I’m honored to be featured in the January/February issue of Southern Writers Magazine with The Methuselah Project. Thank you to everyone who has purchased the book or Kindle version, and special thanks to all those who have given it such high ratings on Amazon! You readers are tops!
No, as an author I truly don’t endorse the pilfering of another writer’s material. However, once the inspiration for the following poem sprouted in my mind, creativity took over. The idea practically begged me to write it, just for fun. This poem is a repeat, as I shared it on my blog one year ago. It’s one of the very few poems this author has attempted. So many people got a laugh that I’m rerunning it. Enjoy!
Stopping to Plagiarize on a Snowy Evening
By Rick Barry (with inspiration from Robert Frost)
Whose words these are I think I know.
His lawyer isn’t watching, though.
He will not see me scanning here
To steal his words, which nicely flow.
My little dog must think it queer
To filch these lines without fear,
To pinch the words and be a fake,
The darkest cunning of the year.
He gives his dog tags a loud shake
As if to warn, “A lot’s at stake!”
The only other sound’s the beep
My printer makes as lines I take.
These words are lovely, rich and deep,
But me? I have deadlines to keep,
And lines to type before I sleep,
And lines to type before I sleep.
In any group, ask for a show of hands: “Who here would like to be considered kind and helpful by others?” Chances are, a good number of hands will go up.
Now try another question: “Who here enjoys being interrupted when you’re busy doing something?” Probably fewer, if any, hands will rise. And understandably so. After all, when we’re pursuing a hobby, or studying for a class, or even writing a weekly blog post, we know how we planned to use our time and aren’t excited when someone disrupts our schedule.
But here’s something interesting to chew on: In the Bible, Jesus taught many truths, and He performed many miracles. Pay close attention to how many of His most memorable miracles resulted from someone interrupting while He was busy, either engaged in doing something or walking toward a goal. Here are a few:
Luke 5:17-19 – While Jesus was teaching a crowd, several men showed up with an ill friend who needed healing. These men had no appointment. They didn’t even wait until Jesus had finished, but barged right in with their paralyzed friend. Jesus not only stopped His lesson to heal the paralytic, but used that opportunity to teach those present yet another lesson.
Luke 8:22-24 – When He was sleeping, the disciples awoke Jesus because of a storm. Rather than simply roll over (He was in no danger!), Jesus rose and rebuked the waves and the wind for their sake.
Luke 8:43 – While on His way to heal the daughter of a man named Jairus, a woman with an issue of blood touched Jesus’ garment and received healing. The crowed pressed all around, and no one but Jesus and the woman realized what had happened. He could have continued walking toward His original goal, but Jesus stopped and singled out the woman to spend a moment of conversation with her.
Mark 10:46-52 – While walking with a huge crowd of people, an “unimportant” blind beggar named Bartimaeus began noisily shouting to Jesus. Some rebuked the beggar. Didn’t he realize Jesus had more important things to do? But Jesus stopped and called for the man. The beggar hurried forward and requested the gift of restored eyesight. Jesus did the miracle, and a joyful Bartimaeus joined His followers.
Yup! Some of Jesus’ most well-remembered miracles occurred during moments when He was basically busy with something else, but was interrupted. How do you respond when someone with a need interrupts you–in irritation, or with compassion and a heart to help? That interruption just might be a God-given opportunity to accomplish something bigger than the interrupter expects. Think about it!
While reading a book of inspirational thoughts, I came across a section titled “Wants and Needs.” After drawing a distinction between what we humans want and what we need (particularly from God’s perfect perspective), the author explores the idea of relationships as they apply to needs:
“It isn’t always easy to accept that someone in our life is the exact person we need in our life to help us learn, grow, and develop into what God planned for us in the first place.”*
A few moments of thought persuaded me that this has proven true in my life in various ways… A college roommate with grating habits that taught me patience. A past coworker who (unwittingly) challenged me to upgrade my ability to overlook offenses and forgive as Christ forgave. Mature believers who modeled excellent qualities I didn’t yet have… You get the idea: God can and does use other humans to mold us into better people even when those “needed ones” don’t realize He’s using them.
But then I pondered further: If it’s true we need others to improve, conversely there must be people out there who need me (despite my shortcomings and the fact that I remain a work in progress). Who needs me? In what ways do they need me? And am I meeting their needs as God intends? Or am I so absorbed with my own problems and agenda that I’m failing those who need me?
A bit of reflection reveals a few way each of us could meet others’ needs:
- I can smile. Is there someone who simply needs a tiny uplift?
- I can listen. Is someone burdened with a weight they need to share, in person, or by phone, or by email?
- I have knowledge. Does somebody need information I carry in my head?
- I have abilities. Could someone be in need of my skills?
- I can pray. Although I’m too limited to pray for all the world’s needs, God has put me in contact with specific people. Some have problems only God can solve. Am I being a friend and upholding them in prayer?
Of course, there are other ways to meet needs. Americans tend to throw money at problems (and sometimes that’s valid). But better solutions might involve donating time and self, in short, caring enough to be involved.
So, Lord, which people in my life need me, despite my imperfections? The closer the friend, the more likely You put here to help. Here am I. Send me.
*It Is Well with My Soul, by Judi Robinson, copyright 2016, p. 57 (https://www.createspace.com/6510186)
Years ago, I received a powerful lesson on thankfulness from a man whose name I don’t know. The man didn’t realize he taught me anything, because he doesn’t realize much of anything. Literally. Here’s the story:
One Sunday afternoon I was in a nursing home to participate in a short church service for residents. Because the elderly folk often forgot what day it was, let alone what time it was, we visitors roamed the hallways and invited people to the activity room. At the junction of two corridors I noticed a man who looked to be in his upper twenties sitting in an armchair. I assumed he was waiting for a grandparent. As I walked past, the man sat as if daydreaming.
“Hello!” I said.
He remained silent. This fellow gazed in the direction of a wall without focusing. After finding and inviting a few more senior citizens to the activity room, I asked one of the nurses about the man in the chair.
“Oh, that’s very sad. He has the body of an adult, but his brain never developed. He has the mind of a baby.”
So the “visitor” actually lived there, even though he was decades younger than other residents. I couldn’t help reflecting on the many things I’d done in life that man had never done—and never would. He hadn’t attended school. He hadn’t shared jokes. He’d never driven a car, read a book, gone swimming, carried on a conversation, fallen in love, gotten married, or done countless things I took for granted. Except for the grace of God, I could have been the mindless man languishing in that armchair, and he could have been the one looking at me with eyes full of pity!
Dear friend, this Thanksgiving you may question whether you have much for which to be thankful. Perhaps you wish you were richer, more attractive, more intelligent, more muscular, more successful, more _________ [fill in the blank]. But realize this: No matter what you do not have, apart from the grace of God you could be sitting in a nursing facility this very instant with the intelligence of a turnip. Rather than focus on everything you do not have, thank God if you can simply think. Not everyone can.
One of the lessons 2016 has driven home to me is that, of all possible forms of humor, mockery is the one I appreciate least. Unfortunately (in my opinion) mockery remains popular across a wide spectrum of people seeking a way to belittle others for anything from physical disabilities to differing views on religion or politics.
I do understand the temptation to mock. Mocking can make the mocker feel smug, intelligent, and witty at the expense of his target. Mocking provides a verbal way to shoot at someone we don’t like without the danger of getting arrested. So in a sense, mocking brings the mocker a reward, particularly if the mockery succeeds in inciting others to join in the jeering and finger-pointing. And I’m sure I’ve mocked before, but I hope in the Lord to have outgrown this particular form of humor.
As a follower of Christ, I do find many incidents of mocking in the Bible. A few include:
– Job was mocked in the midst of his calamity and depression (Job 21:3; 30:9).
– God’s messengers, the prophets were mocked by ungodly listeners (2 Chronicles 36:16).
– Local civic leaders mocked Nehemiah and his followers when they were rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:19).
– David was mocked by his enemies, people who resented God’s hand of blessing on the young man (Psalm 35:15-16).
– Soldiers mocked Jesus with words, but added their spittle, slaps, whip lashing, and a crown of thorns (Matthew 26:67-68).
– The Jewish king, Herod, joined in mocking Jesus (Luke 23:11)
– The apostles were mocked by a crowd, who accused them of being drunk early in the morning (Acts 2:13).
That’s only a quick sampling. Many more Bible verses speak of mocking, and they provide food for meditation. But the truth that strikes me over and over is that the mockery in the Bible generally comes from people with whom I wouldn’t care to associate. In contrast, Jesus certainly pointed out sin, and He didn’t hesitate to tell people when they misapplied the Scriptures. Jesus definitely got angry when He drove out those money-changers who turned the temple created for worshiping God into a place for buying and selling animals to sacrifice. (Even without divine power, Jesus was definitely no weakling!) But did Jesus ever put on goofy faces to mock Herod or faraway Caesar to the cackling of His followers? Did He draw slapstick caricatures of the sinners who refused to heed His teachings? I’m not finding it.
I won’t dictate what others should or shouldn’t do with mockery. But if I have to make a choice, I’d rather be mocked than stand among the ranks of mockers. If someday I slip from this goal, somebody please give me a kick in the backside and remind that I’m not being the kind of person I aspire to be!
When I was young, my family lived one whole block from Dublin elementary school. So, I walked to school every day. But no matter how short the distance, as I headed out the door armed with my brown paper sack lunch, Mom would say, “Be careful.”
That parental warning has always hovered over me in one form or another. When I turned 16 and got my driver’s license, Mom’s goodbye warnings changed from “Be careful” to “Drive careful.” That was decades ago, but to this day when I visit, Mom’s parting words are “Drive careful!”
Dad (now 88) gives me the same warnings. If I cook him a meal and need to step out to his breezeway to fetch something from the freezer, he’ll say, “Be careful.” Or if I head to his basement to use the weight bench or to bring up canned green beans, I know he’ll call out to be careful.
Now, understand that I’m not a reckless person. I do drive defensively. I don’t text while driving. I watch where my feet are going on stairs. But those parental admonitions still pop out, and I’m they always will.
Then, just over a week ago, I noticed something. I’d driven my young grandsons to Falls Park on the Reedy in Greenville, SC. It’s a beautiful place for photos. There are footbridges, waterfalls, pools of water, ducks and geese. My grandsons are still at that young age where water lures them with magnetic attraction. As five-year-old Jonny peered into the pool where geese bobbed along, I heard a voice caution, “Be careful!”
Surprise — the voice was mine. Even though the water was shallow and the danger mild, my automatic response was to repeat the same warning I’ve heard all my life. Life is full of accidents, dangers, and various causes of unhappiness. They happen. We can’t always shield loved one from life’s scrapes and bumps, so our inner voice (or actual voice) urges them to take care. And that’s a good thing.
Friend, the world is fraught with dangers. Some dangers are small, such as stepping into a puddle and getting a shoe wet. (Yes, Jonny managed it despite my vigilance!) Others are life threatening. None of us can save the whole world, but we can care enough to show concern for loved ones. So, friend, if you cared enough to pause and share these thoughts, then I care enough about you to say, “Be careful!”
(And Mom would be proud!)
You missed the interview? You can still hear or download it using the link below. Blessings to you!
American society is infected with an absurd notion. Generally speaking, that notion is that any opinion, symbol, or statement that might somehow displease another is “politically incorrect.” In fact, we’ve reached the point where many might argue to omit the word politically. If you offend them—no matter how unintentionally—they will declare you as incorrect, period.
Years ago, we laughed at verbal gymnastics as some folks suggested rewordings to avoid the least possible offense. For instance, instead of describing a man as short, he was “altitude challenged.” It sounded silly, but we played along. Even some of us non-proponents of PC joined in the game by concocting our own nutty PC labels.
Now, the virus dubbed political correctness has morphed and infested society. Today, if a person displeases anyone at all, he or she no longer risks being frowned upon. The new knee-jerk reaction is to slap a harsh label on the offender.
Or the dreaded “Hater!”
Of course, even many of those who shoot the insults realize you’re not actually bigoted or hateful. But they also realize harsh labels can cow the timid, and thus—without the aid of laws or brute force—manipulate the opposition into submitting to their wishes.
Imagine yourself as the manager of a restaurant. On your walls are poster-sized photographs of your lunchtime combos. A woman approaches you and says, “Your photographs of bacon offend me. Bacon is against my religion.” Who’s wrong, the restaurant manager or the customer who expects all others to bow to her standards? I would say the customer, yet many PC adherents would say, “The manager would be wrong. She was offended; he should change the menu.”
Has the USA reached the point where we all must bite our tongues and bend over backward doing whatever necessary to avoid the least offense? I say no. But in the same breath I’ll say we shouldn’t give free reign to rudeness and insults either. There’s an older term that’s superior to political correctness. The word is polite.
Good old-fashioned politeness is kind. So, if a neighbor or coworker is shorter than average, taller than average, wider than average, then the polite person refrains from mocking remarks or embarrassing that person. Good ol’ politeness also refrains from attempts to coerce others into thinking and behaving according to our will.
Jesus gave another behavioral guideline that’s superior to political correctness. He said, “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). Wow. Treat others the way we wish they would treat us? If everyone truly lived up to that principle, the world would be a better place, and political correctness could join the scrap heap of history.
I’m pleased and excited that The Methuselah Project has made the shortlist for the annual INSPY Awards. Winners will be announced June 28, but no matter what happens, it’s an honor to be in the final running.
From their site: “Recognizing the need for a new kind of book award, the INSPYs were created by bloggers to discover and highlight the very best in literature that grapples with expressions of the Christian faith.”
2016 INSPYs Shortlists Released
April 30, 2016—The INSPYs Advisory Board is pleased to announce that the following books have been shortlisted in the fifth annual INSPY Awards. Recognizing the need for a new kind of book award, the INSPYs — http://inspys.com — were created by bloggers to discover and highlight the very best in literature that grapples with expressions of the Christian faith.
The Thorn Bearer by Pepper D. Basham | Vinspire Publishing
Jaded by Varina Denman | David C. Cook
A Noble Masquerade by Kristi Ann Hunter | Bethany House
Love’s Rescue by Christine Johnson | Revell
Irish Meadows b y Susan Anne Mason | Bethany House
A Cup of Dust by Susie Finkbeiner | Kregel
The Art of Losing Yourself by Katie Ganshert | Waterbrook
Secrets She Kept by Cathy Gohlke | Tyndale
Wat er From My Heart by Charles Martin | Center Street
The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay | Thomas Nelson
Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense
London Tides by Carla Laureano | David C. Cook
The Dandelion Field by Kathryn Springer | Zondervan
Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Beth K . Vogt | Howard
A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade | Bethany House
The Wonder of You by Susan May Warren | Tyndale
The Wood’s Edge by Lori Benton | Waterbrook
Not by Sight b y Kate Breslin | Bethany House
The Mistress of Tall Acre by Laura Frantz | Revell
Luther and Katharina by Jody Hedlund | Waterbrook
Through Waters Deep by Sarah Sundin | Revell
The Methuselah Project by Rick Barry | Kregel
Heir of Hope by Morgan L . Busse | Enclave Publishing
The Shock of Night by Patrick W. Carr | Bethany House
The Curse of Crow Hollow by Billy Coffey | Thomas Nelson
Embers by Ronie Kendig | Enclave Publishing
Mystery and Thriller
The Last Con by Zachary Bartels | Thomas Nelson
A.D. 33 b y Ted Dekker | Center Street/Hachette
Vendetta by Lisa Harris | Revell
Falcon by Ronie Kendig | Shiloh Run Press/Barbour
The Bones Will Speak by Carrie Stuart Parks | Thomas Nelson
Literature for Young Adults
Season of Fire b y Lisa T. Bergren | Blink/Zondervan
Shades of Doon by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon | Blink/Zondervan
The Choosing by Rachelle Dekker | Tyndale
An Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund | Zondervan
Siren’s Fury by Mary Weber | Thomas Nelson
The innovative INSPY Award is designed to help readers in their search for the preeminent faithinspired literature of today. The INSPYs were created to select and showcase books with the highest literary standards that grapple with the Christian faith. To find these works, the INSPYs net is cast wide, accepting nominations of books aimed at the Christian bookstore market as well as those from the general market.
The winners of the 2016 INSPY awards will be announced June 28. In the meantime, http://inspys.com will feature author interviews to introduce readers to the creative minds behind these books.