A Typical Buchman Vacation Day

Here was my plan for Friday – to go to the Joel Thorpe wedding in Philly a day early. I had the hotel booked. I wanted to spend the afternoon with Diana walking around to all the places we used to go when we first met at 1800 Arch Street. That building has been long gone, but many others would still be there. Lots of restaurants and parks and places of that sort would be at the same locations. Maybe we could grab some Philly steaks and a dessert at the Ice Cream Company.

But, a bundle of responsibilities in the morning delayed departure. Then the weather looked bad for Philly in the afternoon. Before long, it was too late to go.

Then, it started to rain in River Bend Farms … and it rained hard. The spouts could not handle it. I had the thought that perhaps I should check the basement, and sure enough, it was flowing through a crack in the bulkhead door. So I started bailing and carrying buckets. I was able to avert a disaster for sure.

Then, Caleb comes home to announce that a tree had fallen across our driveway. So, that was my next task… cleaning it up enough so that we can at least get by to actually go to the wedding in Philadelphia.

Vacation – Buchman style. We are vacationally dysfunctional. I shouldn’t even try to take days off; it seldom works out.

So I finished my vacation day with an elevated leg and swollen knee – but at least the Orioles beat the Nationals … so, it was a good day after all!


Jubilee Day – Not My Kind of Day

Since I’ve been putting a post each day about what I’ve done with my days off, I’ll write a few lines about Thursday. This is not as good as the last two days.

I spent my day at Jubilee Day in Mechanicsburg, PA.  Why? I’m not really sure. And what is it?  I don’t really know how to explain it.

Jubilee Day is an annual event in Mechanicsburg – a city known for big events, like, the dropping of the wrench on New Year’s Eve (I’m not making that up).

It is an annual street carnival sort of thing with lots of funnel cakes places, lemonade stands, crafters, various organizations (including churches with stands), and music venues at various locations. They shut down the main street in town and something like 40,000 people come to it.

We own a franchise location in Mechanicsburg of our oldest son’s and daughter-in-law’s business, Potomac Bead Company. The location is on Main Street there, in a store that our family (mostly Aaron) renovated (it was originally a downtown movie theatre – so the front room slopes upward from the front door.  A stray bead can roll 50 feet before it stops!).

Diana manages the business, most days from a distance – travelling there once or maybe twice a week. I don’t talk about this much – mostly because I seldom see or experience the place, beyond taking inventory on New Year’s Day (can you imagine counting roughly 6 million beads?).

So on this Jubilee Day, there is quite a lot of foot traffic in the store. My role is basically security guard and bouncer!  (Things can get rough in a bead store!)  So, it was not the most interesting day, but I was glad to help Diana.

The following is a picture from the Mechanicsburg Chamber of Commerce about Jubilee Day. And after that are a couple of pictures of the store.

Official Announcement: I’ve Entered My Dotage

Yes, it is true. I will not deny it; I am officially a doddering old man in his dotage. Have you ever heard that word – dotage – or that phrase?  It came across my radar when reading the book John Adams by David McCullogh. Adams used the phrase all the time to describe failing old men – an ability at which he excelled beyond all his peers, living to the age of almost 91 (as Thomas Jefferson uttered his last words – dying the same day – “Adams survives.”)

The word dotage means “a decline of mental faculties, especially as associated with old age; senility.”

Yep, as if I likely need to prove this to any of you who know me, here is proof of my decline – evidenced by how I spent my afternoon on Wednesday of my vacation week…

I thought I would drive down into West Virginia to view some of the Civil War Trails historic markers of varied sites that are not commonly a part of the major incidents of the War. I’m always trying to learn new things and also gain more material for my Civil War blog (www.enfiladinglines.com … check it out if you’ve never seen it!).

So, I’m at a fairly remote location and came upon a marker at a spot where there honestly was not much to see other than the marker itself – the historic stuff no longer is standing at that location. Well, I read the marker, took a few pictures of it for later reference, and went to get back in the car.




What to do??  Among options I considered was finding a large rock to break the window! But down the country road I saw a home and thought I’d at least walk toward it. There was fellow outside to whom I told my sad tale of woe. He actually recognized me as a Williamsport coach, as he has a son who is a distance runner for Hedgesville High School. He had a cell phone on him, and I began to call my various progeny to come rescue me. However, one was in Ocean City, another was at work in Carlisle, and a third did not answer his phone. Caleb is the guy I really needed, but, since his phone number is “in my phone” which was “in the locked car,” I could not call him. Eric Boutieller (my Student Ministries Pastor) was fortunately at church, and I was able to call him there … “Eric, could you give me my son’s phone number?”  So, after about 30-40 minutes, Caleb arrived to rescue me.

OK… here is my excuse … old people make excuses for their behavior … like my 90-year-old mother did when she was robbed by a roving band of Gypsies (not making this up – just reporting what happened) who talked her out of her house to discuss home repairs, while a group of them stole a bunch of money and broke into a safe she had in the house!  When I said to her, “Mom, this is why you probably should not be living alone anymore at age 90,” her answer to me was, “Well, now that this has happened, I’ll know to not do that again!”

OK… where was I? … why did I write that story???  OH, ok, I was going to give you my excuse for locking myself out of a running car.

Here’s the story: It is a new-to-us car – the newest and nicest car we have ever owned. It is a 2002 Cavalier with only 53,000 miles on it. You see, we’re not really too “into” cars. But I really, really do still want to have a BMW or Benz – not a big thing, mind you. Just like a 325 series or a small 230 Mercedes – something like that.

Oh… I got sidetracked again with another story… sorry …

Notice the tiny little locking thinger!

So, this new car, for which I’m very thankful having had it given to us by my brother-in-law after my sister passed away … well … it does have a stupid feature – in my estimation. The door locking mechanism is not a vertical thing on the handle like in our Toyota cars. No, it is a horizontal latch connected to the door opening latch, and all you need to do it bump against it getting out of the car, and it goes into a locked position. I guess that is what I did … probably bumped it because of my dotage-infested aching knees that make every car-exiting experience the worst moment of any day.

So that’s my excuse; it could happen to anyone at any age, right??

Simply Surreal

I am mostly using vacation days this week, and as I mentioned at some point in the past, I’ve occasionally been doing some genealogical research – using Ancestry.com and a whole host of other ideas and research.

To quickly review my bizarre story:  I was adopted by my biological mother’s parents – so my known-to-me parents were actually grandparents. My biological father was much older and was already long married (but with no children) when I was born to a young single working woman. So I never knew him, though he lived but a few miles away. I talked with him once on the phone for a couple of minutes, wherein he declined my offer to get together. He died in 1979.

So, this half of my life and background is a relative black hole. And for some reason, I’ve felt the compulsion to dig into in and see what I can find. It has been difficult to learn much – there were/are few relatives. At the most, I might have 2-3 “cousins” living, and I’ve so far been unsuccessful in tracking them down. I’ve only been able to take the family back to three generations before me, and I’m stuck trying to understand why my great-grandfather in 1860 was a five-year-old living with people of a different name – whom I know for sure are not related to him. It appears he was an orphan?

I don’t think I’m going to be able to figure this out without finding a remaining descendent or two and gaining an oral history from them. And with that endeavor, I’ve so far scored the same number as the Orioles have scored runs against the NY Mets – Zero!

Well yesterday I went to the Northampton County Historical and Genealogical Society library in Easton, PA.  There I was greeted by the manager (and I’m not making this up) who is a woman who is exactly 100 years old!!  Though she was moving even slower than me, her mind was not dragging much at all!

As I sat down at a table in this small room, there were two younger women working for the library on some sort of project with stacks of printed materials piled on the same table. The spunky elderly lady sat down with me and asked me to tell my story so they’d know how to help. So I began with what little I know … starting with my biological father …

I told them his name and said that he would have been prominent in the community for only one thing – that he was much involved in musical drama and theatre with a local company called “The Chansonette Theatre” (a group like our local Potomac Play Makers).  Hearing my story, one of the ladies recording information on the other side of the table said, “Well, how about that! That is what we just sat down to work on right here right now – we are cataloging an entire collection of playbills and programs from that theatre group. This pile of stuff was just given to us.”  And then she picked up the first program on top – from 1955 – and opened it and there was a picture of my father on the inside cover! For this particular show – South Pacific – he was the Musical Director (so I came by the role of “Herr Victor Schwab” naturally! … long story there if you don’t know what that references). There were other programs where he was pictured and featured with leading roles, and some reviews of critics in newspaper clippings – that sort of thing.

So, is that surreal, or what?

The lady said, “I think the ancients want to be found as much as we want to find them.”  I don’t know about that … well, yes I do know about that – and know that it cannot be true. But I do think I was on some divinely orchestrated timetable, and that it was not a mere coincidence.  I don’t know why … because I’m certainly not having much divine orchestration going on with my efforts to track down a blood relative.

But there is more to be done and written on this story. My competitive, tenacious nature has now been aroused, and I’m likely to hound it until I figure it out. Here’s a picture … anyone else think he’s got a little bit of a Mitt Romney thing going on?

Now, look at this picture of my oldest son Nathan … do you think these people are related??

A Surprise for the Geigers

I did something in church yesterday that I’ve been planning for some time – to pull a surprise on our friends Lyle and Miget Geiger.

The Geigers moved to our area a couple years ago from the Lehigh Valley, as Lyle works for Volvo. When in Allentown, they attended our denomination’s church there – Faith Evangelical Free in Wescoesville (just west of Allentown). As you may recall, this is the home of my wife Diana, and is not that far from where I grew up. Faith has always been a rather large church, and even when I was a teenager, I’d often go to concerts there – as this church hosted many of the best-known Christian musicians of the time.

The Geigers have three married sons – one of whom serves in the Orlando, Florida area at a very large church (Northland Church – Joel Hunter pastor). He is on the musical/worship staff (yes, lots of people). He is an outstanding keyboard player, songwriter, and singer. At various times, his songs have been a part of their worship services and may be seen in the media section of their web page.

So, for the 11:00 song to gather people for the iGrow session, I had Diana (in the sound room) connect to one of these links and project the song. It was fun for me to watch the Geigers go to their seat and sort of begin to realize that, hey, their son was playing on the projection!  Lyle told me later that Miget said to him, “That sounds like one of the songs Pete has written.”  And then, looking at the screen, he said, “It is Pete; there he is!”  So that was fun for me to watch.

An extra connection of this family to our church is through the Craver family. Fred and Norma’s son and family attended Faith in Allentown, and the Craver’s granddaughter was a very good singer who grew up in the youth group together with the Geiger’s son – doing some music things together as well.

If you want to see the song that we projected, here is the link:


Just TOTALLY Annoying!

What is? Ugh!! The crazies of the world … who get some bizarre pleasure out of creating computer problems for someone else!

Yes, I got one of those stupid virus things – where someone is trying to sell you a fix for a problem that does not exist (a hard drive problem), or sometimes for an issue that they first gave you!

My trouble is likely a fixable problem without the loss of anything … so I’m thankful for that; and I’m even more thankful for my friend Rusty Claman – who is my hero. He came into the staff meeting today to pick up my sorry machine (I’m using an old one now), and I fell at his feet and worshipped! This is a good guy.

Selling a fix for a problem that does not exist – that is how a great many people look at the church and the evangelical gospel message. They deny the reality of the problem (that sin separates them from a relationship with God) and therefore they see the entire process of salvation/sanctification/service to be a sales job for an unneeded product. And they likely find the network of efforts of churches and organizations as about as annoying as I find these crooks who cooked up my computer glitch.

But honestly, to not sense a need for God and to deny the truths that even creation itself screams about this reality … well, it is like running through life without virus protection whatsoever, being fatally infected, and not believing it to be true.

Rusty walked out of church today saying that there will be no technology in heaven, as it is reserved for hell!  I can’t give you a Scripture reference for that, but I think Rusty is one of the smartest people I’ve ever known!

The Annual Youth Variety Show

I am sure that when my TSF years are all said and done, some of the warmest memories I will have will be of the annual youth spaghetti dinner and talent show (held Friday night). This was originally the idea of my 2nd oldest son Ben – who turned 28 a few days ago. Back when he was at Williamsport High School, he was in the famous Sophisti-‘Cats Show Choir, and they did numerous spaghetti dinner fundraisers. That first year, Ben pulled together a bunch of the teens and put together a choir number that was performed in a “Black church” style of soul – the song “Oh Happy Day” – as in Sister Act. He borrowed a collection of pure white choir robes from the high school, and it was great.

Of course, along the way, the boys of the youth group have put together the annual Male Interpretive Dance Team. This is a spoof that the guys originally did because the girls, many years ago, had a serious interpretive dance team. The girls were really good, but the boys of course did a lot of running into each other, etc.  This is one of those things that is sorta like when your infant child does something that is not exactly a good thing, but it was really funny and so you laughed – which encouraged the child to do it even more! Well, the “Male Interp” thing has grown to have a monstrous life of its own. It is now the highlight and finale song of the program. And now also, it has become a tradition for there to be an introductory video.  Some of these have been incredibly funny. A couple of years ago, one of them had me laughing about as uncontrollably as anything I’ve ever seen!

These events are fundraisers for our annual youth summer trip: on even-numbered years to the denominational National Youth Conference, and on odd-numbered years to a missions project trip. This year there is a conference to be held in New Orleans. Previous conferences have been at Georgia Tech, Purdue, Colorado State, and in the civic centers of Columbus and Salt Lake City. About 5,000-6,000 youth from around the country attend these life-changing events.

Here are a few pictures from what was truly a variety show:

I put this picture of a back-flip off a step ladder on our church Facebook page, and it was seen by our EFCA home office in Minnesota, and they re-posted on the Denominational page – to be seen all over the country.




Which Way is Up?

Word came to us at church yesterday (Thursday) that our dear friend Larry Goldman was taken from his place of employment with symptoms that sure sounded like a heart attack. I was relieved to catch up with him a couple hours later and discover that it was a case of vertigo.

I have now seen this happen to church people no less than at least a dozen times in my pastoral career. But there is one instance of it I’ll most remember forever.

It was the winter of 1994. I was a pastor in Phillipsburg, NJ and had recently established contact with this Evangelical Free Church in Hagerstown, MD.  They appeared interested in my resume, as this fellow named Fred Craver called me to inform me of such. He said that two couples from the church were going to visit incognito at my church the next Sunday – a Paul and Karen Bitner and a Clarence and MaryAnn Brubaker.

I obviously wanted to do my best and make the best possible appearance toward getting the new job at this way cool church in Maryland! With only about 225-250 in attendance, I was pretty sure I saw who these visitors must be – as they sat about 2/3 of the way toward the back to my left side.

We had just finished the songs for the morning and the pianist had walked back to the 3rd row near the front to sit with her husband and college-aged son. Let me further describe the scene by saying that this lady was THE leading lady of the church in terms of leadership and involvement – and still is to this day. She is a frequent women’s conference guest speaker – known and loved by every person in the church.

Well, I was about 60 seconds into my introduction of my sermon on Psalm 42 when I noticed a great deal of commotion around where this lady and her family were sitting. I tried not to look too closely – not wanting to draw attention to whatever was going on over there. But before long, even I noticed that her husband and son each had one arm around her, and were literally dragging her down the side aisle – in the same way a football player would be dragged off the field after getting his bell rung.

By this time, everyone in the room had seen what was going on, there was a mild murmuring, medical people in the congregation were getting up and running out, and I just had to quit trying to pretend like nothing had transpired. Once they were outside the sanctuary doors and into the foyer, I said something like, “Obviously our dear friend Mary has been stricken in some fashion, so let’s pray for this situation even now.”

After the prayer, I attempted to go back to the sermon and make some sense of the passage, but by this point, I’d totally lost the room. Nobody was much listening; they were all lost in their own thoughts. I soldiered on through the sermon, but I also was depressed – figuring it was a total lost cause for getting to Maryland. But the funny thing was that my visitors thought I had handled a difficult situation fairly well, and it all played into my favor. And the rest is history!

As you can guess, the lady was diagnosed with vertigo due to a recent inner ear infection. I visited her later that day, and she was as good as new.

My Bethel Experience

If it is true (and it is) that we are in a Kingdom struggle of darkness versus light, we are at war against spiritual realities – “principalities and powers” as they are called in Ephesians chapter six. So it is not a surprise that we’ll experience the “fog of war” from time to time. I have felt that of late … confusion about direction and purpose and my role in ministry. (If this sounds vague, yep – that’s the issue from inside me as well!)

So, I had a scheduled vacation day yesterday and decided at the last minute to use it as a time to go meet with God … and not just anywhere, but to go back to our beginning (humanly speaking, not theologically – since I can’t get back to the foundation of the world!). There is some precedent in the Old Testament patriarchs of visiting the place where a covenant was established – doing so as a sort of reconnection or reaffirmation of God’s calling and work. As an illustration of this, I’d refer you to Genesis 25 and the account of Jacob visiting Bethel.

And so, I went to visit my own Bethel – a place called Calvary Community Church in Harmony Township, NJ, just a few hundred yards was where I grew up. It was in this church that I have a first memory of understanding and committing to the Gospel of Christ (as I recall, in a children’s program with a teaching about Jacob and Esau).  This happened about 49-50 years ago, and I remember the exact spot and knew I could even now pinpoint it to within a foot or two of where I was sitting that evening.

This church was founded as an independent congregation that split from a liberal church and denomination about 75 years ago. My grandfather was one of the original elders and my father one of the first deacons. My family attended until I was age 10, and when the church voted to join a certain denomination, we departed to go to another independent church – where I grew through my high school and college years, Diana and I were married, etc. And then, after seminary, I moved back to this same community to be a pastor at a third local church there (for 11 years before coming to TSF).

So anyhow, this is a somewhat small, older, traditional church building. Attached is the church office and the old parsonage. There was nobody in the office or the parsonage – now occupied by old family friends of many generations (who are the church caretakers). I tried one of the lower level doors of the church, and it was open. So I made myself at home and looked around at rooms I’ve not seen in literally decades. Most were far smaller than my childhood memories of them.

My plan was to read and pray at the spot where I first met the Lord. Well, it is no longer an educational space; it has been turned into a kitchen – with a door frame now at my spot! So I went to the sanctuary and sat in the pew where I went to church EVERY Sunday with my family. I would sit with only my father, since my mother was the church organist and was on a sort of side stage for the duration of the services.

I read and prayed and read and prayed – through the entire pastoral and prison epistles … and a collection of other Gospel accounts, Psalms, etc.  I would have much preferred that God showed up in some vision and sat there next to me and answered all my questions and concerns. But I believe I came away with what I needed to move forward – yet as always, living it out over time is the challenge. Even the first generation church was a major mixed bag of blessings and burdens, of faith and encouraging people, yet of those who abandoned Paul and even denied the faith!

So it was a good trip for me, though I don’t want to make the final trip there too terribly soon – since the cemetery there is my final earthly destination! Not everyone gets to be born and raised and ultimately buried “in Harmony!”

This was my view of the front from where I sat for 10 years.

We moved into this house that my father-in-law and I built exactly 28 years ago this week.

Sermon Tweeting


So, yesterday we rolled out our first Twitter conversation session during the sermon. Some of you don’t know what Twitter even is, and even some of those of you who do will wonder why in the world anyone would want to tweet away during a church sermon!


Twitter allows you to use 140 characters to write a tweet about anything – that message being sent to all those who have agreed to be your followers. You can follow a subject, or write about a particular subject by using the symbol “#” – which in this world is called a hashtag.


For example, I could use my Twitter account to search #Orioles and find out what everyone everywhere is saying about the Baltimore Orioles – the most recent comment being at the top of the list. This is, by the way, the main reason that I use Twitter.


Until this past weekend, my only Twitter account name was @osayorioles. I have 113 followers on this account, about 90% of whom are fellow baseball sportswriters from across the country. To do something where I’d communicate with people at church, however, I decided to use another account and name (because all those sportswriter guys would sure be confused by my “spiritual” tweets during a service – not that it would necessarily be so bad – but I don’t want to jam up their Twitter feed with a local conversation.)


So, I used the name of my blog to have a second Twitter account … now I’m @thewordofrandy. And Chris and I decided that a good hashtag to use for a community conversation during a service would be #tsftalk.


Let me illustrate why we could do this by telling you what it is like during an Orioles baseball game to be tweeting and getting tweets. I can be watching the game on TV, and there may be as many as 20 other people also watching the game – all of us with Twitter accounts open on computer on phone. Now, let’s say Mark Reynolds of the Orioles commits an error by missing a ground ball (a very believable and realistic illustration). Someone may tweet “Reynolds is just too fat to play 3rd base  #orioles” … and someone may say, “I hate seeing Reynolds out there, but who else do we really have  #orioles”.  And the conversation is off and running with lots of people chiming in and agreeing or arguing – all while the game is going on.


So, this is a way to have an interactive conversation while listening to the sermon. For example, yesterday I began the conversation by picking up on Chris’ first point – about living between two worlds – and wrote, “So how many of you feel you are living between two worlds?  #tsftalk”  Since we did not get the hashtag on the screen enough, the conversations were not extensive, but one young man said, “I feel it especially in the world of science  #tsftalk”.  Several other people made comments on major points of the sermon – sort of like giving an electronic “amen.”

Here is where Twitter could have been used in the time of Jesus. In the account of Mary washing the feet of Jesus with perfume, Simon the Pharisee thought to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”  If he had Twitter, he could have sent that out as a tweet to all his followers! But still, even if Jesus did not have a Twitter account (@thesonofGod), he would have still known what Simon tweeted!


I don’t expect that a majority of people will be tweeting during sermons, but this is an extra way of learning and engaging with the text and the topic of the day.