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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Constitutional Amendments I’d Like to See

I believe in the Constitution of the United States. I don’t think it’s outdated, but I think it could use some additions and clarifications.

Fortunately, the Constitution’s framers provided a means for the States not simply to suggest further amendments, but to make them. Gathering a Convention of States for that purpose is a long, tedious process, but a large number of concerned citizens are attempting to do that now.

I haven’t paid as much attention to their news as I might have done, but I believe their proposed amendments are good and necessary. I’m not going to talk about their proposed amendments as such, even though some of mine overlap with theirs.

Let’s start with a requirement that Congress pass a balanced budget every year. We’ve all heard horrendous stories about the way the Federal government wastes money. And I believe billions of dollars are spent by the Federal government on areas the Constitution doesn’t give it the authority to be involved in. Many of them–education, for example–should be strictly within the hands of the States.

Oh, and let’s set term limits–the total number of years–senators and congressmen can serve in public office. No one should be permitted to make a career of staying in office. That’s probably a big factor in why the swamp in Washington needs to be drained. And why it’s so difficult to do.

And what about those Supreme Court justices who have more power than Congress, even though the framers of the Constitution intended for the judicial branch of the government to be the weakest branch? And it’s almost impossible to remove a justice. Their power needs to be limited, and perhaps they should be given term limits as well.

I don’t know whether they should be elected, but it’s a thought. Of course, if their power was properly limited, that probably wouldn’t be as much of an issue.

I don’t have an answer for the immigration problem, but if I were someone who’d worked hard to gain legal entry into the United States and did so because I loved what America stands for and studied and and passed the test to become an American citizen,  I would be highly upset at the influx of illegals, many of whom don’t want to blend in with the rest of us.  Maybe we can’t force them to change their attitudes, but the Constitution could  be amended to make English the official–the ONLY official language–of America.

I’m not out to make people forget their former cultures, just to make English-speaking Americans out of them. And not bow down to their anti-American attitudes while enjoying America’s privileges.

And while I’m at it, how about an amendment clarifying that the First Amendment doesn’t outlaw religion in government? It only says that the government can’t establish a state religion.

Hmm. I thought I was done, but one more thought has come to mind. Maybe the Constitution can’t be amended simply to outlaw political correctness, but how about an amendment clarifying that what a person says isn’t illegal simply because someone else doesn’t want to hear it? Is it possible to even legislate offensiveness without that legislation itself being offensive?

I think that’s it. But what about you? Do you have other amendments you’d like to see? Or do you disagree with any of mine? Comments are welcome as long as they’re made respectfully.

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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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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Me and Social Media

 


When it comes to me and the use of social media, some people might actually accuse me of being anti-social. I don’t believe that’s accurate, however. Not only have I made a number of new friends on Facebook and Twitter, I’ve also renewed old friendships that way.

I couldn’t tell you the number of former English students I’ve enjoyed catching up with on Facebook. I know some of them feel strange addressing me by my first name now–one fellow is so respectful I’ve just about given up on convincing him I really want him to–but at this age (I turned seventy-one yesterday) my old students and I aren’t that far apart in age. One of my most interesting former student reconnections is with Tom, who now lives and operates his own restaurant in Colombia.

I’ve also become friends again with an old friend from high school. Who would’ve thought she’d end up living in Richmond when we’d been in high school together in Norfolk? Or that she’d become one of the most enthusiastic supporters of both my writing and my music? My wife and I enjoy getting together with her periodically for a meal out.

And who would’ve thought I’d find another old friend–this young lady from one of my previous work places–who was at that time living in Brazil and had written her first novel? When I asked her to email a copy of it, my wife and I both love it so much I connected her with my original publisher; she ended up with a three-book contract. Yes, the original book was long enough to cut into three shorter books!

Probably most of my Facebook friends are fellow authors I’ve met at conferences. But I have been blessed to meet some of my readers on Facebook, too. Truthfully, those are the people I’d most like to get to know better.

One real failure on my part is not always staying up-to-date with my wonderful daughter and her terrific family. It’s certainly not lack of interest. I just can’t seem to make myself get on Facebook to see what’s going on in other people’s lives. If people post on my timeline or send me a message, I always respond. But doing Facebook just to do it isn’t my thing.

Twitter is more of an enigma to me. I honestly don’t get it. Maybe if I were a teen…

I occasionally tweet blurbs about an author friend’s books and occasionally about my own. But authors are cautioned to not do too much tweeting (or Facebook posting, for that matter) about their books. So I don’t. And the easiest way to avoid that is to rarely tweet at all.

I’ve met a couple of interesting people on Twitter, however. My favorite is Meggie Jenny, a Christian actress/screen writer/director/producer/you name it-er. Interestingly, she followed me first. I have no idea why. I admire her tremendously, so I’m careful not to bug her. And with that kind of relationship, I can count on her to tweet back.

I have Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest accounts. I rarely pay attention to Pinterest, although it’s amazing how many times people have re-posted some of my pictures from a tour my wife and I took of the Martin Guitar factory a few years ago.

Although my blog posts automatically go to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, I’ve never figured out what to do with LinkedIn and I don’t need one more app on my phone to really take advantage of Instagram.

The thing is, I really do like people. Even though I enjoyed the solitude of computer programing for a number of years, now that I’m retired and spending all day at home writing while my wife is out making a living, I find that I do miss people. Walking at the mall in the early morning gives me some vital human contact, but–no matter how it might pain me to say so–so does my limited participation on social media.

But social media is far from being an addiction for me, and that’s a good thing, too.

What about you? Are you a media addict or do you use it reasonably…or not at all? Your 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