You CAN take it with you!

July 23rd, 2014 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it (1 Timothy 6:7).

Sorry, Saint Paul. You may have been an apostle who wrote half the New Testament, but I think you got that wrong.

Yes, we brought no material things such as money, clothing or wide-screen TVs—but we brought a lot into the world and will take a lot out.

Psalm 139 implies that we brought an eternal soul into this world in a body that is a unique, wonderful creation of God. And 1 Corinthians 12 teaches that a part of that divine creation includes our unique talents and abilities that we can use to serve Him.

So, when our earthly body dies, our eternal soul will live on. And our influence will also live on through our example and teaching. And our good deeds will “store up for [us] treasures in heaven.” (That’s why we’re not judged immediately at death, but only at the final judgment since our influence will continue to effect others’ lives long after we’re gone.)

So, Paul, I completely agree with you that we brought no material things with us and we’ll leave the same behind. But the secret, as you wrote, is to invest in those things that are imperishable:

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

How are we treating this wonderful creation of our bodies? How are we using the talents and abilities God built into our lives? And what kind of influence are we making upon our friends and family, coworkers, and fellow travelers?

You can take it with you!

Copyright © James N. Watkins

Related post
I’m Important! I’m interdependent! I’m indispensable! (Audio message from 1 Corinthians 12)

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This post on taking the terror out of terrorism got bumped from an online magazine when the Malaysian passenger plane was shot down killing all 298 aboard. Most of us are much safer than the media and government would have us to believe.

Remember Homeland Security’s color-coded terrorist threat levels? Red: Severe Risk of Terrorist Attacks (Panic!), Orange: High Risk of Terrorist Attacks (Paranoia), Yellow: Significant Risk of Terrorist Attacks (Anxiety), Blue: General Risk of Terrorist Attacks (Nervousness) and Green: Low Risk of Terrorist Attacks (Apathy).

Well, apparently—to use the old color-code system—the U.S. is somewhere between high Yellow (Very Anxious) and low Orange (Mild Paranoia) as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is now requiring that most airlines with direct international flights coming into the United States check all electronic devices for hidden explosives. While I do appreciate the increased “vigilance” of the government, let’s put the whole thing in perspective with a color code for life in general.

Green: Low Risk

Dr. Arnold Barnett, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has done extensive research to show the odds of being killed in a plane crash are one in 7,000,000! For airline fatalities to equal auto fatalities, a sold-out 727 jet would have to crash every day of the week, with no survivors, to equal the 46,000 highway deaths per year in the United States! So, the good news, flying on a commercial airliner is definitely green!

However, driving to the airport is life-threatening!

Blue: General Risk

And, before you even get in your car and head to the airport, you have to survive your own home. Every 19 minutes a person is killed at home, with two-thirds of those being fatally injured in the bathroom! That’s 28,200 fatalities each year. So, your very own bathroom: Blue!

Once on the plane, fear the sneezing passengers more than a suicidal terrorists. Planes are enclosed Petri dishes of deadly diseases. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study reveals the average number of deaths caused by the flu virus increased from 20,000 in the 1970s to 70,000 in recent years. Forget terrorists. Avoid anyone with the sniffles. Flu is Blue!

Yellow: Elevated Risk

As noted earlier, automobiles take an average of 46,000 lives per year. So Toyotas are nearly twice as dangerous as toilets. Driving your car: Yellow! And driving or riding without a seatbelt is just plain Red!

Orange: High Risk

A 1999 report charged that 98,000 hospitalized patients died each year in the Unites States due to “medical errors.” That’s equal to over 900 airline crashes, so your local hospital: Orange!

Red: Severe Risk

The CDC reports that each year more than 400,000 Americans die from cigarette smoking. (That’s 133 World Trade Center attacks every year)! Smoking: Red!

Also, on September 11, 2001, nearly 3,000 innocent lives were snuffed out. The very next day, that same number were killed. And the day following that. That’s the number of unborn babies aborted every day in America. That’s over a million deaths per year, so a mother’s womb: Red!

Using these statistics, in general, risk of death in the U.S. of A is still solidly Green—despite the government and media warnings about terrorists with exploding underpants, ink cartridges and now mobile devices. (So, if your children are concerned about terrorists, assure them, “Billy in daycare more likely to kill you with the flu than Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi with an exploding iPad.” Okay, maybe not a good idea.)

How ‘bout simply assuring your children—and yourself—that life can be dangerous (hot stoves, electrical outlets and poisons)? But if you take reasonable precautions (don’t chew on electrical cords, do wear your seatbelt, and don’t smoke) you can be solidly Green!.

So, in review, let’s put the annual average number of deaths in terms of plane loads of victims. (Statistics from United States National Center for Health Statistics)

      Tobacco-related deaths: 3,774 plane loads
      Traffic fatalities: 434 plane loads
      Deaths by firearms: 306 plane loads
      Accidental falls: 132 plane loads
      Drug and medicine fatalities: 75 plane loads
      Medical procedure fatalities: 26 plane loads
      Railroad fatalities: 6 plane loads
      Electrical fatalities: 5 plane loads

Do pray for the safety of those exposed to Red terrorist violence in Syria, Iraq and other international hot spots on a daily basis. Pray that Home Land Security and the Transportation Security Administration keep one step ahead of terrorist technology.

And do be very careful in the bathroom!

Copyright © 2003, 2014 James N. Watkins

What terrifies you? Comment below.

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My thoughts and prayers are with the families, friends and fellow citizens grieving the loss of 295 lives as a Malaysian passenger plane was apparently shot out of the air over Ukraine.

Shock. Anger. Disbelief. These are just a few of the emotions overwhelming victims of a terrorist attack. Here are some resources I hope will be helpful in responding to such tragedies.

Reacting
Dealing with death and grief
“bin Laden, kiss my pass!” (September 10, 2003)
Talking to your children about terrorism

Reasoning
Hope amid horror (September 11, 2006)
What motivates terrorists?
Taking the terror out of terrorism

Responding
Can war on terrorism be won? (September 11, 2005)
How can we overcome evil with good?
We are strong! We will survive! (September 17, 2001)
What we haven’t learned from 9/11 (September 9, 2002)
Candle-lighting ceremony following terrorist attacks (September 11, 2001)

Copyright © James N. Watkins

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Having the last laugh

July 16th, 2014 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

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[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. Roll the credits!

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 has 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. When Daniel 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 desperate—and seemingly hopeless—situations to Him.

He and you will have the last laugh.

Copyright © James N. Watkins

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Are you listening to God or Goliath?
Your life as a “comedy”
Laughing matters: three ways to laugh at life

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From Luke 10 in The New Living Amplified Paraphrased King James Watkins Version:

“Mary! Mary! I need some help in the kitchen!” Martha glared at her sister who was sitting in the living room with their guest.

“In a minute,” Mary said, without moving.

Martha glanced over her “To Do” list which was artistically penned on home-made paper with ink made from crushed cultivated grapes.

      ☐ Trim myrtle shrubs into the shape of the twelve disciples.

      ☐ Float apricot, pomegranate, and Sharon tulip petals in cistern.

      ☐ French braid donkey’s tail.

      ☐ Arrange spices in alphabetical order beginning with anise.

      ☐ Carve wooden bowl in shape of the sea of Gallilee. Float matzah balls shaped like fishing boats in the soup.

      ☐ Field dress lamb. Hand polish mint leaves to be used for the sauce.

      ☐ Macrame napkin rings from bulrushes.

      ☐ Make Jell-O from cow hooves.

Martha was famous throughout Bethany for her home-decorating and party-planning. Now, the most respected teacher in all Palestine, along with his twelve disciples were the guests, and her sister, Mary, had not even set out the hand-painted plates that Martha had just take out of the kiln.

So, being distracted by all the preparations that had to be made, Martha came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better . . . and that’s a good thing.”

Copyright © James N. Watkins

As you face this week, what are you worried about? Is it the most important thing?

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Ancient theater was divided into two categories: comedies and tragedies. 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 dead—or 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. But, for the person of faith, life can be a comedy!

The story of Esther 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 Jew&#15and 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 comedy!

So, even though tragic events come upon believers and unbelievers alike—cancer, auto accidents, natural disasters, rape, murder, etc. etc.—believers know that in the end they will “live happily ever after.” And evil will be dealt with in the final act.

So, while the life of faith may not be one laugh after another, we can be assured that “eternal life” is the final punch line!

© James N. Watkins

How, in your life, has God turned a “tragedy” into a “comedy”? Please replay below.

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Bread was first commercially sliced in 1928, so don’t you think we should update the tired cliche of “the greatest thing since sliced bread”?! So, I have in my right hand, direct from my home office, today’s category: Top ten greatest things since the greatest thing since sliced bread.

10. Universal remotes

9. Doritos

8. Roller luggage

7. Water beds

6. The pill

5. Microwave ovens

4. Antidepressants

3. Cell phones

2. The Internet

1. The word processor

Yep, for a writer, the word processor is the greatest thing since, well, sliced bread! (The pic above was my first computer from 1982: the Radio Shack TRS-80 aka “Trash 80.”)

In the days of B.C. (Before Computers) writers had to produce their articles and books by pounding away on typewriters, which were just one level above a goat skin and a pointed stick. And “cutting and pasting” involved real scissors and actual paste. “Spell check” consisted of those dreaded grade-school tests each Friday. And if we couldn’t think of a synonym, there was a chunky book called a “Thesaurus;” no relation to prehistoric creatures.

Word processor can’t make people better writers, but it can make them better typists. Whether the words are recorded with papyrus or pixels, they still are generated from the human mind. (Even the term “computer-generated image” is a misnomer since the image is generated in a human mind, but rendered on a computer.)

What word processors do is make the physical recording of writing so much easier and infinitely faster. No more retyping—and retyping again—a manuscript. No more putting words on a ream of tree flakes and sending it by pony express to a publisher, where a typesetter completely re-types it for print. Nope, just save as an attachment and click SEND.

I am so thankful for all the wonderful inventions since 1928’s sliced bread. I suspect, in another 86 years, people will be promoting the latest technology as “The greatest thing since sliced genes.”

© 2014 James N. Watkins

Related post:
Top ten giant leaps for mankind
Hope and humor for writers

So, what would you add as “the great things since sliced bread”? Please reply below.

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Listen to the podcast.

At a conference, I shared that this “award-winning author” and “globe-trotting speaker” is a great, big, slobbering MESS.

I have clinical depression, OCD, ADD and . . . what was I saying? Oh, yes, I score 109 on the Autistic Spectrum: I don’t like having my rigid routine disrupted (I need 24-hour notice to be spontaneous), I hate traveling and being in new situations plus, although I love people, being around them drains my emotional batteries (I’m an off-the-chart introvert on the Myers-Briggs assessment). And so this outgoing, outspoken, outrageous author/speaker is in reality an Oscar-worthy performance by this introverted, inadequate and insecure actor.

So, I asked the people in the audience to turn to the person on their right and say, “I’m a mess.” Then, I asked them to turn to the person on their left and say, “You’re a mess.” After the keynote, a woman came up to me in tears, gave me a hug (more like the Heimlich maneuver) and sobbed, “I’m so glad someone besides me is a mess.”

It is liberating to realize, “I’m a mess. You’re a mess.” In fact, that should come as no surprise.

      For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

      All our righteous acts are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

      No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind (1 Corinthians 10:13).

      Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).

      We are unworthy servants (Luke 17:10).

But here’s the wonderful mess-age for all of us messes:

We have a Mess-iah!

Just look at the messes that God has chosen to use: Moses wasn’t a speaker. Gideon was the least of his tribe. David was a shepherd boy when he squared off with Goliath. Daniel was a POW. Jeremiah was suicidal with depression. Peter had a severe case of “hoof in the mouth” disease. James and John were hot heads nick-named “Sons of Thunder.” A little boy’s lunch could never feed five thousand hungry men. The woman at the well was the original “Desperate Housewife.” Paul had a “thorn in the flesh.” Mark was a quitter. Timothy was timid and sickly.

So, be encouraged. The Messiah can empower and use messes like you and me for His purposes. Paul writes:

      When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. . . . I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).

So, repeat after me and say, “I’m a mess. You’re a mess.” And then proclaim, “That’s why we have a Messiah.”

Copyright © 2001, 2014 James N. Watkins

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Laziness is a virtue!

June 30th, 2014 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (2 Comments)

I spent the last four weeks editing four books, so I’m ready for some of those “lazy, hazy days of summer.” Time to laze in the hammock and ponder the importance of . . . well, lazing in the hammock.

Laziness, you see, is a vital virtue! Think about it over a tall glass of lemonade. Where would we be today without this important quality? “Necessity” is not the “mother of invention”! (Maybe a sister or a second-cousin, but not the mother.) Laziness is the mother of invention!

For instance, we’d all be living like the hard-working Amish, who live without electricity and indoor plumbing, if not for this much-maligned virtue.

Grog was too lazy to drag a mastodon back to the cave, so he invented the wheel and, subsequently, the Monster Truck.

The inventor of the flush toilet, Alexander Cummings, was simply too lazy to empty “thunder mugs” or use the outhouse in sub-zero temperatures. (Legend credits Thomas Crapper—a much more appropriate name—with the invention, but he was simply a manufacturer of water closets that bore his name.)

Alexander Graham Bell was too lazy to walk into the next room when he needed his lab assistant Watson, so he invented “voice mail.”

And Henry Ford, the inventor of the “horseless carriage,” was too lazy to shovel out the barn (“There must be a better way to reduce carriage emissions!”).

Every great invention, from the “doodad” to the “thingamabob,” has been the result of laziness. (That’s why the hard-working Amish have never been known as great inventors and innovators. Industry stifles invention.)

Laziness, then, should be applauded as a virtue! So, let’s get in that hammock and put laziness to work!

What is your favorite thing to do on a lazy summer day? Please reply below.

Copyright © 1997 James N. Watkins

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My salute to summer

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Today, I don’t have any articles or books to write. No international—or even the monthly meeting of the Corn Borer Grange—speaking engagements. I forced myself to at least get out of bed at 6:15 am after listening to heart-breaking news on the clock radio. So, I’m up, I’m dressed (if you consider gyms shorts and T-shirt “dressed”), but no reason to take a shower as a noon meeting was cancelled.

I’m dutifully sitting at my computer in my office answering email, but mostly mindlessly surfing the ‘net for something to stimulate a Hope & Humor post. I think I’m simply overwhelmed at all the ways it seems culture is coming apart at the seams, so I don’t feel very hopeful or humorous right now. (And, I’m out of dark chocolate!)

I’m trying to convince myself that this is all part of the by-polar rhythm of being a writer and speaker—or most any other profession. For every day of exhilarating writing, there’s a day of immobilizing boredom. For every exciting speaking engagement, a day where I just mutter to myself.

So, I’ll take my anti-depressants, have my time alone with God—although He seems to be taking the day off as well—and do some prep for a conference coming up in July. In just two weeks, I’ll be introduced as an “award-winning author and international speaker” with the tag line “hope and humor.” That cracks me up! But here are a few Bible verses that keep me from truly cracking up and doing the work I feel is a call from God:

      For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago (Ephesians 2:10).

      I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him (1 Timothy 1:12).

      Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ (Colossians 3:23-24).

      Christ, who is the head of his body, the church . . . makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. (Ephesians 4:15b-16).

Gotta believe that the work is bigger than my little efforts and longer than my day-to-day ups and downs.

And, who knows, maybe this rant will eventually turn into a “Hope & Humor” post. Maybe.

How do you deal with your career’s highs and lows? Please reply below. Thanks!

Copyright © 2013 James N. Watkins

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Freelancing offers freedom ‘real job’ can
My ‘real’ job (Clue: it’s not writing and speaking)
Soaring with eagles, walking with emus (Audio and in-print keynote talk on dealing with career highs and lows)

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