Walking on the Best Surface


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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have something you especially look forward to in Heaven’s perfectness? How about sharing a comment?

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

Best regards,
Roger

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Thoughts about Heaven and Hell

I’m not caught between Heaven and Hell, thank goodness. As a Christian, I know where I’ll be going.

But I am caught between the teachings of my theologically moderate father and those of our very conservative church, a church I love so dearly otherwise that I tend not to share opinions there that people might take offense at.

One difference of opinion has to do with Creation. I DO believe God is the Creator of everything, and I believe He was quite capable of creating the world in seven twenty-four hour days. But I tend to believe they were seven periods of time. Fortunately, my salvation is not dependent on that belief.

I actually get upset at theology I consider too liberal. I recall a Sunday school lesson years ago in which the quarterly talked about an ax head (somewhere in the Old Testament; I have no idea where) that slipped off, fell in the water, and miraculously floated to the surface again. I felt like ripping up the quarterly for insisting that story had been symbolic, not literal.

I wouldn’t object to someone saying it might have been symbolic, but stating that it was as if the writer of the quarterly knew more about the Bible than God was too much. I would get equally upset about anyone who insists that the story of Jonah and the whale isn’t literal. That’s a failure to give God credit for being able to do the unbelievable.

And that brings me to Heaven and Hell. Everyone knows about Heaven–the pearly gates and the streets of gold. And everyone knows about Hell, too–the eternal lake of fire and the stink of bodies burning but never burning up.

Here’s where I have to tread carefully. The apostle John, who wrote the book of Revelation, from which we get most if not all of our description of Heaven, saw Heaven in a vision. I have no doubt of that or that he REALLY saw Heaven.

But I wonder whether his description of Heaven was simply the most accurate one he could make, being limited to the most descriptive words in his vocabulary. Words that could not possibly be adequate for describing the wonders of Heaven.

How could he have done it differently? I believe the materials–even the colors–found in Heaven are beyond our ability to comprehend. Or even to imagine. So I think John did the best he could to describe the indescribable. Golden streets and pearly gates give us a preview we could understand, but are not necessarily a real description of Heaven.

What probably makes me a moderate and not a liberal is the fact I express that as my opinion about Heaven. Not as a fact. I’m not going to be disappointed in Heaven, no matter what materials it’s made of or what it looks like. That’s all that really matters to me.

Hell is a lot harder for me to deal with. Could it be that there are no human words sufficiently horrible to describe eternal separation from God? And because Jerusalem had a garbage dump outside the city, a place where dead bodies were disposed of,  a place that stank of sulfur, a place where the fires never went out, wouldn’t it make sense to describe Hell in similar terms–terms the people of Jesus’s day could understand and relate to?

Interestingly, Jesus not only described Hell elsewhere as an eternal fire, he told a parable about a rich man who was burning in Hell. He saw the poor man he’d horribly mistreated while they were both still alive. But the poor man was living it up in Heaven while the rich man was eternally miserable in Hell. The rich man begged God to send a warning to his brothers so they wouldn’t suffer the same fate he was suffering.

The thing that really interests me about this story is that the rich man could see into Heaven and recognize what he was missing out on. Consequently his eternal hopelessness was made all the worse.

I’ve heard sermons that treat this parable as a literal story about Heaven and Hell. And it may well be. Once again, what right do I have to be dogmatic?

Either way, it suggests one idea about Hell that makes a lot of sense. If Hell means being eternally separated from God, what could be worse than being somewhere outside Heaven’s gates, able to see how perfect life inside is and perhaps even trying to break down the gates or climb the walls to get inside, but unable to unable to do so?

I’m not trying to change anyone’s opinions on the subjects of Heaven and Hell. As I’ve tried to make clear, I’m not in a position to insist that some parts of the Bible might be symbolic rather than literal. But one of the wonderful things about Christianity is that God loves each of His children just as much as if each of them understood the Bible perfectly from cover to cover.

Comments are welcome.

 

    

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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

Divisiveness – Not Something to Laugh At

American comedian Emo Philips is credited with having authored the following joke.

Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!” He said, “Nobody loves me.” I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”

He said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” He said, “A Christian.” I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, “Me, too! What denomination?” He said, “Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” He said, “Northern Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”

He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” I said, “Me, too!”

“Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.” I said, “Die, heathen!” And I pushed him over.

I actually first heard it at a computer users symposium, although I can’t imagine why. I had no idea where it came from, and I’ve made a couple of minor changes to Emo’s version so it would match the one I was already familiar with. I hope Mr. Phillips won’t consider me divisive because of that.

But divisiveness as it exists in America today is nothing to joke about. When Mr. Obama took office, he claimed he wanted to unite Americans. All Americans. Only history will reveal whether the disunity that broke out during his eight years in office was intentional, but some people–perhaps many–believe Mr. Obama wanted to create division in this country. Perhaps even to start a civil war.

I just sighed. I wish you could have heard me. It was a sigh of deep frustration.

Thank goodness–thank God, that is–Heaven will be a place of peace and unity. In spite of jokes like this one:

St. Peter was showing a recent arrival around Heaven. A Methodist. On passing a room with a closed door–no windows–the Methodist asked Peter who was inside.

Peter laughed before answering. “Those are the Baptists. We keep the door shut so they won’t see they’re not the only ones in Heaven.”

Even though we’ll never know perfect unity among diverse groups here on earth, I get a small preview of what it might be like when I walk at the mall. There I encounter other walkers, custodians, security guards, and mall employees. Among those are blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians, and probably people from other racial groups as well. Some I know to be  Christian. Others are conspicuously Muslim. I have no idea what the rest are. I dare say we probably vary in our life styles and politics as well.

But we walkers are unified in purpose. Even though many of us are there by ourselves–at least part of the time–we’re there to walk. Some of us walk clockwise, on the left facing “traffic.” Others stay on the right in a counterclockwise manner. And a few like me reverse directions periodically.

Yet, the walking is not the only thing that unifies us. It’s the sense of comradery. With rare exceptions we greet one another as if we’re really glad to see each other. And we’ve learned some of one another’s names as we often end up walking in the same direction at the same time as another walker. It’s very uplifting.

My prayer today and every day is for God to break the spirit of diversity that has created too many different “us and them” groups and to unify us in His name.

If you have a comment, I’d love for you to post 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

I May Live in Virginia, but…

I enjoy walking outside in the neighborhood when weather permits, but generally I end up walking at the local mall, which is just a mile up the road from our place. Even though a number of its stores have closed in recent years, it still has an abundance of jewelry stores–five at last count, and that’s not including the kiosks that sell only watches or earrings.

But one of the more interesting stores sells tee-shirts.

Thank goodness they’ve quit displaying the vulgar ones near the front where passersby could see them. But they have TONS of tees allowing the wearers to say something about their favorite sports team: “I may live in Virginia, but my team is in Texas” or whatever state houses their team. I keep passing up the temptation to buy an Oakland tee for my son-in-law; he’s enough of an Oakland fanatic already!

It’s harmless fun, though, even though I don’t have any interest in the team tees. How could I? I don’t like any kind of sport, much less a team (or individual) who plays it.

Okay, maybe I’m not a typical American in that respect, but at least I’m married to another American who feels the same way.

This tee-shirt place also prints whatever the customer might want on a tee-shirt. When The Devil and Pastor Gus first came out, I had them make a tee with the book cover on it. When my publisher ultimately changed the cover–big improvement–that left me with a tee I couldn’t really use. I can’t recall whether I stuck it away permanently in a drawer or gave it to Goodwill in the hopes it might end up being useful to someone as clothing rather than as a custom dust rag.

I keep thinking about those “I might live in Virginia” tee-shirts, though. That idea doesn’t need to be limited to sports teams. What about “…but my grandkids live in Florida”?

Hmm. That should get some sympathy from other people who don’t live close enough to their grandkids, don’t you think? I might have to get that one made one of these days.

But the one I really want to have made has quite a different message. As a Christian, why not “I may live in Virginia, but my home is in Heaven”? I can hear the old song now, the one that says, “This world is not my home; I’m just a-passing through.”

I like my earthly life. I value it. I want to live as long as I can do so in relative comfort and participate in activities that make me feel useful. And I want to be the best citizen of this world I can be.

Nonetheless, even as beautiful as many parts of the world are, as wonderful as most people are, the world is still an evil place. Adam and Eve didn’t do us any favors. In fairness to them, however, somebody else would have sinned first and gotten mankind kicked out of the Garden of Eden if they hadn’t done it.

I believe in Heaven, and I look forward to eternity there. Everything that is imperfect on earth will be perfect in Heaven. No wonder I think of that as my real–my ultimate–home. I hope you do, too.

Do you? Do you believe in Heaven and are you assured of your place there through faith in Jesus? How about sharing a comment?

P.S. After completing this post I learned of another good “heavenly” tee-shirt slogan: “Virginia born, Heaven bound.”

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

Aging: Plus or Minus?

I just spent an hour or so trying to write a decent post on a serious subject, and I ended up too depressed to finish it. Not good. So I decided to try something different.

As many of you know, I’m just a few months away from turning seventy. What you may not know is I have mixed feelings about it. So if you’ll permit me to look at the pluses and minuses of aging, I’ll be grateful.

Plus: I’m retired, and I have very few required activities. Most of those can be done at my leisure. I’m free to pursue my writing and play my guitar whenever I like and continue recording my compositions at home.
Minus: Despite the variety of activities I enjoy doing, if I’m not careful, even the best of those activities can become routine.

Minus: I take a variety of kinds of medicines and still have aches and pains that seemingly have no cause.
Plus: Those medicines help to keep me in what I would basically consider good health.  Why should I be upset? I don’t gripe about having to wear glasses, do I? And the undiagnosable aches and pains aren’t that horrible. Yet.

Minus: Each week at my church’s nursing home ministry, I can’t keep from wondering whether I’ll someday need to use the LTC (Long term care) insurance we finally decided we’d be foolish not to have.
Plus: I’m not in a nursing home yet, and I don’t have any conditions that make LTC living seem likely in the foreseeable future. And if I do end up in a nursing home, maybe by then I’ll be sufficiently, uh, not-myself to care.

Minus: I can’t do everything I used to be able to do.
Plus: I should be thankful for how many of them I can still do. Sure, my agility makes my guitar playing harder at times, but at least I can still play. In fact, I can’t think of anything I can’t still do at all. Maybe just not as well or as quickly.

Minus: I’m becoming more forgetful.
Plus: At least I haven’t forgotten anything important. And I’ve always had trouble remembering people’s names and faces. Did I honestly expect that to improve with age?

Minus: With the extra time I have now, I’ve become more interested in politics. And I’ve become more concerned about the decline in American values, especially during the last eight years. It’s depressing. Especially considering our choices in the upcoming election.
Plus: I can still vote and I can still pray. It may not be in God’s will to restore America’s greatness, but I have every confidence that He can.  I believe in the power of prayer, and that makes me feel so much better.

Minus: In spite of everything, I know I’ll continue to age and deteriorate until the end comes.
Plus: Hmm. That’s true for all of us, isn’t it? But as a Christian, I have the promise of Heaven to look forward to. That should relieve me of my complaints about any aspect of aging.

Do you have any particular pluses and minuses about the idea of aging? 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.

~*~

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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

What “Good Old Days”?

Old people–sometimes mid-lifers, too–are known for their tendency to talk endlessly about “the good old days.” I don’t do that.

Yes, of course I remember a few good things from my childhood and youth and occasionally mention them to someone. But not as many things or as often as some people I know. Too much of my young life was darkened by an unwanted move when I was eight years old.

I’d never expected to be uprooted and have to leave friends and familiar things–my whole life, seemingly–and relocate to a new city in another state and start life all over again from scratch. I was hurt and angry. So I wasn’t inclined to try to adjust. Consequently, I spent a number of years growing fatter and more miserable.

Not exactly what I’d call “good old days.”

Moving away from there was a pleasure–I wouldn’t have cared where we went–and I hoped things would be better with the new city. I was a pre-teen then, however, and growing into adolescence is tough–no matter what.

But when I came down with acute viral encephalitis during the eighth grade and almost died, what hope I might’ve had for a better life seemed to die, even though I lived. Recovery was long and stressful, and I’m not sure I’ve ever felt nearly as strong and “normal” as I had before.

I can’t say whether my very small store of memories from childhood and my early teen years is a result of the encephalitis, but the memories I have are sketchy and sporadic. I don’t remember that much about high school or college, either. Even a lot of my adult life seems to be blurred or at last hiding in some inaccessible spot in my brain.

All of that to say I am not an old person who thinks back to the good old days. I remember too many days that aren’t worth talking about and too few to bother talking about.

If I  sound miserable talking about my past, I apologize. The fact is I’m not overly concerned about a past that seems, well, to be so very far in the past. I’m more interested in the present, anyhow. And in the future.

Being able to wake up every day and function just as well as I did the day before is more wonderful than you can imagine. Productive projects that keep me productively busy are definitely something to be thankful for. And the assurance of Heaven someday is far beyond wonderful.

I’m not in a rush to get there, you understand. But I’m thankful I have eternal life in God’s presence to look forward to. It will be perfect in every way this earthly life has so often proven imperfect.

What about you? Are you focused on the past, the present, or the future? How about leaving 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

 

My Final Move

Have you moved lately? If so, you have my complete sympathy. I detest moving and my intention is never to do it again–with the one major exception I’ll talk about further down the page.

As the child of a Baptist minister, I lived in a variety of places growing up:

  • Hollywood, Florida (six months)
  • Farmville, Virginia (eight years)
  • Durham, North Carolina (three-and-a-half years)
  • Norfolk, Virginia (six years)
  • Cumberland, Maryland (four years)

I was too young to know what was happening when we moved from Hollywood to Farmville, but the emotional trauma of the move from Farmville to Durham was tremendous. I’d never had any reason to think I wouldn’t live in Farmville forever. Our other moves were more positive, thank goodness, but I became increasingly responsible for packing my own things. And helping with other packing as well.

After college graduation,  however, I was on my own. Moving was largely a matter of choice. I’ve spent my adult years in:

  • Cambridge, Maryland — eight years
  • Easton, Maryland — six years
  • Richmond, Virginia — thirty-one years

The trauma may have been less, but the physical demands of moving were horrible for someone as lacking in physical strength as I am.

When I moved to Cambridge to teach, I roomed for a while in a guest house, where I didn’t need a lot of stuff. Then I moved into an apartment with a fellow teacher, found a different apartment the following summer when my roommate returned to Pennsylvania, and then found a nifty third floor apartment that fall.

Third floor?

By then I had a lot more stuff than I’d had when I first moved to Cambridge, and bringing groceries upstairs exercised me in ways I would’ve preferred avoiding. I would’ve stayed in that apartment years longer had my landlord not decided to let his grown daughter have my place.

I needed another apartment. Pronto. And not only did I have more furniture to move, I’d bought a small piano months earlier. You should’ve seen them delivering that to the third floor. Getting it back down the steps was even more challenging because it was up to me and my friends to do it.

I was able to take over a suitable apartment from teacher friends who were moving, too. I had a first floor place this time. But boy! did those space heaters not do an adequate job of keeping things warm. My wife and I accumulated more and more stuff.

Then she and I bought our first house–a real fixer at $15,000. Fortunately, we only needed to move a few blocks. I’ll never forget strapping the drier to a dolly and pulling it behind the pickup truck–very, very slowly.

By the time we moved to Easton, where we’d bought a new mobile home, we had more furniture and other stuff than ever. That was about a seventeen mile move. Distance didn’t really matter, though. When moving, it’s necessary to pack just as carefully for a short trip as for a long one.

And that’s just the beginning of the history of my moves. Our longest one was from Easton to Richmond. Between then–1984–and our separation in 2001, we lived in an apartment, a townhouse, and finally an actual house again. A new one that was all ours.

I bought a new mobile home. That’s where Kathleen and I live today, fourteen years later. Unless you’ve been doing the math, you may not have noticed that I’ve not only lived in Richmond longer than in any other place, but I’ve lived in my current home longer than I’d ever lived in any single residence. I love stability!

If you’ve ever moved–most people have–you know what a pain it is. That’s why I’m determined to stay here the rest of my life. If I should ever have to go to a nursing home, I’ll probably be too feeble-minded to care, especially since it would happen without any physical effort on my part.

But I do have one final move coming up. A very final one. And it’s one I’m actually looking forward to. Let me tell you about it with a stanza from one of my original songs:

Heaven is the home of God; He shares it with believers,
Though movin’ there takes a lifetime to do.
I cannot claim to tell you just where Heaven is located,
But day by day, I long to see it more.

I hope I’ll see each of you there when the time comes. How about leaving 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.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website. Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Family Christian Stores. Go HERE for links to those places.

Best regards,
Roger