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My good and generous wife has taught me many things, not the least of which is how to be more compassionate toward others. While I’m still a work-in-progress, caring oozes from her. If anyone has the gift of spiritual hospitality, she’s one.

But two eminently practical things my West Virginia flower taught me stand above all others: how to build a fire and how to handle wrapping tape.

Now perhaps you don’t think these skills are anything to write home about. But not me. I know these practical proficiencies make life immensely more livable and for years they’ve saved me time and preserved the thimble of sanity God gave me.

Building a Fire: You’d think that anyone with a brain could build a fire. I mean the capacity to do so is one of the attributes scientists tell us distinguishes man from beast. Yet I reached the legal age of 21 without really knowing how to build a fire from scratch.

I could light fires with a match in the trash drum in the back yard, an experience now almost gone from urban life. I could strike matches all day long. But I didn’t know how to build a wood fire in a fireplace because I grew up in a house that didn’t have a fireplace. Only the well-to-do in mansions or the homeless under the bridge had fireplaces in my town. So when we arrived at our cabin in the woods to begin our honeymoon at Babcock State Park, my fire building trouble was nigh.

It was August 12, 1974. Nixon was three days out and Ford was three days in the presidency. We were living the second full day of our marriage. We walked into this beautiful log cabin built by the Civilian Conservation Corp in 1937, complete with fireplace. Fantastic, so much so we came back for summer vacation, kids in tow, for the next thirteen years. But back to the story.

Later that evening—it’s our honeymoon, remember—we decide flaming logs might be romantic, so in my macho glory I build a fire. Actually, I piled huge chunks of wood in the fireplace, doused them thoroughly with kerosene, and tossed in a match. Sometimes this method eventually created a real fire, usually it didn’t. Either way, it created an overpowering kerosene stink in the cabin. This episode repeated itself until my new honey, with sinus issues to begin with, said, “Enough”—or more new-wifey words that meant the same thing.

Sarah built a fire as I watched in nonplussed amazement. She started with little wads of paper, piled small sticks than larger sticks, built a teepee of smaller pieces of wood around the core, and finally stepped back to survey her handiwork. After a sigh that said, “I’ve got this, Bub,” she struck a match at the bottom and watched with no small satisfaction as the teepee burst into a real live ongoing fire. After a few moments when she graciously (remember, she’s compassionate toward the needy, which in this case was clearly me) did not gloat, she gradually layered larger pieces of wood on the now raging fire.

Wow, what a woman. To this day, I make fires properly, ones that do homage to a pretty young bride.

Handling Wrapping Tape: On several occasions I’ve tangled myself in wide-band wrapping tape while failing to get a single strip of tape affixed to the box in front of me. The tape always seemed to double-up on itself, thus making it impossible to apply. Either that or it stuck vigorously to my skin, taking with it decades of hairy growth when I pulled it off.

I was ready to pitch the tape roll and concede that some tasks were beyond my mental and physical dexterity. But then Sarah interrupted my mania with adult insight.

She said, “Stick the roll of tape to something like the edge of your desk while you work with the cut piece. Then the main roll won’t turn back on itself. When you’re finished bend the end of the tape back so it sticks to itself, thus preventing it from adhering again to the roll and making it nearly impossible next go round to pull up the end.”

Her technique worked scary well and has ever since. It took the “dys” out of my dysfunctional wrapping tape machinations and made me once again a productive member of society. Who knew common sense could be so sensible?

God knew what he was talking about when he looked at Adam and said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Gen. 2:18).

Without my helper I would have by now either frozen to death trying to make a fire or mummified myself in wrapping tape.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at


I was once a red kettle bell ringer for The Salvation Army—for about 20 minutes.

The story begins several years ago when Sarah and I decided to go to Chicago for our annual Christmas get-away, shopping, see-the-lights-n-sights day.

We started this practice when the kids were young. It gave us one sometimes two days without munchkin distractions. It provided a break in our schedules, and still does, for us to amble through retail America looking at whatever tweaks our fancy, enjoying a long lunch in a nice restaurant, and in general having a good time. It may not sound like much, but I look forward to it every year. We both put on bright green or red holiday sweaters, think festively, and take off for a day of hot coffee (me) or tea (her) and wondrous displays of Christmas decorations.

We drove south to Chicago early in the morning, gained an hour crossing into Central Time, and were walking Michigan Avenue by 9:00 am.

Now here’s the thing: we love doing this together, but we shop differently. She’s a slower, few specific stores, mine deep for the gold kind of shopper. We may be at a mall all day and she’ll have visited five or six stores in one wing. I, on the other hand, am a case-the-place, traverse the entire mall or length of Michigan Avenue, surface kind of shopper. In fact, it’s not fair to shoppers everywhere to call me a shopper at all. I buy things once in awhile, but it’s because I was looking for it, went to that store to get it, found what I wanted, and put down the dough. My “shopping” might more appropriately be called “exploring.”

So, what do we do? We get to the mall or in this case the Magnificent Mile, pick a time to meet, synch our watches, and split up. We actually did this when we were dating. It’s a method that still works. In the days before cell phones, if she wanted to find me before the appointed time, she’d check the nearest Barnes and Noble where I’d be ensconced in the Starbucks café reading and sipping a cup of joe. It’s a given. Like a natural law. But this day that bookshop coffee was yet to be.

This is how I came be standing by myself in The Windy City in front of the John Hancock Center. That’s the tall building that looks like a smaller, squeezed version of what was then called the Sears Tower, now the Willis Tower: who thinks up these kinds of nonsensical changes? People despise the new name and it’s disrupted the social fabric of an entire city. Anyway, there I was.

I was just beginning my reconnoiter when I heard to my left the famous tinkling bell of a red kettle bell ringer with The Salvation Army. The older (I’d say elderly, which frankly is how she appeared, but she was pretty sprightly) lady working the kettle was dressed, forgive me for saying, like she needed the funds more than anyone else who might receive them. She was, to put it as politely as I can, raggedy. I don’t know if this was her state in life or if this was a shrewd marketing ploy, but it worked for her. She made eye contact with me and we nodded our heads. We, of course, had never met before and were thus total strangers.

Then, for reasons I cannot fathom to this day, she said to me, “Would you mind manning this kettle for a few minutes? I have to go to the bathroom so badly I can’t stay here, but The Army doesn’t allow us to leave the kettle.”

Now I ask you, how could I turn down a damsel in distress? So I said, “Sure, I guess so. What should I do?” This is when she looked at me like maybe she’d made a mistake, like maybe she’d picked a dunderhead who didn’t know how to ring a bell standing by a red kettle. But she said, “You don’t have to do anything but just stand here and watch the kettle. Make sure no one bothers it. There’s a restroom right down there near the Cheesecake Factory. I’ll be back in a few minutes.” So improbable as it seemed, there I was. I assumed the position and she tore off running down steps like a grade schooler, disappearing behind pillars and me wondering if she’d ever come back.

What makes this more amusing is that I’d chosen that day to wear a sport outfit. I enjoy professional football and had been a fan of the Miami Dolphins since their perfect season during my college years. As a Christmas present one year Sarah bought me the full deal: winter Miami Dolphins coat, gloves, and knit toboggan cap. And did I mention that it was bitterly cold that December day? So here I am standing along Michigan Avenue in a bright light green and orange coat, dark green gloves, and light green hat with a Dolphins logo on the front. I was ready for a football game but not public display in a chic neighborhood. The irony is, every other year we made this trip I’d worn a black fedora with feather and a black dress coat, but this year I went as a rabid fan.

So I rang the little bell. Four or five people passed by. Four or five more put change in the kettle—“Yes! I can do this job.” The lady will be proud of me.

I stand there, I ring the bell, I ring the bell some more. Then I noticed to my right an elegantly dressed couple from Grand Rapids, business owners I knew from my work at the university. Apparently this was their shopping/exploring day too, because they checked their watches, gave the loving nod, and parted company, she across the street toward Bloomingdales and he to points unknown. At any moment I thought he was going to see me, but he didn’t. I don’t know if he didn’t recognize me and kept going or if he didn’t “see” The Salvation Army bell ringer in his haste to move on to warmer locations. I considered yelling a greeting, but stopped and to this day I’m not sure why. Was I ashamed of what I was doing? Why would I be? Or did I not want to tout my good deed in an inappropriate manner? I don’t know. What bothers me now is that ego was probably involved in either motivation.

Finally, after at least 20 minutes, the kind lady returned with a smile on her face, thanking me effusively for this wonderful thing I had done. I didn’t think I’d done all that much, and I didn’t have the heart to tell her I’d had second thoughts and hadn’t identified myself to a person I knew. So I didn’t think my record was a good one. She, however, seemed to think I was a knight who’d rescued her from ignominy.

And maybe I was, a Knight in Miami Dolphins green and orange. One thing for sure, my respect went through the roof for people who stand by red kettles in the cold elements and ring bells for The Salvation Army.

I said, “Goodbye,” and she said, “God bless you,” and I went exploring for that bookstore and java.

Someday I’m going to call that business couple and tell them this story.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at


It's my birthday. Getting older, sometimes but not always wiser, enjoying life more. Blessed with wonderful wife, good kids, fun grandkids, and parents still engaged. To God be the glory.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

A good joke I once heard, origin obscure, various versions all over the Internet:

I will warn you in advance, I am an equal opportunity offender and every religion in this case, including mine, is probably going to get something jabbed at it. So the topic today is how many Christians does it take to change a light bulb?

Well, if you’re a Charismatic, it only takes one because your hands are already up in the air. If you’re Pentecostal, it’s going to take 10; one to change the light bulb and nine to pray against the spirit of darkness.

If you’re Presbyterian, yes, it’s hitting home, it’s going to take none; the lights will go on and off at predestined times. If you’re Catholic, there’s a few of you here, it’s going to take none; you guys are candles only.

If you’re Baptist, it’s going to take at least 15, one to change the light bulb and three committees to approve the change and decide who brings the potato salad. If you’re an Episcopalian, it’s going to take three; one to call the electrician, one to mix the drinks, and one to talk about how much better the old bulb was.

If you’re Methodist, it’s undetermined whether your light is bright, dull, or completely burned out, you are loved. You can be a light bulb, a turnip bulb, a tulip bulb. Church-wide lighting service is planned for Sunday. Bring a bulb of your choice and a covered dish.

If you’re a Nazarene, it’s going to take six; one woman to replace the bulb while five men review the church policy. If you’re Lutheran, it’s going to take none; Lutherans don’t believe in change. Church of Christ, we do not use light bulbs because there is no evidence of their use in the New Testament.

If you're Amish, what's a lightbulb?

And finally, if you’re a Unitarian, we choose not to make a statement either in favor of or against the need for a light bulb. However, in your own journey if you have found a light bulb works for you that is fine. You are invited to write a poem, compose a modern dance about your bulb for next Sunday’s service during which we will explore a number of light bulb traditions including incandescent, fluorescent, three-way, long-life and tinted, all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence.

I was somewhere in the middle, right?


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at