Knowing and Being Known


My wife and I drove to Staunton, Virginia, Friday a week ago to watch The Taming of the Shrew at the Blackfriars Playhouse, part of the American Shakespeare Center. It was hilarious and extremely well acted.

As an English major many years earlier, I’d taken a Shakespeare class and been to Washington, D.C., to see a live performance of Macbeth–a tragedy. But I’d never seen a Shakespearean comedy. Nor had my wife ever seen a Shakespearean play in person at all.

We laughed almost continually, or so it seemed. The physical aspects of the comedy were clever and as well coordinated as the speaking of the lines. A total delight, and quite a reminder of the huge difference between reading a play silently as a homework assignment and seeing it come to life on the stage.

Afterwards, we saw that the actors playing Katherina and Petruchio (the shrew and her suitor) were talking with people in the lobby. We waited for our turn.

Annabelle Rollison and Ronald Roman-Melendez couldn’t have been more gracious. She said–quite sincerely and enthusiastically–that learning that this had been my wife’s first Shakespearean play (and the fact it had made such a good impression on her) had made her day. And they were more than willing to let one of the theater volunteers take a picture of us with them. (The two closeups are my work.)

       

It was really nice to get to know these two actors, no matter how casually, and–for just a few moments–to be the center of their attention. We wouldn’t expect them to remember us if we ever met again, but at least for the duration of our brief visit, we mattered to one another.

Some years ago I read a statement from someone who claimed that God couldn’t be real. How could anyone possibly know everyone in the world in intimate detail? And how could anyone pay attention to multiple prayers that might be going on at the same time?

I strongly disagreed, of course. My first thought was of the little book Your God Is too Small. That perfectly described the person who’d offered such a limited view of God.

Many times over the years, I’ve praised God for being so much bigger, more powerful, more righteous, more merciful, more of everything good than I could possibly understand. My God is awesome–the only One worthy of that word. He’s beyond my ability to comprehend, and I’m glad.

How could anyone possibly love, worship, follow, and depend on a god that human beings could describe adequately in human terms and put in a box that way?

We didn’t establish an ongoing relationship with the actors we met, no matter how pleasant our short time together was. But our relationship with God is eternal. Knowing and being known by Him is infinitely more important than any of our human relationships.

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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The Right Age (a guest post by Cecil Murphey)


Cecil Murphey, known to his many friends as Cec, is an amazing eighty-five-year-old. I’ve lost count of the number of books he’s authored, co-authored, or ghost-written, but the one most of you are familiar with–at least by name–is Ninety Minutes in Heaven, which he wrote with Don Piper, who experienced the astounding visit to Heaven the book and the movie are about.

Cec isn’t selfish about sharing his talents. Years ago I had a private meeting with him at a Christian writers conference (when we were both a tad younger and I was a lot bigger), and I’m still attempting to apply his gracious advice. When I asked for his permission to share the following article, this was his response. “Roger, I’d be delighted and feel honored… ”

He meant it, too.

Enough from me. Here goes…
The Right Age

“I’m too old for that,” my 53-year-old friend said.

I regularly hear such comments from those who have hit the big zero years (50, 60, 70). Once-attractive women complain, “When women reach a certain age, men ignore them.” When I hear that, I think, So what? Do you need approving stares to be happy?

I’m tired of hearing friends cringe at the mention of aging. I have no desire to be 30 or 60 again and am grateful for the years behind me.

Just because we reach “a certain age” doesn’t mean we stop living or enjoying life. Instead, we have an opportunity to add to our lives, to explore new ideas, and take pleasurable risks.

This year I turned 85, and I’m delighted to admit it. Here are a few things I say about my age:

  • “I’ve earned every wrinkle and creak in my body.”
  • “This is the cost of living longer.”
  • “I’m happy being who I am right now.”
  • “This is exactly the right age for me.”

Getting older isn’t only a downhill slide; we can always find positives. No matter how dismal life seems, we can choose to stay positive.

For example, my faith has grown stronger and my attachment to others is deeper. I’m free to say no. The older I get, the more I know the relationships I want to maintain and those I want to let go.

Regardless of the number of my years, I’m exactly the right age to increase my joy and appreciate all the goodness of life. I relish the freedom and the joy of life instead of thinking how terrible it is to get old. I regularly say to myself, “This is the life I’ve been preparing to live. Now I’ll enjoy it.”

What about you and your age? Can you say these words below?

 

Cecil Murphey

 

Thanks to Cec for permitting me to publish this article from his most recent monthly newsletter. He has said what I so often think (or realize I should think), but he’s done it much more eloquently.

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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Who Would I Rather Be?

As a child, I don’t recall wishing I was someone else, although I admired Roy Rogers enough I wished I could be like him. I was too young and immature to think my parents would take my desire for a horse seriously, however, especially since I’d never been on anything more than merry-go-round ponies.

I don’t recall wanting to be someone else as a teen, either. But, while I spent hours mastering the guitar–if indeed one ever masters it to his own satisfaction–and watching various folk singers on Hootenanny, I feel certain I had dreams of being admired on the same kind of stage. But then the “folk fad” dissolved, and “folk rock” took over. That wasn’t my thing.

Adulthood tends to make some interesting changes to our wishes and desires over the years.

Just as my first two careers, which added up to almost sixteen years of my life, failed to fulfill me, I turned more and more to writing–poetry, short stories, monologues, short plays. And songs. Christian songs that were, uh, very folk-flavored. That was something I couldn’t get out of my system.

I don’t think I truly began to appreciate who I was, however, until I went to Australia on my first volunteer overseas mission trip. I discovered that there are still people who appreciate and are moved by my kind of music.

Nonetheless, it’s taken a number of years to recognize that being a published novelist and an ever-improving musician who’s written over two hundred songs aren’t really who I am. My ability to do those things is a gift from God. I can’t even begin writing a new song until He gives me the idea. And then I must count on Him for the guidance to perfect it to whatever degree I’m capable of. That’s recently become true of my novel writing, too.

What I’ve discovered more-and-more in my old age (I hate to refer to seventy-one as “old age,” but it’s certainly not “middle age”) is that the heart of everything I am lies in the fact that I’m a Child of God, desirous of pleasing Him in using the abilities He’s given me.

So the question “Who would I rather be?” is irrelevant. A better question is “Who would I like to be more like?”

That’s easy to answer. I want to be more Godly. More Christlike. I want to be more loving, more generous, more patient, kinder, more understanding, bolder in opposing things that are wrong and more willing to just shrug my shoulders at things I don’t simply don’t like.

Christ was and is perfect. I’m not. So wanting to become more like Him seems like the most desirable thing I could ever wish for. Who says I’m too old to grow in that direction?

What about you? How about leaving a comment?

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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A Prayer for Old Age

Dearest Heavenly Father–Papa–my life is just as much in Your hands as it’s always been, and I have many things to be thankful for and nothing of a particularly selfish nature to ask You for. Sure, I can think of a few things that would be nice to have, but they’re not the least necessary at this stage of my life. If they were, I feel confident You would provide them.

No, this prayer isn’t about things.

I do have concerns about my future, however. Not my eternal future, of course. I know I’ll be living with You among millions–probably billions–of other Christians when it’s my turn to “move” to Heaven.

At seventy-one, I’m not really very old. Even so, I’m conscious of the fact I’m getting older. I sense it daily. My body is no longer capable of doing things that used to be so simple, and my mind struggles all too frequently trying to remember a familiar word or the name of someone I know well. Those limitations are frightening.

But they’re are all part of aging, and it would be foolish to pray to avoid them. Instead I ask Your help in accepting and living with those limitations.

Lord, You know my greatest desire is to use the talents You’ve given me to serve You and to share the Good News of salvation with other people. You understand my frustrations at not being good at using the spoken word to do that. I’m thankful for the writing skills and musical abilities You’ve blessed me with and the spiritual truths You’ve given me to share with other people.

And the opportunities You’ve given me to share.

I’m thankful I can still participate in the nursing home ministry and share audio and video recordings of some of my songs on my website–and through YouTube. I take great pleasure in having many of my Christian novels published–and in hoping they will bless and entertain numerous readers.

Even so, the time may come when I can no longer sing or play my guitar, and the time may come when I’m no longer able to write. A time may even come when I don’t know who or where I am.

Papa God, I can’t pray “against” aging, but I beg You to keep me spiritually active to the very end. And to keep me so close to You that nothing else matters.

Please use me any way You choose…to the very end. Amen.

Do you have a prayer for old age? 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

          

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A Challenging Thought

As the son of a Baptist minister, I grew up knowing and believing in God, and I always believed in Jesus’s divinity.

I’ll never forget something I used to think about during my childhood. Something so unanswerable that it never failed to challenge and boost my childish faith. I don’t recall when or how I started thinking about this, but my thought went something like this:

God is everywhere, and He’s made everything–the world and everything in it. He’s eternal. He has no beginning and no end. But where did God come from? Who made God? How can He have just always been? Nothing can come from nothing.

Some children–and many adults–would probably use a thought like that to dismiss the possibility of the existence of God.

Not me, though. No matter what a puzzle that was–an unanswerable question, an unsolvable mystery–that simply made me appreciate God all the more.

I’ve since read a little book called Your God Is Too Small.  Not my God, though. He was and still is too big for me to begin to understand. How could I worship Him if He was comprehensible to mere human beings?

 Now that I’m older–seventy-one–I find myself enjoying that childhood puzzle all over again. Now, however, I also ask a similar question about the Big Bang theory: how can something like our universe and everything in it have come from nothing unless a Greater Power–the God of the Universe–was responsible?

Impossible!

The last few years have brought a new thought to mind, one I’d love to write a novel about but which I know I’m incapable of doing justice to. Just writing it would require greater knowledge than any human being has been blessed with.

What if our world–the whole universe as we know it–exists within the mind of God? What if He created us in His infinitely creative and loving mind rather than as actual beings in what in God’s world would be physical?

Weird thought? Perhaps.

Do I believe it? No matter how much sense it makes to me–having the history of the world unfold within God’s thoughts rather than in what we think of as the world–I can’t say that I actually believe it.

Nonetheless, that’s one way of looking at Him as not being too small. And being infinitely bigger than I can imagine.

If thoughts like those help me to appreciate God more, then I’ll continue to enjoy them. He’s worthy of my best thoughts–my biggest thoughts–no matter how unconventional.

Please leave a comment.

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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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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