If I Didn’t Live in America…

If I didn’t live in America, I would definitely want to live in Australia.

And why not? In spite of the fact that much of the country is desert and the majority of the population lives within a couple of hundred miles of the coast–since it’s surrounded by water, it has a lot of coast–it’s a beautiful country. And I’m not just talking about the outback,  the mountains, Uluru (Ayers Rock), or the Great Barrier Reef. Or man-made beauties like the Sydney opera house. Australia is beautiful.

Hmm. Like America. We  just have different beautiful things. And Australia hasn’t had as many hundreds of years to damage or destroy some of them.

I’ll never lose my fascination with Australia’s unique wildlife–kangaroos, koalas (koalas  are NOT bears!), wallabies, and so many other species. I never tired of seeing them in zoos and looking for them in the wild. And let’s not forget the birds–wild parrots that will come down and sit on your shoulders in the Bunya Mountains and kookaburras that will swoop down on a picnic and steal a sandwich.

Sure, Oz has some pretty dangerous snakes and spiders–not to mention crocodiles–but I’ve never seen one in person or worried about meeting one.

Uh, okay. America has some pretty nifty wildlife, too. And dangerous species as well.

The people–the Aussies, pronounced Ozzies–are really gracious and likeable. They’re almost as laid back as I am. Except when cheering  their favorite team on. They’re almost rabid about sports–even the kids-and they have some sports we in America don’t have.

But aren’t a number of Americans gracious and likeable and crazy about their favorite teams, too?

Some of the differences between them and us are really conspicuous. Like the way Aussies talk–quite a different English from ours. Most of the words mean the same thing there and here, but there are important exceptions…words that aren’t vulgar to us, but be careful not to use there. (I’ll never forget visiting a teen youth group using a book by an American author; they took turns reading aloud, and one poor kid got so embarrassed at having to say the word “piddle”–in its innocent use as “to piddle around.”)

Then again, I’ve met a couple of people from West Virginia whose speech was almost as hard to understand as even the strongest Aussie accent I ever heard.

I’m not doing a very good job of explaining why I think of Australia as my second home, am I?

Maybe it’s not just those things I’ve mentioned. Maybe it’s not even any of them.

Perhaps it’s Bruce and Merilyn Young and their girls; Keith and Maggie Long and their kids; George and Margaret Stubbs; Arthur and Lillian Case; and all of the other wonderful Christian families who’ve hosted me on my various mission trips to Australia. They’re the ones who’ve made me feel so much at home there.

And why wouldn’t they? A Christian should always feel at home among other Christians, no matter where in the world he goes.

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

P.S. The Altered Hearts novel series is now complete with the print and Kindle releases of The Flowers of His Field.

    

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If I Didn’t Live Here…

[NOTE: The Kindle version of Rosa No-Name is free today-only at Amazon.]

No, this post isn’t a rerun of October 1’s “Why Do I Live Here…Now?” This is what I intended to write then, but the emphasis changed, and so did the title.

Growing up as a Christian in the home of a Southern Baptist minister, ignoring the importance of missions–going throughout the world and spreading God’s Good News–was an impossibility. But I never felt that God wanted me to be a career missionary. He knew my limitations even better than I did!

Nonetheless, when I made a career change in 1984 that landed me at what is now the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention, I couldn’t have felt more like I was finally where God wanted me. He didn’t want me out on the field, but  working behind the scenes as a programmer/analyst to support the work of fellow staff members and the actual missionaries.

The IMB held weekly chapel services on Wednesday mornings, and listening to reports from around the world thrilled me. More than once,  a report or a devotional led me to write a song related to what I’d heard. I was in “missions hog heaven.”

For many years I’d known about short-term volunteer mission trips, but I’d never felt that was something I could do. I wasn’t a preacher or a Bible expert, and the only speaking I’d ever done was giving technical sessions at computer user symposiums. What talents did I have that would be useful somewhere else in the world?

But then came the day I heard about an upcoming two-week trip to Australia. Almost as long as I could remember, I’d been in love with Australia.  As a teen I’d inherited a shortwave radio receiver, and the sounds coming from Radio Australia woke me up each morning for years. Was it possible God wanted me to go on this mission trip?

I got in touch with whoever was in charge and said, “I don’t have any special talents but singing and playing guitar, and I’m nowhere close to being a professional at either of those things. I do write my own songs, but I’m the only person who ever sings them.  Would there be any place for me on this team?” (I later learned that one of the special talents of a fellow team member was doing yo-yo tricks. God can use any talent.)

The family budget couldn’t pay for a trip like that, but when I received word back that my willingness to go and do whatever was asked of me when I got there qualified me, I started looking for funds. My parents were thrilled at this opportunity and contributed towards what I needed. And I jumped at the chance to work as a consultant for a week at the company a friend worked at.

I may not have had a lot of spending money on that trip, but I was able to go.

I didn’t need the two full weeks in Australia to make me realize that–if my home wasn’t in Richmond, Virginia, USA–Australia was the place I’d most want to live.

I’ll share more next week.

Have you been on mission trip, either overseas or locally or nationally? How about leaving a comment?

By the way, if you’ve been waiting for a sequel to ROSA NO-NAME or the final book in the ALTERED HEARTS series, you’ll find both in the just-released THE FLOWERS OF HIS FIELD.

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

Best regards,
Roger

       

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Lord, Why Possums?

If you don’t have a blog, you may not realize that coming up with topics to write about can be a real challenge. Sometimes I get on a roll and think of two or three pretty decent topics in a row. And sometimes I just have to make do with whatever comes to mind.

I’m not sure yet which category this post will fall into. That’s because I don’t know yet what I’m going to say about possums.

In truth, I never used to pay much attention to possums. But thanks to the research I did related to my numerous mission trips to Australia, I learned that what we call possums (actually opossums) are the only American marsupial animal. Marsupials are animals that give birth to underdeveloped young that finish developing in their mother’s pouch.

Kangaroos, possums (different from the American variety), koalas, and wombats are among the marsupials found in Australia. They’re a really big deal there.

So much so that I saved this button I picked up in Sydney during the early 1990s, put a magnet on the back, and stuck it on the fridge.

rednoseday

It was part of the yearly “Red Nose Day” promotion to raise awareness in the fight against SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Not only did a number of people wear clip-on red noses, you would see them on the front of cars and buses. Even on buildings!

Interestingly, I noticed in Walgreen’s some months ago that they had red noses for sale promoting awareness of some other type of health problem.

Back to possums, though. American opossums, that is.

Several times during the years we’ve been living here, we’ve heard noises under the house. Noises that could only have come from one or more living creatures. We invested in a trap–the kind that captures its prey without hurting the animal–and caught several raccoons. Nasty things.

But not as nasty as the opossums we caught. No way we’d get overly close to the cage with one of them in it. Thank goodness we could open the door without our fingers being near where those sharp little teeth were. We always drove our catches further out in the country to let them loose.

Flash forward to this past Saturday, when Kathleen and I were walking our miniature dachshund, Happy, in the neighborhood. The street we live on is an extended circle (half a mile around) and our part is just a short block from a four-lane road that is normally quite busy.  We had barely walked past our home when Happy jumped down in the drainage ditch and started barking.

Low and behold, she’d spotted an opossum in the opening to a drainage pipe going beneath the adjacent parking area. We yanked Happy away from the ditch. Regardless of the fact that she was up-to-date on her rabies shots, we didn’t even want to think about what those sharp little teeth could have done to Happy’s pretty snout.

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On the second time around the circle. we saw that the possum had come out of the opening and was moving very slowly along the driveway over the the drainage pipe. I took a picture or two, but then we moved on. We didn’t see it anymore.

   img_20161126_153910627    img_20161126_153921530

Lord, why did You make opossums? They’re ugly and nasty. And why did You put them in our neighborhood?

What? Oh. Your question is why we human beings chose to build houses in the possums’ natural habitat.

Good question, Lord. Does it count for anything that we aren’t the ones who established this community?

I have no doubt that God has a reason for every species of living creatures, no matter how repulsive some of them are. He probably even has a reason for mosquitoes. Maybe just to keep us human beings humble?

If you have a comment, I’d love to hear it.

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

My First Pro Ball Game

softball2   softball3   softball

No, folks, I am not and have never been a pro athlete. In fact, anyone who knows me well would have a good laugh at the very thought. Even though I enjoyed backyard baseball as a kid, the neighborhood boys wouldn’t have tolerated my ineptness very long if it hadn’t been my yard and my baseball.

I was thankful my daughter never participated in sports in school, so I didn’t have to attend games to be supportive. And even now I don’t watch games on TV. Or attend athletic events.

In short, it would be hard for someone to be less interested in sports than I am.  So, what’s with this blog post–“My First Pro Ball Game”?

Would it make you more curious if I said you should be asking which of two “my first pro ball games” I was talking about?

I went to Sydney,  Australia, for the 2000 Olympics, but I went to be part of a mission team, not to attend the games. Even for someone like me, however, it was hard not to get caught up in the excitement of what was going on just a short train ride down the road from where I was staying.

So when the friend I’d flown to Australia with told me she and our new Japanese friend were going to a women’s softball game that night and invited me to come along, I couldn’t resist. The pictures at the top of the page are from that game.

Soon we were inside Olympic Park and seated in the appropriate stadium, waiting for the softball game between Italy and Japan to begin. We had great seats–women’s softball probably wasn’t one of the more popular Olympic events–and, once the game started, WOW!

Those women ball players took it super-seriously! It may have “only been softball” to some, but those pitchers threw that ball hard and fast. Not only that, the two teams–especially the Italian team–looked MEAN. I wouldn’t have wanted to face one of them–or to be married to one, either. How dangerous would disagreeing with her have been?

Because of our loyalty to our new Japanese friend, we were thrilled that Japan won that game. I wouldn’t have wanted to hear the griping in Italy’s locker room, though. And I would probably have been thankful I couldn’t speak or understand Italian.

So that was my first pro ball game.

I recently attended my first pro baseball game, however. The Richmond Squirrels were playing–doggoned if I even remember who they were playing!–a home game, and a bunch of us guys went to The Diamond in lieu of having a “regular” bachelor party for a good friend whose marriage was imminent.

I don’t know the significance of the Squirrels being a Double-A team, but I actually enjoyed the game. Especially since the Squirrels had reached a significant five-to-one (or was it six-to-one?) lead by the top of the ninth inning. So the people I was riding with (the groom-to-be was the driver) decided we wouldn’t miss anything by skipping the rest of the game and beating the crowd out of the parking lot.

We made great time going home. But we should’ve stayed. At least we should’ve if we didn’t mind watching the other team come all the way from behind and beat the Squirrels by one run. Pathetic!

That night was “Faith Night” at the Diamond and a number of churches were represented. A children’s choir did the “Star-Spangled Banner” better than most adults. I was impressed by the overall family atmosphere.

The food choices were amazing and–I was advised–much more reasonably priced than at major league games. Must have been, since I pigged out on a foot-long hot dog, some mint chocolate chip ice cream, and a bag of Cracker Jacks.

The Squirrels game was enjoyable enough that I came home and told my wife we ought to consider going to one game a year. No need to overdo a good thing, though, huh?

Are you a sports nut or are you more like me? Or somewhere in between? How about leaving a comment?

~*~

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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

Why Vote?

I’ve visited Australia five or six times over the last twenty-some years. Wonderful country,  even if it’s become too Americanized in some ways. If you question that, you should turn on a TV set in Oz and see how many American shows are popular there.

But one thing comes to mind as different. Quite different. Radically different.

Unless I was misinformed or things have changed over the last few years, Australians are legally required to vote. Can you believe that? As much freedom as Aussies enjoy otherwise, they don’t have the freedom to refrain from voting.

Hmm. How would that go over in the United States? I can’t begin to imagine the specifics, but “like a lead balloon” is the cliche that comes to mind.

As far as I can recall, I’ve always voted in presidential elections, even when I didn’t like either candidate. And I probably voted in other elections periodically, but not as faithfully. To tell you the truth, after attending a political rally as part of a political science class in college, I was so turned off by the political party system that I changed my major to English.

I say that to emphasize that I think I understand how the common man feels about politics in general. Let’s see if I can sum this up accurately. The people in Washington are all crooks, and they don’t care what we think or how we feel.

They don’t mind taking more and more of our money, which they spend recklessly, and still run the federal debt up beyond our ability to comprehend. They don’t even obey the Constitution, much less live by biblical principles. No matter what they say, we can’t believe them. And state and local politicians aren’t always much better.

Is that how you feel? While I don’t believe it’s true of every elected official, I think we’ve seen far too much evidence of the validity of these complaints and many others as well.  For all intents and purposes, it appears that too many politicians view their offices as a permanent position–permanent as long as they can keep them. A career. And it seems they’re not afraid we’ll vote them out.

And why don’t we? Is it because we feel the situation is hopeless? Is it because worthier candidates are non-existent? Is it because even the candidates who talked a good talk to get elected have let us down completely–time after time after time?

If those things bother you the way they bother me, and especially if they keep you from voting, here are some things  to consider. The 2016 election will affect America’s future as no other election has ever done. We have the chance to turn this nation around. If we fail to, America may very well end up a third world nation. If not that, we could continue to lose our rights–freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to bear arms–all in the name of political correctness.

What Washington needs, no matter who runs and no matter who wins the election, is changed hearts and changed lives. That’s the business God is in.  But we still need to put the right people in office.

I urge you to research the candidates–and don’t trust the media for the information you need. A vast majority of the main media sources are in the pockets of the current administration, and you won’t hear the truth from them. But there are other sources…more objective sources.

I can’t tell you who to vote for, although I could be tempted to tell you who I definitely won’t vote for. But the freedom to choose is yours, and I wouldn’t do anything to deny you that right. If you do your best to dig through the political landfill dump and make the best informed decisions you can–and then vote–I’ll be satisfied.

Sorry if I got a little wordy today, but this subject is important to me, and it’s something I can’t remain silent about. Not when so many Americans don’t vote. Please share a comment…whether you agree or disagree. As long as you do it politely and respectfully.

~*~

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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 Lost Moment of Fame

Very few people are actually famous, and–in spite of the number of my books sold–I’m not famous. Or even vaguely well known. And generally that’s probably a good thing. I couldn’t see myself in the position of autographing dirty paper napkins or crashing into a telephone pole while trying to escape the paparazzi.

Nope. I’m far too quiet a person for that. And I have enough self-confidence that I don’t need fame to feel fulfilled.

Nonetheless, there was one time, just one when…

I’d flown to Melbourne, Australia, to teach a computer programming seminar. All expenses paid, not counting probably a hundred hours or more of preparation. While there I met Jyl, the friend I’d been corresponding with, the one who talked me into applying to teach the seminar–and I’m sure she put in a good word for me. In addition to treating me to a performance of Phantom of the Opera, Jyl had invited me to fly to Sydney after the symposium to meet her family. That was a wonderful experience.

(I’m not sure whether the rest of this story took place during that visit or one of my subsequent ones. But it’s true and accurate to the best of my memory otherwise.)

Jyl took a sick day to show me around Sydney. Since she and her husband live in the Bondi Beach area, that was first on the list to see. But soon thereafter we headed to the Circular Quay there at the harbor. And of course that meant visiting the Opera House. Although that wasn’t my first visit to Sydney, I never tired of seeing the Sydney Opera House.

It was mid-morning by then, and Jyl suggested a snack at an outdoor cafe. Sounded fine to me.

The server led us first to one table–practically all of them were empty–but, just as we started pulling out chairs to sit down, he said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I can’t let you sit there.” No explanation. A little strange, but no biggie.

He led us to another table, where the same thing happened. At the third table we managed to sit down.

He started to hand us the menu, but then said, “Oh, this is the wrong one.”

By then I was super curious, but Jyl was boiling. In no uncertain terms, she insisted on having that menu.

A moment or two later, someone came up to us and said, “You’re on YOU’RE KIDDING.” I may have that name wrong, but it was a very popular show on Australian TV at the time. Comparable to America’s CANDID CAMERA.

We signed release forms for them to use the video they took of us. I thought the whole thing was pretty cool, although I wondered how Jyl felt about the possibility of her employer discovering she hadn’t really been sick that day.

It probably didn’t matter, though. From the feedback I’ve gotten from several of my Aussie friends, they must have decided Jyl and I hadn’t been funny enough and didn’t use our video.

Okay, so YOU’RE KIDDING wouldn’t have made me famous. But considering how I feel about fame, maybe broadcasting our video would’ve given me just the right amount of notoriety. Enough for my Aussie friends to be able to say, “I know him.”

Are you well known for anything? How about leaving a comment? This is an invitation to brag.

~*~

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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 Facebook in the Mirror (Part Two)

Jenny     Southern Fried Sushi book cover           

If you missed my previous post, The Facebook in the Mirror, you might want to read it before you read this post. I gave several examples of how Facebook has helped me to reconnect with my past, and this one will give several additional examples.

After graduating from college in 1968, I taught junior high English for six-plus years. I thought the kids were great, but the demands on my free time were a real drag. And—years later when I took the Myers-Briggs Inventory—I learned that I am a confirmed introvert.

Not “introvert” as in “very shy person.” But as in “energized by being by myself or among a VERY small group of close friends and totally worn out by being around people in general.” Hmm. Not good for a teacher.

When I discovered Facebook, I couldn’t keep from wondering what had become of my former students. I’m not pretending I could remember all of them—I had trouble remembering some names from the current school year. But I tried one name—I don’t remember who was first—and hit pay dirt.

And—lo and behold—he or she accepted my friend request and seemed genuinely happy to hear from me.

I tried more and more. When I couldn’t remember more names, I checked the friends list of the ones I’d been able to friend and sent many of them friend requests. I’ve ended up with quite a list, and I’m thrilled to report that at least one of them became a teacher. But even more amazing, some of my former students actually credited me with having taught them something.

Truly amazing. I didn’t feel that great about my teaching.

One of my former students is Tom. The top right pictures are Tom then and now. He’s lived and worked in Colombia (yes, the country in South America) for a number of years. He writes poetry and is a chef at his own restaurant. And—doggone it!—he beats the pants off me in Words with Friends. I learned recently that he was responsible for getting a poem of mine published in a free local magazine during the mid-seventies.

Tom is  a reconnect I highly value.

The other Facebook reconnect I want to mention today was a young lady (I call her my sister) who went on the same mission trip I did in 2000 to the Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Jenny and I both worked at the same place and were sitting beside one another when we heard about the mission trip to Oz. I still have a picture of us returning on the train from a day trip to Sydney, both of us snoozing, her head innocently on my shoulder.

We lost track of one another when she went to Japan as a Journeyman missionary (two-year program for recent college graduates). A few years later, one of her former co-workers told me Jenny had married a Brazilian and moved to Brazil.

How does a guy track down his missing “sister” when she’s that far away and he doesn’t even know her married name?

Facebook, of course. When we reconnected, it was like we’d never been apart.

But what makes our story special is Jenny had spent some of her free time in Brazil writing her first novel. I asked her to email it to me, and my wife and I had a great time reading it.

In fact, it was so good I had her write a proposal for me to forward to my publisher. That resulted in a three-book contract for Jenny’s Southern Fried Sushi series. If you don’t know much about writing and publishing, let me share this: practically nobody gets a contract for a first novel from the first publisher she submits a proposal to.

You’ll see Jenny with a toothbrush in her mouth on the train ride to Sydney and the cover of her first novel to Tom’s left at the top of the page.

Facebook has helped me to look into the mirror and see some wonderful parts of my past, along with the chance to bring certain aspects of the past up to date.

If you have any special Facebook or Twitter tales to share, I’d love to hear them. Just leave a comment.

Best regards,
Roger