Walking on the Best Surface


Before my wife started having severe arthritis in one knee, we used to walk outside in the neighborhood whenever weather permitted and we had sufficient daylight. That allowed us to walk our miniature dachshund, Happy. Believe it or not, those short little legs did a great job of doing a full two-mile walk!

Unfortunately, I also have a problem that can make walking uncomfortable at times–never so extreme that I can’t walk, but bad enough to be conscious of while walking. And that slows me down. It’s been more of a issue since they paved our street a few years ago. The surface is hard, and each time I put my foot down I can feel the pain.

I do a lot of my walking at the mall now. Even though there’s concrete underneath, at least the top surface is covered with tile. Just a slight improvement over the street when it comes to reducing the pain. But even that slight improvement allows me to walk a little faster, and that’s good.

We recently joined the Y so my wife can swim. I go with her, not to swim–I’ve never learned how–but to walk. Our Y has a wonderful walking/running track overlooking the gym area. Sixteen times around equals a mile, and that eliminates a lot of guesswork regarding how fast I’m going.

 

 

The best feature of the Y’s walking track is the floor. It’s not spongy, but it’s definitely a body-friendly semi-soft material. Walking on it, I can do my two miles in thirty minutes without any problems. And without my pain being more than barely noticeable. Whoever designed the Y’s walking track to provide the safest and most pleasant walking surface knew what they were doing.

However, I know of one place that will provide even better walking facilities. and that’s Heaven.

The idea of streets of gold–that’s how the Bible describes Heaven as having–might not sound very appealing to walkers. After all, gold may be a very soft metal–especially pure gold–but would it be more comfortable to walk or run on than the Y?

I can’t answer that question from personal experience. But since the Bible assures us that Heaven is a perfect place– free from sin, pain, and all types of unpleasantness–I’m not worried about those golden streets. Since I won’t be bothered by my pain there, what difference will it make?

I’ll be too absolutely thrilled about Heaven’s perfection to even remember my former pain.

Do you have something you especially look forward to in Heaven’s perfectness? How about sharing 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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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.

 

    

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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

Let’s Not Get Too Formal

 

When some good friends got married more than thirty years ago, I found myself stuck with wearing a tuxedo. Yuck! I’d never worn one before. I’d never attended a prom and wouldn’t have worn one then anyhow, and I bought a nice suit to wear at my first wedding.

I’m definitely not a formal person in any sense of the word. I wear jeans seven days a week and put on something slightly dressier only for the most special of occasions. Like when our choir director makes us wear black slacks/skirts and white shirts/tops for the Christmas musical.

Guys are also supposed to wear Christmassy ties. But I partially, uh, skirt those requirements because I’m sitting off to the side playing bass guitar where I’m not really seen. I wear black slacks all right, but a white turtleneck. No tie.

As you can see, formality–especially regarding apparel–isn’t my thing.

So when my daughter got married five-and-a-half years ago, I had to deal with the second tux of my life. That meant I’d made it approximately twenty-five years since the first tux. Not too bad, I guess. People are so used to seeing me NOT dressed up that the compliments about how nice I looked flew in right and left. Maybe so, but that didn’t change my distaste for tuxes.

It’s been almost a year now since my third–and final, I hope–up close and personal encounter with a tux. Good friends Stan and Ashley were getting married, and Kathleen and I were both members of the wedding party. I couldn’t turn that down, even to avoid wearing a tux.

I got fitted for it–an almost painstaking procedure–but I either couldn’t pick the tux up until too close to the wedding for adjustments or simply failed to try it on.

Hmm. The pants were adjustable. Just one problem. At their tightest, they were still too big around the waist. The groom had the same problem. But he couldn’t keep his hands in his pockets most of the time to hold his pants up. I could and I did.

Almost immediately after the ceremony, I literally slipped those pants off–I didn’t even have to unfasten them–and put the jeans I’d worn to the venue back on. Although I was the only informally clad member of the wedding party when we were introduced at the reception, at least I didn’t have to keep my hands in my pockets any longer.

Kathleen and I agree about informality. And we agree it would be a waste to pay for coffins when we die, especially to be put in our dressiest clothes first. So initially we decided to be cremated after donating whatever of our organs might prove useful to somebody else. But why bother with cremation when we could donate our bodies to science?

Some of you may be horrified at the thought of our bodies being disposed of that way, but not us. We’ll be dead then. Our bodies, anyhow. Our souls will be in Heaven, where the condition of our earthly bodies won’t make a bit of difference.

Heaven is a perfect place. I have no doubt Kathleen and I will be wearing denim again. Eternally.

How do you feel about tuxedos or dressing up in general? I know some people actually enjoy it, while others are at least not opposed to it. How about sharing 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

Divisiveness – Not Something to Laugh At

American comedian Emo Philips is credited with having authored the following joke.

Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!” He said, “Nobody loves me.” I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”

He said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” He said, “A Christian.” I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, “Me, too! What denomination?” He said, “Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” He said, “Northern Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”

He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” I said, “Me, too!”

“Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.” I said, “Die, heathen!” And I pushed him over.

I actually first heard it at a computer users symposium, although I can’t imagine why. I had no idea where it came from, and I’ve made a couple of minor changes to Emo’s version so it would match the one I was already familiar with. I hope Mr. Phillips won’t consider me divisive because of that.

But divisiveness as it exists in America today is nothing to joke about. When Mr. Obama took office, he claimed he wanted to unite Americans. All Americans. Only history will reveal whether the disunity that broke out during his eight years in office was intentional, but some people–perhaps many–believe Mr. Obama wanted to create division in this country. Perhaps even to start a civil war.

I just sighed. I wish you could have heard me. It was a sigh of deep frustration.

Thank goodness–thank God, that is–Heaven will be a place of peace and unity. In spite of jokes like this one:

St. Peter was showing a recent arrival around Heaven. A Methodist. On passing a room with a closed door–no windows–the Methodist asked Peter who was inside.

Peter laughed before answering. “Those are the Baptists. We keep the door shut so they won’t see they’re not the only ones in Heaven.”

Even though we’ll never know perfect unity among diverse groups here on earth, I get a small preview of what it might be like when I walk at the mall. There I encounter other walkers, custodians, security guards, and mall employees. Among those are blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians, and probably people from other racial groups as well. Some I know to be  Christian. Others are conspicuously Muslim. I have no idea what the rest are. I dare say we probably vary in our life styles and politics as well.

But we walkers are unified in purpose. Even though many of us are there by ourselves–at least part of the time–we’re there to walk. Some of us walk clockwise, on the left facing “traffic.” Others stay on the right in a counterclockwise manner. And a few like me reverse directions periodically.

Yet, the walking is not the only thing that unifies us. It’s the sense of comradery. With rare exceptions we greet one another as if we’re really glad to see each other. And we’ve learned some of one another’s names as we often end up walking in the same direction at the same time as another walker. It’s very uplifting.

My prayer today and every day is for God to break the spirit of diversity that has created too many different “us and them” groups and to unify us in His name.

If you have a comment, I’d love for you to post 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

I May Live in Virginia, but…

I enjoy walking outside in the neighborhood when weather permits, but generally I end up walking at the local mall, which is just a mile up the road from our place. Even though a number of its stores have closed in recent years, it still has an abundance of jewelry stores–five at last count, and that’s not including the kiosks that sell only watches or earrings.

But one of the more interesting stores sells tee-shirts.

Thank goodness they’ve quit displaying the vulgar ones near the front where passersby could see them. But they have TONS of tees allowing the wearers to say something about their favorite sports team: “I may live in Virginia, but my team is in Texas” or whatever state houses their team. I keep passing up the temptation to buy an Oakland tee for my son-in-law; he’s enough of an Oakland fanatic already!

It’s harmless fun, though, even though I don’t have any interest in the team tees. How could I? I don’t like any kind of sport, much less a team (or individual) who plays it.

Okay, maybe I’m not a typical American in that respect, but at least I’m married to another American who feels the same way.

This tee-shirt place also prints whatever the customer might want on a tee-shirt. When The Devil and Pastor Gus first came out, I had them make a tee with the book cover on it. When my publisher ultimately changed the cover–big improvement–that left me with a tee I couldn’t really use. I can’t recall whether I stuck it away permanently in a drawer or gave it to Goodwill in the hopes it might end up being useful to someone as clothing rather than as a custom dust rag.

I keep thinking about those “I might live in Virginia” tee-shirts, though. That idea doesn’t need to be limited to sports teams. What about “…but my grandkids live in Florida”?

Hmm. That should get some sympathy from other people who don’t live close enough to their grandkids, don’t you think? I might have to get that one made one of these days.

But the one I really want to have made has quite a different message. As a Christian, why not “I may live in Virginia, but my home is in Heaven”? I can hear the old song now, the one that says, “This world is not my home; I’m just a-passing through.”

I like my earthly life. I value it. I want to live as long as I can do so in relative comfort and participate in activities that make me feel useful. And I want to be the best citizen of this world I can be.

Nonetheless, even as beautiful as many parts of the world are, as wonderful as most people are, the world is still an evil place. Adam and Eve didn’t do us any favors. In fairness to them, however, somebody else would have sinned first and gotten mankind kicked out of the Garden of Eden if they hadn’t done it.

I believe in Heaven, and I look forward to eternity there. Everything that is imperfect on earth will be perfect in Heaven. No wonder I think of that as my real–my ultimate–home. I hope you do, too.

Do you? Do you believe in Heaven and are you assured of your place there through faith in Jesus? How about sharing a comment?

P.S. After completing this post I learned of another good “heavenly” tee-shirt slogan: “Virginia born, Heaven bound.”

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 Version of Formality

w5   w3   Singing   PastorPamUs

I didn’t wear jeans when I was a kid. I’m not sure any of my friends did, either. Even when I made it to high school and college, jeans weren’t cool yet. At least, if they were, I wasn’t.

I can’t recall when I started wearing jeans, but it was probably during the latter 1960s or early 1970s, when all kinds of colorful and informal clothes were the rage. I’ll never forget my plaid fringed vest or my matching multi-colored striped vest and bell bottom pants. But they weren’t jeans.

I do, however, recall a denim suit–very nice, very soft and smooth. If anything, though, it was too dressy.

I’ve never been what most people would consider a formal person.

I avoided ties when I was teaching, to the disgust of the supervisor who sat in on my classes periodically. Although forced to wear them when working at the Maryland Job Service office–the office manager wouldn’t even let me wear a turtleneck–I turned an image of a tie upside down and posted it on my website so it would move back and forth across the screen, but only during work hours on week days.

Or did that happen while I was at the International Mission Board before they finally loosened the dress code some and actually started having Casual Dress Fridays? Not that jeans were permitted then.

I’ve only worn a tux on three occasions–for weddings not my own. Rusty, Kristi, and Stan, I hope you appreciate it. I only wore a nice suit–I had to buy one because I didn’t already have one–for the wedding to my first wife. I’ll never cease to be thankful she didn’t insist on a tux.

My wedding to Kathleen was totally informal, though. As you can see from the first two pictures shown above, we wore jeans and denim shirts over t-shirts. That wedding took place in the social hall of our church during what was normally the Wednesday night Bible study. Nice and informal, but very meaningful. She and I sang a song I’d written for the occasion.

That was the “official” wedding.

Kathleen’s family couldn’t come to Richmond for the informal wedding, though, so we had a slightly dressier wedding in her mom’s Methodist church when we went for a visit at the end of that month–the right-hand two photos. But at least Kathleen didn’t make me wear a tie. She helped me pick out a really dressy looking pullover–she calls it a sweater; I don’t. We also both wore the wooden cross necklaces I’d made.

The only time I’ve worn a tie during the almost thirteen years we’ve been married was when our choir director insisted on it for the presentation of the Christmas musical, when we had too many additional singers to put everyone in a choir robe. I had to go out and buy a white shirt–and a Christmas-themed tie. I’ve been playing bass guitar in the musical ever since and get away with a white turtleneck.

No open caskets with me wearing a suit, either. Kathleen and I are both donating our bodies to science. Uh, not till the time comes, of course. If for some reason we’re not deemed suitable when they take a closer look at us, then we’ll function as organ donors. If there’s anything left of our bodies by then, cremation ought to work just great. Why spend buckets of money on something fancy a bunch of people will just throw dirt on?

We know our eternal future is with God in Heaven. No matter what happens to our earthly bodies, we believe He knows how to put us both back together in a more perfect way than either of us has ever known.

But in the meantime, we’ll keep wearing our jeans to church–and everywhere else. May formality like ours live forever!!!

What about you? Some people not only don’t mind dressing up, they even enjoy it. Which kind of person are you? 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 Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

What “Good Old Days”?

Old people–sometimes mid-lifers, too–are known for their tendency to talk endlessly about “the good old days.” I don’t do that.

Yes, of course I remember a few good things from my childhood and youth and occasionally mention them to someone. But not as many things or as often as some people I know. Too much of my young life was darkened by an unwanted move when I was eight years old.

I’d never expected to be uprooted and have to leave friends and familiar things–my whole life, seemingly–and relocate to a new city in another state and start life all over again from scratch. I was hurt and angry. So I wasn’t inclined to try to adjust. Consequently, I spent a number of years growing fatter and more miserable.

Not exactly what I’d call “good old days.”

Moving away from there was a pleasure–I wouldn’t have cared where we went–and I hoped things would be better with the new city. I was a pre-teen then, however, and growing into adolescence is tough–no matter what.

But when I came down with acute viral encephalitis during the eighth grade and almost died, what hope I might’ve had for a better life seemed to die, even though I lived. Recovery was long and stressful, and I’m not sure I’ve ever felt nearly as strong and “normal” as I had before.

I can’t say whether my very small store of memories from childhood and my early teen years is a result of the encephalitis, but the memories I have are sketchy and sporadic. I don’t remember that much about high school or college, either. Even a lot of my adult life seems to be blurred or at last hiding in some inaccessible spot in my brain.

All of that to say I am not an old person who thinks back to the good old days. I remember too many days that aren’t worth talking about and too few to bother talking about.

If I  sound miserable talking about my past, I apologize. The fact is I’m not overly concerned about a past that seems, well, to be so very far in the past. I’m more interested in the present, anyhow. And in the future.

Being able to wake up every day and function just as well as I did the day before is more wonderful than you can imagine. Productive projects that keep me productively busy are definitely something to be thankful for. And the assurance of Heaven someday is far beyond wonderful.

I’m not in a rush to get there, you understand. But I’m thankful I have eternal life in God’s presence to look forward to. It will be perfect in every way this earthly life has so often proven imperfect.

What about you? Are you focused on the past, the present, or the future? 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