An Extra Post: an Original Easter Song

NOTE: If you follow my other blog, As I Come Singing, you’ll receive this same post this Wednesday. But I  couldn’t resist sharing it with my On Aging Gracelessly readers today as something extra.

Then dawned Sunday, the first day of the week,
When into the garden silently came
Troubled women to anoint the body of their friend,
Who–Friday on a cross–had been slain.

These women had endured his trial; these women had watched him die.
They’d wept as they saw his body torn by pain.
But they never stopped to think–they never realized–
That what he had told them was true:
That they’d see him in the flesh, alive again.

The women approached the tomb in the stillness of the dawn,
When they saw that the rock was gone from the door.
“Fear not,” an angel said, “the one you seek is not dead,
But has risen and lives today, and his spirit will live with you evermore.”

Then dawned Sunday, the first day of the week,
When out from the garden joyously ran
Shouting women to proclaim that one who had been slain
Had lived, died, and arisen as God and man.

About this Song:
This is one of my oldest songs–thirty to forty years. I used rhymes a lot more back in the early days of my song writing. And this particular song falls  more distinctly into the folk sound I’ve never really outgrown than some of my more recent songs.

Honestly, there’s one thing about this song I don’t like, and I don’t know what to do about it. That’s the part about the angel saying Jesus’ “spirit will live with you evermore.” While Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would come to believers following his ascension, I don’t believe any of the Gospel accounts of the women in the garden had the angel(s) say anything about that.

Poetic license is one thing, but purposely and knowingly misquoting an angel is something else.

Suggestions, anyone? How about leaving a comment?

I hope you have a blessed Easter and that your thoughts are more about the significance of Jesus’s coming back from the dead than about the Easter bunny and chocolate eggs. I can assure you the Easter bunny was NOT present at the empty tomb on that glorious Sunday morning.

~*~

Links you might be interested in:

I’ll be back again next Wednesday.

Best regards,
Roger

Advertisements

Once Saved, Always Saved?

Christianity has a number of different denominations, all too many of which don’t act very lovingly towards those that disagree with them. Probably the thing that divides Christians most frequently has to do with the interpretation of Scripture. No matter how true I believe the Bible is in its entirety, I’m the first to admit that the Bible contains many things I cannot hope to understand with certainty.

And one of those is a doctrine known to those who believe in it as “once saved, always saved.” In layman’s terms, that means that once a person becomes a Christian–confesses his sins, asks God’s forgiveness, and places his life under the lordship of Jesus Christ–he or she has an irrevocable ticket to Heaven.

At its most extreme, I would assume that someone who became a Christian at an early age and later chose to become a devout Muslim would still be counted a Christian at death. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, does it?

I have a cousin who grew up in a fine Christian home and undoubtedly became a Christian when he was younger. I forget the name of the group he now follows, but it’s one of those religions that rejects Christianity’s claim to be the only way. Jesus Himself said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

That’s pretty specific, don’t you think?

But how can my cousin still be counted a Christian at the time of his death? Again, it doesn’t make sense.

People who believe in “once saved, always saved” tend to put a disclaimer on the idea. Anyone who TRULY becomes a Christian–not someone who simply goes through the motions–is permanently saved. And, yes, that makes sense.

But it still doesn’t answer the question about the Christian-turned-Muslim or the cousin-turned-whatever.

I think about this often because I pray regularly for my cousin as if he is not a Christian. But then I start thinking about some well-known folks who seemingly became very devout Christians, but whose faith I know nothing about now.

One case in point is Eric Clapton. I loved his song, “The Presence of the Lord.” And the song he wrote after the death of his son, “Tears in Heaven,” still has Christian references. But did he abandon his relationship with God during that time? And if he did, would he still be considered a Christian?

I honestly don’t know.

Another case in point is Bob Dylan. You younger readers may not be as familiar with him, but he was the voice of his generation back during the 1960s and 1970s. And he became such a strong Christian that he not only recorded three Christian albums, he quit singing his old secular songs in concert for a while, which greatly displeased the non-Christians in the crowd. To the best of my knowledge, he’s gone back to secular music, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But does he still have that saving relationship with God through faith in Jesus?

I wish I could tell you.  But I don’t know the answer to that, either.

I’m going to sum this whole question up in the way that seems most satisfactory. God knows the hearts of everyone. And He’s the one who’ll make the proper determination when the time comes. The perfect determination, because God Himself is perfect.

How thankful I am not to have His job!

Do you have an opinion about the “once saved, always saved” doctrine or about any of the questions I’ve raised? Please share a comment if you do.

~*~

Links you might be interested in:

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

Best regards,
Roger

Death of a Store–or of a Mall?

  IMG_20160309_081954083     IMG_20160309_081959696_HDR     IMG_20160309_082013012_HDR

What fun times those were when Virginia Center Commons opened in 1991. It was the newest and the best of Richmond’s malls. And what delights awaited us when we got there. I don’t recall many of the stores from that era, but I do remember a candy store where one of four or five jewelry stores is now. No telling how many hours we spent in that store; if you’ve ever lived with a four-year-old or taken one shopping for candy, you know what I’m talking about.

Now that my wife and I live just a mile from VCC, it’s no longer the newest or the best. Some of you may have read my blog post about the aging mall (check HERE if you want to read it) some months back, in which I lamented the sad condition of VCC and noted the interesting uses being made of some of the store spaces. I believe things have gone even further downhill since then, however. Even the Henrico County Police substation moved out.

When I walk at the mall, something I do frequently, I can’t help noticing all of the empty stores. One hallway is particularly depressing. A person would almost have to know where Lens Crafters is located because it’s around the corner from what looks like a basically empty hall. Probably three-quarters of the stores in that area have either closed or moved to a busier part of the mall.

The most recent store closure is the Macy’s at the far end from the Food Court. It’s been going out of business for a couple of months now, and every week or two the discounts have grown deeper and deeper. You can see in one of the pictures above what the current discounts are. Since the 13 Days sign I took through the window this morning was for yesterday, next week will mark the end.

Yesterday I wandered in just out of curiosity, and I couldn’t help feeling depressed. So many empty fixtures–they were for sale, too–and a rather disgusting crowd of nude female manikins. And whatever stock was left was starting to look pretty well picked over.

But those weren’t the things that made me sad. It was the thought of all those people losing their jobs–and still working as long as they can before the final day.

I keep thinking the whole situation–not just Macy’s, but the mall in general–is a which-comes-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg problem. How long can stores remain in business if people don’t come to the mall? Yet how many people are going to visit the mall if the number and variety of stores has so seriously shrunk that it’s not worth the effort?

Mr. Obama, feel free to keep trying to make us believe the economy is improving when you’re apparently blind to problems like this. And, Lord, please protect us from any more of the kinds of efforts the administration has been using to improve the economy.

What are your thoughts? A comment would be welcome.

~*~

Links you might be interested in:

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

Best regards,
Roger

Like Father, Like Son

I don’t know how many sons see some of their fathers’ characteristics  in themselves, but I suspect some traits don’t show up until later in life. And when they do, it may take someone else’s observations to make a guy aware of them. Sometimes in ways we’d rather not be like our fathers.

My father was smart. Probably brilliant. He got a law degree from the College of William and Mary and practiced law several years before feeling the call to go back to school, get a seminary degree, and become a Christian minister.

I am reasonably intelligent, although I would never consider myself to be in his league. And I, too, have had multiple careers. Three professional careers prior to my retirement. And now four as a published author. And although I never felt called into the ministry, I share his love for missions and have been on a number of short term mission trips.

He loved reading and owned hundreds of books. Mostly Bibles and theology books of various kinds. I’m not nearly the bookworm he was–in fact, I tend to bog down when I try to read nonfiction–but I have quite a library of novels, many by authors I’ve met through the years.

He had musical talent. He enjoyed singing and participated in a community choir. That was one of his few non-church activities. And if the situation was sufficiently desperate, he could play the piano for hymn singing at the mid-week prayer service. But, the first to admit he was no musician, he did everything he could to avoid doing that. Having heard his piano playing, I understand why.

I seem to have done better in the music department. I’ve been playing guitar for over fifty years, writing my own songs, and singing and playing them. I’ve also been an amateur recording engineer, moving from a four-track analog recorder to an eight-track digital recorder over the years and using drum pads and keyboard sounds in my recordings, even though I would never claim to be a drummer or keyboardist. And I’ve been more outgoing in my desire to share my music with other people

He was no athlete. We were completely alike that way, although I did enjoy backyard baseball as a child. But my enjoyment didn’t make me good at it. I suspect we were pretty equal at preferring indoor activities to outdoors.

We shared a number of other qualities: shortness, baldheadedness, love of classical music, introversion, the bneed for hearing aids, a hatred of telephones… I could go on forev–

Huh? What do you mean I’m rambling just the way he did when he grew older? And telling some of the same stories over and over? You mean I’m like my father in those ways, too? Bite your tongue!

Are you especially like one of your parents? How about sharing in a comment?

~*~

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

Who Are You? What Are You?

Meeting someone you didn’t know used to be simple. At its worst, it was a matter of extending your hand to a stranger and saying, “I don’t think I know you. I’m so-and-so. And you are…?” One of the smoother variations of asking, “Who are you?”

Only in the rarest of circumstances would a question like that result in an irritable or negative response. Uh, okay, maybe more often when teen boys who were anything but “hot” finally got up the nerve to try to meet the new girl and hope she hadn’t already met the real “hotties.”

I’m not really thinking of teens, however, but of full-fledged adults.

Especially if the meet-er and meet-ee were both men–and often if the meet-er was a woman–the “what are you?” question was a frequent follow up. “What do you do for a living?” or “I see you’re driving a Porsche. It would take me a lifetime to save for the insurance alone. You must work really hard. You, uh, …?”

Perhaps that second variation wasn’t the most subtle one, but it still served the purpose of acknowledging interest in the other person’s occupation. Along with showing a little friendly jealousy. At least the well-practiced man would attempt to make it sound friendly.

It’s not surprising that men often asked one another a question like that. Then, as now, they not only took pride in their jobs–or at least in their ability to provide for their families–they were apt to think of themselves as being what they do. I must admit I still prefer thinking of myself as a published novelist rather than a bald-headed sixty-nine-year-old man. And I especially prefer saying, “I’m a novelist” to “I’m retired.”

I started this post by implying that these introductory practices might belong to the past. The “Who are you?” is probably still safe, but the “What are you?” might result in unexpected answers. Especially t if asked that bluntly.

Let me explain.

Years ago while working in a state job service office, I noticed someone sitting in the waiting area. This person wore jeans, a very loose-fitting flannel shirt, and a short haircut. The overall appearance was that of someone who had lived a hard life and probably needed a job badly.

How I prayed that I wouldn’t have to be the one to process this person. Before learning that she was a woman–at least in theory–I could’ve flipped a coin just as successfully as try to determine her gender from her features.  She didn’t have the first distinguishing gender characteristic. Not any sign of a woman’s figure or a woman’s face. Or a woman’s mannerisms.

And yet she didn’t look like a man, either. Her appearance was utterly neutral. I thanked God that day that I didn’t have to ask her what she was.

Sure, that was an isolated incident, and it took place many years ago.

But let me share something a little more relevant. I was the editor of the store newsletter where I was working, and a particular young lady had written an article she wanted me to publish. The best I can recall, it was on tolerance in the workplace. I thought it worthy enough and well written, but she shocked me when she expressed doubt that it would be well received by her co-workers. I didn’t ask why, and apparently she thought I understood.

Not until months later did someone tell me this young lady was a lesbian. Although I was shocked, part of my reaction–I only thought this–was something like “what a shame for some nice man not to have any chance of romance with a nice, attractive gal like her.”

I’d never had a reason to ask what she was, nor would I have done so.

But now that so many people have come out of a very crowded closet and have gained wide acceptance except among conservative Christians like me, I’m doubly thankful I’m a happily married man. I’d hate to think I’d have to ask a woman what she was before daring to ask her out. And whether she’d always been what she was now.

What do you think? Please leave a comment.

~*~

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

Life Matters–All Life

While I thoroughly agree with those who say that “black lives matter,” I prefer to take it one step further. A gigantic one. ALL LIFE MATTERS.

God is the giver of life, and He loves each of His human beings. Everyone is His favorite. He loves you as much as He loves me, and He loves me as much as He loves you. He loves the members of every race and nation equally. He even loves the world’s worst sinners as much as He loves His own Son. Some of you may disagree with that point, and I don’t blame you. But why would God the Father have sacrificed Jesus the Son for our sins if He didn’t love His human beings as much as John 3:16 says so beautifully:

“God loved the world so much that He gave up His only Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (Bruner “translation”)

Let’s take those ideas a step further. He also loves the unborn child as much as He loves the newborn. And He loves the baby–I refuse to place less importance on the unborn by saying “fetus”–who’s been cruelly aborted as much as he does the old person who dies of “natural causes.”

He created us all, and He made us all to be the people we’ve become and have yet to finish becoming.

Hmm. Those of us who weren’t murdered prior to birth, that is.

I don’t know the circumstances of my adoption, but I’m sure I could’ve been aborted if circumstances had permitted; but abortion wasn’t as readily available or as widely accepted in 1946. And my daughter, born to a single upper teen in 1987, could have been far more easily aborted.

People may not look at my daughter and me and question what the world would’ve been like had we not been born. It’s not something I think about, either. But I want to believe that our lives have made a difference to the people who’ve known us and sometimes even to people we don’t even realize our lives have touched.

I’ve read far too many times that America began its drastic decline with the Supreme Court’s legalization of abortion and the subsequent “sexual revolution,” which in turn brought about the need for increasingly more drastic forms of birth control.  I can’t argue with that opinion.

For thousands of years, the Bible has been the standard of human behavior. “Do not commit adultery” just as easily translates to “Do not commit any form of sexual sin,” heterosexual or homosexual. And “Do not commit murder” applies just as validly to murder of the unborn, who are alive and human from the moment of conception.

I’m afraid history books of the future will look back on the current era as the time time when biblical standards were totally dismissed as old-fashioned and inapplicable. Not to mention “inconvenient.”

But maybe it’s not too late. Let those of us who still believe in biblical standards “step up to the microphone” and make our voices heard. Without regard to the intolerance of those who oppose us.

Taking a stand isn’t always easy. But are you on my side? Can you say with me, “All life matters”? How about leaving a comment?

~*~

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

Now Is Better than Then

Walkers

I’ve mentioned periodically that I like to walk at the mall. With my wife three nights a week and on Saturday and by myself an additional three or four times a week. It’s not only great exercise, it’s also become my favorite prayer time.

I pray for my fellow walkers, even though I don’t really know more than a couple of them–and those not well. But that’s changing.

The past few days I’ve become particularly fond of an older black gentleman who walks with a couple of other fellows. He’s always stuck out in my mind, however, because he carries an adjustable cane, which I’ve never seen him use.

But he recently expressed an interest in my collapsible trekking pole. I told him I’d bought it for $20 at the Bass Pro store that’s less than five miles from the mall, and he planned to have his son drive him there to get one. (He lives near the mall and takes back roads to get there to avoid heavy traffic, which is probably why he chose not to drive to Bass Pro himself.)

And–lo and behold!–he showed up to walk this morning (I’m writing this on the Wednesday before you see it) with a trekking pole just like mine.

He and a friend had just completed their walk at the same time I did, and I asked if I could take their picture, which they willingly agreed to and jokingly asked whether I was going to put it on Facebook. At the time I thought I would, but then I decided to write about today’s events and include the picture here.

Walkers2

Before we were done, two other walkers joined us–one black, one white. I took another picture–how I wish I could’ve done a selfie of the five of us–and we all sat down together. I learned that my trekking pole friend is Chris and the fellow who’s been with him was Al. The two additional fellows were Sam and Jerry.

We had a great time talking, and I explained that I would love to walk with them, but because of my praying while walking–I told them I pray for them as well as my other co-walkers–I preferred to walk alone. They not only understood, but appreciated what I’d told them.

While nobody said anything specifically about being a Christian (or not), I felt very much at home in this little group.

So why did I title this post “Now Is Better than Then”?

As much as I hate to think about it or even admit it, if this had occurred sixty or seventy years ago–perhaps less– well, it probably wouldn’t have happened. Black people walking at the same place as white people? Preposterous. And speaking enthusiastically to one another as equals as we passed each other? Not likely.

And sitting down together in a time of true fellowship, two older white guys and three older black fellows? It wouldn’t have happened in those (questionably) “good old days,” would it?

I have no memory of those days, and I’m not making any claims that racial equality has progressed as far as it needs to, but I am sincerely thankful it’s gotten far enough for me to make friends, even in such a limited way, with three fine black gentlemen who share the same interest in walking and talking.

I usually try to ask a pertinent question to get you to leave a comment, but I’m fresh out of pertinent. So instead I’ll just ask, “What do you think? How about leaving a comment?”

~*~

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