On Being Remembered

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(Leonardo’s “Last Supper” as portrayed in the Wax Museum at Luray Caverns;
click on thumbnail to see a larger picture)

We all know we’re going to die some day. Right?

Wouldn’t it be neat if we could know exactly when so we could gather our friends and family around the night before for one last special meal? A real celebration. All of our favorite foods–no counting calories–and we’d get to talk all we wanted to about everything we wanted to talk about because this would be the last time we knew people would be listening to us.

And to make the occasion even more special, we would make this request: whenever this group of special people eats together again, let it be in remembrance of us.

If you’re a Christian–maybe even if you’re simply familiar with the New Testament–you might think this idea sounds familiar.

And well it should. It’s my best effort at describing “The Lord’s Supper”–also known as “Communion” and “The Last Supper.”

Jesus’s death was eminent. And even though he’d been teaching these disciples for three years, He realized that they hadn’t caught on to some of His most important teachings. Like the fact He would be raised from the grave again.

This was His last chance to speak to them and try to prepare them for what He was about to experience. And what they could ultimately expect.

But it wasn’t just a time of teaching. It was a time of fellowship. The Bible doesn’t say anything about the lighter side of the Last Supper, but I’ll bet there was some cutting up before things turned serious. After all, this was a celebration of the Passover, and the Passover was a joyous time, because it celebrated the Children of Israel’s survival when the Angel of Death killed the firstborn of all other living creatures in Egypt.

But the Last Supper turned serious. And when Jesus told his followers to think about Him whenever they ate that kind of meal together in the future, they probably didn’t understand that He wouldn’t be with them…not physically.

The things Jesus told His disciples would happen all came true, and when He rose from the grave and ultimately ascended to Heaven, that gave a whole new significance to the celebration of the Lord’s Supper through the ages.

In my church, it’s a very reverent time. And that’s appropriate in some ways.

But it should be joyous as well.

Please share a comment.

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

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”–check it out HERE. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

Be on the lookout for my next novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, which releases on November 25.

Best regards,
Roger

Lightning on a Quiet Night

I hate to admit it, but finding fresh blog topics isn’t always easy. I normally write my posts for the following Sunday and Wednesday on the previous Wednesday, and I often already have decent ideas in mind. But not today.

Not until I finished my third reading of a novel called Lightning on a Quiet Night a few minutes ago. Due to be released in November, its author is a friend of mine, Donn Taylor.

Donn is quite a fellow. We’ve known one another from writing conferences for almost ten years now. He’s former military and also a retired college English professor. He is extremely literate and well spoken–a real gentleman–and his novels reflect that fact. He is a poet as well as a novelist.

You probably wondered about my choice to read Lightning on a Quiet Night three times, though. I would if I were you.

Donn originally asked me to endorse his book. You know, write that clever little bit that goes on the cover or front page meant to make potential readers see just how much they’ll enjoy the book. So I read an electronic copy. I was so well impressed I wrote this for my endorsement:

“A unique and intriguing story, expertly told, with compelling characters and an ending that left me sobbing with satisfaction. What more could any discriminating reader ask for?”

And I meant it!

A few months later, Donn was looking for Beta readers. If you’re unfamiliar with the publishing process–unless you need to, I’d recommend you not ever have to go through it yourself–a Beta reader reads a printed copy of the book, looking for mistakes that the book’s editor and proof reader missed. I found only a handful of mistakes.

What I didn’t realize (I didn’t have to go through the Beta process with my two novels from Barbour Publishing) was a second Beta reading would be required to make sure corrections from the first were made and to determine whether additional mistakes can be found. So when Donn approached me for a third read, I was happy to oblige. In fact, I would’ve been thrilled to help even if Donn hadn’t promised to help me the same way.

Interestingly–and this gives you an idea how thorough Donn is–when he read The Devil and Pastor Gus for endorsement purposes–he also made a list of corrections needed. A pre-Beta read, I suppose you could call it.

Lightning on a Quiet Night is quite different from Donn’s other novels. For one thing, it’s a historical novel, set early in the post-World War 2 years. I thought Donn did a wonderful job of reflecting life in that time period. Another difference is that it’s just as much a love story as it is a mystery/suspense. Finally, the town itself almost seems like one of the characters.

The townspeople believe their town to be perfect and good–until the first murder in memory takes place. Even then, they want to believe the murderer must be an outsider. By the end of the story, the residents recognize that their belief in the town’s virtue has blinded them to its faults.

Just as lightning on a quiet night revealed a dead body, so horrible circumstances can bring to light things that are not easily seen otherwise.

Donn’s book is available now for pre-order. Look for it here.

Please share your opinion of Donn’s book based on what I’ve said or leave a comment about whether you mind my writing about somebody’s book periodically.

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

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”–check it out HERE. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

Be on the lookout for my next novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, which releases on November 25. It’s available for pre-order HERE.

Best regards,
Roger

 

Getting Daring

I don’t know anyone who would accuse me of being a daring individual, in spite of the several times I’ve  dressed for Halloween with a sheet folded into a triangle as a diaper.

Okay, so that’s probably the most daring thing I’ve ever done.

But today I did something I actually had to convince myself to do.

A word of background. For years now my website has had a contact form for people to use to sign up for a newsletter I’ve never written because I never had more than eight or ten people sign up for it. With the upcoming release of The Devil and Pastor Gus (Nov. 25), I needed some way to get in touch with a number of people, even if most of them chose to ignore me.

Flashback six or seven months. My college, Frostburg State University, permitted or authorized the distribution of updated alumni information. I ordered the CD that listed contact information for the people in my graduating class. I gave it a perfunctory examination when it finally came, confident that I’d find a use for it eventually.

I realized last week that now was the time to take advantage of my purchase.

So I created a pair of mailing lists (I didn’t want to put everyone in the same list) and fired up the application on the CD. I was amazed at how many people either didn’t have email addresses or had refused to share them.

Nonetheless, it appeared that I would have about six hundred alumni in my lists. But how was I going to get them there? Not by typing the addresses. That was for sure!

Trial-and-error time. Maximizing the results while minimizing the effort.

I discovered that it took more effort to avoid cutting exactly the right characters in an address than it did to copy the space that followed it and delete it after pasting it in the mailing list. And I could move faster if I dragged the alumni application icon next to my Firefox icon so I could move back and forth without having to work so hard to “find” the other window.

So I worked my way through the alumni list, one letter of the alphabet at a time. I couldn’t tell you how many hours that took–or how many breaks I needed in between to keep from going crazy. Having a good system didn’t keep it from being tedious.

I finally finished. What next?

Like all of you, I detest spam. I needed people’s permission to send them my newsletters, so I needed to use these two mailing lists once just to find out if people were willing to be subscribers.

But I’d half-solved that problem already. So rather than deal with asking people to subscribe–I doubted I’d get much response that way–I asked people who didn’t want to be on the list to respond and put NO in the subject line. I worded my message very carefully and got my wife’s input on its wording.

So I had the message all set to go. But then I started having second thoughts. Most of those people wouldn’t know me, and not all of those who did would care.

Okay, Roger, marketing The Devil and Pastor Gus is mostly up to you. You’ve reached the point in life where you seldom care what other people think. You need to DO THIS. So I clicked on send.

So far I’ve received no more than thirty or forty NOs. Once I actually send an announcement or a newsletter out, I’m sure some people will choose to unsubscribe, but that’s okay.

Thank You, Lord, for giving me the courage to do this.

What’s the last good thing you had to force yourself to do? Mow the lawn? Vacuum? Please share with a comment.

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

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”–check it out HERE. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

Be on the lookout for my next novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, which releases on November 25.

Best regards,
Roger

 

The Me I Want to Be

Last night, our Bible Study group started a new series of lessons using a DVD and print materials from John Ortberg. It’s called The Me I Want to Be. Fascinating topic. And so very relevant.

Some people might wonder why I–at sixty-eight–would find that topic so relevant. After all, I’m not only growing older day by day, but have reached the point where change that isn’t forced on me isn’t likely to happen. So, doesn’t that mean I’m already as much “the me I want to be” as I’m ever going to be?

Now that’s a scary thought. Although I can see progress in many areas of my life–I’m much more patient, kind, and thoughtful than I used to be–I still haven’t reached all of my life’s goals. Furthermore, I don’t expect to.

But that doesn’t mean I’m going to be satisfied with myself and stop growing.

Mr. Ortberg lists some counterfeit versions of me:

  • The “me” I pretend to be
  • The “me” I think I should be
  • The “me” other people want me to be
  • The “me” I’m afraid God wants
  • The “me” that fails to be

But then he concludes that the best version of me is…

  • The “me” I’m meant to be.

You might want to check out his book  for more of an in-depth look at this whole idea.

I’d like to believe I’ve passed the point of pretending to be someone I’m not or trying to live up to other people’s expectations. I much prefer just being myself. If I’m slow at times, if I’m overly careful about some things and careless about others, if I’m a million-and-one other ways that fail to meet my own expectations, why fret about it?

That doesn’t mean I’m satisfied with myself, however. I’m declining physically–maybe even mentally at times–but “the ‘me’ I’m meant to be” still gives me something to shoot for. Not unrealistic goals. I’m not apt to turn from a super-quiet introvert into the life of the party, for example. Or to become a well-known singer/songwriter.

I don’t believe God ever intended for me to be either of those things. According to the Bible, He knew what I would be like long before my birth. He gave me strengths and weaknesses and inclinations–everything that makes me me.

But He also gave me the desire to love Him and want to become the person He wants me to be. That doesn’t mean following a set of rules.

Yes, there are things a Christian should do–and some he shouldn’t do. But the important thing is trusting God enough to place my life fully in His hands. Not just when things are going wrong, but when they’re going well and I might be tempted to think I’ responsible for my success.

Being “the ‘me’ I’m meant to be” requires walking daily with God. Not trying to walk ahead of Him as if I think so highly of myself that I think I don’t have to let things happen in His time. And not falling behind as if I’m fearful that He isn’t able to bring me safely through every valley.

What are your thoughts about this subject? Are you the “me” God means for you to be, or are you one of the counterfeit versions of “me”? Please share a comment if you feel led to.

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

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”–check it out HERE. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

Be on the lookout for my next novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, which releases on November 25.

Best regards,
Roger

Almost Vacation Time

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f-Dsc_7193   Dsc_5393   Dsc_5431

(Click on pictures for larger image. Left to Right: Outside Sun Studios, Gibson factory,
Sunset at Sandbridge Beach, Sunrise at Sandbridge Beach, handwork at Martin factory,
fancy inlay in the Martin factory museum)

Over the years I’ve taken a variety of  vacations. When I was a pre-teen, my parents took me to New England for a month during each of two summers when my minister father exchanged pulpits with a friend in Springfield, Massachusetts. We stayed in one another’s parsonages and took dozens of side trips to New York City and other sites in New England, not many of which were of great interest to me at that stage of my life. But they provided a definite change of scenery.

Vacations with my first wife consisted mostly of trips to visit her family. As much as I loved my in-laws, that wasn’t my favorite kind of vacation, and I finally had her use the vacation money to fly fly her and our daughter rather than all three of us drive in the car. So my vacation consisted of staying home by myself!

Actually, there were a couple of exceptions to what I just said. We took a quick trip to Connecticut to visit the Ovation guitar factory. Because of a mixup on their part, we got a private tour by the marketing manager. Wonderful experience.

The other exception was a family trip to Australia, using some of the inheritance I’d gotten from my mother’s estate. We stayed with friends from my numerous previous trips there and also went to far north Queensland to a beach area, from which we took a side trip to the outback. Undoubtedly our best vacations of all time.

Marriage to Kathleen has seen a greater variety of vacation trips.

Yes, we’ve taken trips to Memphis to visit her parents, but that gave me a chance to visit Sun Studios, the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll. I also took a tour of the Gibson guitar factory. (On another trip, we went to Pennsylvania to tour the Martin guitar factory.)

Last year we rented a beach house for a week and enjoyed sharing that time with Kathleen’s two girls (my daughter and her family couldn’t come, unfortunately). Even though the beach isn’t my favorite place to be, I had a great time taking pictures.

We’re trying something different this year. Kathleen has a first cousin in Carlsbad, California. (No, the caverns are in New Mexico. She checked.) They’ve seen each other twice in fifty-some years, so this visit might be considered overdue.

Although visiting family doesn’t normally constitute vacation for me, this trip will be an exception for two reasons.

First, the Taylor Guitar factory is within easy reach of where we’ll be staying, and they give daily factory tours on week days. Since I have a Taylor, that’s a huge draw for me. I just hope they allow cameras. (The Martin factory does. The Gibson factory doesn’t.)

The other reason this trip is more appealing is Katurah. No, not the Katurah who was one of King David’s wives, but the ten-year-old granddaughter of Kathleen’s cousin. Katurah and I almost share the same birthday in September, but that’s not what makes her special. She has had numerous health problems since before birth and still doesn’t live a normal life. Her health continues to be up and down.

But she’s alive and seems as well adjusted as one could hope from someone who’s been on our daily prayer list for the last ten years. Kathleen has been sharing Katurah updates with a number of interested individuals, and we have no doubt that prayer has been largely responsible for her doing as well as she is.

So we’re both anxious to meet Katurah and her parents and siblings and let this young lady who’s been special to us for so long become more personal. I dare say I’ll be doing at least one blog post about Katurah when we get home.

What’s your favorite vacation memory? Or do you have a horror story to tell about a past vacation? Just leave a comment.

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

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”–check it out HERE. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

Be on the lookout for my next novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, which releases on November 25.

Best regards,
Roger

The Parents I Never Knew

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(Me with my adoptive parents. My adopted daughter twenty-some years ago. Click on pictures for larger image.)

The folks I consider my parents adopted me. It must have been a private adoption since they were able to take me home directly from the hospital, Jackson Memorial in Miami, Florida. My father was in his first pastorate after graduating from seminary (and that was after practicing law for a while), serving a church in Hollywood, Florida.

I was still fairly young when they told me about my adoption, but the fact of being adopted didn’t bother me. In fact, I almost forgot about it.

Only as an adult did it occur to me to wonder who my birth parents were and what the circumstances were. Yet I didn’t get as curious as many adopted children do.

Good thing. My parents–my mother, anyhow–got really upset at the prospect of my searching for my birth parents. So upset that I set that idea aside until after my father’s death in 1993 and my mother’s the following year.

I know information about adoptions is supposed to be easier to find now, especially with tons of resources on the Internet. But I wasn’t prepared to spend countless hours on a project that might dead end or even lead to a family that wouldn’t welcome hearing from me at this stage of their lives.

So I’ve never pursued the search for my birth family. Since I’m 68 now, my birth parents would probably be fairly ancient–if they’re even still alive. But since I’m an only child and have very few family contacts left, I do wish I knew whether I had siblings.

But the desire to find out isn’t strong enough to make me start searching.

After all, I’ve always thought of my adoptive parents as my parents. Shouldn’t that be enough?

(By the way, I may have unwittingly passed up a chance to learn something immediately after my father’s death. He kept detailed diaries for a number of years, although I don’t know how far back they went. Although he willed those to the Virginia Baptist Historical Society, I could have perused them before turning them over.)

Note: My daughter is adopted. At one point she thought she’d want to try to find her birth mother, but I haven’t heard anything about that in years now, so I assume she’s either changed her mind or is too busy to start looking. Unlike my mother, I wouldn’t object to her looking, when and if she chooses to.

So, tell me. Are you adopted? If so, can you relate to my story? Please leave a comment about adoption even if you grew up with your birth parents.

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

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”–check it out HERE. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

Best regards,
Roger

Restoring a Little of the Past

turntable    LisaWhelchel    Firestarter

CelebrateLife    RaganAutograph

(Click on pictures for larger image.)

NOTE: If you received this post by mail, it was the incomplete version. This one is the right one, I hope.

If you’re somewhere close to my generation, chances are you may still have some old records lying around the house. And even if you have something left to play them on, it’s not necessarily as convenient as playing CDs.

I bought a turntable some years back, but it wasn’t something I could use to make mp3 files from, and that’s what I really wanted. I’d admired some of these combo units I’d seen in various stores that were supposed to do that, but I couldn’t justify spending one or two hundred dollars for one.

When looking for things to put on my birthday wishlist, I found a turntable at Amazon that sold for about $52 dollars. It had great reviews. People agreed that the sound quality wasn’t the best, but when played through a stereo, it was quite acceptable.

I didn’t care about playback sound quality. I just wanted to digitize some favorite albums that aren’t even available on CD or as mp3s, and this unit looked like a perfect fit for my needs.

Fortunately, my wife took my strong hints quite seriously and ignored the other big item on my wishlist.

When I opened the box, I was amazed. Very compact, lightweight, and durable looking. I thought it a little strange that the on-off switch goes left to turn it on, but otherwise it seems not only normal, but like a lot of electronics for a small price. And I didn’t even mind the playback quality as long as I didn’t pretend it matched my stereo.

So I’ve been busy the last week or so converting the albums shown above to mp3. Interesting, this unit uses Audacity software, which I was already familiar with. The only problem for some people is the instructions apply basically to Windows XP and earlier. Out of four computers in the house, I was only able to use it (so far) with the one I’m almost given to one of our daughters. Glad I didn’t!

The pictures above are of the Jensen turntable and the first three albums I converted. Anybody remember when Drew Barrymore was that young? Or what TV show Lisa Whelchel played in? Great memories.

Especially Celebrate Life, a Christian Youth Musical with lyrics by Ragan Courtney, who acknowledged my songwriting in the autograph he put inside the cover of the double record set.

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

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”–check it out HERE. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

Be on the lookout for my next novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, which releases on November 25.

Best regards,
Roger