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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Best regards,
Roger

Thoughts about Gun Control

Although I’m not registered as a Republican, I wouldn’t consider supporting a Democrat for any office. Not unless I knew him or her personally and was convinced of his basically conservative outlook…at least on issues that really matter.

With that disclaimer made, I’ll admit I’ve always approved of the rights of every American to bear arms. I’m surrounded by registered gun carriers at church, although state law prevents them from having their guns in church. I wonder if that applies to the pastor as well. Or our female choir director. Or the men who stand guard in the hallways Sunday morning and evening and on Wednesday nights. I hope not. I feel safer if all of them are armed.

I don’t own a gun, although I spent several years thinking about buying one. Even though the family budget never had room for purchasing a gun, I did take a concealed carry course. But when I learned how many places I wouldn’t be permitted to carry it, I started changing my mind.

But that wasn’t what really made me decide not to buy one. It was learning that using a gun to protect myself or anyone else depended on firing at the proper time rather than hesitating while deciding if I should. I’m apt to take time making up my mind on most decisions. That wouldn’t work with a gun.

I rarely act in anger. But “rarely” isn’t “never.”

I couldn’t take a chance.  Better for me to be injured or killed than for me to harm an innocent person, no matter how good my intentions were.

After the Las Vegas massacre, do I still think every American should be free to bear arms? Or has that changed my mind?

I definitely don’t think the crazies should have them, but who can be certain who the crazies are?

And I’m starting to question why the average person should have the right to stockpile guns the way the LV killer did. Or to buy certain kinds of weapons or types of ammo.

Since in theory it may be the government we ultimately need to protect ourselves from, the idea of a government owned registry of all gun owners and what they own and perhaps even why they own guns seems like a horrible idea. But what about a registry only of people who have the kind of weapons so often used is multiple shootings?

I honestly don’t know the answer. There’s a lot of truth in the saying, “Guns don’t kill people; people do.”

Samuel Adams said this, “The Constitution shall never be construed to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.” See other great pro-gun quotes here.

I guess the real problem is how to prevent non-peaceable citizens from keeping arms.

Comments are welcome, as always. Please just keep them peaceable.

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 final book in the Altered Hearts series will be coming VERY soon.

 

    

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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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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

Help Your Favorite Author…Even if It’s Not Me

Most readers don’t realize that authors have to do most–sometimes all–of the marketing for their books. Many–perhaps most–authors would prefer to spend their time writing the next book and feel very intimidated about marketing the current one.

I’m one of many authors who have read so much about marketing that it all runs together. Regardless of what anyone says, there’s no guaranteed way to make a success out of any book.

Word of mouth is supposed to be the best marketing tool. Too often, however, readers fail to share their opinions about a book with people who might benefit from reading what they think.

And by that I mean writing a review on Amazon and/or Good Reads.

Some readers feel intimidated when they look at other people’s reviews. They read a scholarly-looking review and think they can never match it. I’ve read a number of reviews that would make me feel that way!

The truth is, readers don’t need to write something like that. An honest sentence or two actually helps to balance out the lengthier, more professional-sounding reviews.

Here’s a simple four-star review for The Devil and Pastor Gus:
“Interesting to see how the devil gets into hearts and lives and humans try to play both sides. Pastor Gus was a fun character.”

Who wouldn’t be comfortable writing something like that?

A simple review can even mix the good and the bad: Here’s a three-star review for Pastor Gus:

“I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. It made me think about how Satan is the real enemy, more so than people. Unfortunately, I think Satan smarter than this character portrayal.”

Many of my friends have read Rosa No-Name and raved about it to my wife or me, but only nine people have written Amazon reviews.

Five thousand copies of the original edition of Found in Translation were sold, but only twenty-seven people left reviews. The original edition of Lost in Dreams (we’ve renamed the new edition A Season of Pebbles) sold twenty-five hundred copies. Only seventeen reviews.

Can you imagine how much better those books might have done if their readers had been willing to share their opinions in a review?

Even bad reviews can help. Not every book is for every reader, and it’s good to point out what someone else might not like in a particular book.

Found in Translation and A Season of Pebbles are now available from Winged Publications, along with Overshadowed, the previously unpublished third book in the Altered Hearts series. I’m currently editing and revising The Flowers of His Field, which is not only the final book in the series but a sequel to Rosa No-Name.

The success of those books will depend largely on honest reviews. I’m not talking about financial success. My only concern is the lives my books will have a chance to touch.

If you’ve read one of my books and haven’t reviewed it on Amazon, would you take a couple of minutes to do it? Yes, I know it’s a nuisance. But just think of the hundreds of hours it took me to write and edit each of those books.

And if you haven’t read any of my books, I hope you will.

Not because I’ve suggested it, but because you look at the reviews and think, “Why haven’t I read this book before?”

Please keep what I’ve said in mind about your favorite authors, even if I’m not one of them.

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