Fear and Uncertainty

A 2010 survey of American ministers ranked Andy Stanley as the 10th most influential living pastor. I doubt seriously that his ratings have fallen any. He’s an incredible preacher.

Our Wednesday night Bible study uses videos by various teachers and preachers, and I doubt whether any of our group would fail to put Andy at the top of our list of favorites. He speaks to us, even as he speaks to his own  congregation.

Last week we started watching a new series of Andy’s–new for us, anyhow. It’s called Tough As Nails. That first sermon was a knockout.

I don’t have to tell you that the world is full of uncertainty. I suppose it always has been, but things have gotten far worse than any of us could have imagined. And they’ll probably keep getting worse. How can they fail to with all the evil in the world and the world itself constantly growing smaller through the Internet and other forms of telecommunications?

None of us can be certain we’ll be alive tomorrow, much less next near. Any of us could fall victim to a crazed killer with a gun or a terrorist with a bomb or a machete. Or an equally crazed world leader with his finger on the trigger of a nuclear bomb that’s aimed in our direction. Or someone who’ll poison our water supply or take down our power grids.

Not to mention the threat of another megalomaniac president who’ll take away even more of our freedoms, including the ability to defend ourselves.

Over the years, I’ve been satisfied with wondering whether whether I’ll end up in a nursing home, perhaps for a prolonged period of time. Or die of cancer, a heart attack, or maybe be killed in an auto accident. Normal uncertainties I have no way of predicting the outcome of. Anymore than I can predict whether any of those more drastic concerns will ever affect me or us.

I’ll be honest. By nature, I tend to be a worrier. Or at least a fretter. (Not talking about my guitar playing.) But the older I’ve grown, the more I’ve learned to depend on God. As the old spiritual says, “He’s got the whole world in His hands.” I’ve reached the point I’d go crazy if I weren’t able to put as much faith as possible into that belief.

In that first Andy Stanley video, he introduced a short–but very appropriate–statement: Uncertainty is unavoidable; fear is optional.

Cool, huh?

I don’t think many of us would argue that uncertainty is here to stay. Especially as the possibilities we’re uncertain about  grow more and more drastic.

Christians don’t need to fear the things we feel uncertain about, though. Andy Stanley reminded us of this advice Jesus gave His disciples:

Stop being afraid of those who kill the body but can’t kill the soul. Instead, be afraid of the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell.  (Matthew 10:28, NIV)

With the prospect of eternity in Heaven, what difference does uncertainty about our earthly future make? When I think about that, my former fears tend to melt away. I feel much braver. Yes, braver. And much more capable of facing uncertainty with confidence.

Yes, someone can kill my body, but that doesn’t destroy my faith in the One who’s the keeper of my soul.

Andy Stanley is right. Fear is optional, and my choice is to put my hand in God’s and put fear further and further behind me.

What about you? Do you worry about the uncertainties of life? 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.

~*~

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

Best regards,
Roger

My Version of Formality

w5   w3   Singing   PastorPamUs

I didn’t wear jeans when I was a kid. I’m not sure any of my friends did, either. Even when I made it to high school and college, jeans weren’t cool yet. At least, if they were, I wasn’t.

I can’t recall when I started wearing jeans, but it was probably during the latter 1960s or early 1970s, when all kinds of colorful and informal clothes were the rage. I’ll never forget my plaid fringed vest or my matching multi-colored striped vest and bell bottom pants. But they weren’t jeans.

I do, however, recall a denim suit–very nice, very soft and smooth. If anything, though, it was too dressy.

I’ve never been what most people would consider a formal person.

I avoided ties when I was teaching, to the disgust of the supervisor who sat in on my classes periodically. Although forced to wear them when working at the Maryland Job Service office–the office manager wouldn’t even let me wear a turtleneck–I turned an image of a tie upside down and posted it on my website so it would move back and forth across the screen, but only during work hours on week days.

Or did that happen while I was at the International Mission Board before they finally loosened the dress code some and actually started having Casual Dress Fridays? Not that jeans were permitted then.

I’ve only worn a tux on three occasions–for weddings not my own. Rusty, Kristi, and Stan, I hope you appreciate it. I only wore a nice suit–I had to buy one because I didn’t already have one–for the wedding to my first wife. I’ll never cease to be thankful she didn’t insist on a tux.

My wedding to Kathleen was totally informal, though. As you can see from the first two pictures shown above, we wore jeans and denim shirts over t-shirts. That wedding took place in the social hall of our church during what was normally the Wednesday night Bible study. Nice and informal, but very meaningful. She and I sang a song I’d written for the occasion.

That was the “official” wedding.

Kathleen’s family couldn’t come to Richmond for the informal wedding, though, so we had a slightly dressier wedding in her mom’s Methodist church when we went for a visit at the end of that month–the right-hand two photos. But at least Kathleen didn’t make me wear a tie. She helped me pick out a really dressy looking pullover–she calls it a sweater; I don’t. We also both wore the wooden cross necklaces I’d made.

The only time I’ve worn a tie during the almost thirteen years we’ve been married was when our choir director insisted on it for the presentation of the Christmas musical, when we had too many additional singers to put everyone in a choir robe. I had to go out and buy a white shirt–and a Christmas-themed tie. I’ve been playing bass guitar in the musical ever since and get away with a white turtleneck.

No open caskets with me wearing a suit, either. Kathleen and I are both donating our bodies to science. Uh, not till the time comes, of course. If for some reason we’re not deemed suitable when they take a closer look at us, then we’ll function as organ donors. If there’s anything left of our bodies by then, cremation ought to work just great. Why spend buckets of money on something fancy a bunch of people will just throw dirt on?

We know our eternal future is with God in Heaven. No matter what happens to our earthly bodies, we believe He knows how to put us both back together in a more perfect way than either of us has ever known.

But in the meantime, we’ll keep wearing our jeans to church–and everywhere else. May formality like ours live forever!!!

What about you? Some people not only don’t mind dressing up, they even enjoy it. Which kind of person are you? How about leaving 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

Are We Having Fun Yet?

I don’t know where the question “Are we having fun yet?” originated, but it’s a great question.

My wife and I were recently watching an episode from Madam Secretary near the end of which the older daughter passed on a complaint from one of her younger siblings. “We never do anything fun anymore.” To which Elizabeth McCord, after careful thought and against the strong advice of the Secret Service man attending her, took the whole family outside in the dark and had a great time sledding on cafeteria trays down a snowy hill.

That got me thinking. I’m a rather serious person, regardless of my quirky sense of humor. I enjoy things that are funny, but I seldom laugh aloud. When I do, you can be sure I think something isn’t just funny, but hilarious.

But “funny” isn’t the equivalent of “fun.” What is fun, and is it something I ever have? And, if not, is it something I actually miss having?

Hmm. Deep thoughts. Thoughts that aren’t fun.

I can think of hundreds of things that aren’t the least fun. Coming up with topics for my blog posts when my mind is blank falls into that category. So does smelling broccoli when it’s cooking–or any other time.

There are hundreds of other things I don’t mind doing, but wouldn’t describe as fun. Writing blog posts once I have a topic is one of them. Another is getting up at 6:30 a.m. in my retirement to help with breakfast. I’m happy to show my appreciation for my wife’s going to work while I stay home and write. But fun? Nope.

“Fun” supposedly signifies something amusing or entertaining. So my un-fun dictionary tells me.

I’m glad I went to a Casting Crowns concert last year, but it wasn’t fun. The same for the dozen or so years my parents took me to see the Richmond Ballet’s version of The Nutcracker. Truly astounding experiences, but not fun.

I enjoy playing my guitar, writing new songs, and recording them at home. Fun? Not on your life! Writing and recording are hard work.

What about writing “The End” on my work-in-progress? I know I’ll have to go back through it, editing and revising it sometimes more than a dozen times. That’s a pleasant challenge, but not fun.

How about vacations? Depending on where we go and what we do there, there are enjoyable moments. But fun? Not for more than a few minutes at a time.

If you’re starting to think I’m a little weird, join the crowd. I can’t help wondering about myself. What’s wrong with me that I can’t “have fun” more easily and more often?

I don’t have an answer to that. But the good thing is I enjoy and appreciate life in general. Every day is a gift from God, and my sincere desire is to try to live the way He wants me to. I’m rarely depressed, and I’m constantly thankful for the multitude of blessings He’s given me–and continues to give me.

Maybe “fun” isn’t something I need much of to lead a meaningful life. I’m satisfied with who I am and where I am and what I’m doing. That’s more important to me than “having fun.”

What about you? Are you having fun yet, or are you more of a serious person like me? How about leaving 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 Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

Did Peter Pan Get It Right?

DontGrowUp    Dsc_1901

 

We had a friend and her teen daughter (we also consider her a friend) over for a meal recently, and sometime during the conversation I advised Lydia not to be in a rush to grow up. I cautioned her that being an adult isn’t all it looks like from the perspective of a young person who’s waiting impatiently for adulthood to arrive.

Adulthood with all of its promises.

Today my wife and I went to the local Hobby Lobby store to buy some yarn, and I wandered around for a while rather than watch Kathleen make up her mind. When I saw the sign pictured above, I whipped out my smart phone, took a picture, and changed my mind about what I was going to write a blog post about today.

When I was a kid, I loved reading Peter Pan. Couldn’t watch the DVD; video recorders hadn’t been invented yet, and my parents couldn’t have afforded one, anyhow. I may have seen the original movie, but I barely recall it. The book was GREAT, though! How many times did I read it? No telling.

Who could  forget the fun and happy concept of a flying boy who wants to remain a child forever–and never grow up?

I can’t say that book made me want to remain young forever, though. After all, Peter Pan had a lot of responsibilities–caring for all those Lost Children and protecting them from Captain Hook.

I looked at my parents. Rather serious people, it seemed to me. We weren’t poor, but we couldn’t afford many of the things my friends had. Who knows if we would have ever gotten a TV set if one of my father’s churches hadn’t given us one in appreciation for his ministry? Or a stereo if his next church hadn’t been equally generous?

No, adulthood didn’t look all that great. But what was I to do? I was going to grow into it without having a choice, and I didn’t prove very adept at taking on adult responsibilities. Not at first, anyhow.

My father took me to the state employment office to apply for a part-time job, and I ended up working at a huge bread bakery. I had to stand on my feet for hours at a time and do nothing but staple boxes together.

I’m flatfooted, although that’s not as much of a problem now as it was then. Without talking to my parents first, I quit after the first day. My feet couldn’t take it.

My parents were quite disappointed, but they never pushed me to find part-time or summer work again. I hope they didn’t think I was useless. As it is, I still feel slightly guilty for having been the way I was then.

A Peter Pan life was looking better and better, but I knew it was only make-believe.

I grew into adulthood. Technically, anyhow. Eighteen came and went without much fanfare. So did twenty-one. In between was one momentous event, though;  the time I almost got drafted (this was at the height of the Vietnam war) when I failed to notify the draft board that my graduation from junior college was not the end of my education and I was transferring to a senior college.

Whether the Army would’ve made a man of me or simply gotten me killed, I’ll never know.

I have no desire to return to childhood. I can only remember bits and pieces of it; some of them were okay and some were regrettable.

What about that sign at Hobby Lobby, though? Is adulthood a trap?

Hmm. As a child I didn’t pay taxes or fret about what I would do when I grew up or how many vocations I’d go through to find the one I really liked. I didn’t know about all the evil in the world, and I didn’t know enough about violence to be afraid of it. Even if ISIS had existed then, I wouldn’t have known to be concerned about it. I never attended a funeral until I was in my twenties; so death didn’t seem like much of a reality.

As I continued to age, though, everything changed. I found that adulthood had definite drawbacks. Many things to dislike or feel ill at ease about. Reasons to appreciate God more and start looking forward to the perfection and sinlessness of Heaven.

I look at my life now and thank God daily for helping me safely reach this point. With His help, I’ve never felt hopelessly trapped. The Bible says, “Perfect love casts out fear.” He loves me perfectly, and I do my best to love Him that way, too.

God doesn’t want me to fear anything. Or to feel trapped. Even though I’ve become not just an adult, but one who’s had years of experience being one, I enjoy a sense of freedom I never knew as a child.

What about you? Do you ever feel trapped by circumstances? Do you ever wish you could become a child again to escape the various trials and evils of adulthood? Or are you living in God’s comforting presence, taking things as they come and trusting that He’s ultimately in control, even when He permits bad things to happen to good people? How about leaving 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

Am I Really an Introvert?

When I was in my forties, I took the Myers-Briggs Temperament Inventory–the MBTI–for the first time.  I’ve taken it several times since .

If you’re not familiar with the MBTI, the only thing I can attempt to explain in one short blog post is the fact that the test is able to place each test taker in one of sixteen personality groups. Although there are exceptions, people are inclined to look at the test results with amazement–how could someone figure you out so well on the basis of  questions like those?

If you’ve never taken the MBTI, a version of it is available HERE. It’s well worth the few minutes it’ll take.

I’m an INTJ. That means Introverted-Intuitive-Thinking-Judging. The exact opposite of me would be an ESFP–Extrovert, Sensing, Feeling, Perceiving. Those eight letters can be combined into sixteen four-letter variations. You with me so far?

The significant letter for today’s post is the I. Introverted.

That word isn’t used the way most of us use it. Neither is “extroverted.” Those two words refer to whether being around a number of other people energizes or wears a person out. So “introverted” has nothing to do with shyness, but with the fact that an introvert enjoys the company of a small number of close friends, but is totally exhausted by having to spend time in a crowd.

The HR director who interpreted my first MBTI illustrated this way. She’s an I, and when she finishes teaching a class, she’s ready to return to her office and collapse. An extrovert is apt to rub his hands together and say, “That was fun. When’s the next class? Tomorrow? Do I really have to wait till then?”

Sometimes a person falls on the line between two categories, not being strongly an I or an E, an N or an S, A T or an F, or a J or a P.  When it comes to introversion, I am far on the I-side of the scale. So, not surprisingly, I don’t look forward to big parties or any type of large gathering. And when I have to attend such an event, I’m not only anxious for it to end, but totally exhausted long before the end.

Does that mean I don’t like people, though? Very definitely not! I really enjoy people who are close friends or family and in a group of limited size. So, if I don’t already know you, I would really love to meet you. But maybe it would be better if you don’t introduce me to all of your friends, family, and neighbors. Not all at the same time, anyhow.

But it does explain why I web programming, writing, and reading as much as I do.

Incidentally, just for the heck of it, I took the MBTI again a couple of minutes ago. If I recall correctly, I was originally on the line between intuitive and sensing. Now I’ve moved over into sensing.

How about sharing your MBTI type in a comment? If you’ve never taken the test, take a few minutes to do so and then 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

Freedom, Rights, Comfort, and Privacy

privacy

I’ll never forget a statement I heard in a high school civics class: “I am free to do anything I want, but my rights end where the next person’s rights begin.”

So it’s okay to crank up the stereo just as loud as I want–until it’s loud enough to bother my next-door neighbors. And I can mow the lawn any time that pleases me–unless it’s at a time of day or night when other people are reasonably expected to be asleep. And the garbage collectors can empty the bin at the Arby’s behind us whenever they like…as long as they don’t wake us up doing it.

So it would appear that there’s no such thing as absolute freedom. Except maybe for the only resident of an otherwise deserted area.

But even that person isn’t free to start a reckless fire that might spread outside his privacy zone. Or launch missiles at aircraft passing overhead. Hmm. Looks like even his freedom is limited.

Something else I was taught in high school is that no one is free unless everyone is free. The rights of minorities must be protected in order to protect the rights of everyone else.

But minorities’ rights have restrictions, too. If the majority isn’t free to harm a minority, neither does a minority have the right to harm the majority.

Looking back on the issue of prayer in public schools, I find it interesting that my conservative Christian parents weren’t overly upset when prayer was first banned. By their reasoning, banning Christian prayers also meant banning satanic prayers, Muslim prayers, and no telling how many other kinds. So what the Christian majority thought of as a loss was actually protection from practices by various minority groups.

And those groups would’ve insisted on expressing their rights sooner or later–and they have. For Christians to be free, they must tolerate minorities they might actually despise–tolerate and honor the rights of.

All of this seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it?

The problem is that lines must still be drawn. Protecting minorities is no more important than protecting the majority. Not if we are all to be free.

But the whole thing seems to have gotten out of kilter, largely because of political correctness. I expressed my opinion of that in a previous post, so I won’t go there again right now.

However…

Transgenderism confuses and disturbs me. Not because I think ill of anyone who genuinely thinks he or she was born the wrong gender,  but because of the push to allow those individuals to use the restrooms, locker rooms, and dressing rooms of their choice. If they don’t feel “comfortable” in the facilities that correspond to their birth genders, they’re being deprived of their rights.

Hmm. I’m thinking about junior high phys. ed. at the moment. And having to shower and change among guys in various stages of pubescence. (I’ll bet the girls experienced the same problems.) I dare say a number of us felt uncomfortable doing that. But did we feel that our rights were being denied?

Nope. The right to feel comfortable? Where’s that in the Constitution, anyhow? But neither did most of us feel afraid.

I don’t believe the public outcry–in general–is directed against the transgendered themselves, but against the perverts who would do some unspeakably awful things to women and children while pretending to be transgendered and using restrooms, locker rooms, and dressing rooms that don’t match their genders.

The boycott against Target is but one example of America’s decision to stand up for the rights of those who may not be physically able to protect themselves. Women and children who have the right to PRIVACY.

Perverts’ rights end where other people’s rights begin. Privacy–and the freedom from fear–is one of the rights that needs to be protected.

In no way do I condone anyone who picks on or purposely treats a transgendered individual improperly. But if transgendered individuals must suffer some discomfort to protect the rights of others, I’m afraid that’s just the way it has to be.

What are your feelings on this subject? Please leave a comment.

~*~

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

Best regards,
Roger

On Making Mountains Out of Mole Hills

I’m assuming that everyone–everyone in America, anyhow–is familiar with the expression, “Don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill.” Meaning, “Don’t make little problems out to be bigger than they deserve to be.” Like Secretary of State Kerry recently saying not to worry about ISIS; air conditioners are more dangerous to our health.

Today, however, I’d like to offer an alternate meaning to that expression: “Don’t attempt to do something that’s more trouble than it’s worth.” Let me illustrate.

Did you ever see the movie, The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill but Came Down a Mountain? I thought it was a great movie. Well, a very good one, anyhow. And the soundtrack was fantastic. But that opinion is irrelevant unless you enjoy movie music as much as I have for the last fifty years.

Anyhow, this movie is about a small village in Wales during one of the world wars. A couple of English surveyors came to gather data for an updated map. But they aroused the ire of the villagers when they announced that the local mountain the villagers were so proud of–it had special historical significance–was actually a number of feet too short to be considered a mountain. So it would have to be called a hill.

The surveyors refused to reconsider. Facts were facts.

In their determination to keep their mountain a mountain, the villagers disabled the surveyors’ vehicle to keep them in town a number of extra days. And they secretly worked together–men, women, and children–to dig up a huge amount of village dirt and carry it up the mountain, where they dumped it on top to make it tall enough to qualify as a mountain.

I’m not going to give a spoiler about how they finally reached their goal, but the surveyors repeated their test. Sure enough, that hill had become a legitimate mountain.

Their mountain was never a literal mole hill. But considering everything the villagers went through to protect its identity as a mountain, it might as well have been one. And how easily someone–or many someones–could have said, “It’s not worth the effort. Don’t try to make a mountain out of our mole hill.”

Excessive pride can be good or bad, but when it unites the members of a community the way it did those villagers, I have to commend it.

Maybe you’ve never heard anyone use my alternate meaning of “Don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill.” But I’d be willing to bet  you’ve encountered someone who tried to discourage you from doing something they didn’t think was worth the effort. Or perhaps they advised you not to even try because you didn’t have what it took to accomplish that goal.

My parents had seen me start and soon give up on a number of hobbies. Leather work was one of them. So they weren’t very encouraging when I bought my first real guitar–as real as $18 could buy during the early 1960s–in spite of the fact I had wanted to learn to play guitar since I was far too young to do it.

Although they would gladly have paid for piano lessons, the only way I could have guitar lessons was if I paid for them myself. I didn’t get much of an allowance and–after seven lessons–I decided I would do better learning on my own. That decision was probably the nail in the coffin as far as my parents were concerned, but as I kept at it and got increasingly better, they had to admit they’d been wrong.

I knew that mole hill was worth building into a mountain, and I’m thankful their discouragement only made me more determined.

What about you? Have you ever had to resist people who thought you wanted to do something that wasn’t worth the effort–or perhaps that you lacked the ability to do it? How about leaving 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