The best of Hope and Humor: 2012
Here are 13 of the most hopeful and humorous posts from January through March of 2012.
In April, I launched hopeandhumor.org
with six of my favorite hopeful and humorous writer friends:
Renae Brumbaugh, Mary DeMuth, Bob Hostetler, Jeanette Levellie, Cec Murphey and Rhonda Rhea.
The new platform allows you to subscribe to the Monday through Friday posts, make comments on the site and
search for your favorites. Enjoy the old and new!
Thursday, January 5, 2012
Keep your back to the future
I loved the Back to the Future films as Marty McFly and Doc Brown traveled through time in their
tricked-out DeLorean. But the title provides some helpful advice as we face a brand new year.
Since we can't see one single nanosecond into the future, we back into the future, but that doesn't mean we don't
have direction. I love what Philip Yancey writes in the booklet Guidance (Multnomah, 1983):
I had always thought of guidance as forward-looking. We keep praying, hoping, counting on God to reveal what we
should do next. In my own experience, at least, I have found the direction to be reversed.
For me, guidance becomes clear only as I look backward. At the moment, my future is a big blur. Guidance becomes
evident only when I look back, months and years later. Then the circuitous process falls into place and the hand
of God seems clear. But at the moment of decision, I feel mainly confusion and uncertainty
Like Yancey, I have to look back to see the future. Let me chart it out. I've done a lot of different
things. Everything from performing magic at events to being a hair model at beauty seminars to putting raisins
in Raisin Bran to writing and speaking. But there seems to be a trajectory, a linear pattern.
Writing and speaking keep showing up throughout my life. So, as I back into the future, I can line up where I seem
to be headed by the stakes of the past.
Not looking forward does not mean not moving. It simply acknowledges we can't see the future. But by looking back
at what seems to have worked in the past and the presentand which God seems to be blessingcan keep us
moving forward in the right direction, even if we can't see what's ahead. So keep your back to the
futureand keeping moving!
God's will is not lost: for those trying to find it
Which path is "right" path?!
Thursday, January 12, 2012
I'm reading through the Book of Luke for my time alone with God during January, and several things popped into
my little head as I read:
Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness,
where he was tempted by the devil for forty days (Luke 4:1-2).
Being in the wilderness is not a sign of lacking the Holy Spirit in one's life or any kind of spiritual
disobedience! (You may have been "led" there by the Spirit.)
It often follows a spiritual high. The wilderness journey began after the Spirit descended upon Christ as the
Father announced He was well-pleased with His Son! (The higher the high, the lower the low that often follows.)
Being tempted is not a sign of spiritual weakness! (It often comes from an outside source such as the
Journeys into the wilderness are rarely one-day trips! (Lois and mine began July 2002!)
I hope these thoughts encourage you as they did me!
Top ten things going through Italian cruise ship captain’s mind as he abandoned ship
10. I hope my Auto Owners covers this.
9. What would Jack Sparrow do?
8. This usually doesn't happen until the fourth or fifth drink!
7. Is that Celine Dion singing?
6. That's the last time I text and captain!
5. I was just one day from retirement.
4. Is it too late to blame this on German U-boats?
3. The next person who compares this to the Titanic is walking the plank!
2. Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's
heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee . . . thou damned whale!
1. So long, suckers!
© Copyright 2012 James N. Watkins
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Are you sputtering through life?
For anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his (Hebrews 4:10 NIV).
Northern Indiana is where God spent His day of rest. No signs of creativity hereno magnificent mountains,
gorgeous gorges, or silvery seasonly plain plains. Apparently when God rests, He rests!
Unlike God, I tend to "diesel" on my day off. (If you have a car that likes to sputter a couple seconds after you
turn off the ignition, it's said to be dieseling.) That's what I do on Mondays. Even though I try to turn
off my thoughts about work as a
my brain keeps sputtering. I usually end up
saying to myself, I'll just download these thoughts into the computer and then be done with it. But one thing leads
to another and before I know it, dieseling has turned to a wide-open throttle.
God's rest is total and complete. I need to pull into the rest area after racing down the road of life, turn off
the ignition and allow Him to quiet my sputtering life. While I like to think that what I'm doing in life is pretty
important, it pales in contrast to creating galaxies, planets, mountains, oceans, northern Indiana and life of all
kinds. I need to trust Him that His world will continue turning without my help.
My brain does diesel a bit, but when I study His Word and then take time to meditate on a key phraseoften
repeating it until I stop sputteringI begin to truly relax in His care. Ahhhhhhhh!
© Copyright James N. Watkins
Monday, February 6, 2012
Someone understands me
"You're a what?" people often question when I tell them I'm a writer. "You mean you actually enjoy writing?!
Isn't that like having homework for the rest of your life?!"
Uh, well, I do enjoy research. (One summer while in junior high, I read the entire World Book Encyclopedia.)
And I'd rather tap away at a keyboard than watch TV. So, I guess writers appear slightly less than normal!
But, there's one place I feel completely "normal" and understoodwriters' conferences. There I'm
surrounded by people who do enjoy poring over research books and who think staring at a word processing screen is
I'm sure it's the same with occupations I wouldn't want to even consider, such as dentists. What kind of person
enjoys working with decaying teeth and infected gums? Apparently a large number of people who perfectly understand
the joy of dentistry.
Perhaps being among people who understand our unique joys and sorrows is the secret to support groups, seminars,
conferences and conferences for writers, dentists, as well as Star Trek fans and other marginal groups.
In the same way, Jesusalthough
He is completely Godcompletely understands us humans, because He became human. Every joy and sorrow, every
strength and weakness, every triumph and temptationJesus understands.
But most important, Jesus understands me!
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses . . ." (Hebrews 4:15 NIV). Now
that's worth writing about!
Note: I'll be with people who understand me February 17-18 at the
19th Annual Christian
Writers Seminar in Castro Valley, California (just east of Oakland).
Thursday, February 9, 2012
Top ten things I want my kids to remember
I have in my wrinkled right hand, direct from my home office in Corn Borer, Indiana, ten things I hope my children
and grandchildren will remember.
10. God is often unpredictable, but never untrustworthy.
9. Be wary: the simple, obvious answer is usually wrong.
8. Choose your battles (you can't fight them all).
7. Keep your balance.
6. Don't expect life to be fair, easy or carefree.
5. So, develop tough hide and a tender heart (and don't switch those around).
4. Understand that there are no problem people only people with problems.
3. Remember, people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.
2. Love people; use things (and don't switch those around either).
1. Put God first in everything.
There are a lot more: Just say no to drugs. Pay off
your credit card balance each month. Never pee on an electric fence. Ten, however, seems to be the universal limit for
these sort of things.
So, when my final deadline arrives, I trust that
my children will remember what I said, what I wrote,
but mostly what I lived.
God is never latebut He sure is slow
Squeezing Good Our of Bad
Why? Some thoughts on life's tough questions
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Introducing JamesWatkins 60.0
Release date: February 16, 2012
Today, we are pleased announce the release of JamesWatkins: Version 60.0!
JamesWatkins has been in constant development since 1952 when Version 0.1 was introduced to the world. The Beta
version was extremely rudimentary with only the most basic functions and virtually no random memory. Between
versions 0.1 and 18.1, vital input was programmed into JamesWatkins' CPU by godly parents and peripheral platforms
such as the local church, Campus Life and school system.
Versions 18.2 through 22.0 saw dramatic changes in the integration of personal operating systems with applications
of college, dating and the imbedding of spiritual input.
The most dramatic changes, however, occurred between versions 22.1 and 30.0 in dedicated and compatible
and the introduction of
FaithAnne 0.1 in 1978 and PaulJames 0.1 in 1982. While there were numerous bugs and glitches, the networking
was remarkably free from crashes and fatal errors.
In 1982, JamesWatkins 30.0's previous programming protocols were unified so as to specialize in creating high-level
language systems in solving spiritual and moral issues of target computers through
protocols. By Version 40.0 the scope and complexity of these operations expanded to include
communicating to the global market in nearly 20 countries and appearing on national
television and Internet platforms reaching an audience of millions.
However, with the burst of the "dot.com bubble" in 2000, so came the crash of JamesWatkins 50.0. After 14
published books, over 2,000 articles, and 20 years of weekly
columns, dramatic changes in publishing platforms wiped out network I/O. JamesWatkins 50.0 was forced
to defragment, reconfigure and restore the entire operating system and settings. Spiritual networking with higher
level programming of the original
became the priority rather than system operations and global networking.
With the introduction of JamesWatkins.60.0, the operating system and settings hopefully and prayerfully honor
the Architect with programming for even better and more productive computing in the future. And the introduction
programsMicah 6.8, Hannah 6.8, Nathan 4.7, Kayla.4.2 and
Keren 0.6have dramatically translated processing priorities.
So, if you are familiar with previous versions, which admittedly contained some bad code and non-malicious
viruses, please update to 60.0 for best experience. We are dedicated to providing integrated
hope and humor on a
wide spectrum of current and future platforms.
© Copyright 2012 James N. Watkins
Note: If you're not a geek, this simply means I'm turning 60 today and rather than thinking of myself
as old, I'm choosing to think of myself as a new version. Okay, the main frame (body) is looking a
bit worn, but I thank the heavenly Father for some serious social and
designed to keep my software (heart and soul) operating like new. And, if you are a geek, please excuse any
misuse of computer terms. I simply went online and had fun slinging cyber slang together.
Becoming like little children
Top ten wishes for my 50th birthday (February 2002)
Monday, February 20, 2012
Turning tragedy into ‘comedy’
Humor is the not opposite of seriousness. Humor is the opposite of despair.
Ancient theater was divided into two categories: comedy and tragedy. In "comic" plays the "good guys" won and
lived happily ever after. The "bad guys" got what was coming to them. In "tragic" plays, however, the heroes
usually ended up deador at least defeated.
We see this in more modern tragedies: Romeo and Juliet didn't live happily ever after, the faithful dog "Ole
Yeller" was shot by the very boy he rescued, and "Doomsday" sent Superman to the super-hero here-after.
The Bible's story of Esther, however, is a classic comedy. The evil Haman, a government papyrus pusher,
plots to have all the Hebrews killed because Mordecai, a Jew, wouldn't bow down to him. Haman even builds a
gallows for Mordecai. But Queen Esther, unknown to King Xerxes, is a Jewand the cousin of Mordecai.
To make a long story short, the queen reveals her nationality, the Hebrews are saved and Haman is forced to
honor Mordecai for an old political favor and eventually swings from his own gallows. It's a great ancient
The Christian life is also a comedy. Tragic events come upon believers and unbelievers alike:
rape, murder, etc. etc. Butand I love
big buts of the BibleChristians
know that in the end they will "live happily ever after."
And evil will be dealt with in the final act.
So, while the Christian life may not be one laugh after another, we can be assured that "eternal life" is the
final punch line!
© Copyright James N. Watkins
Thursday, March 1, 2012
Top ten things I (Jim) hope never make a comeback
"The Artist," a black and white silent film swept the Academy Awards with gold statues for
best picture, best director, best actor, best costume design and best musical score. So, does that mean
black and white silent films are making a comeback?!
The envelope please, from the accounting firm of Countem, Chekum, and Tally . . .
Top ten things I (Jim) hope never make a come-back
10. Polyester leisure suits
9. The Cold War
8. "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles"
7. Cat-eye glasses
6. Vanilla Ice
5. Frontal lobotomies
3. The Black Plague
2. Manual typewriters
Monday, March 5, 2012
Does God make prank ‘calls’?
When we got together, my cousins and I loved to make prank phone calls. Our favorite? Calling someone at random
andwhile trying to make our pre-adolescent voices sound deep and adultsay, "This is the electric
company. Is your refrigerator running?" And, if they actually bought our act and said yes, we would squeal,
"Well, run and catch it!"
I believe God also makes "prank" calls. Well, at least calls that seem laughable. To serve as His spokesperson, God
calls Moses, who claims he's no public speaker. To deliver the Israelites from attack by a powerful army, God
calls Gideon, the least person from the least tribeto fight with clay pots, torches and trumpets! And to lead
the nation of Israel, God calls David, a
shepherd boy. The examples continue through the Old and New Testaments.
And God still makes "prank" calls.
He makes a call to someone who scores off the chart on
the Myers-Briggs inventory for "Introvert." This person also suffers with clinical
without prayer and Prozac would spend his days hiding under the covers.
And to make things more interesting, he has symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome which make him extremely
uncomfortable outside of predictable and familiar routines. And he really hates snakes!
So God, in His deep voice, says, "Jim, I'm calling you to be a freelance writer and speaker with no predictable
income, sitting in airports hoping your flight isn't cancelled and your luggage arrives when you do, and spending
long days speaking and interacting at conferences. Oh, and I want your tag line to be "Hope and Humor."
"Uh, you must have the wrong number."
But He just reminds me His grace is sufficient when I find myself teaching three weeks in
India where you can actually
feel the spiritual darkness, talking to district leaders
Sexuality" under a circus tent in Mozambique, and ministering to children and youth in Australia which
has the highest number of poisonous snakes of any country on earth!
So, for over thirty years, I've sensed God calling me outside of my comfort zoneand way outside of my
area code. And sometimes, if I'm really quiet, I think I hear Him squealing with delight.
God is such a prankster!
Freelancing offers freedom "real job" can't
God's will is not lost: for those trying to find it
Thursday, March 9, 2012
Top ten Christian insults
If you're going to insult someone, at least be Christ-like about it! So, I have in my right hand,
The Top Ten Christian Insults:
10. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel (Matthew 23:24).
9. O faithless and perverse generation . . . how long shall I suffer you? (Matthew 17:17)
8. Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God? (Mark 12:24)
7. Woe unto you . . . hypocrites! (Luke 11:44)
6. Ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's
bones and of all uncleanness (Matthew 23:27).
5. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers! (Matthew 23:33)
4. Thou fool! (Luke 12:20)
3. I will spue thee out of my mouth (Revelation 3:16).
2. Get thee behind me, Satan! (Matthew 16:23).
1. O ye of little faith (Matthew 6:30, Matthew 8:26, Matthew 14:31, Matthew 16:8, Matthew 17:20).
Of course, I wouldn't recommend any of these unless you're the perfect Son of God! Instead,
"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with
the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Matthew 7:1-2 NIV).
Monday, March 12, 2012
‘Hi, I’m Jim. I’m not content’
"Hi, I'm Jim."
"I'm not content."
There, I've said it. I hope you don't feel any less of me.
There have been times in my life when I've bought cars with cash. There have been times when
I've had to hock our car to pay bills. There have been times when our chest freezer was full to
the top. There have been times when the only thing in the cupboard was a can of green beans and a
box of macaroni and cheese. There have been times when I was healthy as a horse. There have been
timessuch as after 42 radiation treatmentsI've been sicker than a dog.
And, to be perfectly honest, I much prefer the former to the latter!
While "I can do all this through him who gives me strength" has been applied to raising money for
the building fund, accomplishing personal achievement goals, and a thousand other situations, it
has nothing to do with those things. What Christ gives strength for is to be content in
all situations! Here's the context from the apostle Paul's letter:
. . . I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing
or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a
full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me
strength (Philippians 4:11-14).
I'm doing a bit better at contentment. I've learned that I grow more like Christ during the
times of need than in the times of plenty. During my "successful" years I certainly didn't always resemble
the Christ I was trying to follow. It has only been during my "failure" years that I have come to
have a Christ-like compassion for my fellow strugglers.
So, "Hi, I'm Jim. I can be content through Christ, who give me strength."
(Adapted from my book, Squeezing Good out of Bad.
Read how you can get it free if you're down to a can of green beans and a box of macaroni and
Thursday, March 15, 2012
He always gets the last laugh
[Jesus] went in and said to them, "Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep."
But they laughed at him (Mark 39-40).
It was over. Finished. She had given up the ghost. Crossed over Jordan. The fat lady (or in this case, the
professional mourners) had sung. The end!
We have all been there.
It might not have been the
death of a loved one.
Perhaps it was a marriage, a job, a friendship, a pastorate, or a
dream. It was over,
finished, the end. And to think otherwise was simply laughable.
In those relationships and situations that seem beyond hope, God enjoys having the last laugh.
When a barren couple have given up hope of ever having a child (Sarah actually laughed when she heard she was
going to have a baby).
When the Egyptians have the Israelites pinned against a rock and a Red Sea.
is thrown to the lions. When three Hebrew men are thrown into a fiery furnace.
When the widow had used up her
last ounce of flour and last drop of oil.
When God himself is nailed to a cross and then buried in a tomb.
When it seems over and finished!
When your closest friends laugh at your faith in God, take those
desperateand seemingly hopelesssituations to Him.
He and you will have the last laugh.
© Copyright James N. Watkins
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