“What Do You Write?”

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“What do you write?” That question is asked of and by each attendee dozens of times at the annual Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference at the Ridgecrest Lifeway Center near Black Mountain, NC. That’s just a little east of Asheville.

And what a variety of answers! Novels in a variety of genres, screenplays, non-fiction, Bible studies, children’s books, blog posts, greeting cards. If something can be written, the conference has at least one person who writes it.

Uh, with the notable exception of porn, of course. Not appropriate for Christian writers.

A conference like the BRMCWC is a wondrous thing to attend. Not only do we hear inspirational keynote addresses by a variety of speakers, each group session includes a time of worship, conducted by special musical worship leaders. (More on that on Wednesday.)

And then there are the classes themselves. Dozens of classes to choose from. One-time workshops, continuing classes (they meet each day of the conference), and practicums that not only meet every day but involve homework! The daily schedule includes one class time in the morning and two in the afternoon.

An experienced conference attendee comes with some sort of agenda. Often, it’s to meet with as many publishers as possible (we can sign up for two appointments the first night and as many additional ones as we can the next morning). Published authors, publishers, and agents are exceedingly good at accomplishing a lot in a fifteen minute appointment.

The faculty also have assigned tables in the dining hall (did I mention they have pretty good food at this conference and serve it cafeteria style?), and it’s not only acceptable, but expected that conferees sitting at a specific person’s table will have a chance to pitch his or her work then or to ask questions.

I’ve been going to the Blue Ridge Conference off-and-on since 2005. Never has it failed to meet my needs of the moment, and I’m determined now to make this my every-year conference.

I can’t do the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference justice in one blog post, but I realize not everyone is interested in writing or in reading about something that benefits writers–and consequently benefits readers as well.

But if you have questions about the conference, please leave a comment.

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website. Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Family Christian Stores. Go HERE for links to those places.
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Best regards,
Roger

Ebenezers Coffee House

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 If you didn’t read my post from this past Sunday about our interest in the National Community Church and the Ebenezers Coffee House they own and operate, you might want to go back and do that now.

That’s a fine-looking building in the first two pictures above. You’d never know it was an abandoned crack house at the time Pastor Mark Batterson saw it on his prayer walk around Capitol Hill and felt drawn to it. His church didn’t own any property and–despite years of praying over it–it was a while before God opened the right doors for purchasing and renovating it. For the complete story, I highly recommend one of Mark’s books. I’m currently finishing reading Draw the Circle — The 40 Day Prayer Challenge.

My wife and I had only two time-specific agendas for our long weekend vacation in Washington, D.C. The first was to visit one of the theater-locations of Mark’s church (the church is made up of seven theater locations) on Sunday morning. The other was to visit Ebenezers Coffee House on Saturday night.

We had learned from their website that a local folk singer, Michelle Lockey, would be performing from 7:00 to 8:00 that evening. We took the Metro from our hotel and wasted some time trying to follow the directions from Union Station to Ebenezer; it turned out that the coffee house was much easier to find than the directions indicated. Nonetheless, we arrived in plenty of time to grab a table–as well as a cookie each, plus the Mark Batterson book I mentioned earlier.

We hadn’t been there long when Michelle arrived, toting Taylor guitar and Luna ukelele in gig bags, along with two stands and a box of CDs.

The folks working the coffee house made a brave attempt to set up the sound equipment, which had never failed them before. Unfortunately, it failed this time, so Michelle would have to perform without amplification. I can tell you from my own experience that doing that when you’re not used to singing and playing without a PA is tough, but she was very gracious about it.

She was all set well before 7:00, so I took advantage of the opportunity to introduce myself and tell her jokingly that we had come all the way from Richmond, Virginia, just to hear her. And to explain that was actually partially true. I enjoyed talking with her, but finally returned to our table.

Time for Michelle to start, but there were only a few customers hanging around. Somebody had moved a couple of comfy chairs to maybe five or ten feet directly in front of Michelle, so Kathleen and I took them. Great spot for pictures.

I can’t say enough good about Michelle’s performance. Her songs were terrific, and so was her singing. Although guitar was her primary instrument, she did several songs with her ukelele. I have to admit that gave me a whole new appreciation for ukeleles, which I had never cared much for before.

By the way, that one weird-looking picture–I love it!–was her whistling during part of one song.

After her performance, she was gracious enough to let me share one of my songs with her.

And I learned that Michelle is far more than just a folk singer. She’s also a good song writer and has written music for movies and TV. And she’s won some important awards. Quite a list of accomplishments.

I won’t say anymore except to add that we came home with her four CDs–and they’ve kept playing on our stereo ever since. Check out her website for more information. And to say that Ebenezers Coffee House was everything we expected and more.

What about you? Do you have a favorite place to go and hang out–with or without entertainment? How about sharing a comment?

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website. Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Family Christian Stores. Go HERE for links to those places.

Best regards,
Roger

What Would You Plan Your Trip to D.C. Around?

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If you were planning a long weekend getaway to Washington, D.C., what would top your list of have-to-sees? The Capitol? The White House? The Zoo? The Lincoln Memorial? The Washington Monument? So many choices.

Too many choices. There was no way we could see everything worth seeing from Friday afternoon to mid-day Monday.

So what was at the top of our list?

Before I answer that–or in the words of JFK (at least I THINK he’s the one who said this), “Let me say this about that”–I have to tell you about the Wednesday night Bible studies at my church. Yes, this is relevant.

We normally watch one session from a video series and then discuss it. Although Atlanta’s Andy Stanley is probably our group’s favorite video speaker, we’re currently watching a prayer-related series by Washington’s Mark Batterson.

Mark felt led to walk a circle around Capitol Hill. And pray for our government leaders and how to reach them and other unchurched Washingtonians with the Gospel of Jesus. If you want to know more about Mark and the development of his project, which was bathed in constant prayer and had the most remarkable results, I recommend his book Draw the Circle — The 40 Day Prayer Challenge or one of his other books.

But the bottom line is that–to date–Mark’s National Community Church has no actual traditional building, but meets in seven theaters around the Washington area. Each branch has its own leader, but Mark occasionally preaches by video to the whole group. What a concept!

But Mark’s other prayer-driven accomplishment was the purchase and renovation of a long-abandoned crack house within easy walking distance of Union Station and the rest of Capitol Hill. That’s another story you need to read about. I can’t do it justice.

So what would my wife and I center our Washington vacation trip around? Not those other places–the famous ones–although we got to see many of them.

No, we decided that we’d attend church at one of the National Community Church’s locations, Lincoln Theater. And we would visit the Ebenezers Coffee House on Saturday night. More about that on Wednesday.

We found people to be just as friendly as they are at our own church back home. But instead of greeting one another in an often-too-unworshipful way inside the theater auditorium, people buzzed in the lobby, where refreshments, books, and other resources were readily available. Then they came inside the auditorium for the worship service.

We opted to sit in the balcony, largely so I’d be in the best picture-taking position. We sat in one of several small areas along the side. With curtains or walls of some kind, they probably would have been considered box seats. Great view!

Although the music was led by a band–guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, and a female singer–they had opted this Sunday to use only traditional hymns. Wow! What Believer wouldn’t have worshiped through that music?

Interestingly, the leader of that branch of the Church spent some time doing a baby dedication. Very much like the ones in our church except for the MANY hundreds of people in the congregation and the large number of family members who participated in the dedication.

It turned out that Mark Batterson was going to be taking three months off, starting after that morning’s service. So this was one time he preached by video to all the branches of his church. It was great being preached to by the same fellow we had been watching the video series by on Wednesday nights.

I know I haven’t done this church visit justice. But suffice it to say we found it a worshipful experience. All the more so because we didn’t have to sit in the choir loft, where we normally sit in our own church.

Are you familiar with Mark Batterson or any of his books or videos? Does this sound like the type of church you’d be interested in visiting? Please leave a comment.

On Wednesday I’ll blog about our visit to the coffee house the night before.

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website. Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Family Christian Stores. Go HERE for links to those places.

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Best regards,
Roger

Loving Other People (part two)

If you missed Sunday’s post on “Loving Other People,” you might want to read it before reading this one. However, today’s post will still make sense if you don’t.

I want to tell you a true story. While I doubt seriously that anyone from that part of my past life will see this, I’ll  change the names just in case.

This happened during the mid-seventies in a small city in Maryland. I had started working in an office several months before and had established a routine that seemed to work for me.

Then Annie came to work at the same place, doing the same job I was doing. I patiently explained how I’d been doing things, aware that I would be grateful if someone had done that for me when I started there. But she seemed totally disinterested in my established routine. She was more interested in socializing with the office manager.

The two of them did have something important in common, and as time passed by, she had become his obvious favorite. She could do nothing wrong and–at times, anyhow–it seemed as if I could do nothing right.

What made this whole problem more complicated is the fact that Annie’s and my actual supervisor was a kindly fellow who wasn’t actually located in our office. But we were still under the office manager’s authority since it was his space we were using.

I knew that our job involved a certain amount of out-of-the-office contact with our clients, but the office manager wouldn’t approve of our going out. So I did the logical–and highly unfortunate–thing and asked our supervisor for his help.

He sent a message to the office manager reminding him that we needed to get out periodically. And the manager immediately came to me in a huff. “You’ve been talking to Henry, haven’t you?”

I couldn’t very well deny it.

So he said, “Fine. Annie will go out and you will stay in.” Talk about fairness…

My relationship with Annie was already bad enough. She had no respect for me whatsoever, and things continued to go downhill.

I did the only thing I could do. Something that went against everything I felt like doing. But what I felt God wanted me to do.

I started praying for Annie. Not that she would change. Not that I would learn to accept her ways. But simply that God would work in her life. Not easy when she was so brusque that she came in the men’s room one day to tell me I had a phone call!

Not long after that, they moved our desks upstairs, which was actually part of the area director’s domain. Annie and I had a big blowout argument that day and–would you believe it?–she and I became friends. Or as close to friends as dogs and cats are apt to become.

Definitely not the way I’d expected God to answer my prayer for Annie, but it was an answer nonetheless. And it’s something that continues to remind me to this day that I can learn to love the most unlovable of people if I make God part of the equation.

The central part.

Do you have someone who bugs the daylights out of you? Maybe it’s time to start praying for that person. But remember this. You’re not praying for that person to become wonderful, but for God to do whatever He chooses to in that person’s life.

Comments? I’d love to hear ’em.

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website. Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Family Christian Stores. Go HERE for links to those places.

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Best regards,
Roger

Loving Other People

The Bible teaches us to love other people as we love ourselves. A wonderful thing to do, most of us would agree. After all, isn’t love a matter of wanting what’s best for the other person and being willing to sacrifice to make sure that happens?

But what if what’s best for the other person costs us something? Maybe even a lot. Shouldn’t we be free from having to love the other person that much if he or she is selfish and doesn’t want what’s best for us in return? How fair would that be if both parties in a relationship don’t want what’s best for the other equally?

The Bible also teaches us to love our enemies. You mean God wants us to sacrifice to provide what’s best for them when they have no concern whatsoever about our welfare? How unfair!

Hmm. Then again, look at Jesus. How he suffered that indescribably hideous death on a Roman cross to provide forgiveness for all who accept His free gift. That’s love beyond the call of duty, if you ask me.

Yet it’s what Jesus came to earth to do. And even while He was hanging on the cross, He forgave the soldiers who were crucifying Him. And they weren’t even sorry for what they were doing!

Maybe we should all take a fresh look at love. Do we love other people enough to put their needs and interests ahead of our own–and forgive them when they wrong us, even if they don’t think they’ve done anything wrong and are no way sorry for what they’ve done?

Hmm. Tall order. Humanly impossible. But the Bible says that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. We’ll never be able to love as perfectly as God loves, but it sounds like Christ can enable us to do a better–a more Godly–job of it.

How do you feel about your enemies? Will you let God help you love them?

And what about the people you already love? Will you let Him help you love them more perfectly–less selfishly, more sacrificially?

I’d love to hear what you think. Do you know someone you couldn’t love if your life depended on it?

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website.  Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Family Christian Stores. Go HERE for links to those places.
Tentative-Front-Cover

Best regards,
Roger

Avoiding the High Cost of Dying

When my parents died–my father in 1993 and my mother a year later–I learned that they had done what seemed like a really good thing. Not only had they pre-selected their lots and their caskets, they’d also paid for everything, leaving none of those business details for me to deal with at a time of sorrow. It was a great convenience, and I’m glad they did it.

In fact, I thought it sounded like a great idea for me to do, too.

But everything I read said it wasn’t a good idea–that it would ultimately mean spending more than needed. What were my wife and I to do? We didn’t want the initial survivor–or our kids, once we were both gone–to be strapped with funeral expenses or to face the the pressure of going whole-hog on the casket. It would be all too easy to say, “He (or She) deserves the best. Else what will people say?”

People are definitely going to be talking about our funerals, but not that way. They may even be jealous that we’ve decided to go the cheapest way possible. By being cremated. Sure. Why not?

A nice casket will be visible during visitation and funeral and then stuck out of sight underground. Would I do that to one of my good guitars? I think NOT!

How much nicer to be reduced to ashes and NOT be kept in an urn, but scattered somewhere appropriate. We’ll give our kids the choice between throwing the ashes into the air at our church’s cemetery or overboard on a Caribbean cruise. Of course, unless we become wealthy between now and then–not likely–they’ll be on their own for the cruise.

As Christians, we believe the dead will be raised to life again eventually. It certainly won’t be any more challenging for the God who created the Universe to find and reassemble all those ashes than it will be to restore us–or anyone else, for that matter–to life.

What do you think–of cremation or anything else I’ve mentioned today? Please leave a comment.

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website. Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Go HERE for links to those places.
Tentative-Front-Cover
Best regards,
Roger

Hot or Cold?

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My mother died in 1994. A year after my father. One thing I recall all too clearly about her advanced age was the breathing problems she had when the weather was too hot and the constant problems with trying to stay halfway comfortable during extremely cold weather.

At sixty-eight, I don’t yet struggle with problems like those, and I hope I don’t.

Looking back to when I was younger, I used to prefer cold weather to hot. After all, when I’m hot, I can only take off so many clothes without being arrested for indecent exposure. But when I’m cold, there’s no limit to the number of additional clothes I can put on–if I don’t mind looking super-pudgy. Like the way I look when I wear what my wife describes as my Nanook coat. (See the right-hand picture above.)

Now I’m not so sure I was right. Yes, when I’m too hot I feel drained. Although I try to avoid mowing the lawn when the temp is too high–I’ve already had to mow it twice this spring–I invariably feel drained by the effort. In fact, I feel drained doing that even when the weather’s not too hot.

But when I’m sitting around in winter time and  have to get up to put on one more sweater–I refuse to turn the thermostat above seventy–I feel very vulnerable to the cold and feel extra sorry for the homeless.

But the toughest times to deal with are those when the temperature is in-between and a light jacket is too hot, but even a long-sleeved shirt isn’t quite warm enough.

Today is a beautiful spring day. It’s seventy-two degrees outside, the heat is off, and the front door is open. With the storm door set to screen mode, a mild breeze is helping to bring some of outside inside. (Hopefully not the pollen, however.) A while ago I took my guitar outside and sat on our little wooden bench to take advantage of the sunshine.

Nights are still in the thirties and forties. We usually remember to turn the heat on–in the mid-sixties takes the worst of the chill off–but we occasionally forget. Even though it may be a bit nippy when we get up, the extreme cold of winter seems to be past.

So which do I prefer now–hot or cold? Hard to say. Better just to accept whatever is, don’t you think? But to really enjoy and take advantage of days like today.

Comments are welcome.

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website. Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Go HERE for links to those places.
Tentative-Front-Cover
Best regards,
Roger