Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Monday, February 08, 2016

MOnday MOrning in Southwest MO (see what I did there?)

It is a windy and cool Monday in the Ozarks of Southwest MO and there are a few snow flurries blowing around outside. I suppose it's pretty typical weather for early February. It's just that we've become accustomed to a pretty mild winter this year.

Today seems to be a bit more of a slow day than most Mondays. In truth, most Mondays are just another day. Maybe it's due to the last moment call (about 45 minutes before service time) to preach yesterday morning.
To be fair, it's not like there isn't plenty of material in the Bible. I know that I've read the book, prepared a few sermons and from any place will get to God's great love for us and salvation by faith in His Son, Jesus.
But still -- between getting ready and getting to the church -- 45 minutes isn't much time.

Also, there is an energy drain from preaching that most people would not expect. With two services on Sunday at Hopedale, well let's just say that I was feeling it yesterday afternoon. Even after my three mile walk I wasn't feeling re-energized like I usually do. I found myself in the extremely rare situation of taking a Sunday afternoon nap. I didn't set out to nap. It just happened that I sat down in my chair and the next thing I knew an hour had gone by!

The bad thing about Monday rolling around after a Sunday sermon is that it is now the time to practice what you've preached -- making disciples, teaching what Jesus taught.
As I said yesterday, making disciples -- teaching what Jesus taught -- is a difficult command to follow if you don't know what Jesus taught. We have to be disciples in order to make disciples.

The YouVersion Bible reading app is trying to help people get in the habit of daily reading by establishing a 21 day habit of reading every day. The app has many different daily plans and for the first 21 days of February is encouraging readers to share their daily accomplishment on Twitter using the hashtag #BibleFor21. I think there is some kind of prize drawing at the end or something.
My current reading plan goes through Acts and the epistles in 85 days. I started on Jan 3, and have managed to keep up with it daily.

The real challenge now is to find somebody to tell -- God loves you and Jesus died for you!
I've seen Chris this morning and I have to make a trip to the post office today, but I doubt that I'll run into anybody while I'm walking today so my opportunities today will be somewhat limited. The same is pretty much true on any other day of the week. I just don't interact with many people throughout the week.

Maybe I need to join a gym or club or something. I suppose I could go hang out at the local coffee shop and be the guy that pesters other patrons. I've been thinking about a neighborhood Bible study or meeting at a coffee shop or other location -- I don't know, but I need to do something other than remaining in my happy little solitary life.
Personally, I'm perfectly happy in my solitude. It's just that it doesn't work very well with the make disciples thing.

So, I'm going to ask for your thoughts.
How would you suggest I meet people?
The neighborhood walks work well when people are out -- they're not in February.
What places should frequent? Where should I go? Should I join a club?
What do you think?

Have a great week!
God loves you!
Jesus died for you!

John <><

Friday, February 05, 2016

Friday Night Thoughts on Evangelism/Religion

It's Friday night and life has stepped in to keep me from posting over the past two days. It's nice to be busy with stuff to do, but I also miss my quiet time and solitary life.

Yesterday and today was the Missouri Baptist State Evangelism Conference. Fortunately for me, it was in Springfield. This makes it close enough that I don't have to travel and I have no associated expenses. It is always nice to see other evangelists and pastors that I have served with in the past. I do enjoy the interaction and sharing of thoughts, but ... as I have said before, I am an introvert so getting back to my alone time is quite a blessing.

Having said that, I am a little concerned with the fact that I am doing so little to share Jesus with the few people that I encounter. I need to be purposeful about interacting with more people and purposeful about sharing my faith. I have even been less diligent to use this forum to tell others about how much God truly loves them and that He sent His son Jesus to die for them.

I know that in life, I am a poor ambassador for Jesus.
It is sometimes difficult to represent Him well when I am no better than anyone else. We often place such a burden on others to be more perfect if they claim to be a follower of Jesus. Sometimes we place that burden on ourselves. The truth is I am no better than anyone else. I am poorly qualified to discuss theology with anybody. As an evangelist, all I know is to preach Christ and Christ crucified. I've never quite figured out this calling and often wonder about what I'm doing or why I feel compelled to continue in a ministry that seldom seems to have any impact.

I do know that people are in need of Jesus.
I know that many people are desperate for hope and for meaning in their lives.
I know that we (followers of Jesus) have all been charged with the task of telling His story to those that haven't heard it and to making the truth clear to those that seek understanding.

Conferences like this one can be disturbing as they serve to remind me of my calling and often point out that I have been negligent in my service to my God.
I'm pretty certain that I don't fit the Southern Baptist image of what an evangelist should be.
I'm also pretty certain that I don't really care about that. I get very frustrated that we (Baptists) seem to get so distracted from our mission of making disciples for Jesus. We seem to think that it is our calling to fix the laws of our nation, elect officials, judge the morality of non-believers, and do just about any self-proclaimed, self-righteous deed so that we can forego the one task that we have been assigned -- to make disciples.

In these past days I have heard some very good messages.
I have also heard some disturbing comments.
In recent days I have also heard some very solid believers lament that they wish they could just do away with religion!
Oh, how I know that feeling!

Several years ago, an atheist friend was about to ask me a question and began by saying, "You're a religious person..."
I interrupted him and said,"I am not!"
He looked at me for a moment and said, "No, you're not. But you know what I mean..."

I don't remember what his question was, but I'm glad that he felt comfortable asking me. And I'm glad that he understood that I don't want to be identified as a religious person.
To be clear -- I do want to be identified as a person that seeks to follow Jesus and that is often found telling others about Him.
But I know too many religious people that I don't want to be around nor do I want to be associated with them in any way.

The real problem comes when I try to figure out how or why Jesus would want to be associated with me!
I can't figure out why Jesus would choose any of us, least of all -- me!
And yet, He does.
So we serve -- humbly, perhaps reluctantly, but we serve.

When Jesus said that no one comes to the Father except by Him ... I believe He was telling us the truth.
When Paul wrote that if you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved ... I believe he was telling us the truth.

I don't believe that I use Christianity as a crutch to make it through life.
I truly believe that God created me, that He loves me and that He provided a way for this sinful man to enter into His glorious presence by offering His own Son to take my punishment. Jesus died so that I might live ... and then God raised Him from the dead that He might live again!

Yeah, it's almost as fantastic a story as those that say there is no God ... but I believe that there is more than enough evidence to convince a prudent person that it is real; that it is true.

I don't expect that these words here will convince a non-believer of their need for Jesus, but if it does, or if you have questions, please contact me. You can ask your questions via comment or email. If you want your questions kept confidential, just say so. Comments are all moderated by me. I can answer without posting your identity, you can comment anonymously or you can provide me an email address to respond.

God loves you.
Jesus died for you.

John <><

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Politically speaking...

I ran across an Einstein (you know, the genius guy) quote the other day that I think is deserving of contemplation.

"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them."

It is an election year in the US.

This November we will elect a new president.
In addition to electing a new president, all 435 members of the House of Representatives spots are up for election and 1/3 of the Senate seats.
Let's face it ... while the president can set policy and is the spokesperson for our nation, it is Congress that writes laws, sets the budget and spends our tax dollars.
And we continue to send the same people back into office, term after term after term.

Maybe it is time for a Congressional turnover.
There was a time when I was opposed to term limits. My thought was that we have term limits. They are called elections. We have the opportunity, on a regular basis, to remove any politician from office.
Unfortunately, we (the voting public) appear to be too stupid to realize that putting the same imbeciles back into office will only get us more of the same thing.

If we want to change things in our country, somebody different is going to have to take charge of change. Change isn't going to come from the White House. It is going to have to come from Congress.
...And the same people can only bring us more of the same.

I am not saying that Democrats have to vote for Republicans nor vice versa. I'm saying that we need good candidates to oppose the politicians that are in office and we need to replace the existing mindset.

Just my thoughts this morning...

John <><

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

NYX Hotel Cancun

I thought I'd give a quick review of our stay at the NYX Hotel Cancun.

If 1st impressions are any indication of how a stay is going to be, we were in for a long week. We arrived well past our scheduled arrival time due to snow and deicing in Atlanta -- yes, I said snow in Atlanta! Instead of arriving at 12:30, just in time for lunch, we arrived at 2:30 and were hungry, tired and ready for the beach!

The airport transport dropped us off at the hotel and we were left there by ourselves to figure out just exactly where the main entrance was. With no hotel staff there to greet us, we tried a few of the doors on the ground level before coming to the conclusion that we were going to have to carry our bags up the stairs (or ramp) to the second floor main entrance. There, the check in process was okay but could have been quicker -- no worries, we were on vacation, right?

We did have someone help us with our luggage to our room. It was a good thing, too! A short walk past one pool and the hot tub, down one level of stairs to another building then up two levels of stairs to our third floor room.

The room was large and functional. The NYX is a relatively new owner (less than 3 yrs) of an old hotel. It was the old Avalon Grand. Our room was clean, but definitely showed it's age. If you are used to finer resorts with all of the amenities, this isn't the place for you. But as I said, the room was large (more like a studio apartment), functional and more than comfortable for the little amount of time that we intended to spend there.
And it had a great view! All of these pics were taken from our balcony (late afternoon, dawn, moonrise).

We put away our things, dressed for the beach and headed down to the restaurant to get something to eat.

This hotel was different from any other all inclusive resort where we have stayed. There was only one place to eat for lunch and dinner...and no buffet! There was a soup/salad/dessert bar for dinner, but you ordered lunch and the main dinner course from a menu. This was great for me and I feel I was better able to control my diet and not over eat. The portions were a fair size (smaller than US restaurants) and really just the right amount to leave you satisfied and not full.

And the food was DELICIOUS!

Seriously, I think this was the best food that we have ever eaten at an all inclusive resort. Not only was the food great, the restaurant was right on the beach so the atmosphere was also fantastic. Part of the dining area was cleared at night and a small band played and sang during dinner each night. The one small restaurant might mean a short wait at dinner time, but waiting around the pool bar next to the beach isn't really so bad.
For the most part, I'd say that service was very good. It was a little slower than you might expect at a restaurant in the states, but we were in no hurry. We were dining with friends, enjoying our time together and we never felt rushed.

Lunch service on the beach was also great and we ordered pizza and burgers to eat right where we had been sunning/sleeping/reading/relaxing all day!

Breakfast was in a separate area off the lobby and had a pleasant view of the lagoon. It was on the west side of the building and shaded from the morning sun. It was a small buffet with an omelet station and the coffee was good. I tried to keep breakfast fairly light before going for a walk on the beach.

The hotel had three types of guests -- those that paid for their room only and then paid for drinks and food as they went, all inclusive guests like us and time share owners that had the option of purchasing a meal plan or not.

We took a short walk on Sunday and went through a little tourist mall that is right across the street from the hotel. On Friday, we walked to the flea market which is 1.5 miles from the hotel. Other than that, our days were spent on the beach, in the pool or in the hot tub.

I should mention that Chris and Jo-Jo took the poolside salsa dance class one day and I won the ring toss and football throw on back to back days.

In the end -- I would definitely return to the NYX Hotel Cancun. They are making renovations in different areas of the hotel and I believe that it will be an even better place the next time.

John <><

Monday, February 01, 2016

Personal Writing Challenge

It is February!
I am looking to make February a month for writing! In January I had a grand total of 28 posts -- 18 here at Out of My Hat, 7 at Healthy Living (by an unhealthy guy) and 3 at Amateur Cigar Smoker.

For those that have been reading for some time, I am sure that you have noticed that my posts have taken on more of a personal diary type composition over the years. I hope to be a little bit more informative and entertaining in the coming year and to include a little more variety in my posts. I know that it will often still be based on personal events, but hope to add more insight, making it less about what I did and more about what I think (not that anyone really cares about either). Eventually, some political posts are bound to creep in during this seemingly eternal election cycle.

I am a little behind on my cigar smoking reviews. I was able to sample a number of cigars on our trip, but I didn't take the time to review any of them. I'll be posting some of those reviews this week.

I also intend to post more often at Healthy Living. I hope to post more about healthy eating as well as about keeping up with my exercise goals. I don't really expect that an overweight 55 year old guy is much motivation for others, but it does help to keep me on track and accountable to myself -- so I write.
And I do hope that (maybe) the occasional recipes will find their way to the tables of a few readers.
Truthfully, there are very few readers of any of my blogs, fewer of the other two. Writing them is really more of an exercise for me.

My plan is to post everyday in February. If you see that I've missed a day at Out of My Hat, check out my other blogs. It'll probably be at one or the other of them -- or you could just follow them, as well. I'm sure that there will be days when I post on more than one of my three blogs. I do link to all of my posts on Twitter. You can follow me there @magicianary.

Fair warning -- I do plan on one more vacation post this week. It will be more of a review of the resort where we stayed. Again, I doubt that it really matters much to anybody -- it's just something that I want to do.

Read to learn.
Write to share.
Be well,

John <><

Sunday, January 31, 2016


It is Sunday morning, the last day of January 2016.
We are home from a wonderful trip to Cancun and were able to share our adventure with friends from Ontario, Canada. I have to say that this was truly a great time of doing absolutely nothing.

I mentioned to Chris that I was considering how much time we really were doing nothing -- just laying on the beach, relaxing. Even though we were together, someone might be reading, someone else napping, enjoying a cigar, people watching, etc. We were together, yet each to his/her own thoughts and relaxing in our own way.

To be sure, we had many lively conversations on the beach, at meals or just hanging out. We walked to the flea market to shop (5K round trip) and stopped at Bubba Gumps for a snack and refreshment on the way home. We learned a little about each other's culture, government and way of life and we laughed a lot. We also learned a few new words (our friend Jo-jo is quite a character!).

Chris and I did what we always do on a beach trip, but this time we were able to do it with friends.
No hurry
No plan
No schedule
No stress
No guilt about doing no-thing

I'm still feeling the relaxation after a day of travel and waking up in the Ozarks. I expect I'll be feeling it for some time!

Today marks the 1 year anniversary of my retirement from the FAA.
I pretty much just cruised through the year without any goals or purpose. I may consider setting some kind of plan for year 2 -- or not.
Life is pretty good and my goals would probably be pretty simple and self serving --
Buy a new motorcycle.
Go to more baseball games.
Go to a baseball game in Toronto with our Canadian friends.

On the other hand, there maybe some worthwhile goals --
Plant a garden (finally).
Cook at home more often.
Travel more (that could go in either list, but it looks better here!).
Read more (again, could go in either list).

Anyway, you get the idea.

I have a pretty awesome life!
And it really is nearly as awesome in the Ozarks as it is on the beaches of Mexico -- but not quite!

Sunrise from Ozark

John <><

Friday, January 29, 2016

Cool Friday Morning

It is cool and breezy to begin the day on our last full day in Cancun and today's temps are forecast to be the coolest temps of the week (low 70s).

We have had a grand time doing nothing more than enjoying the beach and enjoying time with our friends. I know that Chris wants to do some shopping today and maybe we'll take the walk to the flea market (1.5 miles) and back to accomplish that.

One of the more lasting benefits of this trip may be that I've been getting my walk in early in the day. I like that. I need to work that into my home routine, as well. Maybe an early morning walk or exercise session is what I need to start everyday.

Of course, I also think I should have a cigar on the beach everyday!

Well, the sun is up.
So am I.
Time for coffee!

Have a grand day!

John <><

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Thursdays are for Thanksgiving -- Cancun Style!

I'm thinking it would be impossible not to be thankful on a day like today!
The sun is warm.
The ocean is beautiful.
After a light breakfast, my tummy is satisfied.
I have a fine collection of cigars to choose from later today.
Chris will be down to join me on the beach.
...And we have friends with us, as well.
It is another good day to be John Hill!

As for the trip update...
Wednesday was even more of a do-nothing kind of day than Tuesday.
There was a walk on the beach followed by smoking a cigar on the beach, followed by sunning on the beach, followed by lunch on the beach, followed by more sunning on the beach, followed by another cigar on the beach, followed by another walk on the beach.
Beach time was occasionally interrupted by ocean time or pool time which was always followed by more time on the beach!

My new-found Canadian friend Gord made cigar smoking time especially enjoyable by visiting the local market and bringing back this fine selection for us to enjoy!

My first choice was the Bolivar. Gord went with the Cohiba.

I also enjoyed a couple from the selection that I brought with me -- a VS Cabinet '99 and a Rocky Patel Vintage 1992. I can't ever remember having the time to enjoy three good cigars in a single day!

I don't know what Thursday will bring, but I suspect I'll be spending a little more time in the shade as I may have been a little heavy on the sun yesterday. It will be beach-shade which is way better than Ozark sunshine! I am happy that my friends back home seem to be experiencing unseasonably warm weather for January and hope that it continues next week when we return home.

Be thankful.
Enjoy your day.

John <><

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Tuesday in Cancun...

Day 4 of our Cancun trip was a pretty uneventful day.
By that, I don't mean that it was boring in any way. I simply mean that we didn't do anything other than to enjoy the beach, time with our friends and relax. I have been taking advantage of the outdoor time to enjoy some pretty good cigars!

I feel a little bad that I don't have any great excursions to report. But I suppose that those outings are something that you would rather enjoy for yourselves anyway. We have been on several day trips in the past (although it has been many years since we've visited Cancun) and planned this trip knowing that most of our time would be spent sunning on the beach.

I did manage a 3 mile walk early in the day and will take a walk in just a little while this morning. It will probably be a little bit shorter today.

On my Instagram feed, I noticed that someone else was posting from our hotel and thought I had figured out who it was. The young woman ended up at the table next to me this morning and so I asked. It was a little awkward since her Instagram name is @disco_whore. I mean how does a 55 year old guy ask a pretty young woman, "Are you the disco whore?" without sounding like a creepy old man?
...especially if it isn't the right person!
As it turned out, it was the right person and she seemed pleased that I liked her pics. She and her friend are traveling from the Czech Republic.

It is already about 80 degrees here at 8:30 on a Wednesday morning in January.
Here is my breakfast view from the balcony on the lagoon side of the hotel.

Happy hump day!
John <><