In Other Words

 

Okay, I admit it. As a writer I pay close attention to words. Obsessively close at times.

Everyone’s words. Spoken and printed. Live and recorded. Loving words and hateful ones. Kind words and unfeeling ones. Sacred words and blasphemous ones. Uplifting words and depressing words.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that I have several pet peeves regarding words and word usage. Maybe more than several, but several illustrations will suffice.

In a couple of my novels, a character expresses frustration about the use of the word awesome to describe anyone or anything but God. It’s bad enough when non-Christians are describing something pretty insignificant–“This gum is awesome”–but since they would never say God is awesome, their use of that word is simply inappropriate. Or at least a horrible exaggeration.

I have yet to find a, uh, a more awesome way to describe God’s indescribable qualities than to call Him awesome. So when a Christian says God is awesome and also describes other things that way–nothing comes close to being as awesome as God–it strikes me as a sacrilege. What makes it worse is the fact they’ve probably never thought about what they’re doing when they talk that way.

Another of my verbal pet peeves is the word famously.  I’d never heard it used that often until the last several years, although I can’t prove that its use is getting worse. Nonetheless, I keep running into famously–I can’t even stand the way it sounds, and it’s an ugly-looking word in print. Particularly in news articles. Like this line I ran into a few minutes ago, the one that inspired this post:

It follows the famous case of Kate Steinle, who was famously shot to death in San Francisco in 2015 by an illegal immigrant (etc.)

If something is famous, it’s already too well-known to need to be pointed out as being well-known. And the sentence I quoted is an especially horrific example. The “famous case”? Sorry, news writer, but it is an all-too-famous case; you don’t need to tell us that. And then to add “famously shot to death” makes that whole part of the sentence sound redundant.

Enough said. I don’t want to start sounding redundant, too.

While I’m on this soapbox, however, let me share one other word-related pet peeve. Like awesome, this one applies mostly to Christians. I’m not someone who thinks of “darn” as a substitute for “damn” or “heck” as a substitute for “hell.” And I daresay  Christians who use the word “jeez” don’t think of it the way I do.

Nonetheless, I hear jeez as a substitute for Jesus. And it’s not used in praise or adoration, but as a common expression of…whatever.

It offends me so much I’ve asked my wife not to use it when we play Words with Friends. She usually honors my request, even though the ability to get rid of a J and a Z in the same play must be frustratingly tempting.

What about you? Do these pet peeves of mine make sense? Do those things bother you, too? Are there other words that bother you? Your comment will be welcome.

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.

Best regards,
Roger

          

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A Prayer for Old Age

Dearest Heavenly Father–Papa–my life is just as much in Your hands as it’s always been, and I have many things to be thankful for and nothing of a particularly selfish nature to ask You for. Sure, I can think of a few things that would be nice to have, but they’re not the least necessary at this stage of my life. If they were, I feel confident You would provide them.

No, this prayer isn’t about things.

I do have concerns about my future, however. Not my eternal future, of course. I know I’ll be living with You among millions–probably billions–of other Christians when it’s my turn to “move” to Heaven.

At seventy-one, I’m not really very old. Even so, I’m conscious of the fact I’m getting older. I sense it daily. My body is no longer capable of doing things that used to be so simple, and my mind struggles all too frequently trying to remember a familiar word or the name of someone I know well. Those limitations are frightening.

But they’re are all part of aging, and it would be foolish to pray to avoid them. Instead I ask Your help in accepting and living with those limitations.

Lord, You know my greatest desire is to use the talents You’ve given me to serve You and to share the Good News of salvation with other people. You understand my frustrations at not being good at using the spoken word to do that. I’m thankful for the writing skills and musical abilities You’ve blessed me with and the spiritual truths You’ve given me to share with other people.

And the opportunities You’ve given me to share.

I’m thankful I can still participate in the nursing home ministry and share audio and video recordings of some of my songs on my website–and through YouTube. I take great pleasure in having many of my Christian novels published–and in hoping they will bless and entertain numerous readers.

Even so, the time may come when I can no longer sing or play my guitar, and the time may come when I’m no longer able to write. A time may even come when I don’t know who or where I am.

Papa God, I can’t pray “against” aging, but I beg You to keep me spiritually active to the very end. And to keep me so close to You that nothing else matters.

Please use me any way You choose…to the very end. Amen.

Do you have a prayer for old age? How about leaving a comment? 

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

Best regards,
Roger

          

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The Mouse that Roared

Funny thing. I don’t remember a whole lot about high school. Not the extra curricular activities, anyhow. Yes, I did used to enjoy attending the band concerts, and I recall going out to eat one Sunday with the members of the Spanish club–at a Mexican restaurant, of course.

Football or basketball games? Nope. I wasn’t interested in sports and–I hate to admit–I only had a limited amount of school spirit.

But one event made a humongous impression on me–a presentation of the play “The Mouse that Roared.” Amazon describes the book this way:

In Leonard Wibberley’s classic political satire, a tiny backwards country decides the only way to survive a sudden economic downturn is to declare war on the United States and lose to get foreign aid – but things don’t go according to plan.

I’m not sure I’d been thoroughly introduced to the concept of satire yet, but that didn’t matter. The idea of a tiny country going to war with America, intending to lose so it could get support from the United States, only to somehow win, seemed SO very clever.

I don’t recall details about the play–and I have yet to read the book–but I often think about it. And for what may be the strangest of reasons.

Seldom does a day pass that we don’t hear something on the news about North Korea’s apparently-insane leader and the threats he makes against the United States. As if trying to provoke us into war.

In that sense, he makes North Korea sound like a mouse roaring.

But what a difference between the book/play and North Korea. To be sure, the people of North Korea are horribly poor. But the leader–forgive me for not even wanting to learn his name–is wealthy beyond my ability to understand. And if he should declare war against us, it wouldn’t be with the intention of losing.

Not unless he’s even crazier than I think.

Nonetheless, when a country as small as North Korea holds the kind of power it appears to hold, it seems to be roaring all tooloudly.

What do you think? How about leaving a comment.

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

Best regards,
Roger

 

          

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Talkin’ about the Weather

I wonder how many people can hold a conversation without saying something about the weather.

And why not? It’s something that’s with us constantly. We can’t get away from it, although when we’re snug inside our homes during winter or enjoying the air conditioning in summer, we can pretend the weather isn’t affecting us.

I’ll never forget Hurricane Isabel in 2003 and the effect it had on us personally. Like thousands of other Virginians, we were without electricity for almost two weeks. We visited Winn’s Baptist Church that Sunday because we’d heard they were holding a service even without power. Uh, without electrical power, that is.

But it was a spiritually powerful service, and we were really impressed at the end when Pastor Brauer asked people to divide up accordingly:

  • Those having power and willing to let people come take showers
  • Those having chain saws who would be willing to help remove problem trees

Then he told the people who needed take a shower or have a tree removed to go meet with one of those groups and get help.

Kathleen and I didn’t belong to Winn’s yet, and we didn’t realize how much longer we’d be without power, but the church was filled with such a loving spirit that I’m sure we would’ve felt comfortable asking for help.

We definitely couldn’t get away from the effects of the weather those two weeks. Probably every conversation included a lengthy discussion of Isabel.

When I was young(er), I used to say I preferred cold weather. When it’s cold, you can always put more clothes on, but when it’s hot you can’t legally take but so many clothes off, and even then you might still be too hot.

Now that I’m old(er), I find cold weather to be more debilitating. I don’t know why unless it’s just an age-related problem.

Yesterday we enjoyed a temporary heat wave–mid-thirties Fahrenheit, but it’s twenty degrees right now and only going to the mid-twenties. Even though we have heat tape on the pipes, we don’t trust it, so that means leaving a tiny bit of water dripping to keep the pipes from freezing.

See what I mean? I couldn’t even post a “normal blog post” today. I was so weather-conscious that I couldn’t keep from talking about it.

What’s your weather like? Do you have any particular preferences or dislikes regarding the weather? How about leaving a comment.

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.

Best regards,
Roger

 

          

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Almost You’re Smiling

Since tomorrow is Christmas Day, I wanted to share one of my original songs with you. A Youtube video of me singing “Almost You’re Smiling” can be seen here.  A free lead sheet is available here.

If you’re like me, you’ve often wished you had been around two thousand years ago to witness Jesus’s life and ministry in person. But wishing doesn’t change the fact we were born two millennia too late.

Rather than fret about it, let’s imagine we were among the shepherds who saw and listened to the angels’ spectacular announcement of Jesus’s birth–no Super Bowl commercials could come close to matching it!–and have come to the stable, where we’re looking at Jesus as a newborn.

Hmm. No matter how special the angels said He was, He looks pretty much like any other baby, doesn’t He? Or does He look a little bit more peaceful than a regular baby as he lies there sleeping?

He opens His eyes. He appears to look first at you and then at me. Strange. Newborns aren’t able to focus that way, are they? More amazing still, He appears to be deep in thought. But babies can’t think yet; thought requires a knowledge of language, something  babies aren’t born with.

Of course, we know He’s both human and divine. So isn’t it possible He can observe things a normal baby can’t observe? And think or feel things babies shouldn’t be able to think or feel?  Alas, the Bible doesn’t tell us.

I speak to baby Jesus, aware that He shouldn’t be able to understand me. Yet He appears to be listening to my words. Perhaps even comprehending them. As if He might truly be more than just an ordinary baby. After all, fully human and fully divine is a strange and powerful combination. Not to mention a unique one.

Yes, Jesus is unique. Even so, I’m certain He won’t be able to answer my questions or comment about my observations. But I’ll ask and comment anyway.

“Little baby in a manger, almost You’re crying.
Can it be You feel the coldness of the world You’ve come to?
Do You somehow miss the warmth You’ve left at home in Heaven?
Little baby in a manger, almost You’re crying.

Do you see Yourself as just an ordinary baby,
Or do You somehow recognize that You’re the Son of God?

Little baby in a stable, almost You’re smiling.
Can it be You feel the joy of those who wait Your coming?
Do You somehow know what hope You’ve brought to earth from Heaven?
Little baby in a stable, almost You’re smiling.

Do you see Yourself as just an ordinary baby,
Or do You somehow recognize that You’re the Son of God?”

I don’t know how Jesus differed from ordinary babies while–at the same time–still being quite ordinary. It doesn’t  matter. Even as a baby, He deserved and deserves my praise and adoration–during the whole year. Not just at Christmas.

Please share a comment.

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

Best regards,
Roger

          

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Why? Why? Why?

Guest post by James N. Watkins

If you have children,nieces and nephews, or younger siblings, you know that a three-year-old’s favorite word is why.

“Johnny, hold my hand while we cross the street.”

“Why?”

“Because I don’t want you to run out in front of a car.”

“Why?”

“Because if a car hits you, you’ll be hurt or killed.”

“Why?”

“Because if it’s a contest between a thirty-five-pound boy and a three-ton SUV, the truck is going to win every time.”

“Why?”

“Because the laws of physics state that mass plus momentum equals . . . Just take my hand!”

And on itgoes-right into adulthood!

“Why didn’t God heal my friend?”

“Why do bad things happen to good people?”

“Why do I still have acne at 50?”

I’ve worked up way too much spiritual perspiration trying to answer why my second-grade Sunday school teacher committed suicide, why I was laid off from the perfect job in publishing—twice—or why bad things happen to such good people as you and me.

I have learned that while why is often a futile question, God is more than willing to answer other questions. But, like the popular game show, Jeopardy, the answers are in the form of a question.

What can I know?

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5-8).

So, while I’ve struggled with hundreds—probably thousands—of questions about God’s workings, I have grown in my knowledge of who he is. While agonizing about an estranged relationship, I burst into tears—for God. I had described to a friend my pain: “It feels like my heart has been cut out with a chainsaw, run over by a logging truck, and then fed through a wood chipper.” If I was feeling this excruciating pain for one broken relationship, how was God feeling about billions of heartaches? It was one of the few times I actually felt I understood God.

I can also find the answer to . . .

How can I grow?

I’ve always leaned into Romans 8:28:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV).

But what is that “purpose”? The very next verse answers: “To be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). So do other verses:

“And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image (2 Corinthians 3:18b).

"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (Ephesians 5:1).

That’s our purpose! So ask, how can I grow more like Christ through this difficult time.

Who can I show?

Second Corinthians 1:3-6 has become one of my favorite passages in encouraging me while I’m going through terrible times:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer” (NLT).

The Greek word translated comfort isparaklesisIt is a calling near, summons for help; a prayer, a plea; exhortation, admonition, encouragement; consolation, comfort, solace, refreshment; or a persuasive speech, motivational talk, instruction. And it’s feminine case. No one comforts like a mother.

We offer our best comfort to those experiencing what we have personally gone through.

So, sorry, we can’t always answer the why questions, but we can answer these three.

Condensed from The Psalms of Asaph: Struggling with Unanswered Prayer, Unfulfilled Promises, and Unpunished Evil by James N. Watkins. Browse and buy at jameswatkins.com/asaph/

 

I want to thank Jim Watkins for that guest post. I look forward to reading his book.

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

Best regards,
Roger

        

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The Newest “Pet” — Revisited

A year-and-a-half ago, I published “The Newest ‘Pet'” included below. We still love our Roomba. No complaints whatsoever, and lots of praise.

I recently received a message from someone who had read the original blog post and offered me a link to an online review of robot vacuum cleaners. It was a great review, and the study seemed to have been conducted sufficiently scientifically to be accurate and worthwhile.

I won’t try to summarize it–I couldn’t do it justice–but the link is here. If you’re considering a robot vacuum cleaner–or simply want to see how yours stacks up against the competition–you’ll find the review to be informative and well done.

Reading my original blog post is optional. *G*

 

Roomba   Roomba2

My wife and I recently spent a wonderful week with my daughter and her family in Florida. This was an exciting time for all of us. They have a new baby (their second child), a new house (their first), and an actual bed for us to sleep in rather than an air mattress on the living room floor. Oh, and did I mention that the new house, like so many in that part of Florida, has a pool?

But they had something else that caught my attention.

I was sitting in the living room working on email when I heard a low roaring sound coming from another room. When I glanced beyond the doorway, I spotted a thirteen-inch (diameter) round gadget moving from place to place on the floor. At one time it moved directly along the base of a wall. At other times it moved away diagonally and sometimes at a ninety-degree angle towards the other side of the room.

Although it seemed to be happy with the bare floor, it soon took an interest in the dining room, which is carpeted. Here’s a video I took in the hallway.

What in the world was this crazy spinning gadget? It obviously was NOT one of Robert Austin’s (the four-year-old) toys, but it was unlike anything I’d ever seen before.

Hmm. This critter seemed to be eating dirt off the floor and carpet. A vacuum cleaner? A human-less vacuum cleaner? So it appeared to be.

I grabbed the camcorder and followed it around for a minute or two, occasionally moving out of its unpredictable path. When I got brave enough, I remained in its way one time to see what it would do.

When this robot vacuum cleaner determined that it couldn’t climb over my shoe, it worked its way around it. I could only shake my head in amazement. I’d heard of robot vacuum cleaners, but had never believed they could possibly be worth the investment.

You have to understand that I’m the guy who went to Target and bought the next-to-the-least expensive human-operated vacuum there and faithfully uses it once every two to three weeks, whether the carpet needs it or not.

Uh, I must be honest here. It always needs it.

Our week-long visit gave me plenty of chances to observe my daughter’s robot cleaner. She had it on a day-and-time schedule; I believe it ran every day. I wouldn’t be surprised, since I never saw one speck of dirt on floor or carpet during our visit. And that’s in a house with a four-year-old!

Oh, and did I mention that this little critter is smart enough to know when it’s finished and return to its charger base? The thing also has enough sense to back onto its base.

Boy, did that get me thinking. It normally takes me about an hour to vacuum our place. And that’s not counting cleaning the filter and emptying the whatever-you-call-it-where-the-dirt-goes-when-a-vacuum-is-bagless.

My wife and I discuss even some small purchases, and a robot like this–not the highest priced Roomba–would need a LOT of discussion. But I sowed the seed by showing great interest in the robot and complaining about my inability–okay, my unwillingness–to keep up with vacuuming as much as it’s needed.

When we got home, we barely talked about it. But by the end of the week we’d determined that the line item we have in the budget for home-related stuff could cover that purchase. Especially since we had a 20% Bed, Bath, & Beyond coupon that could be used on this model. (It specifically excluded the more expensive models.)

I’m not sure why my wife was so agreeable to the purchase. Maybe she was just tired of waiting for me to vacuum. No matter what her motivation, however, I think she’s as thrilled with our new “pet” as I am.

Has some type of gadget attracted you so much that you considered getting it, even though it wasn’t an absolute necessity? Or are you still trying to justify such a purchase? How about sharing?

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.

Best regards,
Roger

        

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