More about My Paternal Grandparents

bed2    bed   table   table1

If you didn’t read Sunday’s post, you might want to do so before reading this one.

I remember visiting my grandmother in the hospital several times as she grew older, but her decline was–I hate to admit–of no great personal interest to me. I loved going to North Carolina to visit my Williford grandparents, but merely tolerated visits to my Bruner grandmother’s house. Thankfully, my mother’s great-aunt and several of her brothers and their families lived in Richmond, too, so I was able to escape to less severe surroundings periodically.

I wish I could remember Grandmother Bruner with love. Or even with fondness. At least when we reunite in Heaven, we’ll be there as equals. And undoubtedly have more in common.

I remember more things about that house at 2420 Hanover Avenue than I do about my grandmother. Especially one thing which became quite a joke between my parents. When my mother requested that our name be put on the dining room table (a much simpler process than listing individual items in a will) to inherit at the appropriate time. My father had protested. We would never have room for it. It took up most of the dining room at my grandmother’s house. How amazed he was when he learned that it was actually a round table that had eight or ten leaves!

In one of the bedrooms upstairs was the humongous bed everyone affectionately referred to as grandpa’s bed. It had belonged to my great-grandparents and dated back to sometime in the 1800s. My great-grandmother had given birth to her numerous children in that bed. I hasten to add that the mattress was not the original one.

Because of my great-grandmother’s connection to the Women’s Missionary Union (see the previous post), that bed would be of great value to the WMU. But, for now, it’s our guest room bed.

A painting on one of the downstairs walls especially fascinated me. It showed the inauguration of Jefferson Davis as the President of the Confederacy. Specifically–at least this is how I remember it–it depicted one of our ancestors praying the inaugural prayer. At my grandmother’s death it was donated to the Museum of the Confederacy.

I was quite fond of turtles as a youngster, and my father would bring home turtles he rescued from the roads he traveled. One Sunday while we were visiting my grandmother, he brought home a humongous turtle which he had rescued from someone who was beating it (rather unsuccessfully, I should think) with an umbrella. As the turtle expert, I didn’t have to look twice at my new pet to know my loving father had rescued a snapping turtle. One that was certain not to make a good pet.

Unsure what to do with it, we put it in a closed-in concrete area outside the door to the basement at 2620 and blocked the steps at the top. I don’t recall what we used, but it failed to keep the snapping turtle from escaping. I don’t know how many hours I spent looking for the escapee, but I feel certain I covered every inch of that backyard.

I’ve often wondered how shocked people were to spot such a good-sized snapping turtle wandering around one of Richmond’s older residential areas. We never saw it again, though.

I mentioned the round table, but what I remember better than Lizzy’s cooking was the fact that we read Scripture before each meal. I had my favorite–Revelation 5–and I gladly took my turn reading it aloud to my fellow diners.

I’m afraid I was serious when I said I remember the house with more affection than I remember my paternal grandmother. She was not a–how shall I say it?–not a cuddly grandmother. I don’t doubt that she loved me, but I can only wish she had demonstrated it the way my maternal grandparents did.

Perhaps leaving me that entertainment center, which stayed in my room at home for a number of years, was the best way she knew of to say, “I love you.”

Do you have relatives you simply find it impossible to feel much affection for? Perhaps relatives you just can’t find a way to get close to? How about sharing a comment?


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Best regards,


My New Toy

If you’ve been with me a while, you probably realize that I’m fond of gadgets. Especially gadgets that have to do with making or recording music.


For a number of years I’ve been using the Yamaha MD-8 8-track digital recorder pictured above. It’s pretty big–19 inches wide and 16 inches front to back. I won’t bore you by trying to tell you what all of those knobs, switches, and sliders do, but suffice it to say it took months to learn to use it effectively. And I’m sure I never have made full use of everything this recorder is capable of doing.

It’s done a great job, though. It replaced a similar looking Yamaha recorder. But that one was analog–I won’t try to explain that, either–and recorded on cassette tapes. You remember those things?

But the MD-8 recorded on a special digital media that I’m not certain is even still being manufactured now. Although I still have a couple of unused media and could reuse the ones I’ve already recorded on, it’s not an appealing thought. Not when one of those critters only holds about eighteen minutes’ worth of music.

And the MD-8 was getting harder for me to get motivated to use. Not to mention I wonder what I would’ve done if it had ever needed repair.


So when I saw an advertisement a week or two back for a new Tascam eight-track recorder (the DP-008EX, if you’re interested–still the DP-008EX even if you’re not) pictured above. It’s the ultimate in small–nine by five inches–while still providing most of the features of more expensive units. The Yamaha had been somewhere between $500-1000 way back when, while the Tascam was only $150!

It has some built in features the Yamaha doesn’t have, while lacking one or two the Yamaha has. Fair trade off, I think. But–lo and behold!–the Tascam uses SD cards and has a USB connection for uploading to a computer. With the Yamaha, I had to burn songs to a CD to get them to a computer.

And the Tascam has a built in pair of mics that are remarkably good. And playing my guitar directly into one of the inputs sounds immensely better than I could ever manage with the Yamaha.

I admit I’m still learning to use my new toy, but it’s going faster and smoother than with the Yamaha. $150 was a small price to pay for something that seems to be meeting my needs better overall than the Yamaha.

Here’s one final picture: the Tascam sitting on top of the Yamaha to show the comparative size.


Play a song I recorded on the new toy. “Perfect Present” uses seven of the eight tracks. The sound quality of the WAV file is much better than the mp3 file you’ll be listening to here.

What about you? Have you received–or maybe bought for yourself–a new “toy” recently? How about sharing the info in a comment?


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Best regards,

A Christmas Thought


[NOTE: Just a reminder that this post takes the place of this coming Sunday’s.]

As many of you know, I like to walk at the local mall.  I love doing that and enjoy speaking to the variety of other people who’re walking at the same time I do. But I don’t know many of them. Not even their names.

I wanted to do something this Christmas–I believe God inspired this idea–to reach out to them in a non-preachy way about what I feel is the true significance of Christmas. So I composed the following message, which fits nicely on one page, printed copies to take on my Christmas Eve walk, stuffed them in an envelope like the one pictured above, and gave them out. Not just to fellow walkers, but also to security guards and custodians I’m especially fond of.

Here’s what it says:

Merry Christmas from a fellow mall walker!!!

As we smile and say hi to one another, I frequently think about something Charles Dickens said in A Tale of Two Cities: “A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.” Very few of us actually know one another, no matter how friendly and pleasant we seem while walking. In truth, most of us don’t even know one another’s names, much less anything more important.

Although I can’t solve that problem, I want to share something I think is important. I believe Christmas means much more than giving and receiving gifts. Not that any of us could match the Gift God gave in sending His only Son into the world for our benefit.

Although I wrote this poem almost forty years ago, I believe it’s still relevant. I not only hope you enjoy it, but that it will speak to you about the real meaning of Christmas.

I’ll bet You were some Proud Father
The day Your Son was born on Earth!

Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday
When Mary began her labor in the stable?
You were there with her through it all,
Giving comfort and encouragement
With the same Perfect Spirit of Love
That Mary was accustomed to from You.

 When she contracted, You suffered with her.

 Though You realized what trauma Your
Son was going through in being born,
You knew it wasn’t right to interfere;
You had to let things happen as if
This Babe would be like just any other.

You watched the process You had created.
But I’ll bet you never felt so involved before;
You were actually watching Part of Yourself
Be born for the very first time,
And You monitored the whole non-sterile
Situation and saw that it was good –
Good for a world that just couldn’t seem
To understand or accept You any other way.

It’s no wonder You sent Your angels out
To deliver the Birth announcements in person!

 The merriest of Christmases to you in the true spirit of the Season!

Best regards,

You know what? I don’t know much about most of my blog readers, either. But I also want you to experience the true meaning of Christmas. So let me also wish you the merriest of Christmases in the true spirit of the Season!

Please share a comment with a Christmas thought of your own.


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Best regards,

Making Lists (part one)

My wife and I both maintain wish lists on Amazon, and we share them with my daughter in Orlando and my step-daughters in NYC and Las Vegas.

Having an item on the list is no guarantee we’ll get it, however. I kept a $150 multi-CD player on my list for several years before I gave up and saved enough to buy it myself. But at least my wife and the other members of the family knew I wanted it.

With Christmas coming up in just a few weeks, we’ve been busy adding last minute items to our lists and urging the “kids” to make sure their lists are up-to-date.

Then we turn to the other person’s list and do the actual shopping, knowing we won’t make any wrong decisions if we select from the wish list. Never anything to return or exchange.

Of course, some folks believe that people who love one another should know each other so well they can choose appropriate gifts without being given a list, which they see as asking for specific presents. They think it’s a step above Halloween, which they label as a day for legalized begging. Totally undesirable.

I’m glad no one who gives me presents feels that way. And no one I give presents to, either.

Not having to go shopping during this season of the year is wonderful! Black Friday? What’s that?

We just sit at home and dream of what we might want while buying confidently for others. And we don’t feel silly about putting down some of the things we’d probably never buy for ourselves.

Those wish lists have another benefit. I often come across books I’d like, but where would I keep a list of them when I can so easily add them to my wish list–and periodically check the list and get rid of anything I’ve bought for myself or changed my mind about? Sometimes the only way to identify a specific item I was once interested in is to look at my wish list.

I think you can see why we’re sold on using wish lists, but we take another kind of list quite seriously. Come back again on Wednesday if you want to learn what it is and why it matters.

Do you use wish lists? How about leaving a comment?


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Best regards,

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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Best regards,


Ultimate Significance

The Rolling Stones “can’t get no satisfaction” and Bob Dylan wants to have a “satisfied mind” when he dies. Why do I get the impression Dylan and the Stones are pursuing different goals–probably very different ones?

What is satisfaction, anyhow? Is it what the WordWeb dictionary I’m using defines as “the contentment one feels when one has fulfilled a desire, need, or expectation”? And is satisfaction a realistic goal?

Perhaps I’m being unfair. Maybe even a tad judgmental. But it seems to me that whatever the Rolling Stones are hoping to get satisfaction from is apt to be very temporary in nature. A person may eat until he’s satisfied, but he’s still going to get hungry again. No need to elaborate.

At least Dylan’s goal is to be satisfied when he enters eternity. Whatever gives him final contentment must be of an eternal nature. Since “Satisfied Mind” is on one of Dylan’s Christian albums–yes, he wrote and recorded at least three of them–I hope he’s talking about satisfaction with the way he’s lived and his confidence in where he’s going at death. Definitely not temporal.

But what about significance? That’s what this post is supposed to be about.

Significance means importance; that’s the definition I’m using here, anyhow. Contentment and importance are not one and the same, and neither are significance and satisfaction. Those two words are not only not synonyms, they’re almost antonyms.

Time to get personal. I get contentment from a number of things. Having a wonderful wife. A comfortable–but modest–home. Food and clothes. A decent camera and good musical instruments. I have everything I need and  plenty of things I don’t need.

But the contentment those things provide isn’t enough.

Could it be I “can’t get no satisfaction,” either? I’m extremely thankful for all of the blessings God has provided, but do they fulfill my real goal–my desire to be important? Or at least to do something so important it will continue doing good for years after my death.

Five thousand people bought Found in Translation. Twenty-five hundred bought Lost in Dreams. I’m proud of those figures, because I want to believe at least that many people read those books and were both entertained and blessed by them. That did more than make me content. It made me feel important. Or at least that I’d done something important.

Ah, but what about The Devil and Pastor Gus? It’s been out exactly one year. I don’t have the total sales figures, but it seems likely that only a hundred copies have been sold. Perhaps fewer. And this was the novel I’d considered my legacy for future generations. I felt it had the strongest message of anything I’ve ever written–and probably will ever write. In short, that it would be my most important novel.

No matter how much the people who’ve read The Devil and Pastor Gus rave about it–it currently has a 4.4 star rating on Amazon–I’m not content. I wonder whether my best effort to accomplish something truly important has fallen flat on its face.

I could get depressed about this if I allowed myself to. But the truth of one of my original songs keeps coming to mind:

I believe God’s working behind the scenes;
He’s helping me in ways I can’t see.
God understands all my problems;
He knows my best efforts are not enough to solve them.

I believe God’s working behind the scenes;
He’s renewing my faded hopes and dreams.
He always provides the things He knows I need.

I believe God’s holding me in His hands;
He’s shaping me according to plan.
Despite my fears and confusion,
He knows He provides the only real solution.

I believe God’s working behind the scenes;
He’s drawing from His limitless means.
He always provides the things He knows I need.

Maybe it’s time to let faith take over. What’s most significant ultimately is not what’s important to me, but what’s important to God. And He doesn’t have to do it my way. Or on my timetable. What a mess my life would be in if He’d done everything the way I thought they should be done!

Why should I fret about feeling important here on earth, anyhow? I’m much more desirous of hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” when I arrive in Heaven.

What do you think? Are you satisfied? Do you feel significant? How about sharing a comment?


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Best regards,

My “Aaron”

First, a little biblical background.

Isaac and his sons and their families had moved to Egypt when his son Joseph became second-in-command to Pharaoh during a time of famine throughout the region. As long as that Pharaoh lived, Joseph’s extended family was welcome and well provided for. But after the good Pharaoh died, subsequent ones forgot about Joseph and the debt Egypt owed him and his kin.

The Children of Israel (Jacob, Isaac’s son, was given the name Israel) were prospering and growing in number, and the Egyptians determined to take advantage of their vast numbers and use them as slaves.  That didn’t stop the Israelites from continuing to multiply.

One Pharaoh finally became so frightened that these countless foreigners living in their midst might rebel and fight against Egypt if an enemy attacked that he made their working conditions more severe. And then he made things even worse.

But God wasn’t ignoring the plight of His Children. He spoke to Moses from a burning bush and told him He wanted Moses to free the Children of Israel and lead them to the Promised Land–a land “flowing with milk and honey.”

Talking directly with God was probably scary enough, but Moses absolutely panicked at the thought of having to go to Pharaoh–he wasn’t in Pharaoh’s favor the way Joseph had been several hundred years earlier–and demand that he allow the Israelites to leave. So he immediately came up with the first excuse that came to mind.

“Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” (Exodus 4:10, NIV)

Singer/song writer Ken Medema says it this way in his wonderful song “Moses”:

“Not me, Lord!
Don’t you know I can’t talk so good;
I stutter all the time.”

But Moses asks the Lord to have his brother Aaron do the actual speaking. Ken Medema says it this way:

“Do you know my brother, Aaron?
He can sing like an angel,
Talk like a preacher.
Not me, Lord!
I can’t talk so good.”

And God accepted it.

I can’t “talk so good,” either. Oh, I don’t have a speech defect, in spite of the fact that someone who has one once asked me if I did. Funny how a question like that can make a guy self-conscious for life!

As an official introvert (according to the Myers-Briggs Temperament Inventory), I need to think very carefully before I speak. If I don’t, there’s no telling how unclear my meaning will be. Not so much a problem in normal everyday conversations, but a real drawback in serious discussions. By the time I think of what I want to say and how to keep it reasonably clear, it’s usually no longer relevant to the topic.

I feel as if God has some important things for me to share with other people. Especially regarding His love and the fact that Jesus was born a human being, died, and returned from the grave to give new life to all who choose Him as the only path to the only true God. Heaven isn’t the only reward for Believers. So is a more meaningful earthly life.

Does God expect me to share those things orally? I keep hoping not, because I know my human limitations. I feel there’s a legitimate reason for me not to. God had a reason for not calling me to be a preacher.

But that doesn’t mean He doesn’t want me to share His Good News with other people. He’s willing for me to use  “my Aaron” instead.

“My Aaron” is the written word. Novels, poems, and monologues. Plays, short stories, and essays. And also the sung word. The songs I’ve written over the last fifty years or so. And the musical dramas–even an hour-long rock opera–I’ve written and produced.

The words to my songs and musical dramas have already been carefully thought out. They come as close to conveying my intended meaning as I can ever do.

Thank You, Lord, for giving me these creative talents and allowing me to use them for Your honor and glory.

Do you have any weaknesses that keep you from communicating clearly? Has God given you an Aaron? How about sharing a comment?


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Best regards,