Avoid Some of the Shock

During my parents’ last few years of life, I was able to visit them at least every week or two. Although I could see how much they had declined from previous years, I couldn’t see much of a change from one week to the next.

When my mother called one day to tell me my father had fallen in the bathroom and couldn’t get up, I left work to try to help. But whatever was wrong, he couldn’t help himself at all. So we called the Rescue Squad to take him to the hospital. That was on a Wednesday.

I drove my mother to the hospital daily, but Father barely seemed aware of our presence. The doctors hadn’t been able to find the cause, and he wasn’t getting any better. So we weren’t terribly surprised when we received the call that Friday afternoon–just minutes after getting home from the hospital–that he had died.

It wasn’t really a shock. We’d seen the decline just over a period of several days after a more gradual decline over a period of years. So we were as ready for his death as we could have been.

My mother suffered from a number of health issues; diabetes, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, and rheumatoid arthritis are the ones that come to mind. Life for her the year after Father’s death was challenging, but she was hanging on.

Then came the Wednesday night when my (former) wife called me at church to say she hadn’t been able to get in touch with Mother all day, and that was extremely unusual. So I left choir practice and drove to a darkened house. Not even any porch lights were on.

Fortunately, I always had a key to the house with me. I started calling for my mother as I turned on lights and went through the house looking for her. I found her lying in bed with signs of a probable major stroke. No telling how long she had been dead. Presumably since the previous night.

Yes, finding her that way was a shock, but because of her multiple ailments and obvious decline over the years, her death itself wasn’t a shock.

~*~

We’re getting ready to go on vacation. Going back to a place I used to live. I’ve made plans to visit at least three old friends and to worship at the church I’d belonged to then.

Two of the additional people I hope to see are former ninth grade English students. I quit teaching at the end of 1974, and I haven’t seen either of them since. Because I haven’t seen them growing up and growing older, I can’t imagine I’ll even recognize them easily. The changes in their appearance over that period of time will probably be immense.

Several of my friends in that town–people I haven’t seen in thirty-five years or more–have severe health problems. I’m trying to prepare myself for seeing them that way, but it’s not working very well. After all, when I last saw them, they were not only younger, they were much healthier.

If I’d still been living in that town, I wouldn’t have trouble recognizing old students or seeing the decline in health of other friends. But I’m not.

Maybe that’s why I feel the need to advise you to stay in close contact with the most important people in your life. Even if it takes a little extra effort.

Otherwise, your decline might be a shock to them when your time comes.

As always, your comments are welcome.

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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Walking on the Best Surface


Before my wife started having severe arthritis in one knee, we used to walk outside in the neighborhood whenever weather permitted and we had sufficient daylight. That allowed us to walk our miniature dachshund, Happy. Believe it or not, those short little legs did a great job of doing a full two-mile walk!

Unfortunately, I also have a problem that can make walking uncomfortable at times–never so extreme that I can’t walk, but bad enough to be conscious of while walking. And that slows me down. It’s been more of a issue since they paved our street a few years ago. The surface is hard, and each time I put my foot down I can feel the pain.

I do a lot of my walking at the mall now. Even though there’s concrete underneath, at least the top surface is covered with tile. Just a slight improvement over the street when it comes to reducing the pain. But even that slight improvement allows me to walk a little faster, and that’s good.

We recently joined the Y so my wife can swim. I go with her, not to swim–I’ve never learned how–but to walk. Our Y has a wonderful walking/running track overlooking the gym area. Sixteen times around equals a mile, and that eliminates a lot of guesswork regarding how fast I’m going.

 

 

The best feature of the Y’s walking track is the floor. It’s not spongy, but it’s definitely a body-friendly semi-soft material. Walking on it, I can do my two miles in thirty minutes without any problems. And without my pain being more than barely noticeable. Whoever designed the Y’s walking track to provide the safest and most pleasant walking surface knew what they were doing.

However, I know of one place that will provide even better walking facilities. and that’s Heaven.

The idea of streets of gold–that’s how the Bible describes Heaven as having–might not sound very appealing to walkers. After all, gold may be a very soft metal–especially pure gold–but would it be more comfortable to walk or run on than the Y?

I can’t answer that question from personal experience. But since the Bible assures us that Heaven is a perfect place– free from sin, pain, and all types of unpleasantness–I’m not worried about those golden streets. Since I won’t be bothered by my pain there, what difference will it make?

I’ll be too absolutely thrilled about Heaven’s perfection to even remember my former pain.

Do you have something you especially look forward to in Heaven’s perfectness? How about sharing 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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I Forgot to Remember to Forget


Stan Kesler, the father of one of my wife’s sister-in-laws, worked as an engineer at Sun Studios in Memphis at the beginning of Elvis’s career. But Stan was also a song writer, and he co-wrote several of Elvis’s early songs, including “I Forgot to Remember to Forget” and “You’re Right, I’m Left, She’s Gone.”

 

We all have regrets. It’s a side-effect of being human. The problem with regrets is our inability to let go of some of them. When we “forget to remember to forget.”

God is always willing to forgive us for our sins when we turn to Him in true repentance, but that doesn’t mean we’re automatically able to forgive ourselves. And even when we do, those memories often come back to haunt us at the least expected times and in the most troubling ways.

God can help us deal with that, but it requires a great deal of prayer time and close fellowship with Him.

Fortunately, not all of our regrets are of equal importance.

I was thinking recently about the time I learned to drive and the first few months after I got my license. And even one more recent time. These are some of my “smaller” regrets:

  • While practicing my driving, I accelerated too much and backed all the way across the street and several feet into somebody’s yard. But why regret? That could’ve been much worse.
  • Why, oh why did I have to learn to drive using a stick shift in a small city that had a number of steep hills, many of them with traffic lights or stop signs at the top? Hmm. But at least I had a friend who was willing to teach me to drive, using his new car. And I never put one ding in it.
  • When I inherited my first car, it had power brakes. I wasn’t used to them, and a group of fellow teachers had a good time laughing at me when I was trying to make my way out of a parking lot. Okay, I suppose laughter didn’t do any permanent damage.
  • I was making a two hundred mile drive as a new driver, and the snow got so bad that snow tires were legally required. But I didn’t have any. At one point I pulled off to the side of the road, but when I pulled out again, I misjudged the speed of a coming bus. Fortunately, the collision was so mild that it only broke one tail light cover. Regrettable? Yes, but I learned an important lesson about driving in snow.
  • I was driving my daughter to college–an eight hundred-plus mile trip–and thought I was smart enough to maintain the posted speed limit in spite of the rain. When the car spun off the road, it went barreling straight across a VERY wide grassy median strip almost to the side with oncoming traffic. But I was able to drive back across and get on the highway again with no more damage than a greater fear than I’d probably ever felt before. A greater fear and a change of driving habits.

Some regrets are more serious than others, but those that taught me a lesson are worth remembering. They’re just not worth fretting about as if I could go back and change anything.

I thank God daily for His love and mercy. And for helping me to put worthless regrets even further out of my mind.

What about you? Do you have regrets that linger like a ghost on your shoulder? Or have you learned–perhaps with God’s help–to put everything in its proper perspective? Your comments are welcome.

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 Pursuit of Something Worthwhile


Suppose you were suffering from an ailment that the doctors couldn’t diagnose, much less find a cure for. And then you came upon someone on the Internet who was talking about having had the same symptoms you have.

But there’s a difference. That person had been healed.Completely.

Her life was back to normal. A better normal than before because not only was the pain gone, but the uncertainty about what was wrong.

And suppose that person posted free, detailed information about what you should pass along to your doctor so you could be healed, too.

After prayerful consideration, wouldn’t you get to your doctor as fast as you could? That would be the pursuit of something worthwhile.

Or suppose you’ve been downsized after working nineteen years at the same company–the company you’d expected to remain at until you retired. Unfortunately, your skills had been very specialized; you wouldn’t be apt to find an exact need for them elsewhere. You’re frustrated by the prospect of needing work but not knowing what you would actually be qualified to do.

But then a friend passes along a tip to you. He’s heard about a new company that’s using such new and innovative technology that they’re willing to train new employees rather than waste time and money looking for the handful of workers who already know how to do that kind of work. Furthermore, an indication of loyalty to past employers is one of their most important requirements.

Wouldn’t you get in touch with that company as fast as you could?

~*~

Papua New Guinea, a small island country near Australia, is made up of numerous tribes who speak their own individual languages and live in constant fear. Animism is at the root of their belief system, and it promotes fear and uncertainty among all of the tribes.

Suppose one tribe–let’s call them tribe Y–learns that the people of another tribe (we’ll make them X) have totally changed–their fear has disappeared and they’re living and behaving in a totally different way–a more positive way.

Is it surprising that tribe Y would want to learn what freed the other tribe from their centuries-old fears?

They learn that a team of families from America had moved to Papua New Guinea years earlier to live among the members of the now-peaceful tribe X . The Americans didn’t live typical American lives, however. They chopped down trees to build their own houses, they spent years learning the language and culture of the tribe they were living with, and they developed an alphabet in the host language so it could be written down.

But that wasn’t their ultimate purpose in coming. This team spent additional years translating the Bible into the language they now had a means of writing down, and they led native tribe X to understand that God alone is God and He is love and Jesus is the only way to reach Him. And the team members demonstrated through their love as well as their words that Christianity is the only key to lasting peace and hope.

Not surprisingly, the natives of tribe X became Christians. And they’re now enjoying the kind of hope and peace they’d never thought possible.

When the members of  tribe Y learned why such drastic changes had taken place in tribe X, they started begging for a similar team to come live among them and do for them what the other team had done for tribe X.

For that to happen, tribes must submit a written request each year for five consecutive years. Then they must wait an additional five years for someone to be available to come.

Those tribes apparently never give up. They are enthusiastic. And desperate. This is their first opportunity to hope for a meaningful life. They are in pursuit of something more worthwhile than they’ve ever experienced before.

The Bible says, “The fields are white unto harvest, but the laborers are few.”

We’re thankful for the opportunity to help support the DeCuir family as they prepare to begin an anticipated twenty year work as part of a team among a single tribe in Papua New Guinea. And we’re thankful the DeCuirs were willing to answer the call to go to Papua New Guinea’s extremely white fields.

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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Knowing and Being Known


My wife and I drove to Staunton, Virginia, Friday a week ago to watch The Taming of the Shrew at the Blackfriars Playhouse, part of the American Shakespeare Center. It was hilarious and extremely well acted.

As an English major many years earlier, I’d taken a Shakespeare class and been to Washington, D.C., to see a live performance of Macbeth–a tragedy. But I’d never seen a Shakespearean comedy. Nor had my wife ever seen a Shakespearean play in person at all.

We laughed almost continually, or so it seemed. The physical aspects of the comedy were clever and as well coordinated as the speaking of the lines. A total delight, and quite a reminder of the huge difference between reading a play silently as a homework assignment and seeing it come to life on the stage.

Afterwards, we saw that the actors playing Katherina and Petruchio (the shrew and her suitor) were talking with people in the lobby. We waited for our turn.

Annabelle Rollison and Ronald Roman-Melendez couldn’t have been more gracious. She said–quite sincerely and enthusiastically–that learning that this had been my wife’s first Shakespearean play (and the fact it had made such a good impression on her) had made her day. And they were more than willing to let one of the theater volunteers take a picture of us with them. (The two closeups are my work.)

       

It was really nice to get to know these two actors, no matter how casually, and–for just a few moments–to be the center of their attention. We wouldn’t expect them to remember us if we ever met again, but at least for the duration of our brief visit, we mattered to one another.

Some years ago I read a statement from someone who claimed that God couldn’t be real. How could anyone possibly know everyone in the world in intimate detail? And how could anyone pay attention to multiple prayers that might be going on at the same time?

I strongly disagreed, of course. My first thought was of the little book Your God Is too Small. That perfectly described the person who’d offered such a limited view of God.

Many times over the years, I’ve praised God for being so much bigger, more powerful, more righteous, more merciful, more of everything good than I could possibly understand. My God is awesome–the only One worthy of that word. He’s beyond my ability to comprehend, and I’m glad.

How could anyone possibly love, worship, follow, and depend on a god that human beings could describe adequately in human terms and put in a box that way?

We didn’t establish an ongoing relationship with the actors we met, no matter how pleasant our short time together was. But our relationship with God is eternal. Knowing and being known by Him is infinitely more important than any of our human relationships.

Your comments are welcome.

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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Something I Miss Being Able to Do


Age certainly takes its toll on various kinds of activities. Even at seventy-one, I feel more limited than I did at seventy. I can’t walk as fast as I used to, and my wife says I sometimes lean when I’m walking.  Not a good thing, although the doctor didn’t offer an opinion about it; I assume he considers it par for the course of an aging individual.

Ever since my bout with acute viral encephalitis in the eighth grade–my survival wasn’t guaranteed, and I could’ve ended up a human vegetable–I haven’t been very energetic. If you question that, just keep in mind that co-workers at a summer job years ago called me Flash because of the speed at which I didn’t work.

When I was a kid–even a young adult–I prayed for God not to call me to be a pastor or a missionary. He honored that prayer, quite possibly because He knew I already had physical limitations that would’ve affected my ability to work in anything as stressful as full-time Christian ministry.

That doesn’t mean I wasn’t interested in missions, however. Especially overseas. That’s why getting a job at the International Mission Board (it was still called the Foreign Mission Board then) after going back to school for some computer training was so important to me. I wouldn’t be working in the field, but I would be supporting the people who did.

In 1991, when I was forty-five, I had the opportunity to go on a short-term volunteer mission trip to Australia, a place I–like many Americans–had always wanted to go. On being assured I didn’t need theological training to be qualified, I went. I loved the country, I loved the people, and I fell in love with that type of short-term mission trips.

Not surprisingly, the ensuing years saw me return to Australia a number of times, Romania twice, and Wales, England, and Nicaragua once each.

The Nicaragua trip was doubly important. Not only was I there to help in whatever way I could, I was also doing research for the third book in my Altered Hearts series, Overshadowed.

I was by far the oldest person on our team, and the other five people were very thoughtful in trying to meet my needs. Nonetheless, I came to realize that I probably wasn’t holding up my corner of the blanket, so-to-speak, and I felt at times that I might have been more of a hindrance than a help, even though no one would ever have said so.

I would love to go back to Nicaragua…or Australia…or wherever else God might permit me to go. But at this stage of my life, going on another mission trip seems very impractical, and that’s frustrating. I hate feeling that physically limited.

Some years ago I wrote a song called “My Comfort Zone.” The lyrics say in part, “Why should I go when I can send?” and “Why should I preach when I can pray?”

Thankfully, the realization that I can still pray and help to send those who’re able to go gives me a great deal of peace.

Do you have problems that affect your ability to do some of the things you used to enjoy doing? 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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When Is a Book a Success?


My first two novels, Found in Translation and Lost in Dreams, both came out in 2011. They were Barbour Publishing’s first venture into Young Adult literature, and I’m sure the  advance I received for each of them reflected their confidence in my books’ success.

Although I didn’t have a contract for a third book, I was already 30,000 words into writing one when Barbour informed me that they were doing away with their young adult line. Consequently my books would be going out-of-print and they had no need for the third book.

What had happened? 5,000 copies of the 10,000 print copies of Found in Translation had sold, and 2,500 of the 5,000 print copies of Lost in Dreams. Not enough, apparently.

Although I hadn’t gotten much feedback from teens, what I’d received was encouraging. An upper teen I met in a restaurant said, “You wrote Found in Translation? Wow! I loved it!” Even better, however, was an email from one young lady who said she’d been inspired to start reading her Bible and going to church again.

A number of adults loved those two books as well. Even just a year-and-a-half ago, my surgeon’s nurse emailed me, asking if I was the author of the Altered Hearts books. A reading group she was in had just read them, and she wanted to know when would the next book would be coming out. I hated to tell her it wouldn’t be.

The Devil and Pastor Gus came out in 2015. Although its fifty-four Amazon reviews have a 4.1 star average, Pastor Gus hasn’t sold large numbers.

I revised Rosa No-Name, which has always been my wife’s favorite, paid for editing and a professional cover, and self-published it. Despite its fourteen Amazon reviews and 4.9 star average, it’s not a best seller, either.

I finished writing the third Altered Hearts book, Overshadowed, uncertain what to do with it. But then Barbour gave me the rights to the first two books, and small publisher Winged Publications was happy to release all three. (We changed the name of Lost in Dreams to A Season of Pebbles.) Winged Publications has also published three of my quirky romantic novels. We’re struggling to boost sales.

Going from a big-name publisher like Barbour and reaching so many readers initially and then going to a small publisher and a questionable sales record might make the average person say, “You’re not a very successful author, are you?”

Sometimes I’m tempted to think that way, too. I never hoped to become a New York Times bestselling author, but I’ve never given up the hope of being “successful.”

After all, God gave me whatever writing ability I have, and He’s inspired all of those novels. I don’t mean to say He dictated them to me, but He’s certainly helped me to write each book to the best of my ability, always striving to do better than the one before.

I consider Him my most critical reader…and my biggest fan. If I’m pleasing Him with my writing, what greater success could I ask for?

Still, I do want my books to sell. Not because I care about making money from them–I would like for my publisher to earn something, though–but because I believe they have something important to say and they say it in an entertaining way. That’s why I like to sign books, “May this both bless and entertain you.”

I’m learning. Too slowly at times, it seems. The success of a book–one of mine, anyhow–won’t be determined by the numbers sold, but by the souls touched. And I will probably never know the extent to which a book has done that until I arrive in Heaven.

Please feel free to leave 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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