., and their song "We are the men."

In addition to our radio show, we each had our own slots.  I had mid-Monday with Steve and Weekend shifts.  Here is a photo from the archives when I was on air, showcasing my only one time beard, and the incredible 80's technology.





Let's take a trip back in time to the Reagan 80's and a small college in Western PA.  Geneva College and WGEV, our christian radio station.  I was a communications major at the time, and our radio station was a small building on campus, right along route 18th.  The upstairs had offices, production rooms, storage and the studio, while the downstairs included classrooms, offices, and our mock studio for training. 

Back then, you had to train offline, and then take your FCC test in order to have a Class 1 Radio License, allowing you to broadcast.  Our station was run as a real world station.  We had a Music Director, a Production Director, Newsroom, and other positions.  The positions were unpaid, but were part of the station flow.  We received a playlist for our shifts, but had room for requests.  We had a log of when to play station sounders, commercials, and music.

Once you received your license, you were put into the rotation and were broadcasting weekly, or daily.  Most of our shows were weekly, due to the number of people broadcasting, and our college schedules being more important.

But the technology...that's what I wanted to talk about.  We are in the 80's...well before Cell Phones, CD's, Computers with digital music.  Look back at my photo and what do you see?  In the upper left, a Reel-to-Reel Machine.  To the right of that, (2) Cart Machines that played what looked like 8-track tapes.  Upper right corner are the Carts we played with commercials, music sounders, intros, etc.

I have headphones to listen to songs that were cued up, and there is a clipboard, with the playlist and log.  We had knobs for everything across the long board.  These controlled the sounds from all the machines, and the music from....wait for it...the albums we played.  Yes-VINYL rules!    Of course, later on, we were also using cassettes, but still.

I almost forgot the studio phone at the left.  At least it was push button, and not rotary dial.  No wait, is that a rotary dial there?  Hmmm.

For news, we relied on "Sparky,"  He was our Associated Press, or AP teletype machine.  News and sports scores would come over the wire, and we could enhance it with news from the local paper.  Sparky had a bell when news would come in.  It was what you would call a PUSH service, news was sent to us, after it happened, and then it would be edited together by staff or a DJ for the news.    I remember the day of the Challenger Space Shuttle Explosion.  I was attending Mass Media class with my roomate.  When the class was over, we were walking upstairs and past the studio when Sparky went wild.  The news flowed out and we ran back to our dorm to watch the news unfold on the lobby TV with others in the dorm.

Between our shows, we did production work to prepare for our shows.  For THE MEN, Brian and I would record spots on the Reel-to-Reel tape machine, and then add layers one at a time for sound effects, etc.  To edit our spots, we used an editing block, razor blade, and special tape.  That's how we edited.  Cranking the reel-to-reel back and forth listening for the place to cut and splice the tape.    It was a lot of work, but was the latest technology for the time.

OK, back out of the time machine and back to 2016.  Over the weekend, I volunteered for the Kids Cookie Break Fest, held at the Junction Center in Manheim, home of WJTL.  They are a Christian Broadcasting station, that includes the studio, outside concert venue, indoor stage and event center.  Before my shift began, I was able to attend a studio tour.

The tour included offices, the "Live at the Junction Center" indoor cafe and stage setting, Production rooms, and the Radio Studio.   Part of the time in the studio included asking questions with the current on-air personality (Not a DJ), and looking at how they work on the air.  Take a look at Radio Friend Phil working the controls.

Compare this to my photo.  What a difference.  What you don't see completely are the (4) Monitors.  To the far left, that monitor is open to their facebook and twitter accounts, plus email.  All the social media that comes in is displayed there.  So requests from listeners some in to that terminal.  The black terminal in the photo is the playlist and the digital archives.  For example, I call in a request.  The on air personality can type in the song title or artist and get a list, then select the song and have it ready to play.  There were no records, cassettes or CD's here.  The music is computerized, digital and ready to play.  The other monitor in the photo are for station information related to the transmission, commercial information, and other stuff.  The board is smaller and has sliders for volume control.  No more knobs.  There are tables and microphones for guests and artists, who perform in the studio.








It is not a large studio, but then neither was ours in college.  You don't meet that much room to broadcast out.  We got a look at their production areas.  No Reel to Reel here.  All digital editing, including a recording studio, where personalities create on air content.  For example on Saturday nights, there is a Top 25 countdown.  I thought it was done live.  Nope.  Completely recorded in advanced, edited and then played for 2 hours. 



For me, I was amazed because I have not been in a radio studio in a long time and it was a great treat.  Thank you WGEV for the college memories and experience, and thank you, WJTL for the tour and some new memories.





Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The other Big "C" for me

This post is not about Cancer.  No, this is about Cancer Prevention.  When men reach a certain age, usually at 50, it's time for a Colonoscopy.  I've heard horror stories about it.  That you have to drink gallons of bad tasting stuff. (not gallons)  That you cannot eat for days (well,a day).  That you can feel sick and nauseous.  It was basically nothing good. 

In May, I turned 50, and now it's my time.  Tomorrow is my outpatient surgery, and so tonight, I am up in our bedroom waiting it out.  I took half of the Suprep (what is is called), along with 16 oz of water within the first hour of taking the prep.  I take the 2nd half tomorrow morning at 5 am, with more water.  I need to be completely finished 4 hours before I report at 10 am.  Another day off work at least.

The prep was a 6 oz bottle, mixed with cold water to fill up a 16 oz container that comes with the kit.  I must have been thirsty, because I chugged it all down.  It is sort of grape flavored and pasty.  Well, about an hour later, it all started.  No need for further explanation.

My day at work was busy after a 4 day vacation, and I drank tea and Powerade.  All I wanted to do was eat something.  Anything.  I cannot eat until after the surgery tomorrow.   When I got home from work, my step-daughter told me she made pancakes because she thought it would be something I was not interested in.  I would be interested in anything, like the cardboard the pancake mix comes in.

I am thankful for my wife, who is picking up my daughter from work, so I can stay near the bathroom.  I am watching the Olympics and doing some bills.  The dog is with me, and the cat just left the room. 

I did not know what to expect.  So far, no nausea.  Not much appetite, although I can have broth, jello and more water.  Only yellow, orange, or green colored popsicles, jello, or liquids. 

Of course, I am looking for a good result after the outpatient surgery.  My wife is my driver and companion tomorrow and we will see what happens.  I can send out an update after this is all over.


Monday, August 8, 2016

Accept and Accepted




Hello everyone.  It has been a while since my last posting.  A lot has been going on here, including preparing for vacation, yard sales, and house projects.  Let's see how this post will turn out.

I have been involved with Celebrate Recovery as a Men's Small Group leader for that past 4 years. We meet weekly and have a large group worship (Music, lesson or testimony), and a small group share.  We close our large group with the Serenity Prayer.  Part of the prayer goes like this:

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.  The courage the change the things I can.  And the wisdom to know the difference."

So, what have I learned to accept in my life.  That is not an easy question, because at age 50, I am still discovering things about myself.  Once you realize that you can never escape yourself--that you are always with, well, you--it changes your perspective.

Here are some things I have come to accept.  Some of these things I cannot change.  Others, I will need courage and God's help to change.  Can I gain the wisdom to know the difference?  That is the question.

-I accept that I am an only child and grew up selfish.  That I never learned to interact with a brother or sister, so sharing was something that I did learn how to do very easily.

-I accept that my family of origin shaped me into who I am for better or worse.

-I accept that I am not easy to get along with.  That my behavior in the past has alienated me from developing close relationships.  And even though I would like to be included in activities with other married couples, I may be the one that affects that decision.

-I accept that God came into my life at age 17, and radically changed the trajectory of my life.  This influenced my decision to attend a Geneva College, and be active in the churches I have attended ever since.

-I accept that my shortcomings during my first marriage contributed to an eventual divorce.  There were many factors on both sides-however, I was able to persevere thanks to God's grace.

-I accept that I made mistakes as a father to my (2) children.  However, it is never to late to change them.  I also accept that I did many things right, and continue to develop and maintain a relationship with them.

-I accept that I am not working at where I want to be, but that God has me there for a reason and his timing is always perfect.  He is allowing me to provide for my household and blended family.

-I accept that I am far from a perfect husband.  I have many issues to work out, and will continue to do so.  Thank goodness for the Grace that God provides each day.

-And I accept that God is not finished with me yet.  That I am running a race that will not be completed until I leave this world when he calls me home.

Well, that was some list.  After all that, I often think "Can anyone accept me for who I am?"  Thank goodness I have an answer of YES.  And you do also.  That answer is God, through his son Jesus.  He accepts me for who I am, in spite of myself.  In fact, we loved me before I was even born.  He loved me so much that he died for me, and for you.  The neat thing is that God meets us where we are, in the condition we are in.  We don't have to change.  Our desire to change and be more like Him happens when we receive him in our life. 

It is am amazing feeling to know that God accepts me and does not stop that acceptance.  His Grace is poured out daily, and his love covers a multitude of sins.  If you have a down day, or feel like giving up, remember that God loves you and accepts you for who you are, and that will never change.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Thank you...

Hey everyone,

Just a short note to thank you--yes YOU--for reading and supporting this blog.  I wanted to express my appreciation, call a few people out, and thank everyone else.

Thank you to Rich Deruter, who commented on a post I did years ago.  You were my "God sighting," as it were, telling me to continue the Blog that I let go for a while.  You helped me decide to get back and write again.

Thank you to the Gravel Hill Church Community for your support over the years, especially over the last year during my wife's Chemo and Radiation.  She is on recovery road, but has a way to go  (The after effects can last for years)  Many of you have taught me patience, endurance, and have encouraged me to use my gifts to help others.

Thank you to my children and step-children for making sure I know there is more to life than just myself.  Growing up as an only child can keep you gaze inward.  You are helping me to look outward more and more.

Thank you to my friends, both virtual online, and in person.  I appreciate your encouragement and comments.  You keep me grounded.

And Thank you to my wife for her unwavering support.  I am not easy to live with, believe me.  While we admit, we are both a mess, we somehow fit together, using our separate talents to compliment our weak areas.  You have been an inspiration to others during your Cancer fight (which by the way everyone is in remission, and her latest mammogram was given an all clear!!!!)
You let me write about whatever I want, and still put up with me.  I love you.

There is a place on my Blog where you can choose to follow me.  I am currently working on adding Facebook and Twitter tags, and figuring out how you can subscribe to the blog so updates get sent directly to you.  This blog is hosted on blogger.com, which is Google based and wants to build you follows off of Google+  (We all know how that turned out....does anyone use Google+?)

Anyway, look for more updates soon.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

I want to be a Clone....



When I was in college, Christian Musician Steve Taylor was one of premier artists of the time.  Known for his satire and wit in songs, he was sort of the Christian "Weird Al."

For (3) years, I had a radio show on campus with cohort, Brian Johnson.  Our show was called "THE MEN," and ran from 9 pm to Midnight every Thursday.  In between our banter, skits, sound effects, and other related tom-foolery (Remember the "Shave Alert" John Bell?), we managed to actually play some music.

One of our favorite songs was "I Want to Be a Clone," by Steve Taylor.  Somehow this song was always dedicated to Jim Langan.  It was back in college, I don't remember why anymore...

Anyway, the song is about church conformity and the rules in the way to worship.  Here is a sampler:

I Want To Be A Clone.
I asked the Lord into my heart.
They said that that's the way to start,
But now you've got to play the part.
I Want To Be A Clone.
Be a clone and kiss conviction goodnight.
Cloneliness is next to godliness - right!
I'm grateful that they showed the way
'Cause I could never know the way
To serve him on my own -
I Want To Be A Clone.

At the time, I enjoyed the melody and the lyrics. And I understood that to be a clone was to copy others.  I never thought about what it would be like to really be cloned until later on.  There was a movie called "Multiplicity," with Michael Keaton.  In the movie, our protagonist is an overworked construction foremen, who through a project, with the Gemini Institute, agrees to be cloned.  Think of the possibilities?  All his problems would be solved.  What could possibly go wrong?  (a whole lot it turns out)

"You can't be in two places at once"...you have heard that saying.  I have wondered,  "Well, what if you could be?"    Cue the dream sequence...For starters, I could be at work, but getting things done at home.  I could be on vacation, and another clone be at work. Clones would clean the house.  Get groceries and run errands. Heck, I would probably retire, and let the other clones do all the work.  But would the clone that works want the money they earn rather than give it to me?    Hmmm....dream sequence over.

Then I thought about the memories and emotions we experience.  Would my clones feel the same way I do?  Would their personalities be different.  Would my wife know the difference?  For example, if the real me is on a roller coaster, I would experience all the emotions while riding. But if my clone is riding it, would they experience the same thing?  I would not be able to experience the same thing.  I would be watching my clone. Hmmm.  I don't think I would like that.  Then on the other extreme, if I could feel everything the clones did, I would go crazy processing all the emotions and feelings going on all the time.  It would drive the real me, and the clones crazy.  Or make me feel like Professor X does.

I think we all sometimes wish we could clone ourselves, and let them do all the things that we don't want to do.    That got me thinking deeper that while we cannot clone ourselves, we often copy others.  This can be both good and bad.  On the good side, an athlete can try to copy the successful moves of others in order to better their skills.  We can copy a recipe to try and replicate it at home.  Or, we can copy the attitudes of others who have positive things to say and do.  On the negative side, we can try to live and be like "The Joneses."  To want and live like they do, even if we cannot afford it.  Or we can copy a bad habit or wrong way of thinking that we inherited from our parents or others. 

Do you realize that you can never escape yourself?  No matter where you do, there you are.  You can never get away from yourself from the time you are born until the day you die.  You and I, we are originals, made by the Creator of the Universe.  We are not a copy and not a clone.  There is no one like us and there never will be.  That is exciting and sometimes a little scary.

I know that I am unique and creative.  One of a kind.  However, if I were so copy someone, to want to be like someone, who would it be?

Well, turning to the Bible in Ephesians 5, we read:  "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved [a]you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God [b]as a fragrant aroma."

When we receive Christ in our lives, and turn our lives and will over to the care of God, we begin to be more like Jesus.  And imitating Jesus--to be more like him, well that is a good thing.  To be an imitator of God is a good goal.  A life-long process.  That's something I would like to copy.  

So, I guess I am glad after all that I am not a clone.  I drive enough people crazy just as I am.  Can you imagine 2 or 3 more of me?  Scary.....
 
  





Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Happy Birthday Mukamwiza!



In the fall of 2013, My wife, Shari Schappell and I went to see one of her favorite Christian artists perform before his retirement.  (Bebo Norman at WJTL in Lancaster)

The concert was sponsored by Compassion International, a wonderful organization that connects families with a child in need from places like Africa, the Middle East, Far East, and here in America.  During a break, we felt led to visit the tables, and we agreed to sponsor a child.  (I had sponsored a child before, and so had Shari)  We were working on a blended family, and decided to add to that.

The tables were filled with dozens of information packets, showing the photo of a child in need of sponsorship, with information about location, family, and # months on a waiting list. The child we chose was from Rwanda, a war-torn country in Africa. Her name was Mukamwiza Appoline, and her birthday was in July. You can sign up there and register online. Your sponsorship starts right away, and for us, have it taken from our account monthly.

You communicate by writing letters. You can do this online or by mail. We write about our kids and what is going on in our lives. We ask about her and her family. We ask about school. We encourage her. And we tell her that she is loved and that God loves her and her family. I know that we don't always pray for her like we should, and we need to write more often.  We do get caught up in our own lives here, that we can forget she is over there. When we receive her letters of encouragement, it helps us.
 
They have so little compared to what we have, but she always sounds happy. Someone we have never met tells they love us and pray for us. That humbles us.

Compassion provides her with clothes, an education, meals and clean water.  This helps her family as well.   I recently received an email from Compassion that read in part, "We're excited to share an updated photo of Mukamwiza! Isn't it amazing how much a child can grow and change? And thanks to your support it's not just physical growth. Because of your sponsorship, Mukamwiza is growing spiritually and emotionally too!"

She lives in a hillside community, home to around 3,000 residents. Mukamwiza attends the Bigogwe Student Center in Rwanda. Her current schooling grade is 7 (equivalent to ours). She carries water and gathers firewood for her family. Her parents are farmers for income, and they earn around $30/month.
She just turned 15 yesterday on July 18th, so this is a Happy Birthday to her, aside from the gift we sent her.
If you are interested in learning more, visit www.compassion.com. Maybe you will add to your family also.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

I can sing a Rainbow

In some ways, TV was simpler when I was growing up.  There were fewer channels, for starters.  Saturday morning cartoons.  No reality shows, educational shows, and more comedies. 

If you lived in my area growing up, you may remember watching "Captain Noah and His Magical Ark," a syndicated children's TV show that ran from 1967 to 1994.  It originally aired around the Philadelphia area on WPVI Channel 6.  Captain Noah and His Magical Ark was created by W. Carter Merbreier, an ordained Lutheran minister an former Philadelphia Police Chaplain.  The show originally aired as a religious program before switching to a children's program in 1970. 

At it's height, the show was syndicated to 22 TV markets throughout the United States.  In my area, it attracted a larger audience than Sesame Street and Captain Kangaroo combined.  It ran on weekdays from 7 to 9 am and on Sunday morning. 






What I remember were the local guests, songs, puppets.  (His wife, Patricia, was Mr.s Noah on the show and a puppeteer.), and the organ music from local favorite Larry Ferrari.  We were taught simple things from the Captain, like respect for others, listening to your parents, (things similar to Mr. Rogers)  There were two other things I really liked, and they were both songs. 

The one song sent like this:  "Send your pictures to dear old Captain Noah.  Send today.  Send right away.  Send your pictures to dear old Captain Noah.  Send away.  Send today."
Kids would send in their hand drawn pictures and the camera would pan across the pictures.  Captain Noah would point some out, "Look at this picture of a cat from Suzie..."  I admit, I never sent a picture in, but I thought about it.

The other song was one he closed with.  It was the Rainbow Song.

Red and Yellow and Pink and Green.  Purple and Orange and Blue.
I can sing a rainbow.  Sing a rainbow.  Sing a rainbow too.
Listen with your eyes, listen with your ears, and sing everything you see
Now I can sing a rainbow.  Sing a Rainbow.  Sing along with me.

That song pops back into my head when I see a rainbow after a storm.  Now, the colors are not the same, but it has a deeper meaning.

Let's go way back.  Way back after a really big storm.  A 40 day and night storm.  Back to Genesis 9, Verse 8-17, and God's Covenant with Noah.


Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you 10 and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”
17 So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”

So, when I see a rainbow, I am reminded of the Covenant and the Promise from God.  I am reminded of a simpler time when Captain Noah would sing about a rainbow, and everything felt alright.

Life is rough today and our Country needs one large rainbow from coast to coast.  Something to remind us that Black lives, White lives, Yellow lives, Brown lives, Gay lives, Straight lives, young, old, homeless, rich and poor.  ALL lives matter.  For God created all of us.  And he loves all of us.

I hope that when you see a Rainbow, you see a promise.  A promise that God made with us, and a hope that we learn to love more and hate less.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Freedom!



Happy 4th of July.  We live in the greatest country in the world.   The freedom's that we have are not available in some parts of the world.  Freedom of religion.  Freedom of speech.  Freedom to disagree.  Freedom to pursue your interests.  Our country does have many problems and issues.  Too many to discuss here.  Even with all that, there is no where else that I would want to live at.

On this Independence Day, I wanted to talk about another type of freedom.  This is a freedom found in a personal relationship with Jesus.  We are all born into bondage, caused by sin that traces itself all the way back to Adam.  We were intended to be in a relationship with God.  Spending time in his presence.  That was broken when sin entered the world.  And thus, began a journey that is chronicled in the Bible, that culminated with Christ dying on the cross for our sins, setting us free and opening up that personal relationship again.

In the Book of John, Chapter 8, verse 32, Jesus says to the Jews with him, "Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free."  What did he mean by that.  We learn that Jesus is the truth.  So, if you know Jesus, your will be free.  Continuing on in verse 33 "We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone.  How can you say we shall be set free?"  verse 34-36 "Jesus replied.  Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed"

Jesus did not sin his whole life, and was not a slave to sin.  He is God's son and belongs to God forever.  Be believing in the Son, you will be free.  Belief in Jesus will give you a freedom that you cannot find anywhere else.

We are all a slave to something.  For some it is an addictive lifestyle.  For others, it is money and the pursuit of riches.  Now living in true freedom still has boundaries.  What do I mean?  Look at our country.  We have many freedoms, but not everything is OK to do.  We have laws in place.  A governmental system over us.  We have liberty-but it needs to be kept in check.  The Apostle Paul knew what it meant to be a slave.

Read this passage in Romans 6: 22-23.  "But now that you have been set free from sin, and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Slaves of God?  I thought Jesus said if you know the truth, the truth shall set you free?   I think Paul had a good insight.  He knew that we were all slaves to something.  We are all born into sin and were a slave to that.  We all have something that we believe in.  In Paul's day, there were people who worshiped idols of wood and clay.  Some did not believe in God at all.  Others, a God of their own making.  The same is true today.  If we are all a slave of something, Paul became a slave of God, though faith in Christ Jesus.

This freedom in Christ, sets is free from sin.  Makes us a joint heir in the Kingdom of God.  We become transformed in a new life, that marks an intentional path to holiness.  Not that we reach that in our lifetime, but that we are on a journey towards that destination. 

We have been given a free gift from God, by grace--by beveling in Jesus as the son of God and our Savior, we have eternal life.  We have a restored relationship, as it was in the beginning--only this time, there will be no sin to tarnish it.  There will be an everlasting relationship, walking with God and with other believers.

This is a freedom that was bought with a price--the blood of Jesus.  All freedom has a price.  Today, we celebrate our Independence as a free country.  Those men who signed the Declaration of Independence, they knew they were committing high treason.  They knew England would not take this lying down.  There would be a price to pay.  There would be blood shed.  Our freedom has come under fire, and been protected ever since by the blood of sacrifice.   Those who gave their life in defense of our freedoms. 

God loves you.  He died for you.  He loves us to much that he gave his Son, that we might have a real relationship with him.  True Freedom--forever.  That is something to be thankful for.   God seeks a relationship with him, not religion.

So from our family here, Happy Independence Day.  Enjoy this country and all the freedoms we have.  And thank God that he has made a way to be truly free.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

It's Colored Boom Boom time



I love fireworks.   Always have since I can remember.  And we are heading for prime time.  The 4th of July.  Fireworks season normally starts around Memorial Day, usually at minor league baseball games and some carnivals.  It really ramps up for Independence Day (No, not the movie), and winds down in the fall.

This is going to bring up some memories buried in the old, and now bald, cranium.  Bear with me, as I talk about all things fireworks related.  Let's get in the way back machine and travel in time to the early 70's.

I grew up in small town Hamburg, PA.  Back then, it was on the map because we had a State Police station outside of town.  Nowadays, it is known for having a Cabela's outside town.  At one corner of the town was the local park.  The park had a ball field, band shell for music, swimming pool and playground.  When Memorial Day would roll around, the park would have a carnival, with rides, games and music.  For me, the highlight was the last night and the Fireworks.  Here is how it would work.  The band that normally played was "Crazy Elmer and the Outlaws," a group still performing today!  They featured country music and comedy, ala Hee Haw.  Anyway, the fireworks were to start at 10:00 pm, but they never did.  The band was told to milk  the crowd to buy more food, drinks and play Bingo.  Back then you could park your car in the park on the lawn and watch the Fireworks from you car, or in some cases, on the roof.  That's what I remember.  Fireworks going off overhead while sitting on the car roof.  Good stuff.

I got my first taste of "out of town" fireworks when my parents and grandmother traveled to Disney World,  They would have fireworks every night over the castle and the lagoon.  (There was no Epcot yet)  I thought they were some of the best.  But I had not seen anything yet.

During the summer growing up, we would go to the beach in Wildwood, NJ.   If we were lucky enough to be there over the 4th, I got to see fireworks from out hotel roof, being set off over the ocean.  They were not bad.  More on this later.

Also in my teen years, I would travel to Shillington, PA during the end of their annual Community Days celebration, which still goes on today.  Back then, we watched the fireworks from an open field across from the vendors and where they were set off.  These lasted a good 45 minutes and had ground displays we would never see, as we sat farther away.   What I remember most, other than the fireworks, was the long traffic jams and fireworks go together?  Oh yea, lots of other people like fireworks also.  More on this later.

Moving ahead to college, or was it after....don't get older people.  Stay young.  I remember it was after a college homecoming and football game.  There were fireworks in downtown Pittsburgh, by the Zambelli Fireworks company.  It was amazing.  Fireworks from the City rooftops, launching from barges on the rivers.  They were going off all around you.  I remember a frantic ride to get into the city and then not knowing where to park.  It was a great time.   More on this later.

After I was first married and my son was 4 years old, and my ex wife was expecting our 2nd child, we had the great idea to travel to Washington DC to see the fireworks celebration on the 4th.  This was in 1999 and on a Sunday.  We will drive down for the weekend, we thought.  We will go some sightseeing, we said.  How many people could possibly be there?  How about thousands.  Tens of thousands.  We were by the Washington Monument--with everyone else.  Oh yea, the weather was hot and muggy.  Great for pregnant mothers.  And the porta potties...I can still remember the terrible smells.  All this for a 15 minute show?  Afterwards, it takes about 2 hours to clear out the mall.  We waited and rode the Metro.  A packed Metro back to our hotel.  Never again in person.  Been there, done that.  Did not get the T-Shirt.  And no more on this later.

Now about the "more on this later."  When I was composing this, I was beginning to see parallels.  When I was young, my parents took me to the beach, and sometimes we got to see fireworks.  When I was first married, we took our kids to the beach over the week of the 4th (Where I worked, we closed for that week)  For a few summers, we stayed in Ocean City, MD at a rental home off 120th street.  The fireworks were set off 7 blocks away at a local park.  We could watch them and when done, walk back inside the house.  (Shortest commute ever)

As my kids were a little order, and after my re-marriage, we have gone back to Shillington and their fireworks.  These times; however, we have sat up close.  In the grass area not far from where they are set off.  In fact, the fireworks go off overhead and often, there are pieces of cardboard and materials floating down around you.  It's a great show, and now I know why we sat father away when I was younger.

And in Pittsburgh, my wife Shari and I celebrated New Year's eve in 2012, watching fireworks going off from building tops, like I saw in college.

And about the title, that was from my son, Drew.  When he was young, he would call fireworks, colored boom booms.  I have never heard that before, and wonder where he got that from.

I have seen many changes over the years--fireworks shows have gotten more elaborate.  The shapes are more detailed.  There are a variety of colors I don't remember seeing.  I hope you can get out and see some shows this weekend.  For me, I always become a kid again at every show.

So stay safe.  Leave your pets inside.  Enjoy the shows, and leave the fireworks to the professionals.




Thursday, June 23, 2016

Musical Chairs...AKA Wack-a-Steve

When I got up on Thursday, I was well rested and ready for a day of work.  I am in the middle of Vacation Bible School and usually begin to drag now.   I also knew I had outstanding orders to enter at work and needed to get a good start.

Well, you know Murphy?  He has laws, and sometimes they affect yourself.  In this case, me.  I got into work and turned on my computer.  I got the password screen, entered it and got the next screen that says welcome.  We have Windows 7 software loaded on our computers, and are resisting going to Windows 10.  The welcome screen I got had a spinning circle that tells you something is loading.  The only problem was, that 5 minutes later it was still spinning.

First diagnosis?  Turn off the computer and start again.  This time, I got nothing past the login screen.  It was black.  Turn it off again and this time when it starts, enter it in safe mode.  That worked.  Hmmm...  Log off, turn off and restart.  This time, I got back to the Welcome screen and....nothing.

At this point, I knew there was trouble, so I go to our IT/WaterJet Operator/CAD room assistant, Shannon.  He is a guy and like the song "A Boy Named Sue," by Johnny Cash, you don't want to mess with Shannon.  He loves Star Wars, is a great family man, but you don't want to meet him in a dark alley.  Anyway, he had a migrane and intended to go home early.  (He stayed all day)

After consulting with my boss and Shannon, I began a day of musical chairs.  I work in a small office, with (7) workstations.  Today, I was at 4 of them.  To make this easy, let's diagram this out.

Let's call the workstations by the first letter of the people that sit there.  We have T, J, D and S (my desk), and we have a Copier/Printer.  Call this CP.  Normally at my desk, I enter the orders, email customers, and print everything out at my desk printer.  None of that worked today.

So, how to get orders entered, email confirmations out, and generally do my job, while not impacting everyone else.  You play musical chairs.  The day played out sort of like this.

T, CP, T, CP, T, CP, T, CP, J, CP, J, CP, J, CP, T, CP, T, CP, D, CP, D, CP, D, CP.  I started out at desk T while they took their work elsewhere.  All these desks print to the main Copier/Printer. The Work Cards that I enter are printed on yellow sheets.  Normally, I hand feed them at my desk.  Today, I have to insert them into tray #1 on the CP.  Then run back to the desk I am at, hit enter, and print before someone else is printing there.  That is why there is a CP so many times listed.  Sit at desk T.  Put yellow paper in CP, run back to desk T.  Enter another order at T, run to CP, etc.

When J was at lunch I sat there and entered orders.  After D left (he works a half day),  I stayed there for the afternoon.  So, there I went, up and down and at different desks all day, while Shannon tried to figure out what was going on.  Eventually, he backed up my mail info, desktop stuff, etc on a flash drive and he re-installed Windows.  He expects to finish tomorrow morning and have it ready for me when I arrive.

It was interesting to see our Production Supervisor that I work closely with, come in to look for me, and each time I was at a different desk.  Or my boss asking the same thing.  The funniest comment came from one of our Estimators, who said "This is like a game of Wack a Mole, you never know where Steve is going to pop up next.

(Where will Steve pop up next?)

See, just another ordinary day at work.  But I still managed to enter a large amount of orders, and leave work on time, and get to VBS in one piece.  Speaking of which, what am I still doing up?  I need some sleep.  One more day of work and night of VBS before sleeping in on Saturday.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Shattittudered



Tonight at VBS, we learned that Jesus gives us our direction.  Sometimes in life, what we hoped would happen, or think would happen, does not.  There are detours, off ramps, diversions and sometimes, dead ends. 

Somethings things get shattered.  When these unexpected things happen, we have a choice on how to react.  This is our attitude.  Shattered + Attitude = Shattitudered

I have not always had a good attitude about things.  I have had to work, and still work on it.  I have to remember to think positive things on purpose, even when negative things can happen.

So, recently on my back patio, we bought a used patio table, umbrella and chairs that were for sale at a house close to ours.  Prior to this, we had (4) chairs on the patio that I spray painted and clear coated to be the same color.  These chairs did not match.  (2) of the chairs did--the other (2) did not.   The cushions for the chairs also were not all the same.  And prior to this, I had (2) Chairs and a small table.

So, when my wife found a table and chairs, I told her to get it sight unseen.  We brought it home over a weekend and it looked great.  It came with a new umbrella that provided shade out back.  We have had this patio set for a month now, and were starting to use it more each day.

Now today it was windy, and the umbrella was left open.  I was at work when my wife called me.  Apparently, the wind lifted the umbrella up from the stand and it landed on an angle, and doing so, shattered the glass table into many small pieces.  It looked like breakaway glass when I saw it tonight.

So, in the midst of a busy work day, I had a choice to make.  I could go to the negative side and think that we just paid for this, and now we need a new table.  Or, where am I going to find replacement glass to fit, or feel disappointed-like "why did this happen to me?" 

But this time, I first asked if anyone was hurt.  No one was outside when it happened, so that was a no.  Then I thought about keeping the glass away from the grandkids in case they went outside.  My wife was already on that.  She told me she would work on cleaning it up during her break. 

Although this example may be something simple, I had to make sure my attitude matched the situation.  No one was hurt.  The table can be replaced.  And you cannot do anything about it, because you are at work.

When I got home, I had some time to clean it up before going to VBS.  My wife cleaned the rest up this evening.  My step-daughter starting looking online for tables that anyone was selling.

Then tonight, an unexpected result from keeping a positive attitude.   After I got back from VBS, my wife arranged the chairs and moved the umbrella and stand off to one side.  It opened up the patio and will allow us to still have shade when we need it.  We can still look for a table, but don't have to do it right away.   And even if the table color is not the same as the chairs, it will still look good together. 

So, this was an unexpected turn today that will all work out.  Most things in life do.  I have to keep remembering that Jesus give us our direction.  We taught this to the kids tonight.  And I have to keep teaching it to the big kid-myself. 


Monday, June 20, 2016

It's VBS week...Vavcation Bible School or Very Busy Steve

It's that week again.  The crazy, chaotic and wonderful week of Vacation Bible School.  Or, as I call it, a Very Busy Steve.  This week follows the same basic scenario.  Get up for work.  Pack lunch.  Daily Devotional.  Go to work.  Leave work at 5 pm and get home at 5:10 (I work 2 miles from home)  Grab something to eat.  Leave at 5:30.  Experience VBS from 6:00 to 8:30.  Get home by 9:00.  Cram in everything to do before 11 pm.  Collapse in bed.  Rinse and Repeat through Friday night.

Don't get me wrong, I truly enjoy it.  This year, my stepson is helping out.  He decided he wanted to volunteer over the weekend.  He is working in the Drama room.  I am a group leader Team 12...the oldest kids who can attend VBS.    This has been my 4th year to volunteer and I plan my time around it to avoid vacation time, or other commitments.

 If you get a chance and can volunteer your time at a local VBS, I encourage it.  We have young teens to retired people coming out to spend time with over 100 kids,  We want to give them hope, sing songs, and share God with them (and some of their parents).

My plan is to work on more posts this week, if I can stay awake long enough.  Thank you for your comments and support.  Glad you are reading and enjoying the posts.  Have a good week everyone. 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Violated

I consider myself a relatively safe person, and take a common sense measures, like locking doors, and understanding my surroundings.  Things were different when I was young.  I remember riding my bike in the summer, going to the local park in Hamburg for games, or the pool.  I was told to be home in time for dinner.  That was it.  I don't remember if we always locked our doors.  I know my parents cars were parked in a garage and the side door was locked at night.  We knew our neighbors, and looked out for each other.



Today, we live in an ever connected world, and are more disconnected than ever.  We used to sit on our front porches and talk with our neighbors.  Now we have fenced in back yards and outdoor patios for privacy.



I know that is not the case with everyone, and where we live, we know our neighbors on our town home unit.  For example, we have one set of neighbors watch our dog and cat when we are away.



This was the case when we were away last weekend at the shore for a long weekend vacation.  We took (2) vehicles and left my car behind.  Normally, I lock my car at night, but not always.  We always lock our house front and back.



Now, our campsite had wi-fi, and we were checking emails, Facebook, etc.  On Saturday, we started seeing comments about cars being broken into around our area.  One of the posts included the street we live on.



Here is where I insert that phrase, "Pride goeth before a fall."  I remember thinking that, "well, I locked the car.  And even if they get in, there are going to see some christian CD's, a booklet on the constitution.  We took our GPS and I don't leave money in the car.  I was concerned for others, but not for myself.  I though this could not happen to me.

We don't think about it for the rest of the weekend.  We drove back Monday night and got home to unload some of our items.   I got my GPS and phone charger out of our van, went to unlock the car, and "boom."  It was unlocked.  Inside, the glove box was opened, and the contents on the passenger , seat.  My center console was open also.  I checked and there was nothing missing.  I put everything back and realized that I was also one of those vehicles listed in the news.



I felt violated.  Someone was in my car and I don't know who they are.  Someone went through my items.  I was one of those people, the "It can't happen to me" person.  I realized my words over the weekend.  How I thought to myself, "Sorry for you.  That's what can happen when you leave your car unlocked."



Later on, I called the police to add my name to the list.  The officer said the MO was the same.  All victims had unlocked cars, and they were looking for money.  There was a news article online that said it was (2) 17-year olds who got into over 38 vehicles.  They were caught at Wal-Mart early Saturday morning.  They got into the cars on Friday night.



My lesson learned was not to think more of myself than I ought to.  Also, to keep my car unlocked.  Even though, it was on a small scale, I still felt violated in some way, and that stuck with me.  Next time, I will think differently and remember that it can happen to me.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

School's out for-ever...

Admit it.  You read the title of the blog and started singing the song by Alice Cooper called "School's Out."  It seems to make an appearance this time of year.

For some on Tuesday, school was out forever.  High school, that is.  My stepson and 250 or so of his colleagues graduated from Palmyra High School.  They completed that rite of passage, and are moving on to bigger and better things.

I had a simple posting on Facebook Tuesday morning, and I wanted to post it here.

Dear Graduating PHS Seniors. THIS IS IT!!! Tonight will truly be the last time you are all together in one place. Enjoy the moment and take it all in. Because, even with class reunions, not everyone attends. Some of you will stay close for a lifetime, and others, you may not see again. You have worked hard and now is your time to shine. Some of you have a definite plan, but others are not sure what to do, and that's OK. You are young and have time. Thank you parents, step-parents, caregivers, teachers, coaches, pastors, mentors for helping you to arrive here. You made it. Congratulations Graduates, here's to you!

 So, to my Stepson, Noah Parker and the rest of the Class of 2016--a job well done!

(Noah with his Mom--and my wife, Shari Schappell)

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Calming the storm



How many times have you read something, and then read it again...like you are reading it for the first time?  That recently happened to me.
The story is in Mark 4: 35-41, 5:1 and is about how Jesus calms the storm.  Here is the passage:

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
 5 They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes.

Many of you have read this before.  Looking at this in context, Jesus and his disciples were by the lake, where a large multitude of people had arrived to hear him speak.  There were so many people that Jesus got into a boat with his disciples and faced the crowd.  They faced the sea and listened to Jesus as he taught them several Parables.  This went on all day until evening.



I can imagine after a long day, Jesus would have been tired.  While the crowds were still there, he made the decision to leave them behind and go to the other side with his disciples.   I don't know what the weather was when they left, and since they did not have an Accu-Weather app showing the area Radar, they did not know that a fierce storm was on the way.



Again, I don't know the size of the boat, but it was large enough to hold 12 Disciples and Jesus, who was in the back of the boat, sleeping on a cushion.  Now I don't know about you, but I am a fairly light sleeper, and can be woken up by Thunder or loud noise nearby.  In fact, I need a dark room and quiet to sleep.  Not Jesus.  Here in the middle of a storm, with thunder and lightning, high winds, and pounding surf, Jesus was asleep.  With water coming into the boat, Jesus slept. 



The disciples, maybe fearing for their lives, woke Jesus up.   Some were thinking of themselves, while others chided Jesus saying "Don't you care if we drown?"



I don't know what Jesus was thinking at that moment.  You wake me up from a nap, or a deep sleep, and I am not happy.  Jesus simply got up, told the wind and the waves to be still and quiet, and just like that, there was silence. 



Now, you and I understand the context and what happened after that.  How would we have reacted.  Would be be astonished and said. "It's a miracle."  Would we have not believed our eyes.  See, we can look at the New Testament and the Gospels and it seems obvious that Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah, the Chosen One.  We have the luxury of hindsight.  The disciples did not.  According to the Jewish beliefs, the Messiah they wanted was a warrior.  Someone to come and overthrow the ruling authorities of the day.  In this example, they witnesses an awesome display of power and authority.



Jesus asked why they were so afraid.  Here comes my first revelation.  Jesus was not afraid of the storm.  He was so calm, he slept.  He did not fear because he had power over the storm.  If Jesus was not afraid of the storm, neither should we.  This goes for all kinds of storms in our lives.



The disciples, still terrified from the storm, and probably terrified of what they witnessed Jesus do, asked each other who this person was, that even the winds and waves obey him.  Again, we can look at this now, and say "What, are they crazy?  This is Jesus, the Messiah.  The one who would change the world."  But I bet, if were were in their place, we would have asked the same thing. 



Remember, the disciples were seasoned fishermen.  Surely they faced storms like this before on the lake or sea.  Were they afraid then.  Jesus asked them to go to the other side, and they were following his order, if you will.



Here was my next revelation.  It is Chapter 5, verse 1.  It ends the story, but is easy to miss.  They went across the lake.  The storm did not deter them.  They still completed the task.  It made me realize that even when we do as the Lord says, there still may be storms in our lives.  It is unavoidable.  Yet, because Jesus was with them, the storm did not stop them from getting to the other side, which is where Jesus wanted them to go.



I believe we often let a storm stop us from getting to our destination, whatever that is.  So even if the storm you are going through is a result of an accident, divorce, job loss, or some other trial, we can remain confident.  Jesus will guide us though the storm, and get us to the other side.   He remained calm, and so can we.  Regardless of the outcome, we can trust Jesus with any storm we encounter.


Thursday, June 2, 2016

I got a lift at work

There are some advantages to where I work.  Steady weekday hours.  No nights or weekends.   You cannot take your work with you.  No phone calls or emails after hours.  Two miles from work.  We make Steel Rule Dies, and have (2) Lasers and (1) Water Jet Machine to help us with die work.  We also have a CAD room to process our die orders, and of course, a shop to make them.

If you look around our offices, you will notice that all the desk materials are make of the same materials, but each desk space is custom made.  Some of the storage and work areas in the shop are the same.  I never really noticed this until a few months ago when my work area moved so we would have a new table to lay out work on, and meet with customers. 

So, do we go online and order a table?  Do we go to Staples, cause, yeah, they got that.  No, we make our own.  First, we sketch it out, then our CAD dept designs it and saves it in the language needed for our Laser.  The Laser burns the boards into the parts needed.  Then the shop assembles the table, and finishes it.  Then, a few hours after it was designed, BOOM, we have a new table. 

That's how all our desks were made at work.  We have rolling carts to hold dies that were made in the shop.  Once, I noticed that, I see our work everywhere.

What does have to do with getting a lift at work?   Glad you asked.  I sit on your average black work desk chair with (2) arms.  These chairs have a gas canister lift system.  There is a handle on the side to raise or lower the chair.   Eventually, they stop working and the chair sags.  My chair started sagging late last week, where I was lifting it up several times a day.  Then last Tuesday, it stopped working.

I decided to show my boss and see what could be done.  Here is the timeline.

2 pm: My boss comes in the office for another reason and I call him over to show him the chair and how it will not stay raised.  I asked if there was something we could do or add so it would not sag.

2:05 pm:  My boss comes back in and looks at the chair.  Thinks he has a possible solution.

2:10 pm: CAD Designer and Water jet operator Shannon comes in.  He makes measurement and leaves.

2:20 pm: Shannon arrives with a metal donut in (2) pcs.  He checks the fit and says it looks good.  He is going to ask Bill in the shop when he can tack weld the donut to the chair.

2:22 pm:  We can go now.  I wheel my desk chair to the shop--with amused looks--and give it to Bill, one of our Die Makers.  We set the height needed and I leave. 

2: 40 pm:   Bill wheels the chair back in the office.  BOOM!  I have a fixed chair that does not sag anymore.

A simple solution and a quick fix.  We do have some ingenuity in the office at times.  Another advantage of working there, I guess.  Maybe we could expand our business into chair repairs?  Hmmmm.....




Saturday, May 28, 2016

Corned Beef Petunias

Sometimes when I write this blog, I have an idea already in mind to flesh out and create.  Other times, the blog idea comes to you.  Today was such the case.

My wife and I took advantage of the lovely Spring day...By lovely, we mean temps in the high 80's and hot.  We enjoyed a family morning at the Annville Memorial Parade out in the heat.  In the afternoon, we went shopping for some half-moon plant stakes.  I wanted to work outside in our front yard, planting and starting mulch.  We are also looking for some additional plants.

We made some stops at Lowe's, a local Nursery, and our local Wal-Mart.  Again, the intent was to look for specialty plant stakes first, and then plants.  Normally, we don't shop for plants there;  however, I have learned to trust my wife.  While looking at the plants, there was a discount rack in the back.  All the plants were half off.  Most of these are actually not bad.  They need water and have the dead flowers and leaves picked off.  I have watched my wife bring these plants "back from the dead," and have them flourishing again. 

We got several Dianthus and Petunias in different colors and made our way to the outside register in the garden section.

Here is the scene.  One worker on the register and another worker sitting on a folding chair nearby.  We put our purchases on the table to be rung up.   My wife told the woman these are all half off and marked that way.  One of the plants had a UPC label, but no price on it.  She started to scan and things went fine until one of the plants had an issue on the scanner.  She needed to find someone over to help.  At this point, there were several people in line behind us (who eventually went inside to pay) because the chaos was just beginning.

There is an LED screen that we can see, showing us the prices as they are scanned.  When she gets to one of the Petunia's to scan, it says "not available."  When she tries again, it says "Corned Beef" for $2.35.  Not a Petunia for .91 cents.  She tries to void it out, and it pops up again, this time with "Corned Beef" for $4.71.

Hmmm, something's not right here.  She calls a man over from the Garden center to explain what is going on, asking what their department code is.  He tries to scan and gets that same "Corned Beef."

Now it gets better.  Sometimes at Wal-Mart when you walk around, you can never find someone in the department you are in when you need help.   Well today, if you were there when we were, I can tell you why no one was around---they were with us.

The man who came over, went and got another Asst. Manager to come out.  She brought (2) people with her.  Now we had (5) managers (!) at the register to see what was happening.  They void out the entire order and start again.  .88, .44, .44, .44, .91. .91, .91, $2.36 Corned Beef...Not again.

Now this time, the manager did an override and manually entered the price as .91 cents for a petunia.  Oh, that plant that did not have a UPC Label on it, they gave it to us for $1.00.

What an adventure.  Well, the plants are, well-now planted, and here is a shot of the receipt with the Corned Beef Petunia.  Now that would be quite the hybrid plant to see...


Friday, May 27, 2016

Memorial Day Meltdown

4 years ago today, I proposed to Shari.  I was reminded today from Facebook, and their "On This Day," flashback.  That got me thinking about that day and the funny story that went along with it.

First, another flashback.  Our first date happened over a Labor Day Weekend in 2011.  I drove to Beaver, Pa., and met Shari at the Sewing shop she ran.  That evening, we went for a long walk in the downtown.  There was a park next to the town square where we had our first kiss.

Fast forward to Memorial Day weekend in 2012.  We had been dating via Megabus, traveling across the state from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg one or two weekends a month.  I had been working a second job delivering weekly Merchandisers in order to save money for a ring  (no, really), and I was going to surprise her over the weekend.

One of the other places we went on our first date was an Ice Cream Shop called "Witch Flavor."  They featured hard ice cream from the Penn State Creamery.  Shari and I went there many times when dating, and got to know the owners.  Prior to the weekend, I contacted them via Facebook messages and email, and we worked out a plan for the weekend.

Before I left on the Megabus, I posted on Facebook that I was off to "ring" in the weekend with Shari.  Some of you got it right away.  My plan was to propose on a Saturday afternoon, stop by Witch Flavor, and then go out for dinner.  It seemed like an easy plan...until the meltdown.

Now this was not the kind of meltdown you are thinking of.   Think hot.  Think heat.

My wife's former house had a large back yard, fenced on 2 sides and backed up to woods.  Mowing the yard in the back, side and front of the house required a few hours of work--even more than when rain + sun = TALL grass.  I figured we would pass the time in the afternoon by tackling the yard work out back.  All she knew is that we had dinner plans later.  It was a beautiful afternoon, but it was hot.

So we set out to work on the yard, mowing and trimming.  I remember how hot it was, that we needed to take water breaks--but not enough of them.  And losing track of the time.  My plan was to drive through Beaver and stop for ice cream, after a walk in the park, around 4 pm, as my plan included an outdoor sign asking Shari to marry me, placed at Witch Flavor.

What comes next was blurry, because the meltdown started.  I don't know how long before you experience heat exhaustion, or when the effects start.  I remember we got cleaned up, changed and drove to downtown Beaver.  I suggested going on a walk to the park and then for ice cream--before dinner.  We talked to the park and at the spot where we first kissed, I proposed.  Heat exhaustion was coming into play here.  I was feeling light headed, and nervous, rehearsing what I was going to say.  When I stopped, and got down on one knee, Shari thought I was falling down and wanted to help me up.  I told her how I felt, what she meant to me and asked her to marry me.  I presented the ring, and she was in shock.   She too was feeling dizzy--from both the heat and the heat of the moment. (Cue the song from Asia)

Well She.Said.Yes.   And then we continued over to Witch Flavor.  She completely missed the sign out front, until it was pointed out.   We went into the store and the owners were worried that either (a) We were not coming, (b) We forgot, or (c) She said No.  We each received an ice cream treat on the house and our picture taken that was later put on the wall.  It is still there, along with other customer photos all over the wall.

At this point, adrenaline must be working, or the ice cream, was a welcome treat, because we thought  we felt fine.  We finally got to the sign outdoors for some photos.


After all that excitement, we made calls to family while driving to dinner.  We chose to eat at Texas Roadhouse, as we enjoy going there....normally.

It was then...a few hours later that it all caught up to us.  I remember that we both did not feel so good while ordering and eating.  I remember we boxed up to go more than we usually do.  The conversation was good, we were both excited and only touched on the fact that we would become a blended family--with 6 kids total between us (Almost a Brady Bunch), (2) Dogs, and (2) Cats also.

And to top it all off, after the whole whirlwind of a day, we made it back to her house--and promptly got sick....

Ah, ain't love grand?    It was the next day after we slept it off....and had lots of water!



Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Welcome Home

Here's an admission.  I have OCD.   No surprise to those who know me, right?  I am not the "straighten the tassels on the end of a rug" OCD, but the "organizing, everything in it's place" OCD.

This is something that I need to work on, and get assistance with.  It can be a good thing from an organization standpoint.  I helps at jobs I have had that require organization.  It helps when planning trips, lists, or arranging at home.  It comes in conflict when it is used to control my surroundings and others.

My pastor told me recently that "life is messy."  Family and relationships matter more than things, but those relationships are never neat.  There is always a give and take.  This is a current story about that messy life, and how it is changing me for the better.

I am an only child, and never experienced the sharing of things with a brother or sister.  I was used to doing  things alone and enjoyed it.  After the divorce, I had my kids every other week, and lived alone 2 weeks during the month.  The townhouse I found worked great for the three of us.  When I got married again, and a decision was made that (2) of my wife's boys would move with her, we worked into those arrangements.  The finished basement became Noah's room.  Phil moved into my son's room, as he lives in town with his mom.  My daughter kept her same room.  This arrangement also worked-as we adjusted to each other over time, and earlier this year--after everyone being here (2) years, were settled.

So, I admit, I was the objector to plans to have (4) more people move into the townhouse.
 
I thought we were tight already.  I had many questions to consider.



Let's set the stage.  My step-daughter is married with (2) kids (our grandkids)  They are 2-1/2 and 8 months.  They were living 5 hours away on the other side of Pennsylvania.  Her husband had a good job and was a supervisor for Safe Tarp, a company that secured and tarped large vehicles hauling materials.  For some time, they have been looking at moving to the area, but were not sure when.  Then this February, Justin received news.  His company was being bought by another firm.  He would have to re-apply in order to stay there.  He was given (2) choices.  He could stay at lower pay, and no bonuses, but keep his position.  Or, he could stay to early March, and leave.



After lots of discussion and prayer, he decided to leave, and they made the decision to put their trailer up for sale and move in with us.  To prepare for this, they came in on weekends so Justin could apply for jobs here and we could make preparations.



In the past when they visited, they would stay in Phil's room (moy stepson)  He would be temporarily displaced to the sofa downstairs, or to Noah's room in the basement.  This worked when it was only a few days , but what about a few months.



Thankfully, Noah decided to give up his space in the basement so they could stay down there.  We took some time to pack up his things, and take his essentials to Phil's room.



This is where God took over.  The weekend before hie job ended, Justin, Moriah and the boys came in to visit.  He had an interview on Friday with a Pipe Maker outside Harrisburg.  It was a laborer job, working on the grind line, making large pipes.  I was at work when he called me.  He told me he had good news, he got the job, and then he told me they wanted him to start the following Monday.  That meant, they were going to move in the following weekend, in early March.



Remember how I said I was not good at change.  Well, when change is sudden, you have to roll with it.   So, my wife went with them to watch the grandkids, and they packed up the moving van and headed out for Palmyra,  We unloaded on a rainy Sunday night in a rented storage shed, and they moved in.



The first few weeks were an adjustment for all of us.   We had a morning routine for school and meals, plus evening activities.  I forgot about the adjustment for them.  Justin started a new job in an area he was not familiar with.  Moriah had to get settled in with  her boys and adjust to our routine.  And we needed to work on the arrangements. 



Of course, to my surprise, things started working out quickly.   My daughter and the boys went from an annoyance to acceptance.  Moriah and Justin wanted to help out by buying groceries and helping with dinner.  We kept our routines and developed new ones.  I was learning to let some things go with my OCD, and learning that this situation was temporary and to enjoy it.  I had to learn that a living room full of toys, meant we had family here.  That dinner was a social event, and that in all things, God was in control.



The past few months have been sent with Moriah and Justin looking for homes or trailers in the area, and getting used to the area in general.  Looking for a church to attend, and places to shop and eat.

And of course life moves on.  Shari finished her college courses in the Spring.  Noah graduates from High School in less than 2 weeks.  We got another van for Shari.  We are planning for our summer vacations, and working on our garden.

The point for me is that I needed to learn that this was family, and family is more important than things.  I know that should be easy to see, but for someone who does not have a large family, and used to a controlled situation, this was an adjustment for me.  My fears were not realized (They usually never are)  My perspective had to change.  Like if I needed some time away, I went up to our bedroom and worked there.

Anyway, the house hunting has been progressing.  They recently sold their trailer and moved the remaining items out.  And this week, they put an offer down on a house that is in the Palmyra School District.  We are currently waiting to see if the offer is accepted.  It is exciting, because it could mean a home for them.  And if this does not work out, there will be something else to come along.  In the meantime, they have a place to stay, and although they would like a place of their own--to call their home--they have a home now and family here.

Here are some pictures of the home they put a bid on.  Maybe this will be the place where they can say, "Welcome Home."