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

Links you might be interested in:

 

Advertisements

Being the Best I Can Be

All too frequently I wake up to find I have a new ache or pain. Sometimes it goes away. Sometimes it doesn’t.

Why should that surprise me? I’m seventy now. I’ll turn seventy-one this coming Saturday. While I’m not nearly as old as I hope God will permit me to become before I die, I have no choice but to either accept the fact that my body has been deteriorating since birth or hold a pity party I won’t invite anyone else to because I know nobody wants or needs to listen to me complain.

Fortunately, my mind still seems to be in reasonably good condition. I say “reasonably” because, like many of my younger peers, I catch myself forgetting more and more of those everyday words none of us can live without. So far I only forget familiar people’s names when I’m not with them, but I anticipate the day that will change.

Being the best I can be? That sounds like a real challenge since the best possible seems to be shrinking beyond my ability to control.

What does “being the best I can be” really mean, anyhw?

I’ve come to a definite conclusion. Whatever I may be good at, being the best I can be doesn’t involve comparing myself with other people. It has to do with using what I am and what I have in a way that pleases God. The fact that I’m not the best guitarist or bass guitar player in the world isn’t important.

Or the best novelist. I haven’t made it to the New York Times best seller list yet and don’t expect to.

What matters is my willingness–my desire–to use my talents in a godly way. If I’m able to do my best playing bass for the worship services and Christmas musical, if I’m willing to do my best providing a guitar accompaniment and doing a weekly solo at the nursing home ministry, I should be pleased.

Neither do I need to become a best-selling author. If I write the books God inspires me to write, if He helps me to publish the ones He wants published, if the people He wants to buy and read them and get from them what He wants them to get, I should be thrilled.

Perhaps it’s time to measure “the best I can be” in a different way. Not from the limited way I view my own talents and abilities, but from knowing God gave them to me for a reason. He wants me to use them for Him.

I treasure the sayings, “I’m a work in progress” and “God’s not finished with me yet.” I’ll never be the very best I can be in any area of my life  until He has finished with me. And that won’t happen until I come home to Heaven.

Better to hope for His “Well done, good and faithful servant” than to fret about my shortcomings and inconsistencies here on earth. As long as I’m honestly trying to let Him make me a better person–the best person I can be–He’ll use whatever talents I have in whatever way He desires. What more can I ask for than that?

Your comments are always 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

    

Links you might be interested in:

 

The Price of Greed

[NOTE: I wrote this prior to hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Currently in Richmond–at least at the gas stations closest to us–prices have already risen to $2.49 and may easily go higher because of the hurricanes’ effect on oil production and processing.]

 

     

 

If you’re ever on Interstate 95 going through Richmond, Virginia, and looking for gas, you can take exit 86A towards Atlee and find a reasonably priced Sheets station a mile or two up the road.  Or take exit 86B towards Elmont for an equally reasonable Wawa station that’s probably a little closer. The right-hand picture above shows Wawa’s sign; the station itself is much more visible. Almost within spitting distance is a little BP station–you’ll recognize it as a former 7/Eleven store–that’s usually just a penny or so more expensive than Wawa and Sheets.

But heaven help you if you are on Rt. 295 getting off at the Rt. 1 exit going north towards Ashland. You’ll eventually come to the Shell station pictured on the left above. Even though it appears to be the only one in that neighborhood, the Wawa and BP stations are actually only a couple of miles further. But if you’re like us, you probably don’t want to drive additional miles to gas up when traveling, even if you know other choices exist further up the road. You want to get back on the road.

If you haven’t clicked yet to look at larger versions of those two pictures, you might want to do so now.

Did you notice the difference in gas prices? $2.11.9 for regular at the Wawa and $2.79.9 at the Shell! That’s a sixty-eight cent difference.

I doubt seriously whether the Shell station gets much business from us locals. And no wonder. If I waited to get gas until the fuel gauge told me I really needed to, I would spend at least $6.80 more than I would at Wawa, Sheets, or even the little BP station.

My wife and I periodically take road trips, and I’m always thrilled that my Honda Civic that only gets 25-28 mpg in city driving makes it up to 45 mpg on the highway. Even so, I don’t want to pay more for gas than I have to. I could be wrong, but I doubt seriously that I’ve ever been charged unreasonably at a highway-accessible gas station.

Hmm. Maybe because of competition?

And the Shell station doesn’t really have any competition. Or at least it appears not to.

I feel so sorry for travelers who stop at the Shell station. Not just because paying that much more for gas than they should might be hard on peoples’ budgets, but because I hate the thought that their only memory of Richmond might be the way they got fleeced by somebody’s greed.

I’d be embarrassed to be that greedy. And to know I’d angered and frustrated numerous other people because of it.

What do you think? How about leaving a comment?

 

    

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

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.

 

    

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

Fear and Uncertainty

A 2010 survey of American ministers ranked Andy Stanley as the 10th most influential living pastor. I doubt seriously that his ratings have fallen any. He’s an incredible preacher.

Our Wednesday night Bible study uses videos by various teachers and preachers, and I doubt whether any of our group would fail to put Andy at the top of our list of favorites. He speaks to us, even as he speaks to his own  congregation.

Last week we started watching a new series of Andy’s–new for us, anyhow. It’s called Tough As Nails. That first sermon was a knockout.

I don’t have to tell you that the world is full of uncertainty. I suppose it always has been, but things have gotten far worse than any of us could have imagined. And they’ll probably keep getting worse. How can they fail to with all the evil in the world and the world itself constantly growing smaller through the Internet and other forms of telecommunications?

None of us can be certain we’ll be alive tomorrow, much less next near. Any of us could fall victim to a crazed killer with a gun or a terrorist with a bomb or a machete. Or an equally crazed world leader with his finger on the trigger of a nuclear bomb that’s aimed in our direction. Or someone who’ll poison our water supply or take down our power grids.

Not to mention the threat of another megalomaniac president who’ll take away even more of our freedoms, including the ability to defend ourselves.

Over the years, I’ve been satisfied with wondering whether whether I’ll end up in a nursing home, perhaps for a prolonged period of time. Or die of cancer, a heart attack, or maybe be killed in an auto accident. Normal uncertainties I have no way of predicting the outcome of. Anymore than I can predict whether any of those more drastic concerns will ever affect me or us.

I’ll be honest. By nature, I tend to be a worrier. Or at least a fretter. (Not talking about my guitar playing.) But the older I’ve grown, the more I’ve learned to depend on God. As the old spiritual says, “He’s got the whole world in His hands.” I’ve reached the point I’d go crazy if I weren’t able to put as much faith as possible into that belief.

In that first Andy Stanley video, he introduced a short–but very appropriate–statement: Uncertainty is unavoidable; fear is optional.

Cool, huh?

I don’t think many of us would argue that uncertainty is here to stay. Especially as the possibilities we’re uncertain about  grow more and more drastic.

Christians don’t need to fear the things we feel uncertain about, though. Andy Stanley reminded us of this advice Jesus gave His disciples:

Stop being afraid of those who kill the body but can’t kill the soul. Instead, be afraid of the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell.  (Matthew 10:28, NIV)

With the prospect of eternity in Heaven, what difference does uncertainty about our earthly future make? When I think about that, my former fears tend to melt away. I feel much braver. Yes, braver. And much more capable of facing uncertainty with confidence.

Yes, someone can kill my body, but that doesn’t destroy my faith in the One who’s the keeper of my soul.

Andy Stanley is right. Fear is optional, and my choice is to put my hand in God’s and put fear further and further behind me.

What about you? Do you worry about the uncertainties of life? How about sharing 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.

~*~

Links you might be interested in:

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

To Knot for Naught or Not?

Okay. I admit it. I’ve never been fond of tying shoes, and the older I get, the more I actually hate it.

As a child, I didn’t mind. After all, tying shoes was a skill that had to be learned. So why would I mind practicing and perfecting it?

As a teen, I changed my mind. I didn’t have Bass Weejun penny loafers like most of my friends –far too expensive for our family budget–but at least I had a pair of dirty bucks with a mechanical, self-locking, external tongue. I hated outgrowing them and discovering that no one manufactured shoes like those anymore. I was stuck with lace shoes until I got old enough to (have to) buy my own shoes.

Loafers exclusively, I feel confident. And boots.

Now I have sandals, a pair of boots, and three or four pairs of loafers–mostly Sketchers. I know many shoes have Velcro now, but Velcro and I don’t get along ; I seem to wear it out faster than normal people do.

But I also have several pairs of walking shoes, and they have laces. I’ve always detested having to tie them, especially since that meant occasionally having to stop in the middle of a brisk walk to retie one.

That would’ve been more of a problem except for a trick my father taught me. I started trying to write down how to do it, but I decided a video would work better.

I can’t explain why that works or why it unties (when desired) just as easily as a regular shoe lace bow, but it does. If you end up with a knot when you pull the strings to untie it, you did something wrong.  Easy to do trying to follow even my video directions.

Even though it keeps strings tied quite nicely, I just quit using this method several days ago. In fact, I quit using regular shoe laces altogether.

When my wife requested a special set of elasticized shoe laces as part of her birthday present, I perked up and took a second look. They don’t require tying–at all!–and shoes  outfitted that way can easily be made as loose or as tight as the wearer desires…and slipped on and off just as easily.

ElaslticLace1     ElaticLace1a

Do they really work? Yes! But the ones I got for Kathleen have one elastic piece for each pair of holes and a plastic piece on both ends that lock together. I didn’t like that idea.

I checked Amazon and found something similar except for consisting of  a single long elastic lace and what I think is a more substantial mechanism for holding the two ends together.

So I ordered a package. Six pairs cost about the same as the single set I bought for Kathleen (she had four pieces left over–not enough for another shoe, much less another pair of shoes). The instructions for my laces were not elaborate, and the illustrations confused me at first. But once I caught on, I turned my walking shoes into comfortable slip-ons in just minutes.

ElasticLace2     ElasticLace2a

Did I make this switch because I’ve grown lazy in my upper years? Maybe. But who cares? For a small amount of money, I solved an irritating problem. (If nothing else, it takes less time and effort to get ready to go walking.)

If more important of life’s problems could be solved so simply!

Do you have a special way of doing something? Not necessarily something you dislike doing, but something you’ve learned to do more efficiently or found a good substitute for? 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.

~*~

Links you might be interested in:

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