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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What’s He Dreaming About?

I’ve been to Australia more times than I can count, starting with my first mission trip in 1991. Although I’ve been back for a family vacation and also to teach an all-day seminar at a computer users symposium, most of my trips have been mission-related. I’ve spent most of my time in the Sydney area, but have also visited Melbourne, Toowoomba, Port Douglas, and Hervey Bay. Plus a few places I’ve forgotten the names of.

My closest Australian friends lived in or near Sydney, however, and I always managed to visit them for a day or two no matter where I’d spent most of my time. And I always enjoyed two special activities–visiting the harbor and the Opera House and walking around Featherdale Wildlife Park.

I never tired of seeing and even getting to pet koalas. Because of those VERY sharp claws, I was limited to contact with one that was safely situated on a fence or in the crook of a low tree branch. Once I held a toy koala that the real one was safely holding onto.

That fur isn’t soft the way you might expect, by the way. Very disappointing.

But koalas themselves aren’t disappointing. Not unless you expect them to DO something. Even though I once got a video of a koala jumping from one tree to another and running around on the ground, most of the ones I saw were perched soundly in a eucalyptus tree, like this one pictured in the poster hanging on my living room wall.

  

This particular picture has always been one of my favorites. Why would I hang it in the living room, otherwise?

It’s fun to look at him (could be a her; I don’t know) and speculate. Is he asleep? If so, is he dreaming about something nice and quiet? Or is he actually thinking…to whatever degree koalas are capable of thought?

No way to be sure, of course, but I’ve always looked at the fellow from a different perspective. That’s why I call this picture “Praying Koala.”

Okay, so maybe koalas don’t have the same relationship with God we Christians do, but they’re just as much God’s creations as we humans are. So who’s to say he’s not praying?

What do you think? 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

Lord, Why Possums?

If you don’t have a blog, you may not realize that coming up with topics to write about can be a real challenge. Sometimes I get on a roll and think of two or three pretty decent topics in a row. And sometimes I just have to make do with whatever comes to mind.

I’m not sure yet which category this post will fall into. That’s because I don’t know yet what I’m going to say about possums.

In truth, I never used to pay much attention to possums. But thanks to the research I did related to my numerous mission trips to Australia, I learned that what we call possums (actually opossums) are the only American marsupial animal. Marsupials are animals that give birth to underdeveloped young that finish developing in their mother’s pouch.

Kangaroos, possums (different from the American variety), koalas, and wombats are among the marsupials found in Australia. They’re a really big deal there.

So much so that I saved this button I picked up in Sydney during the early 1990s, put a magnet on the back, and stuck it on the fridge.

rednoseday

It was part of the yearly “Red Nose Day” promotion to raise awareness in the fight against SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Not only did a number of people wear clip-on red noses, you would see them on the front of cars and buses. Even on buildings!

Interestingly, I noticed in Walgreen’s some months ago that they had red noses for sale promoting awareness of some other type of health problem.

Back to possums, though. American opossums, that is.

Several times during the years we’ve been living here, we’ve heard noises under the house. Noises that could only have come from one or more living creatures. We invested in a trap–the kind that captures its prey without hurting the animal–and caught several raccoons. Nasty things.

But not as nasty as the opossums we caught. No way we’d get overly close to the cage with one of them in it. Thank goodness we could open the door without our fingers being near where those sharp little teeth were. We always drove our catches further out in the country to let them loose.

Flash forward to this past Saturday, when Kathleen and I were walking our miniature dachshund, Happy, in the neighborhood. The street we live on is an extended circle (half a mile around) and our part is just a short block from a four-lane road that is normally quite busy.  We had barely walked past our home when Happy jumped down in the drainage ditch and started barking.

Low and behold, she’d spotted an opossum in the opening to a drainage pipe going beneath the adjacent parking area. We yanked Happy away from the ditch. Regardless of the fact that she was up-to-date on her rabies shots, we didn’t even want to think about what those sharp little teeth could have done to Happy’s pretty snout.

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On the second time around the circle. we saw that the possum had come out of the opening and was moving very slowly along the driveway over the the drainage pipe. I took a picture or two, but then we moved on. We didn’t see it anymore.

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Lord, why did You make opossums? They’re ugly and nasty. And why did You put them in our neighborhood?

What? Oh. Your question is why we human beings chose to build houses in the possums’ natural habitat.

Good question, Lord. Does it count for anything that we aren’t the ones who established this community?

I have no doubt that God has a reason for every species of living creatures, no matter how repulsive some of them are. He probably even has a reason for mosquitoes. Maybe just to keep us human beings humble?

If you have a comment, I’d love to hear 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

My First Pro Ball Game

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No, folks, I am not and have never been a pro athlete. In fact, anyone who knows me well would have a good laugh at the very thought. Even though I enjoyed backyard baseball as a kid, the neighborhood boys wouldn’t have tolerated my ineptness very long if it hadn’t been my yard and my baseball.

I was thankful my daughter never participated in sports in school, so I didn’t have to attend games to be supportive. And even now I don’t watch games on TV. Or attend athletic events.

In short, it would be hard for someone to be less interested in sports than I am.  So, what’s with this blog post–“My First Pro Ball Game”?

Would it make you more curious if I said you should be asking which of two “my first pro ball games” I was talking about?

I went to Sydney,  Australia, for the 2000 Olympics, but I went to be part of a mission team, not to attend the games. Even for someone like me, however, it was hard not to get caught up in the excitement of what was going on just a short train ride down the road from where I was staying.

So when the friend I’d flown to Australia with told me she and our new Japanese friend were going to a women’s softball game that night and invited me to come along, I couldn’t resist. The pictures at the top of the page are from that game.

Soon we were inside Olympic Park and seated in the appropriate stadium, waiting for the softball game between Italy and Japan to begin. We had great seats–women’s softball probably wasn’t one of the more popular Olympic events–and, once the game started, WOW!

Those women ball players took it super-seriously! It may have “only been softball” to some, but those pitchers threw that ball hard and fast. Not only that, the two teams–especially the Italian team–looked MEAN. I wouldn’t have wanted to face one of them–or to be married to one, either. How dangerous would disagreeing with her have been?

Because of our loyalty to our new Japanese friend, we were thrilled that Japan won that game. I wouldn’t have wanted to hear the griping in Italy’s locker room, though. And I would probably have been thankful I couldn’t speak or understand Italian.

So that was my first pro ball game.

I recently attended my first pro baseball game, however. The Richmond Squirrels were playing–doggoned if I even remember who they were playing!–a home game, and a bunch of us guys went to The Diamond in lieu of having a “regular” bachelor party for a good friend whose marriage was imminent.

I don’t know the significance of the Squirrels being a Double-A team, but I actually enjoyed the game. Especially since the Squirrels had reached a significant five-to-one (or was it six-to-one?) lead by the top of the ninth inning. So the people I was riding with (the groom-to-be was the driver) decided we wouldn’t miss anything by skipping the rest of the game and beating the crowd out of the parking lot.

We made great time going home. But we should’ve stayed. At least we should’ve if we didn’t mind watching the other team come all the way from behind and beat the Squirrels by one run. Pathetic!

That night was “Faith Night” at the Diamond and a number of churches were represented. A children’s choir did the “Star-Spangled Banner” better than most adults. I was impressed by the overall family atmosphere.

The food choices were amazing and–I was advised–much more reasonably priced than at major league games. Must have been, since I pigged out on a foot-long hot dog, some mint chocolate chip ice cream, and a bag of Cracker Jacks.

The Squirrels game was enjoyable enough that I came home and told my wife we ought to consider going to one game a year. No need to overdo a good thing, though, huh?

Are you a sports nut or are you more like me? Or somewhere in between? How about leaving a comment?

~*~

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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

Why Vote?

Okay, so this topic might seem more appropriate for this November rather than right now. But I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently and wanted to go ahead and express my thoughts. Who knows? Maybe I’ll re-post this again closer to November.

If you’re like many of us, you may be horrified at the available choices for our next president. I suspect that’s true regardless of your party affiliation.

The people have supposedly spoken in the primary elections, but since there are no consistent requirements for how the primaries are handled or what the results actually mean, who knows whether the majority of Americans are actually in favor of the  presumed candidates for each party?

That puts many of us in a quandary. If we don’t like either candidate, why vote at all?

I like what a friend of mine shared about the way elections are held in Colombia, a nation in South America. If neither candidate gets a clear majority, voters at the poll get to demand that they be given different candidates to consider.

If I recall correctly, voting in Australia is legally required. A bit extreme for America’s tastes, perhaps. Being free to make a choice also requires the freedom not to have to.

And too many Americans are convinced either that their votes won’t make a difference OR they refuse to support an undesirable candidate in the hopes of defeating an even more undesirable one.

I recently saw what struck me as a rather exaggerated excuse. Something like “I wouldn’t vote for Hitler, would I?”

I wonder whether the people of Germany would’ve voted overwhelmingly for Hitler if they’d had their eyes open. And I wonder whether that may be the situation with this November’s election as well.

Both of the presumed candidates appear dangerous to me and to a number of other Americans. I’m not writing here to advocate either party or either candidate.

What I do want to do is encourage everyone to vote in November, no matter how reluctantly. Vote against the candidate you consider least desirable. But don’t let other people make your decision for you just because you don’t want to make it for yourself. The future of this nation is at stake, whether you realize it or not.

Two remarkable quotes come to mind. One is from physicist Albert Einstein. “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”

The other is from theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

It’s interesting that two such different men–men from such different backgrounds–should say essentially the same thing.

Maybe you don’t care what Einstein and Bonhoeffer have to say, and you may not care about my opinion, either.

But if we end up with a dangerous president–perhaps I should say “the more dangerous president”–in the White House as a result of this November’s election, it won’t be because I didn’t do the research to choose who I think will be the more desirable person and go to the polls and vote for him or her.

It will be because of the individual Americans who–with each vote not cast–allow others to make the decision for them. Please don’t be one of them.

Donn Taylor, an author friend of mine, just had this letter to the editor published in his local newspaper in Texas. “Several letters recently have asked whether to vote or refrain from voting in the 2016 presidential election. To answer the question, I recommend the following guideline: When there’s no Messiah running, and only Barrabas and Judas Iscariot are on the ballot, we vote for Barrabas. Failing to vote has the same effect as voting for Judas. From that point it’s just a matter of identification.”

Are you planning to vote? Why or why note? 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 Lost Moment of Fame

Very few people are actually famous, and–in spite of the number of my books sold–I’m not famous. Or even vaguely well known. And generally that’s probably a good thing. I couldn’t see myself in the position of autographing dirty paper napkins or crashing into a telephone pole while trying to escape the paparazzi.

Nope. I’m far too quiet a person for that. And I have enough self-confidence that I don’t need fame to feel fulfilled.

Nonetheless, there was one time, just one when…

I’d flown to Melbourne, Australia, to teach a computer programming seminar. All expenses paid, not counting probably a hundred hours or more of preparation. While there I met Jyl, the friend I’d been corresponding with, the one who talked me into applying to teach the seminar–and I’m sure she put in a good word for me. In addition to treating me to a performance of Phantom of the Opera, Jyl had invited me to fly to Sydney after the symposium to meet her family. That was a wonderful experience.

(I’m not sure whether the rest of this story took place during that visit or one of my subsequent ones. But it’s true and accurate to the best of my memory otherwise.)

Jyl took a sick day to show me around Sydney. Since she and her husband live in the Bondi Beach area, that was first on the list to see. But soon thereafter we headed to the Circular Quay there at the harbor. And of course that meant visiting the Opera House. Although that wasn’t my first visit to Sydney, I never tired of seeing the Sydney Opera House.

It was mid-morning by then, and Jyl suggested a snack at an outdoor cafe. Sounded fine to me.

The server led us first to one table–practically all of them were empty–but, just as we started pulling out chairs to sit down, he said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I can’t let you sit there.” No explanation. A little strange, but no biggie.

He led us to another table, where the same thing happened. At the third table we managed to sit down.

He started to hand us the menu, but then said, “Oh, this is the wrong one.”

By then I was super curious, but Jyl was boiling. In no uncertain terms, she insisted on having that menu.

A moment or two later, someone came up to us and said, “You’re on YOU’RE KIDDING.” I may have that name wrong, but it was a very popular show on Australian TV at the time. Comparable to America’s CANDID CAMERA.

We signed release forms for them to use the video they took of us. I thought the whole thing was pretty cool, although I wondered how Jyl felt about the possibility of her employer discovering she hadn’t really been sick that day.

It probably didn’t matter, though. From the feedback I’ve gotten from several of my Aussie friends, they must have decided Jyl and I hadn’t been funny enough and didn’t use our video.

Okay, so YOU’RE KIDDING wouldn’t have made me famous. But considering how I feel about fame, maybe broadcasting our video would’ve given me just the right amount of notoriety. Enough for my Aussie friends to be able to say, “I know him.”

Are you well known for anything? How about leaving a comment? This is an invitation to brag.

~*~

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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