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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Passing by Home?

In my novel ROSA NO-NAME, the lead character ponders several times about what “home” is. In regard to the title of this post, I might be pondering that same thing myself.

When I was a kid, from approximately eight to twelve, I lived in Durham, North Carolina. It never felt like home because I’d had to leave the only home I’d ever known when my parents and I lived in Farmville, Virginia. So, when we later moved to Norfolk, it was a relief.

My wife and I drove back yesterday from the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in western North Carolina. Just as we’d done going to the conference, we skirted Durham on Rt. 85. I usually just casually think, “I used to live here,” but yesterday I started remembering some of the things I hadn’t thought about in years.

Even at that early age, Duke University played a role in my life. My father used to take me to a barbershop at Duke for our hair cuts. No idea why. I remember a fountain outside that building, one that we could frequently see a rainbow inside or through. (Okay, so I’m a little hazy on details.)

Although I wasn’t big on admiring flowers, my parents liked to visit the extensive gardens at Duke, and even though I wasn’t very interested in Handel’s MESSIAH then–I’d love to go back to that now–they took me to a presentation of that work every year. I may not remember the music, but I recall being fascinated with those huge columns inside the Chapel.

I recall walking to my elementary school and passing by a little neighborhood store–anybody remember when there were still a number of those around? I recall one day when a bigger kid across the street from me yelled an obscenity at me. I was too naive to know what he was talking about.

I can’t forget how big a part tobacco played in Durham. Our next-door neighbor even used it to fertilize his lawn. Although I think unsmoked tobacco sometimes has a pleasant smell, I hated playing outside and having to smell that every day.

Speaking of tobacco, one of our church members gave my father and me tickets to attend some very special, tobacco-related yearly show. The actor who played Joe Friday’s sidekick on Dragnet was an entertainer that year. I had to ask my father the meaning of a vulgar joke he told.

Durham wasn’t all bad. The problem was my inability at that stage of my life to adjust. Being put on the safety patrol and going with that group to Washington, DC, were two of the better parts of my life there.

Home, though? It still didn’t seem like it. Would I like to go back and visit sometime? Maybe. If I can forget the worst of the past.

Thanks for letting me journey a bit through the past today. If you have comments, I’d love to have you share them.

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.

~*~

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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

If You Lived Here…

yucca     pyracantha     Mockingbird      PearlyGates

If you drive around Richmond for a while, you’ll probably see one or more signs that say, “If you lived here, you’d be home.” While that might attract some people, I’d be more interested in where I started and how I reached wherever I’d gotten to. No matter how nice stopping might be, I could end up quite a distance from other places I’d like to be.

I love home, and I love being home. At this stage of our lives, my wife and I are thankful to have a nice mobile home that’s paid for rather than a fancy “real” house that has a seemingly never-ending mortgage.

Practically everyone in our community waves when we’re out walking, and most of the neighborhood kids have learned that our dog’s name is Happy—and that she is a wigglesome bunch of happiness who’d probably lick an intruder to death.

Not that we need to worry about intruders. People here keep watch on everything that’s going on. On those rare occasions when a stranger ignores the “No trespassing, no soliciting” sign, a resident will call the sheriff’s office and let them send somebody out to determine who the trespasser is and what he or she is up to.

If I answer the door to someone I don’t know and he or she clearly doesn’t belong here, I get out my cell phone for a close-up picture. “So the police will know who to arrest,” I tell the stranger.

Living in this kind of neighborhood is a pleasure. Even though we have to pay land rent, Kathleen and I still have enough of a sense of ownership to plant trees and bushes—the Pyracantha is almost as tall as the house—and fence in the yard before we bought our dog.

Kathleen works just four or five miles up the road and our grocery store, bank, and favorite restaurants—almost everything we need on a regular basis—lie within a two-mile radius.

Our church is the only exception, and it’s just a pleasant ten-minute drive in the country.

Doctor and dentist are many files further away, but we don’t need them often enough to object to the drive.

Yes, there’s no place like home.

Hmm. But what about that Gospel song that says, “This world is not my home”?

The older I get, the more comfort I take in those words.

I look at the moral and economic decay of this nation, and I don’t feel at home here anymore. Not like before, anyhow.

While people who believe in the value of human life and in the importance of working hard for what they want may still be in the majority, we’ve remained silent too long and allowed the career politicians to take control—and to go a long way towards destroying what used to be the finest nation on earth.

I thank God I have Heaven to look forward to. With every day older I get, the closer I am to my true Home.

If you have comments or observations—if you disagree with anything I’ve said—please feel free to share.

I’ll see you again on Wednesday.

Best regards,
Roger