Something I Miss Being Able to Do

Age certainly takes its toll on various kinds of activities. Even at seventy-one, I feel more limited than I did at seventy. I can’t walk as fast as I used to, and my wife says I sometimes lean when I’m walking.  Not a good thing, although the doctor didn’t offer an opinion about it; I assume he considers it par for the course of an aging individual.

Ever since my bout with acute viral encephalitis in the eighth grade–my survival wasn’t guaranteed, and I could’ve ended up a human vegetable–I haven’t been very energetic. If you question that, just keep in mind that co-workers at a summer job years ago called me Flash because of the speed at which I didn’t work.

When I was a kid–even a young adult–I prayed for God not to call me to be a pastor or a missionary. He honored that prayer, quite possibly because He knew I already had physical limitations that would’ve affected my ability to work in anything as stressful as full-time Christian ministry.

That doesn’t mean I wasn’t interested in missions, however. Especially overseas. That’s why getting a job at the International Mission Board (it was still called the Foreign Mission Board then) after going back to school for some computer training was so important to me. I wouldn’t be working in the field, but I would be supporting the people who did.

In 1991, when I was forty-five, I had the opportunity to go on a short-term volunteer mission trip to Australia, a place I–like many Americans–had always wanted to go. On being assured I didn’t need theological training to be qualified, I went. I loved the country, I loved the people, and I fell in love with that type of short-term mission trips.

Not surprisingly, the ensuing years saw me return to Australia a number of times, Romania twice, and Wales, England, and Nicaragua once each.

The Nicaragua trip was doubly important. Not only was I there to help in whatever way I could, I was also doing research for the third book in my Altered Hearts series, Overshadowed.

I was by far the oldest person on our team, and the other five people were very thoughtful in trying to meet my needs. Nonetheless, I came to realize that I probably wasn’t holding up my corner of the blanket, so-to-speak, and I felt at times that I might have been more of a hindrance than a help, even though no one would ever have said so.

I would love to go back to Nicaragua…or Australia…or wherever else God might permit me to go. But at this stage of my life, going on another mission trip seems very impractical, and that’s frustrating. I hate feeling that physically limited.

Some years ago I wrote a song called “My Comfort Zone.” The lyrics say in part, “Why should I go when I can send?” and “Why should I preach when I can pray?”

Thankfully, the realization that I can still pray and help to send those who’re able to go gives me a great deal of peace.

Do you have problems that affect your ability to do some of the things you used to enjoy doing? How about leaving a comment.

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

Best regards,


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If I Didn’t Live Here…

[NOTE: The Kindle version of Rosa No-Name is free today-only at Amazon.]

No, this post isn’t a rerun of October 1’s “Why Do I Live Here…Now?” This is what I intended to write then, but the emphasis changed, and so did the title.

Growing up as a Christian in the home of a Southern Baptist minister, ignoring the importance of missions–going throughout the world and spreading God’s Good News–was an impossibility. But I never felt that God wanted me to be a career missionary. He knew my limitations even better than I did!

Nonetheless, when I made a career change in 1984 that landed me at what is now the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention, I couldn’t have felt more like I was finally where God wanted me. He didn’t want me out on the field, but  working behind the scenes as a programmer/analyst to support the work of fellow staff members and the actual missionaries.

The IMB held weekly chapel services on Wednesday mornings, and listening to reports from around the world thrilled me. More than once,  a report or a devotional led me to write a song related to what I’d heard. I was in “missions hog heaven.”

For many years I’d known about short-term volunteer mission trips, but I’d never felt that was something I could do. I wasn’t a preacher or a Bible expert, and the only speaking I’d ever done was giving technical sessions at computer user symposiums. What talents did I have that would be useful somewhere else in the world?

But then came the day I heard about an upcoming two-week trip to Australia. Almost as long as I could remember, I’d been in love with Australia.  As a teen I’d inherited a shortwave radio receiver, and the sounds coming from Radio Australia woke me up each morning for years. Was it possible God wanted me to go on this mission trip?

I got in touch with whoever was in charge and said, “I don’t have any special talents but singing and playing guitar, and I’m nowhere close to being a professional at either of those things. I do write my own songs, but I’m the only person who ever sings them.  Would there be any place for me on this team?” (I later learned that one of the special talents of a fellow team member was doing yo-yo tricks. God can use any talent.)

The family budget couldn’t pay for a trip like that, but when I received word back that my willingness to go and do whatever was asked of me when I got there qualified me, I started looking for funds. My parents were thrilled at this opportunity and contributed towards what I needed. And I jumped at the chance to work as a consultant for a week at the company a friend worked at.

I may not have had a lot of spending money on that trip, but I was able to go.

I didn’t need the two full weeks in Australia to make me realize that–if my home wasn’t in Richmond, Virginia, USA–Australia was the place I’d most want to live.

I’ll share more next week.

Have you been on mission trip, either overseas or locally or nationally? How about leaving a comment?

By the way, if you’ve been waiting for a sequel to ROSA NO-NAME or the final book in the ALTERED HEARTS series, you’ll find both in the just-released THE FLOWERS OF HIS FIELD.

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,


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What’s He Dreaming About?

I’ve been to Australia more times than I can count, starting with my first mission trip in 1991. Although I’ve been back for a family vacation and also to teach an all-day seminar at a computer users symposium, most of my trips have been mission-related. I’ve spent most of my time in the Sydney area, but have also visited Melbourne, Toowoomba, Port Douglas, and Hervey Bay. Plus a few places I’ve forgotten the names of.

My closest Australian friends lived in or near Sydney, however, and I always managed to visit them for a day or two no matter where I’d spent most of my time. And I always enjoyed two special activities–visiting the harbor and the Opera House and walking around Featherdale Wildlife Park.

I never tired of seeing and even getting to pet koalas. Because of those VERY sharp claws, I was limited to contact with one that was safely situated on a fence or in the crook of a low tree branch. Once I held a toy koala that the real one was safely holding onto.

That fur isn’t soft the way you might expect, by the way. Very disappointing.

But koalas themselves aren’t disappointing. Not unless you expect them to DO something. Even though I once got a video of a koala jumping from one tree to another and running around on the ground, most of the ones I saw were perched soundly in a eucalyptus tree, like this one pictured in the poster hanging on my living room wall.


This particular picture has always been one of my favorites. Why would I hang it in the living room, otherwise?

It’s fun to look at him (could be a her; I don’t know) and speculate. Is he asleep? If so, is he dreaming about something nice and quiet? Or is he actually thinking…to whatever degree koalas are capable of thought?

No way to be sure, of course, but I’ve always looked at the fellow from a different perspective. That’s why I call this picture “Praying Koala.”

Okay, so maybe koalas don’t have the same relationship with God we Christians do, but they’re just as much God’s creations as we humans are. So who’s to say he’s not praying?

What do you think? 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,

Blessed to be a Blessing

Click on thumbnails to see larger images. Many additional pictures from Nicaragua are available here.

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[NOTE: This post was originally included in the Winn’s Baptist Church newsletter. I’ve edited it just slightly to post here.]

Every Christian should have a chance to go on a mission trip to Nicaragua. One word of caution, though. That experience is apt to be life-changing.

Using the Internet to learn facts about Nicaragua, the second poorest country in Central America, is one thing; seeing poverty like that in person is something else. But the enthusiasm and dedication of the local pastors as they minister to the physical as well as to the spiritual needs of their communities is uplifting beyond description.

I went to Nicaragua on March 5—we returned on the 10th—with fellow Winn’s members Bruce & Renee Bingham, Richard & Leslie Gray, and Jason Harris. Although Leslie had been to Nicaragua before, the rest of us had not.

In order to check six large duffel bags of baseball equipment, used clothing, and other mission-related items, each of us packed our personal things in our carry-on bags. Our back packs accompanied us every day, as did bottled water, hand sanitizer, and cameras. Most of the group wore shorts or capris except on Sunday morning. Temps were in the 90s.

Pastor Carlos Garcia and his wife, Luisa, were our hosts for the week. Carlos had served as the translator on past trips and ended up feeling called to the ministry. In addition to pastoring a church, he also works for the Asociación de Iglesias Evangélicas La Gran Cosecha de Nicaragua. We participated in activities at most of the churches in that association of churches.

We hit the deck running soon after our arrival…a trip to the station where Carlos has a radio ministry. He interviewed Bruce, and Luisa interpreted.

Renee makes jewelry, and she presented each pastor with a bracelet made of fishing tackle—appropriate for “fishers of men.” She gave their wives an angel necklace. At two of the churches we visited, she also did crafts with large groups of children and let them blow bubbles.

We spent two afternoons taking food and Bibles to needy people and seeing their homes up close. The average “house” was probably no bigger than a single-car garage. Although we saw electric cords strewn all over, no one had an actual kitchen—or anything more than a simple outhouse, if they even had that much of a bathroom.

The better homes were cinderblock. The poorer ones were constructed from whatever sheet metal scraps the resident could scrounge up. Many of the homes didn’t have doors. Many were incomplete. Heavy rocks held the metal down on a number of roofs.

Probably our most meaningful activity took place on Thursday, when we washed the feet of a hundred needy children and put new socks and shoes on them. As reminiscent as that was of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, I sincerely hope he didn’t have the problem of dropping the towel in the basin of water.

We stopped at Pastor Leon’s church, much of which Winn’s helped to build, and enjoyed fellowship with him and his wife.

Sunday was special. We worshipped at Carlos’ church—a two-hour service that didn’t seem nearly that long. Luisa led the singing with her guitar, and I was permitted to share one of my songs. Richard and Leslie participated in the service as well. Carlos’ preaching was dynamic.

That afternoon, everyone but me went zip-lining. Even Carlos’ and Luisa’s three kids. Okay, so I’m scared of heights. But it gave me a chance to take pictures.

Although Monday was a long day of travel—thanks to lengthy layovers—we all got home safely.

You often hear volunteer missionaries say that they went to their place of service hoping to be a blessing, but came away feeling that they had received more of a blessing than they had rendered. I suspect all of our group felt that way.


Please leave a comment if something in this post has spoken to you. I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

By the way, “Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. On “As I Come Singing” I 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 already posted 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,


Never Too Old to Say Yes

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I have no idea how old Abraham was when God told him to pack up his family and belongings and move to a place the Lord was going to lead him to. Neither do I have any idea how old Isaiah was when God asked who would go for Him and Isaiah answered, “Here I am. Send me.”

Fortunately, the Lord isn’t directing me to move. I like being where my wife and I are, just as Abraham probably felt about the home he was having to leave—in faith that God knew what He was doing.

But I heard God asking who would go for Him in a rather round about way.

My church has been partnering with a church in Nicaragua for some years now, and periodically a team goes down there to do whatever needs being done. My wife and I decided two or three years ago that we wanted to be part of that some day, but we would need to save for it. So we’ve been saving $50 a month ever since.

Flash forward to Saturday a week ago. I was working on my current novel manuscript, which involves a mission trip to Nicaragua. I’d been doing some online research about that country—the second poorest one in Central America—but didn’t feel I was really finding what I needed.

I emailed someone who’d been there before to try to arrange a get-together so I could pick his brain, but haven’t heard back yet.

I had a passing thought. We had nearly $2000 saved in our Nicaragua fund. Why not…?

But the “why not?” involved several issues. My wife, Kathleen, suggested that I use our savings to go without her, and she did that without my bringing up the idea.

So the second issue was whether our church had a trip planned any time this year. Even if it was months away, I could continue working on my manuscript and revise it later with what I learned there.

Lo and behold, a small group is going this year. Although it is an exploratory trip to meet some of the pastors other than the one we’ve normally worked with, it will involve going to four different areas.

And guess what? This trip is March 5-10. Just around a very short corner.

I got in touch with one of the team contacts, and the team discussed it and invited me to come. I met the rest of the team this past Sunday—just one week after learning about the trip. I may be the oldest person going, but I felt very comfortable with the other team members.

As you can see from the Band-Aid pictures above, I’ve become a human pin cushion—Hepatitis-A, Typhoid, Adult Polio, and Tetanus shots. I’ve also got Malaria medication to take before, during, and after the trip.

I have a number of other things to do to get ready, but I’m excited.

By now, you may be wondering why I mentioned saying yes to God when my original interest in going was to experience Nicaragua for myself so I could come home and incorporate some of that in my writing.

Reasonable question.

If my interest in going had started the day Kathleen and I had the same idea simultaneously, I would’ve been the first person to question my own motives. But remember that money we’d been saving? I’d been interested in going long before I needed to know more about Nicaragua.

I don’t believe in coincidences. Feeling the need to go, knowing that we had the money to cover the cost for me alone (Kathleen wouldn’t have had enough vacation time, even if we’d had enough for both of us), and then discovering that a trip was imminent all added up to my feeling that God was asking who would go—and suggesting that He has something for me to do in Nicaragua.

Please leave a comment if something in this post speaks to you in a way you’d like to respond to. 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. Because I’ve used up all of my songs, I re-post an old post each Wednesday. If you’re interested, please check that blog out here.

Best regards,