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

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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

 

My Final Move

Have you moved lately? If so, you have my complete sympathy. I detest moving and my intention is never to do it again–with the one major exception I’ll talk about further down the page.

As the child of a Baptist minister, I lived in a variety of places growing up:

  • Hollywood, Florida (six months)
  • Farmville, Virginia (eight years)
  • Durham, North Carolina (three-and-a-half years)
  • Norfolk, Virginia (six years)
  • Cumberland, Maryland (four years)

I was too young to know what was happening when we moved from Hollywood to Farmville, but the emotional trauma of the move from Farmville to Durham was tremendous. I’d never had any reason to think I wouldn’t live in Farmville forever. Our other moves were more positive, thank goodness, but I became increasingly responsible for packing my own things. And helping with other packing as well.

After college graduation,  however, I was on my own. Moving was largely a matter of choice. I’ve spent my adult years in:

  • Cambridge, Maryland — eight years
  • Easton, Maryland — six years
  • Richmond, Virginia — thirty-one years

The trauma may have been less, but the physical demands of moving were horrible for someone as lacking in physical strength as I am.

When I moved to Cambridge to teach, I roomed for a while in a guest house, where I didn’t need a lot of stuff. Then I moved into an apartment with a fellow teacher, found a different apartment the following summer when my roommate returned to Pennsylvania, and then found a nifty third floor apartment that fall.

Third floor?

By then I had a lot more stuff than I’d had when I first moved to Cambridge, and bringing groceries upstairs exercised me in ways I would’ve preferred avoiding. I would’ve stayed in that apartment years longer had my landlord not decided to let his grown daughter have my place.

I needed another apartment. Pronto. And not only did I have more furniture to move, I’d bought a small piano months earlier. You should’ve seen them delivering that to the third floor. Getting it back down the steps was even more challenging because it was up to me and my friends to do it.

I was able to take over a suitable apartment from teacher friends who were moving, too. I had a first floor place this time. But boy! did those space heaters not do an adequate job of keeping things warm. My wife and I accumulated more and more stuff.

Then she and I bought our first house–a real fixer at $15,000. Fortunately, we only needed to move a few blocks. I’ll never forget strapping the drier to a dolly and pulling it behind the pickup truck–very, very slowly.

By the time we moved to Easton, where we’d bought a new mobile home, we had more furniture and other stuff than ever. That was about a seventeen mile move. Distance didn’t really matter, though. When moving, it’s necessary to pack just as carefully for a short trip as for a long one.

And that’s just the beginning of the history of my moves. Our longest one was from Easton to Richmond. Between then–1984–and our separation in 2001, we lived in an apartment, a townhouse, and finally an actual house again. A new one that was all ours.

I bought a new mobile home. That’s where Kathleen and I live today, fourteen years later. Unless you’ve been doing the math, you may not have noticed that I’ve not only lived in Richmond longer than in any other place, but I’ve lived in my current home longer than I’d ever lived in any single residence. I love stability!

If you’ve ever moved–most people have–you know what a pain it is. That’s why I’m determined to stay here the rest of my life. If I should ever have to go to a nursing home, I’ll probably be too feeble-minded to care, especially since it would happen without any physical effort on my part.

But I do have one final move coming up. A very final one. And it’s one I’m actually looking forward to. Let me tell you about it with a stanza from one of my original songs:

Heaven is the home of God; He shares it with believers,
Though movin’ there takes a lifetime to do.
I cannot claim to tell you just where Heaven is located,
But day by day, I long to see it more.

I hope I’ll see each of you there when the time comes. 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.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website. Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Family Christian Stores. Go HERE for links to those places.

Best regards,
Roger

The Glory of Morning Glories

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Was it Mark Twain who supposedly said he was happy if he looked in the obituary each morning and didn’t see his name? I’m not sure. I must not have Googled on the correct words, and  I probably got the exact quote wrong.

I don’t read newspapers–foxnews.com normally tells me what I need to know about the sad state of the world–and I wouldn’t read the obituary column even if I read newspapers. I’m not that morbid. Even though I’d rather know for sure that I’ll die in my sleep when the time comes, I’m not afraid of death itself. Jesus’ death and resurrection removed that concern.

Now to the topic of morning glories.

When I go outside every morning, I may or may not see sunshine. But- during the summertime – I can count on seeing fresh morning glories blooming everywhere and the ugly remains of the previous day’s blossoms dying off. The picture on the far right is of me standing in front of our next-door-neighbor’s crape myrtle. One of our morning glory vines hand has grown up from the fence into the tree branches. Probably a good three-to-five feet higher than my 5’6″. (Click on the thumbnail for  a larger picture.) The other pictures are of morning glories whose vines are still on the fence.

The ability of morning glories to reseed (maybe not the proper botanical term)  from year to year, even though they’re not perennials, fascinates me. Also the subtle differences among the blooms.

Morning glories make me think about life and death. Over the course of mankind’s existence, everyone has eventually died and babies have been born to take their place. That’s one way to look at morning glories symbolically.

But I prefer another viewpoint. Each bloom has an appointed lifespan, just as each of us does. None of us knows what ours will be.

But for Christians, secure in their belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the bloom dying on the vine might symbolize earthly death. The dead blossoms will never become alive and beautiful again.

I’d like to picture our entry into Heaven as being like a dead blossom being reborn as an immensely more beautiful morning glory than it had been here on earth. Something that doesn’t happen with real morning glories.

What do you think? Please leave a comment.

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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.

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”–check it out HERE. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

Best regards,
Roger