I have in my right hand, direct from a layover at O’Hell International Airport in Chicago, “Top five silly things flight attendants say.” (It’s summer, and I’m too lazy to write ten!)

5. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to make your flight more enjoyable.

How ’bout giving me the whole can of soft drink? How ’bout an in-flight magazine that doesn’t have the crossword puzzle half done? How ’bout spraying some air-freshener in the lavatory? How about . . . Oh, wait, it’s just part of the script, isn’t it?

4. To fasten your seat belt, insert the flat metal tab into the buckle, then. . . .

If a passenger doesn’t know how to use a seat belt, he or she probably shouldn’t be out in public unattended.

3. In case of the loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will fall from the overhead panel. Put the mask over your nose and mouth and breathe normally.

I’m sorry, but if a gaping hole opens in the cabin, I don’t think I’m going to be breathing “normally.”

2. Please return your seat to the upright position.

But I’m so enjoying the relaxing half-inch of “reclining.”

1. In the event of a water landing, your seat cushion can be used as a floatation device.

If I’m hurtling toward the ocean at 500 mph, I’m afraid I’m going to use my seat cushion for something other than a floatation device.

Okay, I say my share of silly—and downright stupid—things, but I try to follow these five sayings from St. Paul. (And they’re much more practical than “Anyone caught tampering with or disabling the lavatory smoke detector will be asked to deplane immediately.”)

1. If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13:1).

2. We will speak the truth in love . . . (Ephesians 4:15).

3. Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them (Ephesians 4:29).

4. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:31-32).

5. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone (Colossians 4:6).

We know you have a choice when you’re online, so when you need encouragement and entertainment, we hope you choose Hope & Humor.

“Buh-bye!”

Copyright © 2011, 2014 James N. Watkins

What are other silly things you’ve heard during pre-flight instructions? Please comment below.

Related post
Airline survival guide
Putting the “social” back into social networking
Speaking with truth . . . and grace
Top ten lists

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Have you ever noticed that the harder you pray, the worse things get? It seems to be a biblical pattern! For instance, take the story of Jairus’ daughter. Here’s how it seems to play out:

1. Problem looks bad

Jairus, a synagogue leader comes to Jesus with an urgent request. “My little daughter is dying,” he said. “Please come and lay your hands on her; heal her so she can live” (Mark 5:23). But what happens?

2. Someone else’s prayer is answered before ours

Jesus is delayed in going with this very important religious leader to address an anonymous, poor woman. “A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding. She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse” (Mark 5:25-26).

So, while Jesus is healing this insignificant nobody, Jairus is tapping his sandal and glaring at a nearby sundial. And then . . .

3. The problem gets worse

Really worse! Ten whole verses later we read, “While [Jesus] was still speaking to her, messengers arrived from the home of Jairus, the leader of the synagogue. They told him, “Your daughter is dead. There’s no use troubling the Teacher now” (Mark 5:35).

Do you find things worse place after making your request known. I put a friend. who is far from God, on my prayer list on a Monday and Tuesday he started drinking—after a lifetime of not touching a drop of alcohol!

4. The Lord promises a solution

“But Jesus overheard them and said to Jairus, ‘Don’t be afraid. Just have faith'” (Mark 5:36).

The exact phrase, “Do not fear” is used 51 times from Genesis to Revelation. (One inspirational Facebook post—not the most theologically reliable source—is going “viral” claiming it’s commanded 365 times: one for each day of the year. I could find only around 80 in context, but I digress!)

The bottom line, the Bible says “Do not fear” . . . a lot! It’s too easy to break into a cold sweat, restock your bunker and clean your weapons after watching the evening news. But the biblical command concerning fear is don’t!

5. Belief in promise ridiculed by unbelievers

When Jesus arrives on the scene, the professional mourners and flute players had already been hired and were creating quite a cacophony. According to tradition—and the Jerusalem Musicians Union 777—the family of the dead were required to hire this troupe for a proper period of mourning. So, when Jesus announces the girls is not dead, but merely sleeping, the unbelievers have a field day mocking Christian faith. Hmmm? Sound familiar?

6. Unbelievers are shut out, only those who believe invited in

Here’s where today’s “faith healers” and “miracle workers” diverge from Jesus’ approach. Instead of inviting in the media for Brother Bob Blessing‘s Miracle Crusade, the Lord doesn’t allow the unbelievers and skeptic in for a “show.” This is a private, sacred moment.

God seems to work in anonymity, behind the scenes. “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

7. A far greater miracle occurs than the original request sought

God has a flare for the dramatic! The Israelites don’t simply stroll out of Egypt. They’re trapped between the Egyptian army and the Red Sea—so God simply blows a dry path through the sea and then as a final dramatic flair, drowns the pursuing army. The three Hebrew young men don’t talk their way out of the fiery furnace—they simply enjoy a bracing sauna with a heavenly being. And King Jehoshaphat doesn’t confront an enemy army with weapons, but the worship team. They “kill” the musical set—and every one of the enemy soldiers.

And so, rather than simply raising up a young girl from her sick bed, Jesus raises her from her funeral pyre! And the believers are “overwhelmed and totally amazed.” (The Greek word existemi, translated amazed, actually means to be “astonished out of one’s mind.”)

So continue to pray! Don’t let up! But be aware, that the situation may go from bad to worse. But do not fear, God will answer “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20 NIV). You will be astonished out of your mind!

Copyright © 2014 James N. Watkins. (Originally appeared in Presidential Prayer Team: Viewpoint February 2014)

Related posts
God is such a “drama king”!
Giving up fear for Lent
God is never late . . . but He sure is slow
Waiting is hard work!

Has God done something in your life that caused you to be “astonished out of your mind”? Add a comment of encouragement below. Thanks!

VickyBeeching

It’s Saturday, so taking a day off from “Hope & Humor” to address “Heavy topics with a light touch.”

Today, another Christian music artist has “come out” saying she has had same-sex attraction since age 13. Vicky Beeching, best known for songs “The Wonder of the Cross,” “Above All Else” and “Glory to God Forever,” told The Independent, “When I think of myself at 13, sobbing into that carpet, I just want to help anyone in that situation to not have to go through what I did, to show that instead, you can be yourself—a person of integrity.”

Of course Christian websites, blogs, Facebook accounts, etc. etc. are reacting with holy hysteria!

I’ve addressed my struggles with sexual identity as a teen on my site (I’m straight) and recently attempted to present a comprehensive statement on Christianity and homosexuality. I’ve sought to be biblical and compassionate (and “biblical” requires that we be compassionate).

      Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself (Galatians 6:10, emphasis mine).

So, here’s a round up of my posts addressing these complicated and complex issues:

A “civil” debate on same-sex unions

Christian musician “comes out”

“Coming out” My sexual self-identity crisis

God hates godhatesfags.com

Speaking with truth . . . and grace

Why are some people so bent out of shape
about homosexuality?

What are your thoughts on these issues? Comment below: (Feel free to be passionate, but also compassionate.)

When dreams die . . .

August 13th, 2014 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (3 Comments)


God promises Joseph that he will become a great leader—and he ends up enslaved and imprisoned in Egypt.

The prophet Elisha promises an infertile woman that she will bear a son—and the boy dies in her arms.

Jesus promises to bring a heavenly kingdom to earth—and then he and the promise are crucified and buried.

Is this disturbing pattern playing out in your life? You sense that God gives you a dream job—and months later you’re laid off. (It happened to me—twice!) God miraculously fulfills your dream of a child—and now she’s clinging to life in neo-natal intensive care. It seems God has brought the man of your dreams into your life—and now he’s killed in a traffic accident.

When our dreams die, a part of us dies as well!

I mentioned in Keeping your dreams alive another biblical pattern: The dream is received, the dreamer is refined, the dream is resized and the dream is realized. But what happens when the dream dies?

In each of the biblical instances above, the dream is received, the dream dies, and the dream is miraculously resurrected!

For the Shunammite woman, it took three attempts for her son to be brought back to life (once by Elisha’s servant, twice by the prophet). In Jesus’ case, three days in a stone cold grave. But for Joseph—and this is not exactly encouraging—13 years of slavery and imprisonment.

Perhaps the miraculous resurrection of the dream is God’s way of assuring us, it was indeed his dream for us. (There’s no way we could have brought our dead dream back to life.) And, more importantly, the dream is now infused with God’s power—not our own—to be “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

If you’re facing the death of your dream, I’m right there with you waiting for my miraculous resurrection as well. I’m believing with you for a resurrection!

Copyright © James N. Watkins

How has God resurrected one of your dreams? Comment below.

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RobinWilliamsNarrow

      (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.


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.

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)

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


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.