Snake Charmer in the Pulpit?

Although I have a good sense of humor and enjoy things that are genuinely humorous, I’m not normally a laugh-out-loud kind of guy. If something is funny, I’m most apt to smile at it. It has to be outrageously funny for me to actually laugh.

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My minister, Pastor Jeff Brauer, is a great story teller, though. Most of his tales are about his days working on the railroad when he was a bi-vocational minister–that means he served a church that couldn’t afford to pay him a living and worked on the railroad to supplement his pastoral  earnings. His ability to remember the people, the personalities, and the incidents from those days is amazing, and his reflections on the past frequently end up as sermon illustrations.

But one Sunday night he felt inspired to share a tale that was neither railroad- nor sermon-related. I hope I can do it justice.

He’d been called on to conduct a funeral service for someone who was associated with our church, but not actually a member.

After the service, he, the family, and friends of the deceased headed outside for the burial at the church cemetery, a distance of just a few yards. He arrived first and–upon looking at whatever had been put down for people to walk on where the chairs for family had been placed–he noticed a snake crawling around. Nothing poisonous and probably no more than fifteen to twenty inches in length. Big enough to cause a major distraction if spotted by the rest of the funeral party.

It must’ve disappeared for a few minutes, but while Pastor Brauer was sitting down, it came slithering in his direction. Still concerned that the reptile not cause a disruption, he put his foot down on it. Not hard enough to squish it, but enough to immobilize it.

Then he reached down as inconspicuously as possible and started working his hand towards the head until he could grasp it without getting bit. (I can tell you from personal experience that non-poisonous snakes are still capable of biting.) Then, still holding it behind the head, he stuffed it into his pocket and waiting for a safe time to throw it a safe distance away.

I can’t recall whether that was during a prayer, when most people would’ve had their eyes closed.

Later, the funeral director approached Pastor Brauer. “Are you one of those snake charming preachers?”

“Only when I have to be.”

The congregation roared at this tale, and I–for once–was roaring in delight along with them. Laughing aloud felt great!

Have you ever experienced something that makes a great humorous tale? How about sharing it here with the rest of us in 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 new novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is out now. If you’re interested, please check it out at Amazon.

Best regards,
Roger

Which Kind of Plant Am I?

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(left to right: ZZ plant, pothos, philodendron)

In my living room, directly across from my place on the sofa, a ZZ plant sits on top of the stereo. I bought it several years ago at Home Depot for a reasonable price. It looked interesting. Intriguing. Even though I’d never heard of a ZZ plant and knew little about its care, it was worth taking a chance on.

Have you ever had a houseplant that seemed to thrive on neglect?

That’s my zz plant. It remains equally healthy whether I water it once a week or once a month. And it seems to enjoy being pot-bound. Although it gets strong indirect light, I have no doubt that I could move it to a dark corner and see no loss of health.

To the best of my knowledge, the only leafy stem it’s ever lost resulted from somebody accidentally bending it. Can’t blame the plant for that.

I wish the pothos and philodendron growing in water and hanging on the wall behind me were as cooperative as my ZZ plant. But they’re at least surviving.

I view my houseplants as symbolic of ways to view old(er) age. I have a choice. I can view my life as a matter of simply hanging in there, like the pothos and philodendron. Or I can realize that I’m actually thriving now in spite of the fact that some of life’s circumstances make me feel slightly pot-bound.

I think I’ll choose to be thankful that I’m doing as well as I am. I can’t let my ZZ plant get the better of me. Or let my faith in God’s providence shrink. After all, He’s my gardener, and I’m happy to let my welfare be in His hands.

What about you? Are you thriving or just hanging in there? Are you letting God work in your life or trying to depend solely on your own strength? How about leaving 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 latest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is out now. If you’re interested, please check it out at Amazon.  If you’d like information about receiving a review copy, please email me at Roger@RogerBruner.com.

Best regards,
Roger

 

 

 

Happy to Be Me

At sixty-eight, I’m finally learning not just to be satisfied with the way God made me, but to be happy about it. He’s the Master and I’m the clay. He wouldn’t have let me turn out to be anything less than He’d intended—not as long as I was trying to follow His will. Of course, He had to keep smushing me together and remolding me during the process to make sure I turned out right.

Sure, I’d love to have been better looking. And to have had more hair. I couldn’t even have a Beatle-ish hair style in high school when the Fab Four first came to the United States to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show; my hair just didn’t grow prolifically in the right places. For that matter, what if He’d given me a body that stayed permanently trim—no matter how much food I ate or what kind.

And a lot more energy. When friends at a summer job nicknamed me Flash, it wasn’t because I was serving as the staff photographer. I was slow then, and I haven’t gotten any faster. “Hurry” isn’t in my dictionary.

Okay. Those things weren’t in God’s plan for me. But how could I miss something I’ve never had?

What if He’d led me to the perfect vocation right after college instead of taking me through six-plus years of teaching junior high English, ten years of helping economically disadvantaged folks find appropriate federally funded training, and almost nineteen years of computer programming?

Of course, I’d thought the programming was the vocation He’d been leading me to all along. Only when I was downsized unexpectedly did I realize I’d grown weary of keeping up with the changes in information technology. But He knew that would happen.

That downsizing led to a temporary at-home job, and when that ended it led to a part-time job at Target for three years. And it was during that time that I had both the time and the inclination to write my first novel. The first of eleven so far.

What? Did God have that in mind the whole time?

I believe He did. Looking back on various parts of my life—and the characteristics that make me me—I can see His hand placing those puzzle pieces on the board. They’re making more sense than ever. And I’m starting to appreciate the fact that I’m the me I am.

What about you? Do you like being who you are? What would you change if you could, and why do you think that would be important? Have you finished becoming the person God wants you to be? 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 latest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is out. If you’re interested, please check it out at Amazon.

Tentative-Front-Cover

Best regards,
Roger

 

What Book Have You Read More than Once?

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I was attending a meeting of our local writers’ group recently, and our leader posed this question. “What book–other than the Bible–have you read more than once?”

Great question! Most of the group mentioned books I was unfamiliar with, but one fellow rereads Lord of the Rings every ten years or so. I’m afraid I was a little shy about admitting that I didn’t enjoy my one reading all that much, but at least I finished it.

My turn, huh?

Okay. I thought about those three bookcases that are chock full of novels. While there are some I ought to donate to Goodwill, many of them were good. Some were excellent. How to choose…

I’m currently reading The Life of Pi after watching the movie, but I doubt seriously I’ll ever read that again. It’s different, though.

What had I read last before that?

Oh, of course. Donn Taylor’s The Lazarus File. Although I have a print version of the book somewhere on one of those book cases, I also have a Kindle version, and that’s the one I read. This last reading was at LEAST the third time.

I would describe this novel as suspense. It’s about a fellow who had to be declared dead and be given a new identity. Not just to keep his enemies from killing him for real, but to allow him to continue working as an undercover agent for one of the intelligence branches of the government.

The title is based on the biblical story of Jesus raising his good friend Lazarus from death and restoring him to life. Rather clever to apply that to the title, I thought.

Lazarus is a good action story that keeps the reader turning pages, but it’s also a unique love story. Mark Daniel–the protagonist’s old name–has been grieving the death of his wife and child for years and has never considered the possibility of falling in love again.

But as Carlos Ortiz, he falls for a beautiful young woman, Sol, who is married to a much older man whose health is precarious. Although she and Mark/Carlos sense a mutual attraction, they behave in an entirely proper way, including one time when he could have taken advantage of her.

I won’t give away whether or how their relationship works out, but the ending of the book is very satisfactory.

Donn Taylor is ex-military, and his knowledge of guns, airplanes, and similar things helped him give The Lazarus File quite a bit of realism.

This isn’t actually the first book of Donn’s that I’ve read three or more times. I thoroughly enjoyed his newest novel, Lightning on a Quiet Night, which is a very different read from his mystery and suspense novels.

Donn, how much did you say you’re paying me to write good things about your books? Ah? A smile of appreciation is all I need.

Readers, what have you read more than once? How about sharing that with us in 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 new novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available at Amazon.

Tentative-Front-Cover

Best regards,
Roger

 

The Bruner Breakfast Sandwich

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I love Egg McMuffins, but I never eat them. Too fattening.

But I’ve come up with a breakfast sandwich of my own that is–to say the least–is both tasty and low calorie and low fat.

I use the “light English muffins” that come as a store brand. Under $2.00 for a package. One reason for this choice, however, is they are higher in fiber than many other brands of English muffins: 9 grams. And just 90 calories.

Then there’s the Sargento’s reduced fat Swiss cheese, which is made with 2% milk and weighs in at 30 calories for the half slice I use. I buy the nine-per-package and use only half a slice.

I don’t have a turkey bacon package to check, but I’m sure one slice of that is no more than 40 calories.

Then comes the egg: egg whites that are 25 calories per serving.

Finally is the no-fat, no-calories spray margarine.

Were you keeping track? Just under 200 calories for a filling and tasty breakfast sandwich.

Sandwich-4

Here are the steps.

  1. Tear the English muffin apart and toast it
  2. Tear one strip of turkey bacon in half, wrap the two pieces flat in a paper tower, and microwave for 30-35 seconds. Even if you prefer crispy bacon, you don’t want this bacon crumbling and falling out.
  3. Spray the muffin with the margarine and put one piece of Swiss cheese on each half of the muffin as soon as possible after toasting. That helps to melt the cheese just a tad. Lay one piece of turkey bacon on top of each piece of cheese.
  4. Spray a ramekin or similar dish with cooking spray and pour one serving of egg whites in. Microwave 50-55 seconds. Sometimes the result is nice and flat on top, but sometimes it’s quite odd-shaped. Tastes great either way.
  5. Remove the egg with a fork (or whatever) and place it on either side of the English muffin.
  6. Salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Eat and enjoy.

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I used to use a Jimmy Dean product, turkey sausage crumbles rather than the turkey bacon, but our grocery store has quit carrying it.

Have a favorite recipe? How about sharing it in 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 new novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is out now. If you’re interested, please check it out at Amazon.

Tentative-Front-Cover

Best regards,
Roger

Only As Old As You Feel

 

This past Sunday I posted on the subject of oldness being in the eyes of the beholder. Today I’d like to steer that subject in a slightly different direction.

“How old are you?”

A common question for people to ask one another, although men typically don’t ask women that. Not if they know what’s good for them.

When I was in my twenties, I was one of those many folks who thought everyone over thirty was old. Really old. That was the age at which a person was officially “over the hill.”

No wonder I hated my thirtieth birthday so much. I was visiting my parents that weekend and, of course, attended their church that Sunday. Doggoned if my pastor father didn’t make a HUGE deal out of my birthday–as if it was some grand accomplishment and not the time I’d dreaded for years.

Forty wasn’t nearly as bad. It couldn’t have been. And I had settled into what would become my most satisfying career (other than the writing I’m doing now in my retirement). Life was good, and I wasn’t as old as I’d felt at thirty.

But then came fifty. Fifteen years until retirement, of all things. (I actually retired only twelve years later.) I was visiting friends in Australia, and Maggie baked me a nice birthday cake. They gave me a complete boxed set of CDs by my favorite Australian group, The Seekers.

A great celebration, but that didn’t change the fact that I was fifty. Going on ancient.

“You’re only as old as you feel.” Great words if you don’t feel old.

But sometimes I do. I look at the medicines I take: thyroid, blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes (not insulin, thank goodness), acid reflux. And let’s not forget the daily baby aspirin. While I consider myself to be in good health, am I being realistic–if it takes that much medicine to keep me that way? And hearing aids to keep me hearing MOST things?

I have some cysts that my doctor can remove, but without guaranteeing that it will take away my discomfort. Not exactly painful, but sufficiently uncomfortable that it prevents me from getting a really decent night’s sleep most of the time.

And what about my driving? Just recently I’ve determined that–where possible–I should leave nighttime driving to my wife. Thank goodness I’m still doing fine in daylight.

If I’m only as old as I feel, I must admit that some days I feel really ancient.

But why fret about it? The passing of time just brings my eternal move to Heaven a bit closer.

What about you? How old do you feel? Won’t you share in 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.

My new novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is out now. If you’re interested, please check it out at Amazon.

Tentative-Front-Cover

Best regards,
Roger

How Old Is Old?

On one of my mission trips to Australia, I learned what has become one of my favorite jokes. It goes like this:

A Jew was visiting Australia, and his Australian host was having a great time showing his guest around. “Over here,” he said, “is one of our old buildings. Twenty-five years old.”

The Jew nodded politely.

His host pointed to another building. “And this one’s really old. Fifty years.”

Again the Jew nodded politely.

Then the Australian beamed and pointed to another building. “And this one is our oldest one. One hundred years old.”

At that, the Jew nodded politely and said, “I can hardly wait to get back to Jericho and tell the fellows about that one.”

Of course, you don’t get the joke unless you know that Jericho is an ancient biblical city.

I live in a very historic part of Virginia. Our area was settled by European colonists long before the first convicts were sent to Australia. Not far from Richmond, which is historic in its own right, is Williamsburg, founded as the capital of the Virginia Colony in 1699. We consider that to be old.

But in 1992 I went on a mission trip to the Pembrokeshire area of Wales and saw lots of castles. Castles that dated back to the 11th and 12th centuries.

Whoops! Who says Williamsburg is old?

I guess age is in the eyes of the beholder, huh?

What is age to you? How about leaving 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.

My new novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available at Amazon.

Tentative-Front-Cover

Best regards,
Roger