A Young Boy and His Pets

My parents always had a dog, but they had Melana (from Greek for “black”) probably longer than they had me. They got her from some armed forces folks who’d gotten her in the Tinian Islands (probably misspelled). But she was always their dog more than mine.

Instead I satisfied myself with a child’s variety of snakes, frogs, and turtles.

At one time in my pre-teen years I wanted to become a herpetologist–a zoologist specializing in reptiles and amphibians. I have no idea what I thought that kind of work might involve, but I was positive it would surround me with my favorite animals.

The garage always had a jar or two with punctured lids for air and small snakes, one of which managed to shed its skin while making a getaway.

Turtles were always my favorite pet, however. At one time, I had three or four different kinds, and I discovered that raw ground beef seemed to be a fair substitute for insects.

Still a pre-teen, I decided to write a little book about turtles, sharing everything I’d learned over the years. I drew a cover and some inside illustrations and typed the whole book on a typewriter–this was LONG before personal computers. Here’s the front cover and a sample of inside pages.

    

My father was always looking for turtles for me when he was out in the car. Once while we were visiting his mother in Richmond, he was preaching somewhere out in the country. When he got back to Richmond, he sent me out to the car for the treasure he had found. He explained that he’d seen somebody beating it with an umbrella, and he stopped to rescue it.

Well, wouldn’t you know that–in his innocence about different kinds of turtles–he’d brought home a pretty big snapping turtle! That thing was just as ugly as I knew snapping turtles to be (while still fascinating, of course). It didn’t have any potential as a pet. So the question was what to do with it.

My grandmother’s basement opened to the backyard, but it was necessary to go up some concrete steps to get to yard level. So I put the snapping turtle in that walled in area and put some type of barrier across the top of the steps to prevent the turtle from getting out.

Hmm. That barrier wasn’t sufficient, and I’ll bet I spent hours checking every part of the backyard for the turtle. I never found it.

So, if you live in the fan district of Richmond and unexpectedly encounter a good-sized snapping turtle, I can’t tell you for sure that it’s my old, uh, friend. But it might be. And, for Pete’s sake, don’t take it home to the kids!

Your comments are welcome.

I’ll be back again next Sunday if I have something to say then *G*. 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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Praying for an Enemy

A month or two back, I posted my thoughts about “Jesus’s Toughest Commandment,” and that’s something I’m still thinking about. I’ve even assigned the task of praying for an enemy to the protagonist of my soon-to-be published novel, When Love Won’t Wait.

Here’s the relevant excerpt.

Ever since the previous month’s totally unproductive meeting about taking a simple, no-cost security measure—had any of my meetings with the Elders ever been productive?—I avoided Bro McKenny as much as possible.

Avoided? Yes. But that didn’t give me the freedom to pray against him the way Jerry Cruncher accused his wife of doing in A Tale of Two Cities.

Neither did it permit me to remain neutral. Since Jesus not only taught us to pray for our enemies, He set the perfect example not only by  praying for the soldiers crucifying Him, but by asking God to forgive them.

If I’d been in His position, I couldn’t have done that. But at least I recently felt compelled to start praying for Bro McKenny. And not just for God to soften his heart, but to make him more recognizable as a Christian.

So far, I hadn’t noted any changes. Why did God’s timetable have to differ so much from mine? Or had Bro simply been resisting the Holy Spirit?

Lord, forgive me. That’s exactly the wrong attitude on my part. Please forgive him for everything he’s said or done to me and help him in whatever ways he needs help. Thanks bunches. Amen!

If you read the previous article, you may recall that I’ve chosen to pray for someone I don’t know personally and will probably never meet. Someone who would probably have no interest in meeting me.

Yet I have too many reasons to consider her not just my enemy, but America’s.

The Bible advises us to be quick to listen and slow to speak. This woman appears to be slow to listen and quick to speak, and I can’t think of a single thing she’s said or done that I haven’t strongly disagreed with.

Knowing how to pray for her has proven to be very much like my character’s problem in praying for Bro McKenny.

I’m so tempted to say, “Lord, please stop her before she causes any more trouble.” Or “Please help her to grow up.” Or “Can’t You do something to make her a nicer person?”

And those things are “exactly the wrong attitude on my part.” It’s easy to pray that God will help me have a more loving attitude towards her, but–no matter how appropriate that is–it’s a prayer for me rather than for her.

What do I pray that doesn’t simply reflect my disapproval of her?

Would it be appropriate to pray, “Lord, you know her. Please help her to become the person You want her to become…”? Perhaps. But what do I pray after that? “Not my will but Yours” is always an appropriate ending, yet it leaves me feeling that I haven’t truly prayed for this individual.

I believe one purpose of prayer is to more closely align our attitudes with God’s will. God loves this lady–just as much as He loves you and me. It probably grieves Him to see the way she typically behaves.

After several months of trying to pray the best way for her, I can’t say she appears to be any “better.”

But do you know what? I’m not so quick to look at the news for another article about her shortcomings. And when I see one, I wonder what has made her the way she is.

This problem is something I go back and forth on, and I would honestly appreciate your suggestions about the best way to pray for her. Thank you in advance for 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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déjà vu

Many years ago, my first wife and I bought a miniature dachshund. Although we put “Cinnamon Lady” on the AKC form as the desired name, the approval came back with a “19th” added. That didn’t matter, anyhow. We were already calling her Cindy.

Cindy was beautiful and sweet, but quite stubborn when it came to housebreaking.  I still have a mental image of taking her outside in the snow. And of her giving me a “you don’t really expect me to do anything out here in this cold wet mess, do you” look.

For a while, we also had a ferret. Although he stayed in a cage most of the time, we let him out to play. It was great fun watching Cindy pull him across the living room by the tail.

But one day we got home from work to find Cindy paralyzed; she couldn’t walk. Apparently she’d fallen off the top of the sofa, a favorite snooze-site. Our local vet could establish that she had some ruptured disks, but he didn’t do that kind of surgery. We would need to carry her across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to a proper surgical vet.

For a cost of $800-900, he would operate. But he couldn’t guarantee that the surgery would restore Cindy’s mobility. We had just gotten an unexpected check for a thousand dollars. Even though I’d planned to buy our first computer with that money, we decided to give Cindy a new chance at life.

Not only did that operation restore Cindy’s mobility, it have us additional years of pleasure with her. Only when she started snapping at our young daughter did we realize she was in pain. We decided to have her put to sleep.

Fast forward twenty or thirty years. Kathleen and I bought a miniature dachshund. We named her Happy, and was that name ever appropriate.

To avoid a déjà vu experience, we haven’t let her lie on top of the sofa.

Nonetheless, just a week or two ago, Happy wasn’t putting any weight on her left rear leg. The vet gave us an anti-inflammatory and a muscle relaxer. In the event the problem was a fatty deposit. But she reluctantly admitted the problem was apt to be a slipped disk or cancer.

The tests needed to evaluate those possibilities would cost $2000. No telling what surgery would cost. We couldn’t justify dipping that far into our emergency fund.

We’ve been giving her the medicine faithfully and doing our best to keep her from jumping up on the sofa or down from the sofa or the bed. She seems to be doing a little better. Although she still favors that leg, I’m not sure that she’s actually in pain.

We wouldn’t have any problem with her not getting better–as long as she doesn’t get worse again after she finishes with the medicines.

Nonetheless, this is definitely a déjà vu time.

Your comments are welcome. So are your prayers.

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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What’s in a Name?

I believe in addressing people by their names. It makes them feel good about themselves.

Unfortunately, my memory for names is almost as bad as my memory for faces. Although aging hasn’t helped that problem any, at least I can still remember my own name.

Because of that–my preference for using a person’s name, not the fact that I can remember my own name–the first draft of my first novel had characters calling one another by name left to right, top to bottom, front to back.

I’m quite thankful my wife caught that problem early enough for me to correct it. Pronouns came into being for a reason, and I guarantee you readers are thankful for that. I’m a reader, too.

According to How Many of Me, which searches census statistics, the United States has thirty men named Roger Bruner. I haven’t met any of the other twenty-nine and can’t imagine I ever will. If How Many of Me was able to search on middle names as well, I’m pretty confident I’d be the only Roger Ellis Bruner.

I suppose knowing I’m relatively uniquely named should be reassuring. Suppose I shared the name of one of the world’s most dangerous and hated men? Hmm. Let’s not even go there.

“Roger” means “expert with a spear.” “Ellis” is the first name of a man my parents were very dedicated to. I wouldn’t be willing to quote the Urban Dictionary’s definition of “Ellis,” but they make being teased during my childhood by “friends” calling me “Elvis” seem less objectionable.

I was almost scared to look up “Bruner,” but the results weren’t nearly as bad. It’s both German and Jewish and used to refer to a person who lived beside a spring or a well. As a Christian, I would like to be thought of as someone who lives beside the Spring of Living Water and invites others to drink from it.

People sometimes used to think my father looked somewhat Jewish. I was interested in learning–while visiting a synagogue in Sydney,  Australia–how few Jews ‘t look “typically Jewish.” So why shouldn’t my non-Jewish father be a reverse of that?

As a novelist, I’m frequently having to name my characters. Although I try to avoid using the names of famous people,  sometimes a person isn’t sufficiently well known for me to be familiar with. Thank goodness Googling a name is apt to identify that person and help me make a wise decision about whether to go ahead and use his or her name.

In When Love Won’t Wait, a novel I plan to publish within the next couple of months, I’ve named one of the protagonists “Katie Campbell.” Google found a number of hits on that name, although only three showed up in Facebook. Since my Katie is a wonderful woman, I didn’t see any reason not to go ahead and use that name.

Nonetheless, this statement on the copyright page is always important:

This is a work of fiction. All characters, names, dialogue, incidents, and places either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or people, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Just one additional thought. Because I’m adopted and don’t have any idea who my birth parents were, I also have no idea what their surname was or what they planned to name me. My daughter is adopted as well, but at least we know she was named “Ashleigh” at birth.

I’ve had fun writing this. If you haven’t already looked up your name on How Many of Me, why don’t you do it now and tell us the results in a comment. How about also letting us know what your name(s) mean, if you know.

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 Beginning of a Lifelong Interest


When I was a mid-teen, a favorite great-uncle died, leaving me his good-sized, portable Zenith short wave receiver. I forget how many frequency bands it had, but they included the most common bands used by amateur radio operators and stations all over the world.

I honestly wasn’t very interested in listening to “hams” (amateurs), but probably would’ve felt differently if I’d had the money for a transmitter and if I’d been willing to learn enough Morse code to pass the licensing test.

But I quickly developed a real fondness for listening to international stations. Even those broadcasting from non-English speaking countries beamed broadcasts in English to North America, just as our own Voice of America broadcasts in different languages to the people of other nations.

Most–perhaps all–of the international stations gladly sent out QSL cards. I’ve forgotten if those initials stood for anything in particular or were just part of shortwave jargon. But who could forget the cards themselves?

They were usually colorful renditions of something that typified the country the station broadcast from. To get one, a listener simply had to send snail mail–or perhaps air mail–to the station specifying the date and time he listened to the station, along with enough information about the broadcast to prove he really had heard a broadcast then. An important part of writing in to the station that way was also to indicate how the reception was.

It wasn’t long before my parents let me buy a piece of pegboard to put on my wall, and I mounted all of my QSL cards with sticky-tack. What an outstanding collection!

I enjoyed listening to the music representative of the various nations as well. Polkas from Switzerland, folk songs and ballads from Australia, and even Christian songs from HCJB (Heralding Christ Jesus’s Blessings) in Quito, Ecuador.

But short wave’s biggest influence on my musical taste was Earl Fisher’s Saturday morning program on the CBC, Radio Canada. That’s where I started to really appreciate the soundtrack music from various movies. I not only fell for Miklos Rosza’s soundtracks for Ben Hur and King of Kings, but soon purchased both albums.

My love of movie music has grown over the years. Right now I’m listening to Ennio Morricone’s Greatest Hits–think The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and I’ve just downloaded the music from Blade Runner, written by Vangelis, who also did the music for Chariots of Fire.

I admit it. I’m hooked. I’d almost rather go to a theater to listen to good music than to watch the movie.

Sometime in my upper teens I lost interest in listening to short wave radio, which was apt to be awfully noisy. Not because it wasn’t still interesting, but because I’d gotten hooked on static-free FM. I traded my Zenith radio for a camera, and I’ve been hooked on photography ever since.

So my great-uncle unknowingly introduced me to two of my lifelong interests.

What made you interested in one of your longtime hobbies? Please 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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Pearly Gates & Streets of Gold (conclusion)

If you didn’t read last Sunday’s “Part One” post, you might want to do so before you continue.

Otherwise, let me simply point out that my character, Pastor Gus Gospello (The Devil and Pastor Gus) was skeptical about whether Heaven really has pearly gates and streets of gold. While I’m not necessarily “skeptical,” I am of the opinion that those descriptions may not be literal.

Most of what we know about the appearance of Heaven is what the apostle John wrote in Revelation (note that that word doesn’t end in an S) based on a vision he experienced in which he was taken to Heaven, where various truths were revealed to him. I believe his vision was real.

He described the pearly gates and streets of gold along with many other images that were familiar to him and would be familiar to his readers.

John’s Revelation wasn’t the “speculative fiction” of his day. It was real. True. But how could he adequately describe what he saw in completely literal terms?

Pearls and gold were undoubtedly considered valuable then, just as they are now, but wouldn’t something as special–as unique–as Heaven be made of materials we human beings can’t even conceive of? And what about colors? How could John have hoped to describe colors he’d never seen before–colors no  one on earth could manage to duplicate?

I understand that one purpose for the streets of gold might have been to emphasize that what was considered valuable on earth was so commonplace in Heaven that it was worthy of nothing more than being walked on.

Have you ever been to a foreign country–a country where English was not the normal language? Didn’t you see things that were so unusual you made a mental note to try to learn more about them when you returned home? And didn’t you even take pictures to help you be able to relive your joy at seeing those things in person?

But what happened when you tried to tell your friends about them? Didn’t you find that your best efforts failed to convey adequately the beauty or the uniqueness of what had so impressed you in person? Even though your pictures may have brought smiles to your face, weren’t you conscious of the fact that they failed to do justice to the objects those pictures were of?

That’s all I’m really trying to say. John may have seen literal pearly gates and streets of gold. He undoubtedly saw a number of other things people who would read Revelation ought to know about. But how could he possibly have used human language to describe true godliness?

We sometimes say that people who think they understand God completely are guilty of trying to put Him in a box. He’s too big, too grand, too everything good for any person to comprehend adequately. Any “god” who fits in anyone’s box is too small for me to believe in and worship.

My God is awesome. Nothing else is.

So any description of God’s dwelling place can only be described and understood within the limitations of human speech and understanding.

Even if the pearly gates and streets of gold are literal, I can’t help but be impressed. Not because of the pearls or the gold, however, but because I believe those are just the best representations of things people are incapable of comprehending–or even imagining.

I’ve enjoyed sharing my thoughts on this subject, but I’d love to hear yours. 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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Pearly Gates & Streets of Gold (part one)

Let me begin by sharing a short passage from my novel The Devil and Pastor Gus, which I consider to be the most important novel I’ve ever written, even if its readership has been more limited than for some of the others. This comes from page 269 of the print edition. Gus is having a conversation with Peter about what Heaven is really like. Peter is speaking first:

 

“But God tells me you’re a bit skeptical about the ‘pearly gates’ and ‘streets of gold’ the Bible talks about.” As if anticipating Gus’s defensiveness, he added, “That doesn’t bother Him, though.”

“That’s good. I’ve always believed Heaven is too wonderful to picture, so its exact appearance is beyond my imagination.”

Peter patted Gus on the shoulder. “It’s beyond everyone’s imagination.”

Readers often ask the authors they admire whether their stories are autobiographical. I willingly admit there’s probably some of me in every character I create, even the women. But that’s especially true of Pastor Gus himself. Both of us suffered a midlife crisis for what seemed like years, and each of us wanted to leave a significant spiritual legacy through our writing–novels, specifically.

There are a number of less significant similarities, like Gus’s desire to speak with a genuine Australian accent after returning from a mission trip there. I’ve been to Australia six or seven times, and most of my trips were mission trips.

But what I want to focus on today has to do with the passage of The Devil and Pastor Gus quoted above. I was hesitant to write those paragraphs for fear I would be accused of not taking the Bible literally.

I do take the Bible literally, but with these (go ahead and call me liberal if you must) thoughts in mind:

  • Ancient Hebrew didn’t originally have vowels, and many words had multiple meanings. Without having the constant guidance of someone who lived during biblical times, many passages that would’ve been perfectly clear then are confusing to modern readers. It’s even possible that the original meanings have sometimes been “lost in translation”–or at least unintentionally mangled.
  • Furthermore, some things were applicable to the Jews of yesteryear and were never meant for modern-day Christians. Remember that the next time you’re, uh, pigging out on bacon or sausage.
  • Ancient Hebrew didn’t have uppercase letters. So the contemporary tendency to uppercase pronouns designating God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is–in one sense–an enhancement to the Bible. That may be correctly done in most instances. But are all of the correct?

Are you accusing me yet of being too liberal? I hope not. I could give you more ammunition that’s not relevant to this blog post. For example, I don’t really care whether the seven days of creation were twenty-four hour days or periods of time. I’ve heard both from people I highly respect.

My, but I’m straying from the original purpose of this post. Tell you what. Let’s call today’s post “Part One.” I’ll finish next Sunday.

Any comments on Part One? Please share.

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Best regards,
Roger

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