Ultimate Significance

The Rolling Stones “can’t get no satisfaction” and Bob Dylan wants to have a “satisfied mind” when he dies. Why do I get the impression Dylan and the Stones are pursuing different goals–probably very different ones?

What is satisfaction, anyhow? Is it what the WordWeb dictionary I’m using defines as “the contentment one feels when one has fulfilled a desire, need, or expectation”? And is satisfaction a realistic goal?

Perhaps I’m being unfair. Maybe even a tad judgmental. But it seems to me that whatever the Rolling Stones are hoping to get satisfaction from is apt to be very temporary in nature. A person may eat until he’s satisfied, but he’s still going to get hungry again. No need to elaborate.

At least Dylan’s goal is to be satisfied when he enters eternity. Whatever gives him final contentment must be of an eternal nature. Since “Satisfied Mind” is on one of Dylan’s Christian albums–yes, he wrote and recorded at least three of them–I hope he’s talking about satisfaction with the way he’s lived and his confidence in where he’s going at death. Definitely not temporal.

But what about significance? That’s what this post is supposed to be about.

Significance means importance; that’s the definition I’m using here, anyhow. Contentment and importance are not one and the same, and neither are significance and satisfaction. Those two words are not only not synonyms, they’re almost antonyms.

Time to get personal. I get contentment from a number of things. Having a wonderful wife. A comfortable–but modest–home. Food and clothes. A decent camera and good musical instruments. I have everything I need and  plenty of things I don’t need.

But the contentment those things provide isn’t enough.

Could it be I “can’t get no satisfaction,” either? I’m extremely thankful for all of the blessings God has provided, but do they fulfill my real goal–my desire to be important? Or at least to do something so important it will continue doing good for years after my death.

Five thousand people bought Found in Translation. Twenty-five hundred bought Lost in Dreams. I’m proud of those figures, because I want to believe at least that many people read those books and were both entertained and blessed by them. That did more than make me content. It made me feel important. Or at least that I’d done something important.

Ah, but what about The Devil and Pastor Gus? It’s been out exactly one year. I don’t have the total sales figures, but it seems likely that only a hundred copies have been sold. Perhaps fewer. And this was the novel I’d considered my legacy for future generations. I felt it had the strongest message of anything I’ve ever written–and probably will ever write. In short, that it would be my most important novel.

No matter how much the people who’ve read The Devil and Pastor Gus rave about it–it currently has a 4.4 star rating on Amazon–I’m not content. I wonder whether my best effort to accomplish something truly important has fallen flat on its face.

I could get depressed about this if I allowed myself to. But the truth of one of my original songs keeps coming to mind:

I believe God’s working behind the scenes;
He’s helping me in ways I can’t see.
God understands all my problems;
He knows my best efforts are not enough to solve them.

I believe God’s working behind the scenes;
He’s renewing my faded hopes and dreams.
He always provides the things He knows I need.

I believe God’s holding me in His hands;
He’s shaping me according to plan.
Despite my fears and confusion,
He knows He provides the only real solution.

I believe God’s working behind the scenes;
He’s drawing from His limitless means.
He always provides the things He knows I need.

Maybe it’s time to let faith take over. What’s most significant ultimately is not what’s important to me, but what’s important to God. And He doesn’t have to do it my way. Or on my timetable. What a mess my life would be in if He’d done everything the way I thought they should be done!

Why should I fret about feeling important here on earth, anyhow? I’m much more desirous of hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” when I arrive in Heaven.

What do you think? Are you satisfied? Do you feel significant? How about sharing a comment?


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Best regards,

My “Aaron”

First, a little biblical background.

Isaac and his sons and their families had moved to Egypt when his son Joseph became second-in-command to Pharaoh during a time of famine throughout the region. As long as that Pharaoh lived, Joseph’s extended family was welcome and well provided for. But after the good Pharaoh died, subsequent ones forgot about Joseph and the debt Egypt owed him and his kin.

The Children of Israel (Jacob, Isaac’s son, was given the name Israel) were prospering and growing in number, and the Egyptians determined to take advantage of their vast numbers and use them as slaves.  That didn’t stop the Israelites from continuing to multiply.

One Pharaoh finally became so frightened that these countless foreigners living in their midst might rebel and fight against Egypt if an enemy attacked that he made their working conditions more severe. And then he made things even worse.

But God wasn’t ignoring the plight of His Children. He spoke to Moses from a burning bush and told him He wanted Moses to free the Children of Israel and lead them to the Promised Land–a land “flowing with milk and honey.”

Talking directly with God was probably scary enough, but Moses absolutely panicked at the thought of having to go to Pharaoh–he wasn’t in Pharaoh’s favor the way Joseph had been several hundred years earlier–and demand that he allow the Israelites to leave. So he immediately came up with the first excuse that came to mind.

“Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” (Exodus 4:10, NIV)

Singer/song writer Ken Medema says it this way in his wonderful song “Moses”:

“Not me, Lord!
Don’t you know I can’t talk so good;
I stutter all the time.”

But Moses asks the Lord to have his brother Aaron do the actual speaking. Ken Medema says it this way:

“Do you know my brother, Aaron?
He can sing like an angel,
Talk like a preacher.
Not me, Lord!
I can’t talk so good.”

And God accepted it.

I can’t “talk so good,” either. Oh, I don’t have a speech defect, in spite of the fact that someone who has one once asked me if I did. Funny how a question like that can make a guy self-conscious for life!

As an official introvert (according to the Myers-Briggs Temperament Inventory), I need to think very carefully before I speak. If I don’t, there’s no telling how unclear my meaning will be. Not so much a problem in normal everyday conversations, but a real drawback in serious discussions. By the time I think of what I want to say and how to keep it reasonably clear, it’s usually no longer relevant to the topic.

I feel as if God has some important things for me to share with other people. Especially regarding His love and the fact that Jesus was born a human being, died, and returned from the grave to give new life to all who choose Him as the only path to the only true God. Heaven isn’t the only reward for Believers. So is a more meaningful earthly life.

Does God expect me to share those things orally? I keep hoping not, because I know my human limitations. I feel there’s a legitimate reason for me not to. God had a reason for not calling me to be a preacher.

But that doesn’t mean He doesn’t want me to share His Good News with other people. He’s willing for me to use  “my Aaron” instead.

“My Aaron” is the written word. Novels, poems, and monologues. Plays, short stories, and essays. And also the sung word. The songs I’ve written over the last fifty years or so. And the musical dramas–even an hour-long rock opera–I’ve written and produced.

The words to my songs and musical dramas have already been carefully thought out. They come as close to conveying my intended meaning as I can ever do.

Thank You, Lord, for giving me these creative talents and allowing me to use them for Your honor and glory.

Do you have any weaknesses that keep you from communicating clearly? Has God given you an Aaron? How about sharing a comment?


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Best regards,

Wardrobe on Display…or Just Socks?


sox2    sox    sox3

My wife and I have a friend who loves photography. He takes hundreds of pictures and displays every one of them on Facebook. Not just the best ones, you understand. Probably every picture he takes. I hope he doesn’t have prints made. I don’t think he can afford it.

We get tickled at the fact that he tends to take pictures of his clothes. If he buys something new–he loves shopping for clothes–he posts pictures on Facebook. Before heading to church on Sunday, he lays out what he’s going to wear and–you guessed it!–he takes a picture and posts it on Facebook as well.

One of the nice things about Facebook is there’s absolutely nothing wrong with what he does. If his other friends are interested in seeing his clothes photos, more power to him and to them as well. I hope he doesn’t mind that we tend to ignore those posts. We don’t want him to think we’re disinterested.

We’re not. Not disinterested in him personally. He’s a really intelligent guy and he can be pretty interesting when his Asperger’s Syndrome symptoms don’t get in the way. But we love him in spite of them…and in spite of his photos.

I have to admit his clothes pictures once inspired me to take a picture of my favorite hats. Hats are my thing. Whether a driver cap style or an Australian Akubra, I’m almost never without a hat when I go outside. With no more hair than I have, I consider it a good health practice.

I actually posted an article about my hats a year-and-a-half ago, and I mentioned our friend then. I’d forgotten about it until tonight, and I’ll bet you don’t remember it, either. Old age in my case. I don’t know what your excuse is.

When I  asked my wife this evening for a blog topic suggestion, she said, “socks.”

Socks? She only wears black or white socks. Nothing gray. Nothing interesting or exciting. And surely an article about socks would be equally dull.

But, as she laughingly pointed out, socks are my thing somewhat the way hats are. They just aren’t as obvious to someone looking at what I’m wearing. She reminded me that I only buy socks that are really different. So I could and should make my article really different, too.

For years I wore two pairs of camo socks.  Plus other socks, of course. I found them on clearance for $.99 each at Old Navy. I live in a somewhat redneck area, and I figured they’d be just the thing–in spite of the fact I’m not a hunter.

I think that’s what got me started on wearing different kinds of socks. Yes, I still have some solid colored ones in the drawer, but I never touch them.

Oh, sorry. One exception. Our choir director likes for us to wear blacks and white shirts for the Christmas musical. So I grudgingly put on black socks to stay in her good graces.

One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is the fact I’m colorblind. A red-green deficiency, they tell me. But I get mixed up sometimes (make that “often”) on colors I’m supposedly able to see accurately. That makes sock matching a challenge. Unless they’re distinctly different.

And therein lies my legitimate excuse. Let my wife say it’s because I write “quirky inspirational fiction” and want to appear quirky. But you and I know the truth…

I just have strange tastes.

Do you have a favorite quirky something or other? How about sharing that with us in a comment?


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Best regards,

A Matter of Attitude

When I worked at a Target store for three years before retiring at sixty-two to write full-time, I was impressed by the different attitudes my co-workers displayed. Most of them were acceptably pleasant to the guests (at Target, customers are “guests”). Some were genuinely helpful. Others did what they had to do and no more. Rarely did I see anyone treat a guest unpleasantly.

In short, we had what I’d consider a pretty typical mix of people.

Early in my stint at Target I realized what a difference attitude made. Sure, I could come in each day feeling resentful that–after being downsized from my third professional career after almost nineteen years–I was working on the register to help make ends meet at home. But at least I had a job. And I was earning enough.

And since it was only part-time, I had time to write my first novel. Something I hadn’t expected to be able to do until I retired. Furthermore, I only had to drive a mile to get to work.

So (with a lot of help from the Lord) I managed to display a good attitude most of the time. When other team members complained about this, that, or the other, I listened sympathetically and TRIED not to join in. I’d learned far too late in my previous career that one of my supervisors, who I believed to have been a sympathetic person to complain to about personal problems, was sick and tired of my grousing.

If someone sympathetic couldn’t take my complaining any more, I needed to change. As much as I had to be grateful for, why waste time on serious griping that (apparently) nobody really wanted to listen to?

So I made a practice of looking for the good each day when I got to work. I’m not pretending it was always easy, nor am I claiming I wasn’t far happier getting home  than arriving at work. But my life was full of good things if I just made the effort to look at it that way.

I retired from Target seven years ago, but I still like to think of myself as grateful for the good things in my life. And to think that focusing on the good makes me a nicer person to be around.

So what if I have to take medicines for blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and thyroid  problems? At least I’m alive and in what I consider good health. I can get up with a fair amount of enthusiasm most mornings. I can still walk as rapidly as ever. In fact, in many ways my body is functioning just as well as ever.

Can you imagine what I’d be like if I did nothing but complain, though? I don’t want to think about it. I like being nice to other people, and I believe that results largely from the attitude of gratitude I’ve learned to cultivate over the years.

Prayer is said to contain four elements: Adoration; telling God how good He is. Confession; admitting our sins and asking God’s forgiveness. Supplication; praying for needs, ours and other peoples’. And thanks for all the good God provides on a daily basis.

I’ll bet you can guess which is my favorite element of prayer.

Are you a thankful person, even when things aren’t going the way you want? That’s tough. But if you look at the good in your life, it’ll really help to put the bad in perspective. And while you’re at it, why don’t you thank God for the good? As the Bible says, “Every good and perfect gift comes from above.”

Any thoughts on thanksgiving and gratitude? Please share in a comment.


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Best regards,

More Thoughts on “Let’s Blame Abraham and Sarah”

If you didn’t read my “Let’s Blame Abraham and Sarah” post last Sunday, feel free to skip this post.

Let me express my thanks to writer Judith Bron for her peppery and yet well thought out and thought-provoking response to last week’s post about ultimately blaming Abraham and Sarah for the rise of the Arab people and consequently of Islam. We had a good discussion through email, and–although I don’t agree with all of her points–I  admit I may have been wrong about the premise I based my post on.

When I said that Ishmael was the father of the Arab people, just as Isaac was the father of the Jews, I was referring to something I’d learned at church. Whether in a sermon or a Bible study, I couldn’t say.

From the research I’ve done since first hearing from Judith, I’ve read that Ishmael wasn’t the father of Arabs even though Muslims want to link THEIR lineage to him. What I’d been taught is considered a popular myth. But it was hard to believe people at church could be completely wrong that way.

The fact is that Ishmael’s mother, Hagar, was an Egyptian. And the Bible refers to the Arabs as early as 2 Chronicles, which was after the time of Isaac and Ishmael. But it doesn’t say who the Arabs descended from or where they originated.

Over the centuries, people from various African nations have come to view themselves as Arabs, even though they were not “genetically Arabic.” In fact, the genetics of “Arab” are so diverse that “Arab” and “Arabic” have become cultural rather than racial designations.

I suppose what got me started on this whole idea–I’m currently reading my way through Genesis–comes from Genesis 21:

But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, 10 and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” (NIV)

And that made sending Ishmael and Hagar away seem pretty selfish and hard-hearted. Abraham wasn’t the least happy about Sarah’s push to do that, but God told him to do what Sarah had said and not to worry about it. And Abraham did provide some support for Ishmael and Hagar. He would not only be fine, he’d become the father of twelve tribes. But possibly not of the Arabs.

But then I asked a knowledgeable Bible teacher at church about it. He insists that Ishmael really is the father of the Arab people. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take notes, but it has something to do with Edom and the Edomites. There wasn’t time for me to get straight how all of that tied together, so I admit I’m confused now.

Uh, more confused.

With due respect to Judith, perhaps only God knows the wholly correct answer with all of the supporting details. And I’m thankful that no amount of human confusion or ignorance about this question affects Judith’s faith or my own.

Thanks again, Judith. Without your challenge, I might never have come even this close to the truth.

What about you? Were you taught the same thing I was about Ishmael being the ancestor of Arabs? Do you have further information on the subject? Or is there something you’ve been taught that you now have reason to question? Please share in a comment.


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Best regards,

A Raving Fan


On our family vacation to San Diego last year, my wife and I visited The Museum of Making Music. It was a fascinating collection of musical instruments and bits of information about music making in America.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised to see a prominent poster telling about my favorite music store, Sweetwater. But I was. I didn’t realize how important it had been over the years.

I have no idea how I learned about Sweetwater in the first place. Probably looking for a less expensive place to buy guitar strings than the local Sam Ash and Guitar Centers, neither of which is located really conveniently to where we live.

But wow! They had everything. Not just at lower prices than the brick-and-mortar music stores, but shipping was free. And no tax charged.

So I took a chance and placed an order online. I was able to use PayPal, which I prefer because that way I’m not giving any particular store my credit card information.

But then came a pleasant shocker. Within a few hours, I received a phone call from someone at Sweetwater explaining that he was my personal sales rep. He reviewed what I’d ordered, asked if I had questions, and told me to call or email him if I thought of anything else.

Wow again!

Within three or four days, I had my new strings. It seems that Sweetwater is centrally located—in Ft. Wayne, Indiana—and that minimizes shipping time to every part of the country. Nice!

But what was also nice was the tiny little plastic bag with a little Tootsie Roll and a couple of other small pieces of candy. Just enough to enjoy without feeling guilty.

Several days later I heard from my personal sales rep again. Just making sure I’d received my order and was satisfied with it.

What better service could I ask for?

Some years ago I read a book called Raving Fans. The idea was that businesses need to do more than simply strive for “satisfied customers.” How much better to go the second, third, and fourth miles and just dazzle the customer into raving about the service he receives.

I’m a raving fan of Sweetwater, and I think you can see why.

Let me share a quick tale about another store that specialized in acquiring raving fans. Back before Martins acquired Ukrops, a local Richmond grocery chain, I heard a conference speaker tell of being in a Ukrops store, looking for the green beans. When he saw an employee, one who was quite busy at the time, he interrupted and asked where the canned green beans were.

Rather than simply tell the fellow where to find the canned vegetables, the worker set aside whatever he was doing and led the shopper to the right aisle and showed him exactly where he could find what he was looking for. The employee made a raving fan out of that shopper, and that shopper didn’t hesitate to rave publicly—while giving a speech—about the service he’d received at Ukrops.

He made such an impression on the conferees that—from that day on—many of us started referring to going all out to please a customer as the “Ukrops principle.”

Has any place of business—perhaps even a place where you’ve worked—turned you into a raving fan? How about sharing in a comment?


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Best regards,

Let’s Blame Abraham and Sarah

Islam appears at times to be taking over the world. Although I believe a majority of Muslims are peace-loving, the Koran advocates lies and violence. Allah is not the God of love Christians and Jews worship, and what some Muslims are willing to do to earn his favor is downright scary.

That’s not news, though.

Of course, without the existence of Mohammad, Islam would never have been born and we would be facing some other kind of major world threat. That’s how the world has operated ever since Adam and Eve introduced sin into the world when they abused free will.

So should we actually be blaming the original man and woman for Islam and all of the other ills of mankind? I suppose we could, but I don’t want to go  back quite that far. Not for Islam, anyhow.

I’d pin the blame on Abraham and Sarah. You remember those two biblical characters? Abraham’s the fellow whose faithfulness pleased God so much that He promised to give him a son in his (very) old age, a son who would become the father of a great nation filled with countless future generations. The Jewish people, in fact.

But Abraham and Sarah got tired of waiting for God to keep His promise. Sarah wasn’t simply past child-bearing years; she was WAY past. So when she suggested that Abraham sleep with her slave, Hagar, Abraham didn’t object. A son–one who was truly Abraham’s son–resulted from that union.

Ishmael wasn’t the son God had intended to bless, however. He wasn’t Abraham and Sarah’s son.

After Sarah finally became miraculously pregnant–she was even older by that time–and gave birth to Isaac, she insisted that Abraham send Hagar and the baby out into the desert, to quickly be forgotten as a bad mistake on their part. Second guessing God just hadn’t worked.

But God promised Hagar to take care of her and her son and assured her that Ishmael would become the father of a large nation as well. In fact, Ishmael became the father of the Arab people.

So Abraham and Sarah’s efforts to sweep their mistake under the carpet has resulted in a severe threat to world peace today. If Ishmael and his mother had remained with Abraham for the rest of their lives, he would probably have adopted into the Jewish culture instead of fathering the first Arabs.

No Arabs would have meant no Mohammad, and no Mohammad would’ve meant no Islam.

You see why I’m blaming Abraham and Sarah for the problems violent Islam has caused and is continuing to cause?

Please feel free to leave a comment. I don’t know if any Muslims will chance upon this post, but I’d welcome your opinions.


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Best regards,