A B&B-Hoppin’ Vacation


Only since marrying Kathleen in 2003 have I learned what staying at a bed-and-breakfast is like. We’ve done it on several short getaways in the past, but this time we took a week-long vacation on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Staying ONLY at B&Bs, we returned home this past Wednesday.

What a unique experience! No two places were alike.

Probably the nicest one was at Cape Charles, just a mile north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel coming from Virginia Beach, where we’d spent the day at the Virginia Aquarium and on a Dolphin spotting cruise. The rooms were spacious, and we had a wonderful private balcony, from which I enjoyed taking pictures of the sunset.

    

From there we went to Ocean City, where we stayed at the Inn on the Ocean, which is supposedly the only B&B in Ocean City. What made it so special was it’s right on the boardwalk. Despite Kathleen’s arthritic knee, walking some on the boardwalk wasn’t too much of a problem.

One high point of our time in OC was meeting a former English student of mine–she “just happened” to be coming to OC for the week on one of our days there–for an evening meal. Another high point was a visit to Assateague Island, where we were able to see some of the wild horses.

    

Our room in OC was smaller than at Cape Charles, but the breakfasts were great, and so was sitting on the front porch to eat.

After two days in Ocean City–it has a much better boardwalk than Virginia Beach–we spent two days in Cambridge. Our B&B there, the Albanus Phillips Inn, has quite a history–it’s a restored mansion, and we actually had a suite for the price of a room. Our host sat at the breakfast table with us and told us tale after fascinating tale about the house and about Albanus Phillips himself.

    

Because I used to live in Cambridge, a visit to my old church enabled us to see some of the folks I hadn’t seen in more than forty years. It was the pastor’s last day at the church–he’s retiring–and we were blessed by seeing him and his wife, both of whom had been students of mine while I was still teaching school.

We spent much of Sunday afternoon visiting two of the best friends I’ve ever had and then a lengthy supper with two others. We had to go to Walmart to say hi to one old friend who had to work during the time we didn’t already have plans for.

    

On Monday we drove to Crisfield to take a forty-five minute ferry to Smith Island; although the islanders have vehicles, visitors aren’t allowed to.

    

Since the Island’s two restaurants close at 4:00 when the last ferry to the mainland leaves, our B&B hostess was nice enough (for a reasonable extra cost) to fix us the most wonderful crab cake dinner that evening and provide a slice of famous Smith Island cake, Maryland’s state dessert; it has from eight to ten VERY thin layers. Interestingly, she doesn’t live in the B&B. Since we were the only guests that night, we had the house to ourselves.

          

The house faces the water. Smith Island is VERY small. I don’t know how many people live there, but I suspect the number is in the lower hundreds. Church–the island has only a Methodist church–plays a big part in the lives of the islanders. Most of the islanders are water-men, although some people commute (by ferry, of course) to the mainland to work. Incidentally, the streets are few and quite narrow, and cars don’t have license plates. Crime is non-existent among these folks, all of whom probably know one another.

We enjoyed a private boat ride around the island (Smith Island is actually made up of several tiny islands, each with a town of its own; we stayed at Ewell, the largest town.)

         

On Tuesday we ferried back to the mainland, returned to Cape Charles, and spent another night at the same B&B we’d stayed at on our first night. Not counting the suite in Cambridge, the rooms there were unquestionably the biggest and most comfortable.

It’s impossible to describe a week’s vacation–especially one that was one of our best vacations yet–in a few hundred words or to show you more than a few of the dozens of pictures I took.

If you’ve never stayed in a B&B, you might want to consider trying it sometime. 

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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What I Don’t Understand about the Bible

I recently had lunch with a good friend. Although we see one another at church frequently, rarely do we get to sit down together and actually talk. I imagine most of you can relate to that regarding someone.

As we discussed a variety of topics–marriage, work, finances, cars–we just naturally started talking about church and the various opinions people–even other Christians–have about the Bible.

I explained that my well-educated pastor father had been pretty liberal by our church’s standards, even though at one point years ago he had served for a while as its interim pastor. I hasten to add that of the number of people there who still speak to me lovingly of “Pastor Ben,” no one has ever complained to me about his theology. My parents believed strongly in the Baptist concept of “priesthood of the Believer”; every Christian  should be free to interpret the Bible in whatever way God leads.

So, for example, if I choose to go along with my parents’ beliefs that the seven days of Creation were seven periods of time rather than literal twenty-four hour days, I can do that without fear of criticism.

We also discussed things like the impossibility of ever having a completely accurate translation of the Bible, because that would necessitate an indisputably accurate translation of each word within both the current and the overall context. And we agreed that–although God inspired every word in the Bible–that doesn’t mean He dictated it to the person who wrote it down. If that had happened, why wouldn’t the whole Bible be written in one single, unmistakable style? The very fact that it had so many authors over such a long period of time and yet still tells one unified story goes far beyond amazing.

My friend told me about some of the Bible-related things he’s interested in researching, and I think that’s great. He’s a highly intelligent man, and he won’t chase a rabbit that scrambles away in the least from what the Bible clearly says.

But I couldn’t keep from thinking about a Friday night Bible study I used to attend. We went through whatever passage we were studying that night verse by verse, word by word, almost letter by letter. Our leader was very good, but the process was tedious. It was during those Friday nights that I reached a significant conclusion.

I don’t understand everything about the Bible and I never will. (Neither will anyone else.) But I believe it with all my heart. At the same time, I already understand how to live the Christian life God wants me to live. My failures as a Christian aren’t the result of my failure to understand more, but my failure to apply what I already understand to my daily life.

More power to those who feel called to study and to learn.

Me, I’ll just keep praying for God to help me become more loving and more self-sacrificing. And less critical and less sure of myself. If God wants me to understand a particular part of the Bible I’m currently fuzzy about, I believe He’ll lead me to it. And He’ll help me to see how understanding it will help me to live a more Christlike life.

What about you? Are you a Bible reader? Are you a Bible student? Do you think there’s such a thing as too much learning when it comes to the Bible? 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.

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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

Remembering My Mother

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Somehow in thinking about what to write about for Mother’s Day, the church’s Family Fishing Day got in the way of something more relevant. But it’s not too late to write about my mother.

As I’ve mentioned sometime or other on this blog, I’m adopted. So I don’t know who my birth mother was or anything about my ancestry. Yes, I get a little curious at times, but at this stage of my life I’m not interested in looking. No need to. As far as I’m concerned, Virginia Williford Bruner was the only mother I needed.

She was–as was customary in that far-distant time–a stay-at-home mom. So she was always available. While my memories of childhood are spotty, I do remember some specific things about her.

She had a number of health issues that limited the housework and other activities she could participate in. Consequently, as a teen I had to do the vacuuming for what seemed like years. I also have a vague recollection of having to take down the Venetian blinds periodically and wash them in the tub. Yuck!

She was a wonderful pianist until her rheumatoid arthritis got so bad she could no longer play. Although she played hymns, too, she was especially fond of the classics. And she would’ve  fully supported piano lessons if I’d been willing to take them. As it was, though, she was fascinated with the fact that I could sit down at the piano and pick some things out.

She was an excellent cook. I remember the cakes with caramel icing (I preferred the chocolate cakes, though). And bacon waffles, made with strips of bacon lying the full width of the waffle. And the cinnamon rolls. Yum! Oh, and gingerbread with a special white “hard sauce.” I’ve never seen or heard of anything like it since.

She taught the Sunday School class I attended as an older teen. She spent hours in preparation and did an excellent job of teaching. She seemed popular with the other class members and I enjoyed being in her class.

Truth be known, I wasn’t as close to either of my parents as many kids are. I’ve long said they reared me to be independent and they succeeded beyond their wildest expectations. When I left home for college and then moved away to teach school, they asked for one letter a week. That was before email and free long distance. I complied with that request, although not always with enthusiasm.

I visited them several times during the school year, mostly on holiday weekends. I occasionally took trips elsewhere on holidays, though, since I didn’t feel overly tied to being where my parents were.

One thing I’ll never cease to be thankful for was Mother’s suggestion that I might enjoy computer programming and her offer to pay for me to take enough classes to make a career change. What a difference that made in my life–especially in my job satisfaction.

She was supportive of my first marriage, even though she didn’t meet Debbie until she and Father went to Illinois for the wedding. In spite of her health problems, she insisted on making the two hundred mile trip with my father when our baby, Beth, died three days after she was born; that was almost four years later. Mother and Debbie probably talked daily for years once we finally ended up living in the same city.

Mother loved our adopted daughter, Kristi, whom she insisted would certainly become a lawyer because she loved to argue so much. Unfortunately, Kristi was so rambunctious as a small child that Mother never felt comfortable having her over without one of us being there. By the time Kristi had calmed down some, my father had died. My mother died a year later.

I got to know my mother better than ever during the final year of her life. Sharing things we talked about then would be too personal to do here, but I became her driver, grocery shopper, and occasional handyman. (Fortunately, she had someone to come in periodically to do the cleaning.) And I was the one to find her dead in bed after what was presumably a massive stroke.

I became her friend that final year. And she became mine.

Is there a better way to remember a deceased parent than as a friend?

What about you? Were you close to your mother? Do you have any particular memories you’d like to share in 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

Tribute to a Friend

For almost all of my adult life, my best friends have always been women, and my wife is my best friend of all time.

But during my mid-twenties, I had a couple of special male friends, too. And one of those was Morgan Dilver.

Morgan was a very dark black man who specialized in making people laugh. I’ll never forget this tale.

A drunk walked up to him on the street one day.  “Are you a Negro?”  (Yes, that’s the word he used.)

Morgan rolled his eyes as only he could do and said, “No, I’m from Mexico.”

The drunk looked at him kind of funny. “I’ve never met anyone from Mexico before.”

Morgan rolled his eyes again. “Well, this is what we look like.”

Morgan was a teacher—or was he a counselor? It’s been a very long time. *sigh* But he also served as the girls’ cheering squad coach at the local high school. And once he demonstrated to me the cheer he would have taught his girls if he’d had a mute cheering squad. Too funny to attempt to describe here.

We used to take an occasional Saturday day trip to Ocean City, Maryland—we drove the sixty miles in his big white car–“The Ghost.” We had the most fun laughing at the reactions of people who stared at him in disbelief when he sat there on the blanket slathering on an overabundance of suntan lotion.

In 1972 I wrote a rock opera which a cast of fifty or sixty people participated in our single performance of. Morgan soloed as John the Baptist. The Bible says this about John’s food and apparel: “John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.” Morgan borrowed some sort of camel-colored fur from his mother for the occasion.

Hmm. Maybe not quite biblical, but 100% Morgan.

When my first wife and I were getting married—nine hundred miles from my home in Maryland—Morgan and Bob, another good friend, drove through a snow storm to be groomsmen in the wedding. We weren’t sure how people would react to our having a black participant, but we loved Morgan for who he was. If anyone had an issue with his race, that was their problem.

Morgan won folks over in typical style. Especially my grandmother-in-law to be.

Once I was married, Morgan didn’t play as important a role in my life as he’d done previously, and we lost touch with him completely after moving to Richmond in 1984.

I’m not even sure how or when we found out that he’d died—he wouldn’t have been much over forty if he was even that old—but I still miss him.

Lord, I know he’s keeping You laughing up there in Heaven, and I can hardly wait to catch up on all of the stories I’ve missed or forgotten about.

P.S. I regret not having any pictures of Morgan to include with this post.

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If you have memories of a special friend, won’t you share them with a comment?

I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

By the way, “On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I use “As I Come Singing”check it out here—to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Check here to see the list.

Best regards,
Roger

How Honest Is “Too Honest”?

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After sixty-seven years of life, I’m just as convinced as ever that honesty is the best policy. But how much is enough–and how much is too much?

Case in point. I have a good friend who’s about seven years younger than me. He is really deep into theological studies and even attended two different seminaries in his younger days—without getting a degree.

He has a pet belief that everything else revolves around—or so it seems. I won’t try to explain it; I barely understand it. I’m not sure I agree with it, but I don’t consider it a vital issue. Certainly not the kind of thing that determines whether a person is truly a Christian.

He thinks it’s important, though. In fact, he wrote a book about it. I read parts of the manuscript, but just couldn’t get into it. Speaking as an English major who overcame that fact to become a published author, I clearly understand why no publishers have taken an interest in it.

The number of potential readers is very small. Not that many people will find it an interesting subject, much less a vital one. My friend doesn’t have a platform from which to “sell books at the back of the room.”

Unfortunately, serious theologians would probably view this manuscript as the work of an amateur. While I think that would be unfair, I couldn’t blame them.

And the problem I’m most hesitant to bring up is this: No matter how smart my friend is—no matter how many years of thought and prayer he’s invested in this manuscript—the writing isn’t top notch. And publishers won’t settle for anything less.

I’m taking a chance that he’ll never see this post. I doubt that he follows my blog.

So what’s my honesty problem?

He told me a couple of days ago that he plans to self-publish his manuscript.

Don’t get me wrong. A number of really good writers are turning to self-publishing now. But I know from my own experience with self-publishing that it’s apt to be a good way to lose money. Unless an author can sell his books—unless he’s willing and able to actively market them—he’s likely to end up with a box or two (or more) of books that do little more than prove he wrote a book.

I think my friend deserves to see his book in print. He needs that sense of fulfillment. I’ve committed to buying a copy. I don’t know how many people follow his blog or read those numerous messages he forwards, but some of them will buy copies, too. Nonetheless, I don’t see how he can hope to recoup his investment.

I attended a class about the ins and outs of self-publishing–it’s often referred to now as indie-publishing–some years ago. One thing that’s stuck in my head ever since is this: Don’t spend money you can’t afford to lose.

And He can’t afford to lose it. Not the first penny.

I love my friend. Tell me, please. How can I help him without bursting his bubble?

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to the top right of this page where it says, “Follow Blog via Email.”

By the way, “On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I use “As I Come Singing” to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Check here to see the list.

Because I’ve used up all of my songs, I revise and repost a previous post each Wednesday. If you’re interested, please check that blog out here.

Best regards,
Roger