Decorations – Now or Ever?

I don’t know what the stores are like where you live, but the ones at the mall down the road from us started decorating for Christmas before Halloween.

And not just decorating. Penny’s has a number of Christmas-themed products occupying prominent places on major aisles. Presents for pets. Santa-themed sleepwear. You name it, they’ve probably got it.

          

I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked at seeing the decorating starting so early. Not when it’s been this way longer than I can remember.

The decorating is really ramping up now. The mall has placed two trees at the ends of mostly empty hallways. Soon they’ll hang the huge fresh-looking wreaths that require special equipment to reach high enough to put them in place. Santa’s chair and the related setting just appeared a day or two ago.

With “Black Friday” coming this week, I can understand the need to get everything ready for all the Christmas shoppers. This is the one time of year our mall doesn’t look dead.

I can recall helping decorate the Christmas tree when I was still living at home. My parents were very particular. I wasn’t to simply throw the icicles over the branches, but to drape them carefully, one by one. How tedious!

But also how effective. The extra care showed.

And that was in the days when the Christmas tree lights were a real pain. Some of you may recall the times when a strand wouldn’t light if one bulb had burned out. Think National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

I’m not interested in doing much decorating now. Fortunately, neither is my wife.

Back when we had two cats–even when we got down to one–there was no way to safely have a Christmas tree on the floor. So we downsized from a nice pre-decorated tree to one we could put on the dining room table. We tried a Norfolk Island pine several years, but since we always managed to kill them eventually, we switched to a reusable tabletop-sized artificial tree.

It got in the way. Too many presents, I suppose. So now we don’t have  a tree at all. Kathleen puts up a few decorations every year, but nothing elaborate.

People might accuse us of being Scrooges, but I say, “Bah! Humbug!” to that accusation.

Christmas is the celebration of Christ’s birth. That’s the only thing that matters. And we don’t need decorations to do that.

Besides that, nothing can ever begin to match the original Bethlehem star.

Your comments are welcome.

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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My Way…or His Way?

Some of you may be old enough to remember singer Frank Sinatra and the song “My Way.” I wasn’t a Sinatra fan, and that’s probably the only song of his I paid any attention to. Although he didn’t write the lyrics, they clearly represent his attitude and were apparently written specifically for him.

I can’t legally quote the lyrics–you can read them here–but he lived his life the way he chose. Yes, he had a few regrets, and he had his ups and downs. He didn’t claim that his life had been trouble-free, but he was proud of doing things his way and saying what he considered genuine and “not the words of one who kneels.”

I don’t know if Mr. Sinatra was a Christian, but I take his scoffing at “the words of one who kneels” as a suggestion that he was so self-dependent he didn’t feel the need to pray. Or to depend on God.

God gave each of us strengths to do as much as we can on our own, but He also allowed each of us to have enough weaknesses to keep us humble. Christians recognize their need for God’s help. Day in and day out. Moment by moment. We know where our strength comes from.

I have a few regrets, too, and most of them have resulted from doing–or attempting to do–things “my way” rather than “God’s Way.” Regrets like those could easily result in guilt.

But they don’t have to.

God is merciful and forgiving when we turn to Him in repentance.  How thankful I am that my regrets don’t bog me down unnecessarily. I can’t change the past, but I can certainly learn from it and continually strive to do better as I attempt to follow God’s Way more closely each and every day.

Frank Sinatra may be remembered as someone who did things his way. I’d rather be remembered as someone who at least tried to live his life God’s Way.

Whose way do you live your life? Your comments are welcome.

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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A Thought-Provoking Incident

One day this past week I went to the mall a little before 8:30 a.m. for my usual morning walk. But what happened when I got there wasn’t anything I could ever have anticiated.

I saw a crowd of other walkers going inside–they don’t unlock the doors until 8:30–but when I reached the door, it was locked. I checked the other doors. All locked.

One of the walkers inside saw me and pushed the door open for me, and I held it open for two ladies who were coming behind me. Why were the doors still locked when someone–presumably the security guard–had obviously let everyone else in?

I was immediately informed that the security guard had fallen–or at least she was lying immobile–on the floor just fifteen or twenty feet inside the Food Court entrance. Somebody was frantically requesting that someone with a phone call 911. Apparently someone did.

I don’t know what I expected, but the walkers–there must’ve been fifteen or twenty of us–were all standing around at a respectful distance. I don’t think anyone was talking, and I don’t believe anyone bypassed the crowd to walk. One lady was rubbing the female security guard’s back…as if to sooth her. I couldn’t see any indication that the guard was even conscious, however. (See the P.S. below.)

At 8:38 one of the custodians came in from outside and announced that we would all need to leave. The management couldn’t allow us to walk without having a security guard on duty. As we filed out–I didn’t hear anyone complaining–the ambulance arrived.

I don’t know if the security guard is okay now or even alive. But I’d be willing to bet I wasn’t the only person in the crowd who was praying silently for her. And continuing to pray for her now–several days later.

Earlier this morning I was looking for the song I wanted to post on my “As I Come Singing” blog this coming Wednesday, and I decided to use one whose lyrics, based on Isaiah 40: 6-8, say:

The grass will soon wither,
And the flowers will soon fade;
So the strongest of men will soon weaken and die.

Only the Word of the Lord lasts forever;
And one Word from Him gives us eternal life.
One Word from Him gives us eternal life.

I started thinking about the security guard again. I hate to keep referring to her that way, but even though I always spoke to her, I didn’t really know her…not even her name. She didn’t appear to be anywhere close to middle age. I knew and still know nothing about her but her function at the mall.

And now I don’t know whether she’s still alive. Or whether she’s become a withered blade of grass or a faded flower.

Something to ponder as I thank God for my hope of eternal life through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Your comments are welcome.

 P.S.  I saw the young lady several days after writing the rest of this blog post. She’s twenty-five, pregnant with her first child, and doing all right medically, although she does have another doctor’s appointment this week. The problem she’d experienced was a combination of low blood pressure and low blood sugar–with no explanation of why.  Although I still didn’t learn her name, I was thankful for the opportunity not simply to get the update, but to express my concern for her.

 

    

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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 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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Why Do I Live Here…Now?

Have you ever wondered why you born to the parents who conceived you or why you were born at this point in time? And why you were born and reared in the country–or perhaps even the countries–you grew up in.

I do, and I also wonder about my birth parents–who they were and where they were from. And why they were in the right place and time for my adoptive parents to take me home from the hospital.

As a Christian, I believe God knew all about who and where I was going to be, even before He created the world. So it’s no accident–nor is it fate or luck–that made me an American in the perilous, yet very exciting times we live in.

God could’ve targeted me for Old Testament times. In fact, if He’d wanted, He could’ve made me Jewish. He could even have made me one of the twelve brothers the tribes of Judaism originated with. Interesting thought. I hope I wouldn’t have been one of the brothers who was so jealous of Joseph. Or what if God had made me Joseph?

Too much to think about!

Living in the Holy Land during Jesus’s earthly life would’ve been great. Surely I would’ve been one of His disciples. Uh, or would I have been one of the scribes and Pharisees He spoke so harshly of? Would I have been one of the men crucified on either side of Jesus? Oh, no! What if I’d been Judas?

I’m not a history buff, but I’ve studied enough to believe there’s never been a perfect time in all of recorded history. (Not since the Garden of Eden, that is.) Every era has had its dangers, its villains and its heroes, and one or more nations wanting to be in control…or to wipe everyone else out.

I’m not sorry to be living in America in 2017 in spite of threats from North Korea…and from liberals who don’t appreciate what America stands for…and from the elected officials who don’t give a rip about about what “We the People” want. As long as I look at the numerous advantages I have, how can I dare to complain?

For whatever reason–He’s not required to tell me what it is–God chose to put me here at this point in time. Who knows? Maybe He even intended for me to make a difference, no matter how small. What a wonderful reason to be alive now!

Your comments are always welcome.

In the graphic below, please note that I need advance review copy readers for the final book in the Altered Hearts series. Even if you don’t have time to read and review THE FLOWERS OF HIS FIELD by the time it comes out next month, I’ll still be happy to send you an e-copy. Although you’re not committing to writing a review–I’m not permitted to require that–an honest review would be helpful. New books rise or fall because of good reviews…or the lack of reviews.

 

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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Thoughts on History

While I was sitting here at my laptop wondering to write about, I made the mistake of checking the news. Not CNN or ABC or NBC, but Fox News. Not because Fox is perfect, but because the other media outlets are totally untrustworthy. I believe Fox is accurate most of the time. And when Todd Starnes is reporting, it’s always accurate.

But then I turned to Facebook and saw an interesting article someone had shared about an NAACP official, a very dignified looking older black lady, who was lambasting the left for what they’re doing (or trying to do) to statues of Confederate leaders. I was exceptionally impressed with her remarks, especially when she said the Confederacy was part of American history and history shouldn’t be tampered with.

I believe most people are familiar with Edmund Burke’s famous saying, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” Don’t we see that happening all around us? Especially by those who are trying to rewrite history as if the undesirable events never took place.

The current emphasis on political correctness has reached ridiculous extremes, and nowhere does that show up more obviously than in our freedom of speech being taken away from us every time we offend someone. I recently ran across this quote of George Orwell’s. Do you remember his book 1984, a futuristic horror story that  describes modern-day America a little more accurately every day?

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

Sir Winston Churchill might have been describing contemporary America when he said this:

“Some people’s idea of free speech is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage.”

I’d love to think I’m using my freedom of speech while I still can to say something back. Unfortunately, I’m probably talking to the people who generally already agree with me.

Comments are always welcome. The more politically incorrect, the better.

 

 

    

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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