The Me I Want to Be

Last night, our Bible Study group started a new series of lessons using a DVD and print materials from John Ortberg. It’s called The Me I Want to Be. Fascinating topic. And so very relevant.

Some people might wonder why I–at sixty-eight–would find that topic so relevant. After all, I’m not only growing older day by day, but have reached the point where change that isn’t forced on me isn’t likely to happen. So, doesn’t that mean I’m already as much “the me I want to be” as I’m ever going to be?

Now that’s a scary thought. Although I can see progress in many areas of my life–I’m much more patient, kind, and thoughtful than I used to be–I still haven’t reached all of my life’s goals. Furthermore, I don’t expect to.

But that doesn’t mean I’m going to be satisfied with myself and stop growing.

Mr. Ortberg lists some counterfeit versions of me:

  • The “me” I pretend to be
  • The “me” I think I should be
  • The “me” other people want me to be
  • The “me” I’m afraid God wants
  • The “me” that fails to be

But then he concludes that the best version of me is…

  • The “me” I’m meant to be.

You might want to check out his book  for more of an in-depth look at this whole idea.

I’d like to believe I’ve passed the point of pretending to be someone I’m not or trying to live up to other people’s expectations. I much prefer just being myself. If I’m slow at times, if I’m overly careful about some things and careless about others, if I’m a million-and-one other ways that fail to meet my own expectations, why fret about it?

That doesn’t mean I’m satisfied with myself, however. I’m declining physically–maybe even mentally at times–but “the ‘me’ I’m meant to be” still gives me something to shoot for. Not unrealistic goals. I’m not apt to turn from a super-quiet introvert into the life of the party, for example. Or to become a well-known singer/songwriter.

I don’t believe God ever intended for me to be either of those things. According to the Bible, He knew what I would be like long before my birth. He gave me strengths and weaknesses and inclinations–everything that makes me me.

But He also gave me the desire to love Him and want to become the person He wants me to be. That doesn’t mean following a set of rules.

Yes, there are things a Christian should do–and some he shouldn’t do. But the important thing is trusting God enough to place my life fully in His hands. Not just when things are going wrong, but when they’re going well and I might be tempted to think I’ responsible for my success.

Being “the ‘me’ I’m meant to be” requires walking daily with God. Not trying to walk ahead of Him as if I think so highly of myself that I think I don’t have to let things happen in His time. And not falling behind as if I’m fearful that He isn’t able to bring me safely through every valley.

What are your thoughts about this subject? Are you the “me” God means for you to be, or are you one of the counterfeit versions of “me”? Please share a comment if you feel led to.

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

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”–check it out HERE. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

Be on the lookout for my next novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, which releases on November 25.

Best regards,
Roger

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Crosses–More than Jewelry

myCross     crossKathleenHappy     myDove

For many years I enjoyed making wooden crosses and doves by hand. I quit making them a few years ago, just as I quit making walking sticks. The effort was just too hard on my hands.

After drawing a rough shape on a ½” thick piece of wood, I cut as close to the design with a coping saw as I could. Before I did further shaping, I drilled a hole for the leather lace to go through; that way, if the wood cracked or I messed up the hole, I didn’t waste time doing more.

Next, I used very coarse sandpaper to get rid of the excess, which could take anywhere from one to two hours. The final shape was never the same.

I smoothed it with fine sandpaper. Sometimes I finished my project with a coat of polyurethane—I did that for all of the doves—but sometimes I rubbed my own skin oils into the wood of the crosses. That sounds a little weird, but it gave the crosses a unique finish.

I usually gave the cross or dove to somebody who had admired the ones I wore.

My wife has been wearing the same cross for more than ten years. Only rarely does she wear another necklace rather than the wooden one that means so much to her.

That brings up an important point. There’s no telling how many people wear cross jewelry simply because they like it—without necessarily being Christians or having any understanding of the significance of a cross.

To those people, I sing part of this song I wrote in 1999:

I wear this cross upon my neck to tell how God loves me.
I wear this cross upon my neck to show I love Him, too.
I wear this cross upon my neck to say that God loves you,
For His Son rose from death to give us life
When we trust in Him.

Have a blessed Easter.

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Please leave a comment if something in this post has spoken to you. I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

By the way, “On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I use “As I Come Singing”—check it out here—to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Check here to see the list.

Best regards,
Roger

 

Never Too Old to Say Yes

shots     NicaraguaMap     NicaraguaFlag     ManaguaMap

I have no idea how old Abraham was when God told him to pack up his family and belongings and move to a place the Lord was going to lead him to. Neither do I have any idea how old Isaiah was when God asked who would go for Him and Isaiah answered, “Here I am. Send me.”

Fortunately, the Lord isn’t directing me to move. I like being where my wife and I are, just as Abraham probably felt about the home he was having to leave—in faith that God knew what He was doing.

But I heard God asking who would go for Him in a rather round about way.

My church has been partnering with a church in Nicaragua for some years now, and periodically a team goes down there to do whatever needs being done. My wife and I decided two or three years ago that we wanted to be part of that some day, but we would need to save for it. So we’ve been saving $50 a month ever since.

Flash forward to Saturday a week ago. I was working on my current novel manuscript, which involves a mission trip to Nicaragua. I’d been doing some online research about that country—the second poorest one in Central America—but didn’t feel I was really finding what I needed.

I emailed someone who’d been there before to try to arrange a get-together so I could pick his brain, but haven’t heard back yet.

I had a passing thought. We had nearly $2000 saved in our Nicaragua fund. Why not…?

But the “why not?” involved several issues. My wife, Kathleen, suggested that I use our savings to go without her, and she did that without my bringing up the idea.

So the second issue was whether our church had a trip planned any time this year. Even if it was months away, I could continue working on my manuscript and revise it later with what I learned there.

Lo and behold, a small group is going this year. Although it is an exploratory trip to meet some of the pastors other than the one we’ve normally worked with, it will involve going to four different areas.

And guess what? This trip is March 5-10. Just around a very short corner.

I got in touch with one of the team contacts, and the team discussed it and invited me to come. I met the rest of the team this past Sunday—just one week after learning about the trip. I may be the oldest person going, but I felt very comfortable with the other team members.

As you can see from the Band-Aid pictures above, I’ve become a human pin cushion—Hepatitis-A, Typhoid, Adult Polio, and Tetanus shots. I’ve also got Malaria medication to take before, during, and after the trip.

I have a number of other things to do to get ready, but I’m excited.

By now, you may be wondering why I mentioned saying yes to God when my original interest in going was to experience Nicaragua for myself so I could come home and incorporate some of that in my writing.

Reasonable question.

If my interest in going had started the day Kathleen and I had the same idea simultaneously, I would’ve been the first person to question my own motives. But remember that money we’d been saving? I’d been interested in going long before I needed to know more about Nicaragua.

I don’t believe in coincidences. Feeling the need to go, knowing that we had the money to cover the cost for me alone (Kathleen wouldn’t have had enough vacation time, even if we’d had enough for both of us), and then discovering that a trip was imminent all added up to my feeling that God was asking who would go—and suggesting that He has something for me to do in Nicaragua.

Please leave a comment if something in this post speaks to you in a way you’d like to respond to. I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to the top right of this page where it says, “Follow Blog via Email.”

By the way, “On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I use “As I Come Singing” to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Because I’ve used up all of my songs, I re-post an old post each Wednesday. If you’re interested, please check that blog out here.

Best regards,

Roger

Each Time I Visit

JeffChadwick     Creola     RickMike     JeanDonna

Three Wednesday mornings out of four each month, you’ll see me heading out to the car with my Taylor GS-mini guitar, 40-watt Fender amp, and a backpack holding everything from a guitar cable with a built-in volume control to a bottle of water, from a hand-held digital recorder to an apple. Even though I treasure my one Wednesday off each month, each of those outings has become a highlight of my week

My church holds a worship service on Wednesday mornings at a local nursing home, and I’ve been participating there regularly since I retired five years ago to write full-time.

Our services don’t resemble typical worship services any more than the residents’ wheelchairs resemble wooden pews. Although one of the team—usually one of my church’s former pastors who didn’t want to give up this ministry when he became the pastor of a new church—delivers a five-minute devotional, our services consist mostly of hymn singing, with a special or two thrown in for good measure.

Somebody told me years ago that old folks don’t want to hear new or unfamiliar songs. Since I’ve written about two hundred Christian songs in the last fifty years—that’s slowed down since I started writing novels—but didn’t really have any place to share them, I was delighted to learn that I’d been misled. Older adults are appreciative of anything and everything our team does.

Good thing. Although our leader brings a list of the songs we’ll be using, we don’t practice in preparation for our services. But we’ve learned to work together so well that our frequent flubs don’t embarrass us anymore than they bother the worshippers.

This nursing home ministry is something I’d never expected to take such an interest in. And not just because it gives me an outlet for my music.

You see, I never felt comfortable around older people before. At least not older people who were in such wretched physical conditions. I’ll bet some of you feel the same way.

It’s easy to understand why I felt that way. I didn’t want to admit that I might end up having some physical or mental condition that would make my continuing to live at home impractical. Just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it won’t, no matter how hard I like to pretend that I’m invulnerable to permanent disabling conditions.

Consider Rick, one of our regular worshippers. He’s only several years younger than me. I don’t know what his specific problem is, but he uses a walker and moves quite slowly. He’s quite an encouragement to me.

And there’s Mike. Okay. I admit it. I’m lousy at guessing the ages of African-Americans. But Mike doesn’t look like he could be beyond his forties—and he has fun calling the rest of us teenagers. He’s recently lost his sight in both eyes. And he rarely gets to attend our services any more because his dialysis is scheduled for Wednesday mornings.

Yes, I could end up as a Rick or a Mike (well, minus the difference in skin color).

When my wife and I recently took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University at church, one of the things we learned about was the importance of Long-term Care insurance. It’s quite costly, but—if needed—it’s cheaper than trying to pay for nursing home care out of the family budget. The only thing holding us back is the “quite costly.”

Although every visit to the nursing home has its uplifting moments, I can’t keep from looking at these individuals I’ve come to love and respect—even without knowing most of their names—and wondering, “Will I come here some day to live? What kind of condition would lead to that? Ad how would Kathleen deal with it?”

And the biggest question of all…how would I deal with it?

Please leave a comment to tell me how you feel about the prospect of nursing home life. I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to the top right of this page where it says, “Follow Blog by Email.”

By the way, “On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I use “As I Come Singing” to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Find a list of them here. Because I’ve used up all of my songs, I repost a previous post each Wednesday. If you’re interested, please check that blog out here.

Last, but not least, if you’d like to hear some of my songs from the nursing home, go to RogerBruner.com and click on the Listen tab. You’ll find a dropdown box listing the songs I’ve recorded at the nursing home, complete with flubs and background noise.

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

The Facebook in the Mirror (Part One)

 Flatlanders     RogerWillSinging

To fully appreciate today’s topic, you need to understand a few things about my background. If you find it boring, that’s because I am boring. But that’s a topic for another day.

I grew up the only child of a Christian minister. Because my parents adopted me directly from the hospital back in the olden days, I know absolutely nothing about my birth parents except the fact they were artistic (but who knows in what way?) and had an eastern European heritage. I don’t even know their medical history.

My parents both died during the latter 1900s, and I have only a handful of relatives left. I barely know the ones on my father’s side, and I don’t even know where the ones on my mother’s side are, even though they theoretically live in the same city I do.

In short, I’m a sixty-seven-year-old orphan who’s extremely thankful to have such a sweet and loving wife. But that’s not what this post is about, either.

I’ve had plenty of friends over the years, but—with moves from state to state and city to city and even from church to church—I’ve lost touch with most of them.

What’s happened to my past?

When I first discovered Facebook, I couldn’t imagine what a gold mine it would prove to be. At first, I only friended the people who belonged to my current life.

But then I caught on that Facebook could be a window to my past. Sure, not everyone I used to know was on Facebook, and sometimes the women didn’t include their maiden names in their profile names. But I started to catch up with people I thought I’d never see or hear from again.

Two examples.

I sang with Will in a folk trio in the early 1960s. That’s us in the left-hand picture at the top of this post. I moved away after graduation in 1964. I saw him again once during the 1980s, but lost track of him again soon thereafter.

But—lo and behold—I had no trouble locating him on Facebook, and we got together for a wonderful afternoon of catching up this past September. He still had the same guitar he’d had in our folk singing days (I’d been through many guitars since then), and we lumbered our way through the song I’d written as our theme song—the first song among more than two hundred. That’s one of our reunion photos at the right.

The second example.

Sally was a friend in high school. We didn’t exactly date, although she came with me a time or two to the folk trio’s performances. I saw her once during the summer of 1965, and then she proceeded to pass out of my memory for many years.

When I thought about Sally again and found her on Facebook, I learned that she now lives in the same city my wife and I live in, and the three of us have gotten together a number of times now. She’s not only become one of my novels’ biggest fans, but has purchased copies to give away.

I can only shake my head in amazement. And deep appreciation.

When I first entered the world of personal computing, Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist. In fact, what I thought of a personal computer was actually a terminal connected to one of the Digital VAX minicomputers in the Arctic-frigid computer room.

Now it’s truly personal—all the way to my smart phone and my Kindle Fire.

I have several other tales to share about my experiences with Facebook, but I’ll save them for Part Two of this topic.

Please leave a comment. Are you a Facebook user? Have you found any missing friends that way? Do you have any special stories to share? I’d love to hear them.

Best regards,
Roger

About Gracelessness

brokenBarrier

I promised to use my second post to explain my use of the word “gracelessly” in my blog name. I do my best to keep my promises.

At first, I thought explaining “gracelessly” would be simple. I write “quirky inspirational fiction.” So why not have a blog that simply sounds, uh, quirky? After all, most people probably expect to see the word “gracefully” after “on aging.” I would, anyhow. But I thought “gracelessly” might really grab people’s attention.

There’s more to it than that, though.

Let me clear up one thing before I go any further. I’m not using grace in the Christian sense of “Amazing Grace,” which refers to “God’s undeserved favor—getting good things we don’t deserve from a loving God.” As opposed to God’s mercy, “Not getting the punishment we deserve from a righteous God.”

Instead, I’m using the word in the sense of “clumsily.”

I think that fits nicely. None of us has ever aged beyond where we are in life right now. So moving ahead necessarily leads us to a humongous amount of the unknown. Even when we pay close attention to people who’re even older than we are, our paths will not be identical to theirs. We have no guarantee that everything will work out the same way for us. Or anything, for that matter.

The process of aging involves a number of mishaps. There’s no way to avoid them.

I rely on God’s strength and guidance each step of the way. Uh, except for those too-many times I try doing things on my own. That’s when I’m most apt to fall down or bring other problems on myself–while trying to scoot around a barrier, for example. God doesn’t seem to believe in providing a solution until I encounter a problem. If I’m not paying attention to Him, the results may be more disastrous than they need to be.

My wife and I have a year-old miniature dachshund, Happy. We trust her in the living room, the kitchen, the master bedroom, and the bathroom. We do NOT trust her to go down the hallway towards the other two bedrooms. Especially the one I use as my music room, with dozens of cables going this way and that. If she pulled one out, I might never figure out where it came from.

So I placed a thin piece of wood across the open doorway leading to that part of the house. Happy doesn’t like it, especially when she knows one of us is somewhere on the other side of the barrier. But we’re thankful it does what it’s supposed to do: keep her out of mischief.

We know the barrier is there, and it’s almost short enough to step over safely every time. Sliding it to the side to step through and then sliding it back into place is a nuisance.

But I’m a graceless fellow, and when I’m not careful—sometimes even when I am—I end up kicking the barrier when I climb over it. Last night I unwittingly broke it into the two pieces you see in the picture at this top of this post.

As a member of the human race, I’ll keep aging until I die. Even though I can anticipate certain barriers between now and eternity, I’m not necessarily prepared to deal with them in the best possible way—the “graceful” way.

So, many of my blog posts will speak of things related to aging that make me feel graceless because of my inability to deal with them as easily as I might have done when I was younger. Or if I was paying adequate attention to God’s loving lead.

I’ll try to make you smile in the process. Nobody wants to listen to an older adult gripe. I sure don’t.

If you like this blog, please subscribe to receive my two weekly posts by email. I hope you’ll leave comments. I’d love to have a good discussion here rather than feel like a teacher standing in front of a classroom of students who are bored to tears.

Best regards,
Roger