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.

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

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

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


Having the last laugh

July 16th, 2014 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

[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

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


In defense of Martha

July 14th, 2014 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (2 Comments)

Martha receives undeserved criticism from preachers expounding on the account of Jesus’ visit to the home she shared with her sister, Mary, and brother, Lazarus! Here’s how it’s recorded 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 at 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 Galilee. 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 100 percent organic 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.”

But here’s another story where Martha shines (in a more traditional Bible version). Lazarus has recently died.

      When Jesus arrived at Bethany, he was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days. Bethany was only a few miles down the road from Jerusalem, and many of the people had come to console Martha and Mary in their loss. When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”

      Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”

      “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.”

      Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?”

      “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God” (John 11:17-27 NLT).

Martha had apparently been listening to Jesus as she puttered in the kitchen. Martha understands that:

• Jesus can heal the sick.

• Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in him will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in him and believes in him will never ever die.

• God, the Father, will give Jesus, the Son, whatever he asks.

• Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.

Yep, Martha knew a lot more than a good recipe for unleavened bread! Perhaps, she had dropped her ladle and joined Mary at Jesus’ feet. Or perhaps, there’s room for both Mary and Martha in our lives. Maybe it’s a “faith and works” deal. There’s a time for sitting at Jesus’ feet and a time to serve dinner to hungry disciples (see Matthew 25:31-46).

Okay, so Mary is the one sitting at Jesus feet. She’s also the one “who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair” (John 11:2). But Martha also deserves credit for truly understanding who Jesus was and his life giving power. And that’s a very good thing!

Copyright © James N. Watkins

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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.


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.


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’m 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 an 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


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

Related posts
My salute to summer


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

Related post
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)


I needed just one credit to finish my physical education requirements for college. Unfortunately, the only classes open were “Weight-Lifting 101” and “Basket Weaving.” So, at 115 pounds, soaking wet (see pic), I signed up for weight-lifting.

To say the least, it was a painful and humiliating experience. Everyone else in the class seemed to be steroid-stoked Olympians. While they were “cleaning and jerking” hundreds of pounds, I was struggling to hoist the bar. One muscle-bound brute delighted in coming up behind me and lifting me up by my gym shorts. Painful and humiliating!

But, even though I looked like the “before” picture in Muscle magazine, I kept showing up for class, kept working with the ever-increasing weights, and kept being picked up by my shorts.

However, the class was graded on “improvement,” not on the amount of weight lifted, so I earned the same grade as the guy lifting my weight!

That summer I worked at the Kellogg’s cereal company lifting fifty-pound boxes of raisins into the chute that dropped to the lower floor’s Raisin Bran packing room. (Sorry, but no smiling sun putting in two scoops!) After weight-lifting, I could crack open the boxes like a raw egg with just one hand.

After I had suffered a little while, I was now strong, firm and steadfast. In the same way, “the God of all grace . . . will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10).

So now, sixty pounds later, when I encounter a painful, humiliating experience, I’m reminded that I’m simply being prepared for the next challenge. I couldn’t have survived working in a factory without weightlifting!

Copyright © 2011 James N. Watkins

How has something painful and/or humiliating made you stronger?


I have in my right hand, direct from my home office in hot and humid Corn Borer, Indiana, today’s category:

10. Take a tape measure. Drop it on the floor. If you can’t pick it up without bending your knees, put on a shirt.

9. If you have a tattoo containing any of the Federal Communication Commission’s seven dirty words, put on a shirt.

8. If you don’t want to appear as a suspect on TV’s “COPS,” put on a shirt.

7. If you have more chest hair than your neighbor’s poodle, put on a shirt.

6. If you’re over 40, put on a shirt.

5. If you’ve had open-heart surgery, put on a shirt.

4. If your mother, wife or daughter (and especially all three together) can’t reach around you for a hug, put on a shirt.

3. If you don’t want to die of melanoma, put on a shirt.

2. If your measurements exceed 36A, put on a shirt.

1. If your family or neighbors forward this post to you, put on a shirt.

You know who you are!

(Click for more summer humor columns. And, seriously, put on a shirt!)

Copyright © 2000 James N. Watkins

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