What Makes You Happy?

Nothing makes me happy the way chocolate does. And pizza. Not together, of course.

But that kind of happiness doesn’t last long. And too much of that kind of happiness could take my weight back up from 147 to where it was five years ago, over 200 pounds.

Hmm. I’m not an overly materialistic person; I pay strict attention to the family budget and to the amount of space we have. Still, wouldn’t a $2500+ Taylor guitar or a BMW sports car make me happy?

Both of those things would bring a different kind of happiness and one that might seem more permanent than pizza and chocolate.

But I know enough about myself and about happiness to know I wouldn’t ultimately be any happier if I had both of those things. Even if I didn’t reach the point of taking them for granted, either of them could be stolen, damaged, or destroyed. And where would I be then?

Would I cease to be happy if something happened to either of those things? Or to favorite photographs and recordings that couldn’t be replaced?

Nope. I would undoubtedly be upset at first, but then I would count my blessings. And I would remember that my happiness is not dependent on things.

Looking back at my seventy years of life, I can pick out a number of successes (and ignore a number of failures). Things I’m proud of. But does the memory make me happy? Not really. Not anymore. Especially if I’m failing to do anything noteworthy now. The happiness I gained from having three novels traditionally published has faded into remembered pleasure. But it’s the next book that will bring happiness of sorts…until that fades and I must focus on the book after that.

Happiness is an odd bird, isn’t it? One that won’t remain in its cage, even with the door shut.

Nonetheless, I am happy. Not usually an exuberant kind of happy, but a peaceful kind of happy.

Peaceful? Now there’s the secret. Happiness and peace are very similar, and peace isn’t necessarily the absence of violence or of conflict. It’s an attitude. We can decide to be happy.

Yes, it’s easier when everything’s going right, but it’s not dependent on that. When our relationships with God, other people, and even with ourselves are the way they should be, peace is a natural byproduct. And that peace brings happiness.

So, what makes you happy? Are you conscious of the effect of good relationships in your life? Or of bad relationships? Please leave a comment.

I’d like to express my thanks to Andy Stanley for his video series on happiness. Although we’ve only seen the first program so far in our Wednesday night Bible study, he inspired some of the ideas I elaborated on in this post.

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.

~*~

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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.

Best regards,
Roger

The Daily Challenge

Each of us probably has something he or she considers a daily challenge. For some people, it’s getting up in the morning. For others, it’s getting to sleep or staying asleep all night. And then there are people who are challenged by having to stay awake all day.

Some challenges are more serious than others. Putting up with impossible work situations, trying to solve financial problems that just won’t go away, making important decisions when none of the alternatives seem right–these are just a few of millions of difficulties a person might have to struggle with on a daily basis, and each one is important to the individual, even though it might seem less important to someone who has a different problem.

I have one or more of my own daily challenges. But the one I want to talk about is quite different. In fact, it’s not even a “daily challenge,” but “The Daily Challenge.”

I don’t recall when I first signed up for The Daily Challenge’s, uh, daily challenges, but I’ve been getting them for years now. Unlike other challenges I might face on any given day,  I can easily ignore one of these if I want to. And occasionally I do.

In fact, I would probably discontinue the program if I hadn’t made several good cyber-friends I would really hate to lose contact with.

If you’re not familiar with The Daily Challenge, you’re probably wondering what in the world it is. But first let me tell you what it isn’t. It is NOT a news item about something we need to start fretting about.

It IS about something that relates (sometimes questionably) to health and well being. The partial screenshot below is an example of one of the challenges that–to me, at least–was of questionable value. I’m sure some people complete these these challenges just to get the points, but I see less point in acquiring points than I do in some of the challenges themselves.

dailychallenge

Don’t get me wrong, though. I’ve learned (and, unfortunately, forgotten again) some nifty exercises. And it feels good to mark a challenge “Done” when it’s something I’m already doing. Like eating whole grain bread that day or a fruit or vegetable that contains a particular nutrient.

Today’s challenge (I’m writing this the Friday before I post it) was to have a meatless meal. What sacrilege! By the time I saw that, it was too late to leave the tiny piece of ham off of my breakfast sandwich. But I’ve recently started having peanut butter sandwiches fairly often, and what could be more tastefully and tastily meatless than that?

Please don’t let the fun I’ve poked at The Daily Challenge keep you from checking it out. Who knows? You might learn something that will help you with one of your more serious daily challenges. Learn about it at this URL.

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.

~*~

Links you might be interested in:

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

My Current Project

What is an author to do when he has nine unpublished novel manuscripts on his laptop and one of them, ROSA NO-NAME, is his wife and daughter’s favorite? They even prefer it to the three novels that have already been published.

It doesn’t help that he has recently parted ways with his agent. Not because he dislikes her or because they don’t get along well. They are still friends. But because she doesn’t think she can do anything with any of the four manuscripts of his she’s looked at.

So, what is that author to do? Especially if he’s not in love with the novel he started writing months ago and not making much progress on?

As you’ve undoubtedly guessed, I’m the author in question. Even though I’m in good health at seventy, there’s no guarantee how much time I have left. God has given me the ability to write, however, and I feel led to keep using it as long as I’m able to.

By the time my first two novels were published in 2011, I had already written ROSA NO-NAME as a prequel to FOUND IN TRANSLATION. It wasn’t a Young Adult novel, though, and my publisher wasn’t interested. No publisher  would be interested in a book that related to another publisher’s series.

But Kathleen and Kristi loved ROSA so much that I reread it and fell in love with it all over again myself. I knew I could self-publish–I’d done that with two little books of my shorter writings–except for two things. A self-published book–they call it “independently published” now–needs a professional cover and it needs to be professionally edited.

I spoke to Ken Raney, the talented graphic artist husband of novelist Deb Raney. His quoted price wasn’t nearly as much as I’d expected, but it wasn’t something the family budget could handle. I told Ken I would start saving. And I did.

Can you imagine my joyous shock when I opened my Christmas presents and found that my wife had gotten the other members of the family to chip in money for the book cover? They not only contributed enough that Ken has already been paid in full, but enough money was left over to add to what I had saved for me to seek someone to  do some basic editing. I’m meeting with an editor this coming Thursday.

On January 2 I verified with my former publisher that I am free to proceed with my project, even though some of ROSA tells part of the story from FOUND IN TRANSLATION, but from Rosa’s point of view.

Ken will begin working on the cover later this week.

I’m really excited! I have a very worthwhile project to work on, and I hope the thousands of people who read FOUND IN TRANSLATION will want to read ROSA NO-NAME and learn some of the back story they’ve had questions about.

I  hate talking about myself and my project this way, but I’m too excited not to share it with my blog friends. You can’t blame me for that, can you? All comments gladly received.

NOTE: I wrote that earlier this past week. Ken has finished the cover, and it’s GREAT! People who see that will be likely to take a second look and turn it over to read the back cover. As much as I want to share the cover with you, I’m holding off till my wife and I get a handle on preparing for ROSA’s release.

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.

~*~

Links you might be interested in:

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

A Gift of Music

Being a Christian isn’t a very popular thing to admit to these days. In fact, in various parts of the world, it’s downright dangerous. And even here in the United States Christians are being persecuted in numerous ways. How ironic that the people who should be known for their love–not just of one another, but of their enemies–are being treated as if we’re the most vicious and hateful people in the world.

I’m not someone who goes around hitting people over the head with my Bible, and I’m able to share my faith verbally only when I feel led to do so. That doesn’t happen very often. It’s not because I’m afraid to share, but because I tend to get really tongue-tied unless the circumstances are right.

Nonetheless, we’re supposed to be salt and light to the world.

As you already know if you’ve been following this blog, I like to walk at the mall. I’ve developed a special relationship with most of my fellow walkers, the custodians, the security folks, and some of the other employees. While I can’t say that we’re friends in the true meaning of the word, we are not just associates or casual acquaintances, either.

I care about them, and I pray for them while I’m walking. But seldom am I walking with anyone, and only twice that I can recall has the subject of church, which is not the same as Christianity, come up. So, even while praying for them, I’m praying for a way to share my faith–in a way that is helpful, honest, but non-pushy.

Some months ago a thought came to mind that I couldn’t shake. An inspiration I believe came from God.

Over the past fifty years, I’ve written over two hundred Christian songs. (Only one secular song, and that’s a love song.) Although I’ve recorded most of them at home on an increasingly better variety of multi-track recorders, sometime within the last year I bought a new recorder and began making better recordings of the songs I consider my best ones.

The inspiration was to make CDs to give to these folks I might never have just the right opportunity to verbally share my faith with. At that stage I’d recorded twenty-five songs on the new recorder. I soon realized people might listen to a dozen songs, but only those who were really interested would listen to twenty-five.

So I asked my wife, Kathleen, to pick out her favorites, and I started making copies–one at a time. I created an insert that explained my background as a lifelong amateur musician and song writer and cut out dozens of copies. You can see a copy of it here. ) Kathleen helped with handwriting basic information on the CDs themselves and I stuffed them, the liners, and business cards (I didn’t want to take a chance people might not realize the CD was of–as well as from–me) into paper CD sleeves.

I never expected to have as much fun as I did giving those out. I started out with “Merry Christmas!” and a brief explanation that these were some of the songs I’d written over the years. People were really surprised–and oh! so grateful and appreciative. Even the Muslim couple I gave one to. (If you’d like to hear these songs, go here and scroll down to the first drop down box.)

I had no idea how God might use my music. I still don’t. Several people have expressed appreciation after listening to their CD, though. I’ll probably never know who’s listened and who hasn’t. Or who has found inspiration in my songs and who has tossed them in the trash or given them to someone else.

But that’s okay. I didn’t do this for praise. I did it because I felt led to do it, and I pray daily that my efforts will have the effect God wants them to have.

What do you think? How would you have reacted to a gift like this if you’d received it from someone you saw frequently at the mall but didn’t really know? Please leave a comment.

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.

~*~

Links you might be interested in:

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

Thoughts about Santa

Merry Christmas! Kathleen and I don’t care if it’s “politically incorrect” to acknowledge that the birth of Jesus is the “reason for the season” and that His coming to earth in such a miraculous way was the most important birth to ever take place. When you look at Christmas that way, Santa Claus takes a very lowly second place in our thoughts…

Santa. Some guy who used to really exist. So they say, and I don’t doubt it.

Now he’s just thousands of mostly-nice old-looking guys with red suits, often-fake white beards, and big bellies that all too often in prosperous America may be real . Thousands of guys who occupy thrones of importance at the local mall where they cringe at the thought of one more kid asking them to make his parents quit fighting so much.

What harm is there in letting a little kid believe in Santa—until some older kid decides to have some fun and burst the other youngster’s bubble the way some other older kid had done to him a year or two earlier?

I remember having that happen to me. I didn’t believe it at first, of course. So I confronted my parents.

“We’ve always told you Santa Claus is love, haven’t we?”

I nodded.

“And we love you, don’t we?”

I nodded, although I felt more like crying. Or screaming. Who wants to learn that Santa is actually a kid’s own parents—and to learn the ugly truth from his parents? But I adjusted to the idea, and I got over it…eventually. It took a couple of Christmases, though, to confirm that the number of gifts wouldn’t decrease just because a real Santa wasn’t involved.

It would no longer be a problem after that. Right?

Almost.

Years later, however, I became a father. And I faced the issue of what a conscientious parent should do about Santa Claus. Especially when the truth had proven so painful to that parent years earlier.

I’ll always be thankful that my first wife and I agreed. We would tell Kristi the truth (we wouldn’t disguise it by saying that Santa is love), but encourage her to pretend as much as she wanted to and to please not spoil it for other children who didn’t know the truth yet.

That seemed to work.

So why even think about it now? We don’t get to see our grandkids at Christmas, so what our children choose to do about Santa doesn’t really affect us. It’s not our business, thank goodness.

You know what, though? I cringe every time I hear “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” Especially the lines “He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake.” and “He knows if you’ve been bad or good…”

Encouraging children to be good is great. But implying that a complete stranger–a once-yearly visitor–has a year-round, God’s eye knowledge of their behavior? Parents understand that, but do little kids? I doubt it. If they did, they’d know who Santa really is.

It’s a wonder more children don’t grow up thinking that God is like Santa Claus—or that he IS Santa.

Sorry, folks. I can tolerate the exaggerations adults make to their children regarding Santa. As long as they don’t teach bad theology.

Am I just being a grumpy older man? How about leaving a comment and letting me know what you think?

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.

~*~

Links you might be interested in:

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

The Freedom of Religion

While searching for something else this morning, I ran across my little pocket-sized copy of The Constitution of the United States. I brought it back to my recliner and started looking through it. I’d forgotten how dry and detailed some of it is. My hat is off to anyone specializing in the study of Constitutional law.

This small booklet opens naturally to the very middle, which is where the Amendments to the Constitution begin. As I hope most of you already know, the first ten are the Bill of Rights.

After reading some of the dry detailed other parts of the Constitution, the first amendment  was wonderfully straight forward:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peacefully to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

What too many people don’t realize is that the statement regarding freedom of religion was included for a very specific reason. Several of the colonies had a state-dictated religion. The founders of my church, Winn’s Baptist Church, had been beaten or jailed during colonial days for preaching illegally here in Virginia, where only the Anglican Church was recognized and tolerated.

So the framers of the Bill of Rights were making certain that Congress would not be guilty of establishing a state church the way England had done with the Anglican church. And Congress wouldn’t prevent people from worshiping freely at their choice of churches.

Did you notice the key word in that amendment? Congress. The Constitution of the United States doesn’t say anything about protecting people from religion, a concept that has become a real thorn in the side of this country and of the various states. Neither does it prohibit the practice of religion, even in government meetings or schools. It certainly doesn’t forbid the display of nativity sets in public places or the placement of the Ten Commandments (upon which all law is based) in courtrooms or anywhere else.

Yet our First Amendment rights are under attack daily. How can that happen when the meaning of the First Amendment is so clear?

The Supreme Court is largely to blame, although Congress and “We the People” have allowed the Court to do it. The Constitution originally contained 4,543 words, including the signature of the signers. The addition of the amendments brings the total to 7,591. Decisions made by the Supreme Court have expanded its interpreted meaning to many hundreds of pages.

The Harvard Law Review published a scary article called “The Constitution Means What the Supreme Court Says It Means.” And too many Supreme Court Justices openly ignore the text of the Constitution and apply their own biases to create meanings that are completely contrary to the Constitution. When liberal justices are in the majority, that happens more and more.

Several months ago I wrote that the most important reason for Americans to vote in the November election was to select a president who would appoint only conservative justices who are committed to upholding the Constitution. The president-elect has promised to do that. Appointing a conservative to the bench will result in a conservative majority–one we can count on to uphold the Constitution and make decisions based on it.

I pray daily that God will enable that to happen.

This is a controversial subject, but your comments are welcome.

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.

~*~

Links you might be interested in:

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

Appreciating My Father…a Bit Too Late

 

Am I the only person who failed to appreciate one of his parents during his lifetime?

My father was an extremely well educated man. His law degree from the College of William & Mary was later upgraded to a Doctorate of Jurisprudence because the college recognized that law students from that earlier era had done the equivalent of what they now required for a doctoral degree. And he practiced law for several years–I don’t know how many–before feeling God calling him in a different direction.

That’s when he and my mother packed up and moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where he got a seminary degree, preparing for the ministry.

Love of study turned out to be a lifelong passion. His sermons–he preached morning and evening on Sundays and did an in-depth Bible study on Wednesday nights–resulted from hours of seclusion in his study. Have I mentioned that not only didn’t he read his sermons, he didn’t even use notes? Yes, he memorized each sermon, and I don’t recall ever hearing him falter. Amazing.

And even though he kept meticulous outlines of hundreds of sermons–probably thousands–he never reused a sermon. Not until he had moved on to a different church, and even then he only reused special ones.

The one that comes to mind–I suppose I heard it at least three or four times while I was growing up–was titled “A Lawyer Examines  the Crucifixion of Christ.” What a unique idea! And who better qualified to look at Jesus’s illegal trial and crucifixion than a lawyer-turned-minister?

He also had a children’s story for each worship service. Although I’m sure he told a number of good stories, one of them still sticks out in my mind some forty-some or fifty years later. I don’t recall the details, but it had something to do with a clay pot that was beautiful except for a flaw on one side. The story concluded with the decision to “turn the crack to the back” so that it wouldn’t detract from people’s admiration and enjoyment of its beauty.

My parents have been dead more than twenty years, and only now am I starting to appreciate them –especially my father–the way I wish I’d done way back when. Those stories he told about the family and about so many other things, the ones I tired of hearing then, are lost forever.

Is there someone in your life you ought to listen to and appreciate more? I urge you not to wait until it’s too late. Let that person know how you feel–today. How about sharing a comment?

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.

~*~

Links you might be interested in:

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