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OUT TO PASTOR: Do I need to repeat that?

Of all the holidays during the year that I like, my birthday is at the bottom of the list.

Now that I’m at my current age, I prefer not to be reminded that I’m getting older. All a birthday does for me is tell me I’m just getting older. Who wants to be reminded of that?

Then, the worst part of a birthday is all the candles on the top of the cake.

I’m not sure who came up with the idea of putting candles on a birthday cake. They probably were having a very slow day and didn’t have anything more to think about.

When I was young, a birthday cake with candles was very exciting. They would put as many candles on the cake as my birthday. Now, they can’t find a cake big enough to contain all my candles.

The problem with celebrating your birthday is everybody asks you that one horrible question: “How old are you this year?”

I usually tell them I’m 12 months older than last year, but that doesn’t float any balloons on my birthday.

One thing happened this year on my birthday, which was sad.

My uncle, who was 91, died in the hospital. So in a sense, he did me a favor because now, on that birthday, people will talk about my uncle’s death and his memories rather than how old I am.

If I see him in heaven, I will shake his hand and say, “Thanks.”

As usual this year on my birthday, The Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage and I went out to celebrate at our favorite restaurant.

At first, I was afraid she would tell the waitress that it was my birthday, and then they would all gather around and sing happy birthday to me.

Fortunately for me, that did not happen. That was one birthday present that I really enjoyed.

We had a very lovely dinner together, and as we were finishing our dessert, The Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage looked at me rather strangely and said, “Do you feel old?”

I’m not sure what she meant by that, but looking at her, I reached out, took hold of her arm, gently squeezed it, and said, “I feel old... now.”

I was smiling, but she was not smiling. I’m still smiling about that. It’s not every day that I can catch her on a question like that.

When I got over that little routine, I looked at her and said, “Do you mind if I ask you a very serious question on my birthday today?”

“Of course,” she said, looking at me smiling. “Ask me any question you want to ask.”

I should’ve known she was setting me up, but it was my birthday, and I thought birthdays carry certain exemptions.

“Okay,” I said as seriously as possible. “I’ve read where the average woman speaks 20,000 words a day, and the average man speaks only 7,000 words a day. Can you tell me why?”

She looked at me very sternly and replied, “Do you want to celebrate another birthday?”

I knew I was in trouble, but then she cleared her throat and said, “I’ll answer that question for you. This will be my birthday present to you this year.”

Maybe, just maybe... I escaped persecution along this line.

“It is a very simple question to answer.” She cleared her throat again, looked at me with one of her looks, and said, “The reason a woman speaks 20,000 words a day and a man speaks only 7000 words is because the woman has to repeat herself three times before the man hears what she is saying.”

With that, she stared at me and said, “Do I need to repeat myself?”

Because one of the things on my bucket list was celebrating another birthday next year, I soberly shook my head and said, “No, you don’t.”

Fortunately for me, the waitress came with our check, and I got up, took it to the cashier, and paid for our dinner.

I paid a heavy price for that question for the next several days. Every time The Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage asked me anything, she always concluded by saying, “Do I need to repeat myself?”

Thinking about this recently, I came to the conclusion that hearing is a very important part of any relationship. Not just hearing, but hearing what is actually being said.

I wrestle with this all along. I hear everything The Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage is saying, but I don’t always hear it in the right context.

One verse of Scripture that emphasizes this for me is Romans 10:17, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

It is not so much hearing as it is hearing the right thing. My faith in God is based upon hearing the word of God.

What is God really saying to me?

That is the basis of my faith in God.

Dr. James L. Snyder lives in Ocala, FL with the Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage. Telephone is (352) 216-3025, e-mail is, and website is

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