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      (Reuters) Actor-comedian Robin Williams was found dead on Monday at his home in Northern California from an apparent suicide, Marin County Sheriff’s Office said. He was 63.

      His rep, Mara Buxbaum, said in a statement, “He has been battling severe depression of late.”

I am so very sorry to hear of the death of the comic genius. I admired his lightning quick wit and wonderful characters from “Mork” to Aladin’s genie.

I am especially saddened to learn his death apparently came at his own hands following “severe depression.” Please, if you are struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, be assured that hope and help is available.

Hope and help for depression
Hope and help for suicidal thoughts

Meanwhile, my thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and fans of Robin Williams.

Related posts
If you’re thinking about suicide . . .
Do those who commit suicide go to heaven?
Charles Spurgeon’s struggle with depression
Are authors [and comics] in their “write” mind?

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My understanding of “holiness” began growing up in a conservative Methodist church with an active “temperance” program. Holiness simply meant no smoking or drinking. When I attended a Wesleyan college as a theology major, I learned the “doctrine” of holiness, which left me confused as to where I was in the process: “initial, progressive, or entire”?! I also learned I was actually rather “liberal” because I grew up watching TV, going to movies, and playing outside on Sunday afternoon.

As a Wesleyan minister, I toed the doctrinal line and obeyed the official rules, without having a clear understanding of how holiness actually “worked.” Then I came across an amazing, baffling and confusing Scripture: Hebrews 5:8:

      So even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.

What?! The very Son of God learned to be more like, well, the Son of God by the things He suffered. Was Jesus, as Isaiah writes, “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering” (53:3) because He obeyed His Father? Or did He obey His Father because he was “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering”? That’s whole other article.

Here’s one thing I do know. The only way I have personally become more like the Lord I love is through hardship and heartaches. I have learned absolutely nothing from success, but I have learned much from suffering. That’s the message of Romans 8:29—although we much prefer the previous verse:

      And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

And what is that purpose? The very next verse spells it out:

      . . . to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.

God takes “all things” that cause hardships and heartaches and uses them to produce in us “the likeness of his Son.” (God does not cause these “things,” but He does redeem them for good.)

Often, we try to make living a holy life complicated by trying to explain it, turn it into three-point sermons, or divide it up into “initial, progressive and entire sanctification” so we may obtain this “second work of grace.”

I’ve become convinced that a) being conformed to the likeness to Christ is the essence of holiness and b) that holiness comes through allowing God’s Spirit to shape us into that likeness through hardships and heartaches.

And I’ve also become convinced the “good” God promises is holiness. Good is not happiness, pleasure, prosperity, a “God loves you and has a wonderful Porsche for your life” healthy and wealthy kind of good. The Greek word Paul chooses for good, agathos, can be translated “of a good nature, useful, helpful, excellent, upright, distinguished, or honorable.”

Second Corinthians 4:8-11 reinforces this concept:

      We are hardpressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be revealed in our mortal body (my emphasis).

God the Spirit takes all that hard-pressing, perplexity, persecution and striking down and empowers us “so that the life of Jesus may be revealed” in our lives. And that, in my simple little mind, is holiness.

Copyright © 2013 James N. Watkins

From Squeezing Good Out of Bad. Obviously, I’d love for you to buy a copy for yourself and all your friends. But if you’re currently unemployed, email me for a free ebook.

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With apologies to Robert All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten Fulghum, not everything I learned at Minges Brook Elementary School was true.

Some was simply bad science and medicine: Girls (or boys, depending on your gender) give you “cooties.” Toads give you warts. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Babies come from cabbage patches. Kill a spider and it will rain. Step on a crack and break your mother’s back. Someday your face is going to freeze like that!

Some was bad sociology and psychology: Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me. This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you. Big boys don’t cry. You’ll poke your eye out! Be nice and people will be nice to you. Play fair and you’ll win. You can be whatever you want to be. And they lived happily ever after.

So, somewhere between Play-Doh and Preparation H, we make the disturbing discovery that words do hurt. Big boys do cry. People who don’t play fair often clobber those who do. We may not “achieve” all our “mind can conceive.” Life is not one long day at Disney World.

Nursery school naivete infuses children with energetic innocence and enthusiasm. And a life of broken dreams and promises often produces cynical senior citizens. But, perhaps there’s a balance between Fulghum’s positive perspective and the negativity of nay- sayers.

We do need to “clean up our own messes,” but in reality we often need to clean up after others. “Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you,” but only if they are low in fat and cholesterol. “Take a nap every afternoon,” but only a very short one or you’ll be wide awake for those 3 a.m. TV infomercials. We do need to “flush,” but sometimes life’s plumbing gets clogged.

Perhaps maturity, then, is the ability to discern what is true and what is false. And to find that delicate balance between “and they lived happily ever after” and “the world’s going to hell in a hand basket.” You can’t learn that in kindergarten.

Copyright © 1988 James N. Watkins

What didn’t you learn in kindergarten? Please comment below.

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On August 3, 1974, Lois Farra and I were married at the Wesleyan church in Valton, Wisconsin.

So above is the “highlight” reel from our past forty years of the “better,” “richer” and “in health.” (Yes, there have been times of “worse,” “poorer” and “sickness,” but who wants to see that!)

We actually used 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 as our vows to love one another “til death do us part.”

      Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him (TLB).

To paraphrase a song of the 70s, “His Love Will Keep Us Together.”

(The video also includes the song I wrote to propose to Lois, a song we sang while traveling with a college group and the song that accompanied Lois down the aisle. Enjoy!)

Related posts
40th Anniversary album (with captions)
Music from the video: Loving God and You (1973), Love in a Cruddy World (1972), Lois (1974)
Top ten reasons I’m not divorcing my wife (1996)
Top ten secrets to staying married 30 years (2004)

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I have in my right hand, direct from my home office in Corn Borer, Indiana, today’s category: Top ten posts from July 2014

10. Vampires, werewolves real!

9. Does DNA disprove evolution?

8. Three secrets for xxx-ceptional sex

7. The cure for the common cold: sex!

6. God is never late, but he sure is slow

5. Help for suicidal thoughts

4. Ancient prophet warns of conspiracies

3. Children who marry their parents: the psychology of courtship

2. Were U.S. founding fathers Christian?

And, the number one post for July 2014:

1. “It Is Well with My Soul” The rest of the stories

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July 2014

Sunday, Lois and I will celebrate our fortieth anniversary in Valton, Wisconsin, with family—and without family! (Wink! Wink)

But apparently the really big news is that the trailer for E. L. James’ sadomasochistic novel, Fifty Shades of Grey, set a record for number of online views. I thought it was fascinating that when the stars, Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, were asked if filming the sex scenes was erotic, both of them looked repulsed and gasped NO!

And that is why I think a better title for the book and film would be Fifty Shades of Beige. Here’s why:

Reel sex is not real sex

Has this ever happened to you? You vacation in an incredible location, such as the Black Hills of South Dakota, shoot 500 pics of majestic mountains, wild buffalo, Mount Rushmore, and—of course—world-famous Wall Drug. You race to Walmart to make prints and as the kiosk prints them out, you feel a sense of disappointment. “Mount Rushmore looked a lot bigger in real life.” You just can’t capture “Kodak moments” with a camera.

The opposite is true, too. I had seen lots of pictures of Mount Rushmore in school and my grandparents’ 8 mm home movies. But until I was staring up into George Washington’s 6-foot nostril, I couldn’t imagine the size and wonder of this monument that is—well—monumental.

The same is true with sex. (Stay with me; there really is a correlation between stone sculptures and steamy sex!)

Our culture has taken something grand and glorious, magnificent and mysterious, and reduced it to digital images on computer monitors, HD TVs and movie screens. And we wonder, why in a culture saturated with sexual images, so many are sexually dissatisfied.

Rather than celebrating sexuality with their life partners, many are squinting at peep shows, drooling over fold-outs, reading Harlequin romances, and sitting in the dark staring at Fifty Shades of Grey as Dornan and Johnson get naked and very kinky.

Looking at pictures—of Mount Rushmore or naked actors—doesn’t allow for the real satisfaction of actually being there! It’s hard to have meaningful relationship with a video or a fold-out. (And besides, do you really want people with staples through their navels—unless, of course, you’re into body piercing.)

Granted, reality is hard work—whether it’s a family vacation or doing what leads to families.

Looking at pictures of Mount Rushmore is a whole lot easier than loading up the minivan with the family and enough luggage to clothe a refugee camp, eating bologna sandwiches out of a cooler, and listening to 15 hours of “Are we there yet?” But the real world is so much more exciting and satisfying than the “reel” world.

And being a sexual voyeur is easier than dating and planning a wedding. (The invasion of Normandy required less planning than our wedding!) And it’s whole lot easier than maintaining a marriage through communication and commitment. But, again, the real world is so much more exciting and satisfying than the “reel” world.

Major universities have actually studied couples’ sexual satisfaction. (What a job! Studying sex at taxpayers expense!)

Dr. Nancy Moore Clatworthy, a sociologist from Ohio State, Dr. E. Mansell Pattison, chairman of the Department of Psychology at the Medical College of Georgia, and sociologists Jeffery Jacques and Karen Chason of Florida A & M all agree that sex and commitment can’t be separated. Dr. Paul Pearsall argues, “Super sex requires super love, a love that is possible only in a relationship that lasts. . . .”

After 40 years of marriage, I can assure you that maintaining a marriage is much harder work than taking a family vacation. But the rewards are worth the effort.

Okay, okay, neither Lois or I have ever been mistaken for Jamie or Dakota! (That’s them, not us in the pic above.) And no one is going to pay money to see either one of us naked! But young Hollywood actors are rank amateurs compared to this couple after forty years of practice.

So, here’s my point. It’s hard work to take a family vacation. And it’s hard work to create a lasting marriage. But, I repeat, the real world is so much more exciting and satisfying than the “reel” world.

So, husband and wives, let me suggest that instead of going out to see an R-rated movie tonight, lock the bedroom door, put a Kenny G CD on the stereo, and take a memorable trip to Mount Rushmore! (But, please, don’t take pictures!)

Copyright © 1999, 2014 James N. Watkins

Coming attractions
Forty Years of ‘Loving God and You’ debuts Sunday at noon right here. Yep, we’ve created a video of marriage highlights with original music from the ceremony. It will be shown before the Sunday service at Valton Wesleyan Church where we were married 40 years ago.

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Mini miracles

July 28th, 2014 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (12 Comments)


You would expect the Son of God to begin with a more spectacular miracle: raising a corpse from the dead, healing a leper, multiplying loaves and fishes, casting out an evil spirit, calming a raging storm or at least walking on the sea. After all, this is the same God who brought us Mount Sinai, the Red Sea, and the walls of Jericho.

But Jesus chooses to launch his ministry of miracles by saving a party! More guests have shown up at the wedding reception than sent in their RSVP cards, and now the punch bowl is dry. So Jesus turns water into wine!

Water into wine? That doesn’t bring anybody back from the dead, free anyone from life-threatening illness or even defy the forces of nature.

It does, however, reveal a God who is not just interested in the “spiritual” dimension of our lives or the “life and death” issues. Jesus reveals that our social lives—even our parties—are important to God. It would have been a disgrace for the host of the wedding reception—not to mention the bride and groom—if the refreshments would have run out.

In the same way, the Lord intercedes in the average, every-day, run-of-the-mill, mundane moments of our lives. A relationship with a God who was only interested in the “big” issues of life, would be no more personal than our relationship with the 911 operator. But the infinite, almighty God chooses to relate on a more intimate level—not on the Mount Sinai’s, but in the dining rooms of our lives.

Copyright © James N. Watkins

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My weekly roundup of encouragement and entertainment with cartoons, snarky comments and posts on “Top ten signs Batman is turning 75,” “You can take it with you,” wearing cycle helmets, “Top ten surprises in Star Wars: Episode VII,” “How to work less and accomplish more,” “Taking the terror out of terrorism,” “Hope & Humor and hypocrisy?” and more. Enjoy!

You can follow “Hope and Humor” daily on Facebook, Twitter and right here at HopeAndHumor.org. Enjoy and have a great weekend!


Friday, July 25


Muslim militants are calling for a “Day of Rage,” or as it’s known in the Middle East, Friday. Thanks for praying for peace.


Thursday, July 24

Batman1939

Top ten signs Batman is turning 75
“Holy hemorrhoids, Batman!” The Caped Crusader has a birthday this week. So, I have in my gloved hand, direct from beneath my home office in Corn Borer, Indiana today’s category.


Wednesday, July 23

An online source is revealing alleged details of highly anticipated Star Wars: Episode VII. Nearly two years ago, this site revealed Top ten surprises in Star Wars: Episode VII.


You can take it with you
Contrary to Saint Paul, you did bring a lot into this world and you’ll take a lot out!


Tuesday, July 22

jimshortshelmets


What fun making construction paper cards and mail boxes for granddaughters’ room doors. I made cards saying:

      Hannah Elizabeth
      Then Hannah prayed:
      “My heart rejoices in the Lord!
      The Lord has made me strong (1Samuel 2:1).

      Kaylah Grace
      May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ
      give you grace and peace (1 Corinthians 1:2).

I got in response:

      Love you, Big Poop!
      From Little Poops

So much for trying to raise rhetoric of a six- and nine-year old. Oh well, “Big Poop” appreciates the love!


Monday, July 21

colorcodes

A Monday double-header:

Work less, accomplish more
I had a great time at The River yesterday morning sharing some tips on becoming more productive by—well, you’ll have to listen to find out how! (Here’s a companion piece on Managing your time—and sanity.)

Taking the terror out of terrorism
Here’s an article that was planned for Thursday’s Presidential Prayer Team’s Viewpoint but pulled due to that morning’s shooting down of the Malaysian passenger plane killing 298.


Sunday, July 30

A Facebook message from one of my favorite humor writers:

      I could use a prayer today. Feeling very down. Do you ever feel like a hypocrite? I preach and write grace and humor, yet I’m depressed. What is wrong with me?

I responded:

      You’re talking to Mr. “Hope & Humor,” who sometimes drives by cemeteries and mutters, “Lucky stiffs!” As long as we’re honest about our struggles, we’re not being hypocritical. Hypocritical would be saying “I am always happy. La la la!” I think it makes us more real to let people know that we are always full of “hope”—but we’re not always full of “humor.” Praying for you, friend!

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Batman1939

“Holy hemorrhoids, Batman!” The Caped Crusader has a birthday this week. So, I have in my gloved hand, direct from beneath my home office in Corn Borer, Indiana: Top ten signs Batman is turning 75:

10. Batcycle is replaced with Batwalker

9. “The Joker” now simply sends Batman emails posing as wealthy Nigerian widows

8. The “Dark Night” has to be in before dark

7. “Catwoman” has turned into “Crazy Cat Lady.”

6. Batman now wears an orthopedic utility belt

4. Batman has moved into the stately Wayne Assisted Living Center

3. “The Riddler” can’t remember answers to his own brainteasers

2. Bat signal has been replaced with energy-efficient LED light

1. The Batpole is no longer functional

Copyright © James N. Watkins

Please feel free to add your own signs that Batman is turning 75 below.

Related posts
Top ten signs Han Solo has turned 70
More top ten lists

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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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