Promo Blitz! Ebook of The Methuselah Project just $0.99!

From now through Friday, January 20, the ebook of The Methuselah Project is available for only .99 cents! Already read it? Then please consider sharing the news with a reading friend who hasn’t.

Thank you, dear readers, for each mention, each share, and each tag you’ve made to reach an even wider audience. Blessings to you all!

Amazon Link: http://amzn.to/2iyZoyG

 

 

And in case some of you have heard about the book but still aren’t sure it’s right for you, let me share a quick screen capture of the latest reviews:

 

 

 

 

Stopping to Plagiarize on a Snowy Evening

eveningNo, 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.

 

 

Hurray, an Interruption!

interruptIn 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!

 

Thankful? Are You Out of Your Mind?

manYears 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.

 

 

 

 

Mockery

mockeryOne 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!

“Be Careful.”

be-carefulWhen 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!)

 

Politically Incorrect? There’s Something Better.

 

Politically-IncorrectAmerican 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.

“Bigot!”

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.

“How do you overcome writer’s block?”

Writer's block...in Russian

A writer’s block…in Russian 😉

Because I have several novels to my credit, hope-to-be writers sometimes ask how I overcome writer’s block. If you’re afflicted by that dread malady, the following thoughts are for you.

First, many author friends agree that the best remedy for writer’s block is simply self-discipline: to force yourself back to the keyboard and to resume working, even if you’re not feeling “inspired.” In fact, if you wait for the the perfect creative mood, you will probably never write. You must be a strict boss with yourself. Plumbers don’t plumb only when they’re in the mood. Surgeons don’t cancel surgery because they’re rather spend the morning playing Solitaire or catching up with friends on Facebook. They do their jobs, inspired or not, and save playtime for later. So must the writer, whether that discipline translates into a specific number of new words added per day, or simply a certain amount of daily time spent pushing the story forward. (Feel free to give yourself a break on Sundays and holidays.)

Second, here is some encouragement: When you woodenly keyboard word after word without feeling motivated, you might conclude you’re typing junk. And maybe you are. But “junk writing” can always be edited and improved and polished at a later date. However, that blank Word document that is waiting for you to be in the mood? There is absolutely no way anyone can ever improve that empty document. When I was developing my third novel, The Methuselah Project, I often felt bogged down by lack of creativity. More than once, I didn’t know how to handle the next chapter. But I pushed through the tough spots. Later, I came back and reworked each scene of every chapter. You know what? Now I can’t tell the difference between my inspired writing and my forced writing. Both types underwent revisions and ended up better than that first draft.

So go ahead and jump in, even if the sentences feel boring and the dialogue clunky as you create it. Sometimes, the mere act of writing and exercising your imagination helps to prime the pump of creativity, enabling scenes to flow faster and with more enjoyment than when you began!

The Invisible Ones Around Us

Gray-haired womanA casual remark by a senior citizen pierced my heart and has stuck with me. Out of the blue, this woman noted, “Being an elderly woman is like being invisible. Nobody notices you.”

This woman was not bragging about a super power. Nor was she a Ninja in training. Rather, she was sad. People didn’t notice her. They didn’t give compliments. And sure, younger folks might hold the door if she was ambling out of McDonalds as they were trying to enter, but they didn’t go out of their way to meet her or to strike up conversations as they might have done when she was younger and more physically attractive.

My acquaintance’s remark sparked a memory of a double-decker boat I’d recently been on. While visiting California, a group of us boarded the chartered vessel for an evening cruise along the bay. The passengers included authors, screen writers, doctors, a physician, people involved in non-profit organizations, and others. Fascinating clusters of people stood chatting all over that boat, and I enjoyed meeting and networking, too. Yet, off to the side sat three elderly women. They kept to themselves, and exchanged few words as they watched the crowd around them. Who were they? How had they ended up on this chartered cruise? I had no clue, but I didn’t approach them either as I discussed writing with “more important” contacts. These three gray-haired ladies weren’t literally invisible, but they may as well have been for the lack of attention they received that evening.

May I make a suggestion? When we cross paths with the elderly or “unimportant” people, let’s keep in mind that they are real people with genuine feelings. They deserve respect even if they don’t walk or think as fast as they once did. Offering a smile or a kind remark requires little time, but simple acts of kindness or sixty seconds of conversation can make them feel noticed and appreciated.

Jesus declared that the second greatest commandment concerned the people around us (even the “unimportant” and aged ones): “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Mark 12:31). Being caring and others-centered bucks the trend in this self-centered age. Yet, that’s the path recommended by none other than the Son of God.

I think it’s time we stop letting people around us fade into invisibility. Don’t you?