Healthier Than Thou

Every once in a while, I run into someone I haven’t seen in a while. Someone who’s around my age. Someone who really means it when asking, “How are you?”

But we both know what that question really means. “Are you holding together as well as I am or better?”

The funny thing about that is most “people of age”—a designation inspired by “people of color,” which strikes me as equally silly since all of us are SOME color and all of us are SOME age—pass up the opportunity to be honest.

Probably because they don’t want to chance learning that the other person is healthier. Or in terrible shape.

I’m rarely as honest as I could be. I mean, I’m not about to say, “I have a pain that makes walking, standing, and lying down anywhere from uncomfortable to painful at times, and the doctor hasn’t been able to figure out or solve the problem.” Not unless I’m talking to someone I want to urge to move on without further discussion.

I suppose I can honestly say, “Well, I’m able to get eight or nine hours of sleep every night.” No need to add that I normally still feel tired when I get up and nearly always take a short afternoon nap. Sometimes two. Concurrently.

pillBotlesOr should I whip out the list of medications I keep in my wallet? My doctor’s office loves me because that printed list keeps me from having to pronounce the names of my regular medicines and keeps the nurse from having to figure out what I’m trying to say when I mispronounce them.

 

That kind of list-sharing with other people of age would have drawbacks, though. Mine might look pretty puny next to theirs. I wouldn’t want to think my health might not be as good as theirs.

On the other hand, my list might look humongous. If I take more kinds of medicine, does that mean I’m actually healthier? I don’t want to admit it pretty doesn’t.

Maybe “I’m fine, thanks.” is a sufficiently honest response to “How are you?” from another person of equal age.

Thanks for letting me share these thoughts with you. Please feel free to leave a comment. What do YOU think about this subject?

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

Roger's newest novel

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Christmas or Easter?

Non-Christians probably prefer Christmas to Easter. After all, don’t most people like to give and receive gifts? Gifts that often have more value–probably even more lasting value–than chocolate (or real) bunnies and various other candies.

Too many people–through no fault of their own–lack an adequate and correct understanding of the significance of both of those holidays.

Yes, Christmas is a time of giving. No wonder. The Christmas story in the Bible mentions the gifts brought by the so-called wise men: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Very precious and expensive gifts. But those gifts were brought to the Christ child, not to Mary and Joseph, and gifts were not given to the wise men in return.

No matter how valuable the wise men’s gifts were, they pale in comparison to God’s giving up part of Himself by uniting with a human woman to create a baby who was both human and divine.

His was a gift of the greatest love imaginable.

God had had established a system of sacrifices based for the atonement of sins–that is, to provide forgiveness and to make things right between the ancient Jews and God. The sacrificial system involved the killing of a Passover lamb.

That lamb had to be perfect. Spotless. No blemishes. As perfect as it could possibly be. If an imperfection was discovered at the last minute, that lamb couldn’t be used. It wouldn’t be acceptable.

That sacrificial system didn’t really accomplish everything God had wanted it to do. So, in giving part of Himself through the birth of Jesus, God Himself became the most perfect sacrificial lamb possible. Perfect because Jesus never committed even the least sin.

If He had sinned, even once, He wouldn’t have been good enough to be sacrificed for the sake of mankind.

Yet if He hadn’t been part human, He wouldn’t have been subject to the temptations that plague each of us daily. If He hadn’t been tempted and had to rely on His Heavenly Father for the strength to resist each and every temptation, His sacrifice would’ve been meaningless. Because God is fully righteous, the only acceptable sacrifice had to be sin-free.

The sacrifice of the Passover lamb necessitated that it be killed. Without the spilling of blood, its death would’ve been worthless.

And so it was with Jesus. If He hadn’t been killed on a Roman cross–His blood was spilled in the process–His sacrifice wouldn’t have been acceptable to God the Father.

But Jesus was the perfect sacrificial lamb, and His death paid the price for the sins each of us is born with simply because we’re descendants of Adam and Eve–not only the first human beings, but the first sinners.

The fact that God brought Jesus back to life and then, after a period of days, brought Him back to Heaven gives Easter a whole new perspective. God forgives our sinful natures because of Jesus’s death, but–without a relationship with God through faith in Jesus–God would not consider any of us righteous or worthy of both eternal life in Heaven and a more meaningful life here on earth.

Christmas or Easter? What do you think?

If Jesus hadn’t been born a true miracle baby, Easter would have no significance. So Christmas is definitely something to celebrate.

But Christmas was just the necessary beginning of the story. Easter is the rest of the story.

Your comments are welcome.

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

P.S. Pictured below is my latest novel. The Kindle version is free today only at Amazon. Go here to get your copy.

Roger's newest novel

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Can You Judge a Book by its Cover?

What do you think? Can you–or anyone else–actually judge a book fairly by its cover?

I think a more reasonable question is whether any of us can fail to let a book cover affect our decision to at least look at the back cover copy and possibly open the book and read the first few paragraphs.

Yes, there are exceptions. A hideously covered book may have been recommended to us by someone whose opinion we find to usually be in line with our own. Or the cover on the new book by our favorite author may be what we consider awful. In cases like those, our eyes may not see the front cover as a stop sign. And I don’t recall seeing Bibles with covers that would draw readers in; those covers tend to be pretty plain.

I doubt that any publisher fails to at least ask an author for recommendations about the cover. Sometimes the author’s contract specifically prevents the publisher from using a cover he or she disapproves of.

I’ve learned a lot about book covers during the years I’ve been writing, seeing my novels published, and now publishing novels myself. Gone is my opinion that a good cover must show at least a hint of one of the scenes from the book. And gone is my naive opinion that what looks good to my wife and me will automatically be equally attractive to other people.

At a marketing class for fiction writers some years ago, one of the teachers, a well-known literary agent, told the tale of a book by popular young adult novelist Jenny B. Jones. The cover depicted a cow–a black and white cow, if I recall correctly–with a tiara on her head. Hilarious, right? Adults, the agent/teacher said, thought it was hilarious. And wonderful.

Unfortunately, teens–the intended buyers and readers of Jenny’s book–thought the cover was horrible.

Ah, so teens and adults have different tastes? Why should that be so surprising!

When I self-published the quirky teen romance, Project Muffintop, I thought this cover would be perfect.

I spent the better part of a day taking pictures. At first my wife and I tried baking muffins in the tight jeans muffin mold I’d ordered from China, but we couldn’t get a muffin top to form quite correctly, and I ended up cutting the top off a store-bought muffin and sticking it on top of the muffin mold.

I published the book with that cover, but apparently nobody gave it a second glance. Ultimately, I had to admit it just wasn’t appropriate or professional looking.

So I found a stock photo I could use part of on top of what I’d used originally. It looked like this, and I thought it looked more appealing. Fun. Surely it would at least make a potential teen buyer take a second look.

I made the fortunate mistake–that’s an oxymoron, isn’t it?–of asking the opinion of an online group of readers. By and large, they didn’t care for either that cover OR the original. Not only that, they objected to the title. Strenuously.

Hmm. Back to the drawing board. But first I unpublished Project Muffintop. I didn’t want anyone else to see and be turned off by the original cover. (Fortunately, I never used the intended replacement cover.)

The relationship between the male and female protagonists was more important in the story than her diet, and I believe God inspired me to re-title Project Muffintop as Just Friends?–yes, the question mark is part of the title.

After numerous revisions, this is the current–and, I hope and pray, the final–version of the cover. It doesn’t portray a scene from the book or necessarily portray the protagonists accurately, but it gives the potential reader something to connect to emotionally and hints at the fact that there’s a question about the relationship between the two teens.

 

What’s your experience with book covers?  What’s your opinion about their importance? A comment would be welcome–and quite possibly helpful.

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

P.S. Do you recall the original cover for The Devil and Pastor Gus, the one with a stereotypical devil at the upper right-hand cover? Or its replacement, the one with the church? When I got the rights to Pastor Gus back, I wanted something totally different, and this is it below.

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The First Rain and the First Rainbow

Okay. I admit it. Writing about rain on a nasty snowy/winter mix day is a little strange, but it’s what came to mind this morning.

I’ve always been told that the forty-day rain–the rain that caused the “Great Flood” that Noah and his family (and two of all living creatures) were the only survivors of–was the first time earth had ever received rain. While I didn’t question that “fact,” I couldn’t keep from marveling at it. How could I be sure that was correct?

If you read the Creation story in the Bible, you won’t see any references to rain. Certainly the Garden of Eden had to have had a source of water to maintain its unimaginable lushness. But I’ve always pictured Eden as the world’s first rain forest–perhaps huge terrarium would be a more accurate description since it was a perfectly maintained ecosystem.

Situated between four major rivers, it undoubtedly had access to all the water it needed. Irrigated by underground springs? I couldn’t say.

But we still haven’t established whether rain fell on the earth before Noah’s day, although I can easily imagine his neighbors questioning why he was building a humongous boat in his backyard. Even if he planned to use it as a houseboat (which, of course, he ultimately did), how would he ever get it to the nearest body of water that was large enough to hold it?

(Picture the pond in the movie Second-Hand Lions after the two brothers bought a humongous yacht that took up almost the whole pond.)

The following picture is a life-size reproduction of the ark at the Ark Encounter.

I think the answer to my question about whether the flood rain was earth’s first rain can be found at the end of Noah’s story.

While Noah was standing there on a dry mountaintop, possibly watching the water down below receding, God created a rainbow and announced that it symbolized His promise never to destroy the earth again with water. So that must have been the first rainbow; how would “just another pretty rainbow” have been sufficiently special to be worthy of symbolizing God’s promise?

Although not every rain results in a visible rainbow, rainbows always exist when the circumstances are right–even if no one is in the right place to see them. So God’s rainbow must truly have been the first one, and the first rainbow would logically result from the earth’s first rain.

Whether or not you believe the biblical story of creation and the story of Noah’s flood–I believe both–I hope you’ll remember God’s promise the next time you see a rainbow. It’s a promise He’s made to all of us. 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,
Roger

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On Color Blindness

You know what one of my pet peeves is? When I tell people I’m color blind and they ask, “What color is THIS?”

Although I’ve always been color blind, I didn’t know I was for a number of years. I do recall marveling at my sixth grade school picture, in which I was wearing a red sweater–I KNEW it was red–but it appeared green in that picture. In the years since then, I’ve concluded that the picture was printed in just the right shade of red for me to see it as green. Who knows?

Once as a high school senior I was visiting in the home of a friend. His father was an eye doctor of some sort. I don’t recall what brought this up, but he got out a book of charts used to determine color blindness and tested me. Yep. Color blind. A red-green deficiency. Uh, okay.

That didn’t exactly wreck my life, but it did lead to a couple of interesting events several years later.

Before I tell you about those, however, let me explain that color blindness doesn’t mean someone sees only in black and white. I see everything in color. Well, except things that really ARE black and white. The problem is I don’t see them the same way people with normal color vision do. And in my case at least, learning of my color blindness made me distrustful of my ability to correctly distinguish the colors I don’t have problems with. For example, blue and purple.

After graduating from junior college, my parents and I failed to notify the Selective Service that I would be enrolling in a four-year college to finish my degree. That was during the Vietnam War, and I had to go for a physical to see if I was fit for the military. Although my flat feet  and the fact I had to avoid contact sports because of acute viral encephalitis in the eighth grade both should have been enough to fail me, surely color blindness would be a serious factor in making me unfit for service.

Don’t ask me how or why, but when they tested my color vision at the draft physical, they apparently thought I was faking. How I wish! I passed the physical! Thank goodness we got things straight when I got back home, but passing a physical I should have failed was scary.

The other interesting tale has to do with my learning to drive. I have NO problems telling the colors of a traffic light, but when I went to take my test–I’ll tell you some other time about what I went through learning to drive–the machine told the tester that I was too color blind to get a license.

But bless the State of Maryland DMV’s heart. I must not have been the first person the machine had falsely rejected. The tester got out a strip of wood with three colored reflectors fastened to it. I correctly identified the colors without any problem and received my license without any further problems.

 

TrafficLights

 

I’ll admit it. Being color blind is a nuisance at times. Like clothes shopping. And getting dressed.

But I know what color my clothes are, whether they look like those colors or not, and I know what goes together.

What about you? Are you color blind? More guys than gals are, but not all of us. Do you have anything to share regarding color blindness? We’d love to see it in 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

P.S. I’ve gotten the rights to The Devil and Pastor Gus back, and I’ve just re-released it with this brand-new, more intriguing cover.

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Electrifying Kisses

 

We’re not totally in freezing weather yet, but it’s coming soon…and far too fast.

I’m not overly fond of cold weather, although it does kill the grass until spring and frees me from having to mow the lawn at least once a week.

And, my word! My Honda Civic, which automatically calculates gas mileage, goes down from an average of 29 mpg in-town driving to 21 or 22. Partially because I have to run the car a little while to defrost it and warm the inside just a tad. And partially because the tire pressure warning light comes on periodically and it takes me a while to use the plug-in tire inflator.

I used to like cold weather better than hot weather. But, with the coming of age, I’ve reversed my preference. And it has nothing to do with gas or grass.

It has to do touching. Touching almost anything.

Cold weather at our house means almost everything I touch shocks me. I always hear it, and—more times than I like to think about—I even see the spark.

Once the weather gets cold enough for that to happen, I’m tempted to put on gloves before touching the front door handle, even if I’m not going outside. Or a light switch.

 

DoorKnob     LightSwitch

 

I touch the plastic part of the pet gate latch first in the hopes the static electricity will leave me alone for once. I tiptoe across the carpet to try to prevent static buildup.

I haven’t totally given up the idea of dragging a chain wherever I walk inside to ground myself. (Yes, I know that probably wouldn’t really work.)

Remaining well grounded is important for a seventy-two-year-old man, anyhow, isn’t it? In every way.

But the most shocking problem occurs when Kathleen and I kiss. If one of us has just scuffed across the carpet,  kissing becomes an electrifying experience. Kissing isn’t supposed to be painful, is it? Or something to be apprehensive about doing?

I don’t know how to solve other shock problems, but now Kathleen and I touch  fingertips before kissing. Better to do that and get the shock out of the way so we can have a safe, spark-free kiss.

 

FingerTouch    kiss

 

Exciting kisses are one thing. But shocking ones are awful.

If you have or have had any shocking experiences during winter, 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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Living in the Past, Present, or Future?

We older folks are often accused of living in the past and thinking everything back then was so much better than now. I’m not one of them.

As a few of you may recall from a former blog post, I don’t seem to have nearly as many memories of my childhood and teen years as adults typically have. I attribute that, whether correctly or not, to the acute viral encephalitis that could have killed me or left me in a vegetative state, but from which God restored me to a reasonable normal condition. But one that was somewhat fuzzy about the past.

That was in the eighth grade. I wouldn’t want to relive that part of my past.

College years were fine, but not exciting. Neither was my teaching career or my years at the Maryland State Job Service as a counselor/interviewer.

Life grew more meaningful when I took some computer programming courses and went to work at the International Mission Board. Working behind the scenes of something important gave me a feeling of significance I’d never experienced before. I had some wonderful successes before I started having problems with a new job assignment.

And then I got downsized after almost nineteen years.

Those memories aren’t things to dwell on. Despite the many good moments, I’ll never think of those years as “the good old days.”

 

What about the future?

As a Christian, I’m not afraid of death, although I would love to have the assurance that the process of dying would be quick and painless…and that my wife, Kathleen, and I would die at the same time so neither of us would have to face life without the other.

But the future–at least the part where I’m still alive on earth–isn’t knowable.

I don’t have many dreams about what I’d like the future to hold. Yes, of course I’d like for my novels–some of them, anyhow–to suddenly take off and start selling. Not because I care about the income, but because I want to know they’re blessing and entertaining readers.

I can’t help wishing and hoping (yes, and praying, too) that at least one of my songs will end up in a collection of praise and worship songs. Maybe even in a hymn book!

I hate to admit it, but when I’m expecting a shipment of some tiny something-or-other from Amazon, you’d almost think I was a little kid waiting for his parents to wake up on Christmas morning so he can start opening presents.

That’s a bit weird, maybe, but that’s how I am. My future on earth doesn’t promise to be the best time of my life. Especially as my body falls apart a little more year by year. I hope and pray my mind doesn’t do the same thing.

And the present?

That leaves the present. I’ve ended up with two skills–two things I love using–I’m not able to use the way I’d like to. Yes, I’ll keep working on developing them even more, but knowing I may be doing it only for my own benefit is discouraging.

Until yesterday–or was it this morning?–I was super-frustrated at what I perceived as my lack of usefulness. I couldn’t see myself accomplishing anything, and that thought was more depressing than I’d like to think about.

It’s no wonder. Many–maybe most–of the authors I know have more book ideas running through their heads than they can use in a lifetime. I don’t.

I’d started working on a sequel to one of my teen books. I’d even designed a cover for it and written a few chapters.

But I just couldn’t get excited about it and haven’t been able to proceed. It’s not a matter of writer’s block, but of questioning whether this was what I should be doing.

You can better understand now why I was feeling useless and insignificant, at least in the areas of my life that are so important.

But I prayed, and I kept praying, and God led me back to an idea I had begun considering in January of this year. Why I set it aside then, I couldn’t tell you.

But I’ve fallen in love with it. Working on it won’t restore my losses in other areas, but I feel good again. Great!

Living in the present seems to work best, as long as I don’t totally forget the past or fail to consider the future. And when today’s present becomes the past, I’ll find something in that future time to make that present time the best.

Where do you live–past, present, or future? 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,
Roger

P.S. Here’s the new cover and title for what was previously published as PROJECT MUFFINTOP.

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