Friday, December 15, 2017

Going for a ride...

Well, probably not today...
But I did go out for a nice ride earlier in the week.

I still haven't got into the habit of stopping along the way. The part that I enjoy about riding is the road and the solitude. When traveling, I generally stop every 150 miles or so and take 20-30 minutes to gas up, drink something and use the restroom. I rarely interact with others as I stop, unless to have a brief conversation with another biker that also happens to be stopped. I only rode around 120 miles earlier in the week, but need to stop for gas in the little town of Greenfield, MO.

The little gas station/convenience store had a hot food counter with fried foods like corn dogs, potato wedges, chicken tenders, etc., -- food counter but no place to sit and eat. I grabbed a couple of the chicken tenders and washed them down with a Coke Zero while standing next to the ATM and using it for a table top.
Hanging around the front of the convenience store was a cat. He obviously wasn't a stray because he was wearing a collar. Listening to conversations between the cashiers and customers, I found out that he lived somewhere across the highway but spent most days hanging around the store. The cat seemed pretty savvy around the cars and parking lot and was more than willing to let anyone pet him if they were so inclined.

As I was finishing my snack, I heard a lady ask if it was okay to feed the cat. The cashier responded by saying that people feed the cat all day! That was sufficient permission (not a deterrent) for the lady to add an additional chicken tender to her order so that she could have the pleasure of sitting and sharing with a furry friend.

I managed to sneak a picture as I was leaving.

John <><

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Everything is in Order

It's 3 AM and I've just come in from spending a few minutes looking at the sky. Tonight's meteor shower is a pretty good one. For the short time I was outside, I saw them "falling" at the rate of about 1 per minute. With the temperature just below freezing and meteor watching not being a very active kind of thing to do, I'm content to say I came, I saw, and I went back inside to enjoy my coffee and blog a bit!

The sky is clear and beautiful tonight. I had forgotten how magnificent the winter sky is!
Looking at the night sky and observing the movement of the stars and planets as the seasons change always reminds me of just how great Our Creator is. The regular annual events like meteor showers and the irregular (but predictable) events such as eclipses, demonstrate the order and design of the our solar system and the universe beyond our simple little sun.

I've always said that if you want to feel small, just look to the heavens and consider the vastness of God's creation.
If you want to feel valued, look to the heavens, consider the vastness of God's creation, and know that God knows you and loves you!

Comedian Mark Lowry used to say that people were silly for getting up early in the morning to pray because this is China's time with God. I hope that God was able to hear the prayers of this humble citizen of the USA while listening to the other side of globe so that He knows how much I enjoy the beauty and magnificence of the universe around me.

Everything is in order.

John <><

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Time for a shower -- A Meteor Shower!

Tonight is the night of the Geminid meteor shower.
More correctly, early tomorrow morning (between 2 and 4 AM) will be the best time for viewing.
The temperature in the Ozarks will be right around the freezing point, so it won't be terribly cold to be out scanning the skies for the shooting stars.

Typically, the Geminids are one of the better showers of the year. We're forecast to have a few clouds in the sky tonight but it is supposed to be mostly clear. Hopefully, any clouds will be away from the meteor field. By the way, look towards the constellation Gemini (hence the name) to see the show. If you have a little night sky knowledge but don't know where to find Gemini, face south and find Orion (it should be pretty much directly overhead around 1 AM). Gemini will be to the upper left of Orion.
If that doesn't help and you don't have an app with a star map, face north and look up.

I'll be out there for a little while. (And yes, I'd be out there even if I did have to go to work in the morning!) If you're up and watching, hit me up on Twitter. I'm @magicianary.
Whether you're into astronomy or just making your way through life -- Keep looking up!
Either way, it's good advice.

John <><

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A New Hope

If you are a Star Wars fan, you recognize A New Hope as the title to the first of the many Star Wars films to be released (It was episode IV). But this isn't a post about Star Wars. It is a post about hope. In a day that finds so much bad press and bad behavior about and from evangelical Christians in the US, I have been blessed to be exposed to some real, honest to goodness, followers of Jesus that want people to know that God loves them and Jesus died for them.

Most of Missouri is dotted with small rural churches that have fewer than 50 or so regular attendees. These churches have no big church pride. They have no big budget programs. They have simple means of worship, simple facilities, and simple rural lifestyles. There is a humility about them that is missing from larger churches (even moderately larger) that have started to look on their accomplishments as something to be proud of and held up as an achievement worthy of honor. The simple people of these small churches are incredibly generous. In fact, the biggest thing about these small churches is the size of their (collective) heart.

I have recently been to a couple of these churches. They have a real desire to share the hope we have in Jesus. They live out their faith and share Jesus with people they encounter. They give to meet the physical needs of others (like food and clothing) as well as tending to the spiritual needs.
This is the Jesus I know!

It has been more than a month since I posted my Weekend Rant that got me into trouble. I have gone back to re-read it several times and can't find anything in it that I would change. It generally just reinforces the idea that maybe it's time for me to step away from organized religion and simply follow Jesus and help others to do the same.

I know! I know!
That's what organized religion is supposed to be doing.
But it's not.

With many churches in decline, it seems that the evangelical answer isn't to be better at evangelizing, but to improve at politics and social warfare. I'm not sure if religion has hijacked a political party or if a political party has taken over a religion. Either way, the morphed creature is an ugly beast. It is a beast that is quick to devour its own or any that stand up to question its motives. It has become a beast that is motivated by followers of the organization or party rather than by teaching others to follow Jesus.
The beast divides us into two groups -- those that are with the beast and those that are not. We can join the club and be a winner that hates the losers, or we can be a loser and be subjected to abuse at the hands of the winners. The beast further divides us by crying abuse and persecution where there is none; creating enemies of people that are not its enemies.

I am here to tell you -- this creature does not represent Jesus.
Fortunately, there are good people that do represent Jesus.
They are more than generous with their money, they are generous with their time and with their lives. They make personal investments into the lives of people in need.
They are simple people that live by two simple rules -- Love God, love others.
They ignore the politics of religion and the organization of religion.
They don't care about your social status.
They care about your needs.
They love God.
They love others.
They give hope.

Now that's a religion I can get behind!

John <><

Monday, December 11, 2017

Summer is coming!

I know that winter isn't even here yet (at least not officially), but summer will be here before you know it!

Today is the kind of day that gets me thinking about summer. It is already above 50f (10c) degrees out and forecast to be above 60f (15.5c). I now it's not exactly balmy, but the sun is shining and it is a beautiful day for December in the Ozarks!

The "summer is coming!" warning is for those of you that plan summer kids' and youth camps. While many camp organizers don't get serious about their camp schedules until spring, some of you have already  started booking for camp pastors or additional events.

That's right!
I already have three camps on my schedule for summer 2018!
I look at it as more than 700 motorcycle miles!

In any case, if you are connected with a camp and are looking for a week long camp pastor or just a night of entertainment and the Message in Magic, now is the time to contact me. Most of the summer is still wide open. I look forward to serving with you and sharing the simple message -- God loves you. Jesus died for you.

John <><

Have message.
Have magic.
Have motorcycle.
Will travel.

Motorcycle Season -- No, it's not too cold to ride!

I know that most of my readers are not bikers, so I won't bore you all with a long motorcycle post.
Regular readers will know that I have really enjoyed riding in my retirement and probably know that I tend to ride more than most weekend bikers.
I didn't know that most guys only ride a few thousand miles each year and generally only need to change their oil once per year.

This was my odometer reading when I pulled into my garage on Saturday (it was right at freezing  when I started out in the morning).

I got my motorcycle endorsement on 2/27/2016. On the 28th, I bought my '06 Vulcan 900 Classic. It had 18,780 miles on it. It took me 21 months and 10 days to put 30,000 miles on her. I expect to have over 32,000 by the time 2/28/2018 rolls around.

Keep an eye out for old retired guys on motorcycles -- even during the winter!

John <><

Friday, December 08, 2017

Brain work

Many years ago I was at NATCA National HQ for a pre-convention Constitution Committee meeting. Coming back from a break, one of the members was working on a puzzle of some sort. I asked about it and she introduced me to Sudoku.

To be fair, she did warn me, telling me that I may end up hating her for it.
I have completed many puzzles since that day, and yes, I have cursed her more than once over the years. I have shared these devilish puzzles with others and have no doubt earned a few curses myself.
Recently, I have started solving these maddening little number puzzles once again. Some of the more difficult ones can really challenge the way you think and solve problems.

So what do you do for brain work?
Just wondering...

John <><

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Thursdays are for thanksgiving!

It is Thursday, right?
I actually had to check my phone to make sure. Yep! It's Thursday.

I had just settled down with my pot of coffee and was thinking how much I enjoy coffee and quiet time in the morning. The past couple of weeks have been weird and I have had several morning appointments or obligations that have robbed me of that quiet time. So this morning I was really looking forward to it.

When I checked my phone to see what day it was, I noticed a couple of messages.
Odd. I didn't notice them earlier when I took my phone off of the charger. Who could be texting me at 7 in the morning?

My baby sister wanting to know if I'm up. She's on the road for work and says I should call her!
Now that's a grand way to start the day! Coffee and conversation with my kid sister is a way better start to the day than just quiet time and a lifeless computer!
We managed to talk for a little while before she had a work call coming in and needed to go.
That was quite the unexpected treat.

It's funny how a few moments of conversation with a particular person can really lift your spirits. I still get my quiet time today, but it's different now. If you were able to see me, you wouldn't notice anything different about the day. I'm still sitting on the love seat with a cup of coffee on the end table next to me and my laptop on my lap (naturally), but I feel so much different. The early morning visit did more to wake me up and set a positive outlook for the day than coffee (even this really good Ethiopian coffee) could ever do.

Today's thanksgiving is for quiet time and for unexpected contact from someone very dear to me.
Thank you, baby sis. You have made my day!

Hey, reader! Maybe you could make someone's day with a simple text message or phone call.
If you're some guy's kid sister, give him a call. He will love it!

John <><

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Faces; Is anyone whom they seem to be?

I have mentioned (on many occasions) that I am a slow learner.

Take faces, for example.
We see faces and we identify people by the distinct features of their faces and how they look.
Sometimes, faces can tell us how people feel -- happy (smiling), sad (crying), angry (tense and red) -- but some people tend to hide emotions better than others. We wear our masks like a second skin and show ourselves to be what we think people want or expect us to be. Often times, we are nothing like the person we exhibit to others.

I guess that's okay.
I don't need to share my problems with everyone and I'm not really interested in knowing everyone's problems. But we all need people that we can be honest with.

As I've gotten older (ugh! I hate that phrase), I've started to see through the masks a little more often and realize that most of us are hiding something. Many have hurts and struggles that nobody else knows about -- not even the people closest to them.

Many years ago, I received a call early on a Sunday morning. It was a young man from my Sunday school class telling me that his wife was leaving him.
They were in church every Sunday. Their faces and dispositions didn't show any marital strife to the casual observer. They appeared to be like everyone else.
But I had to ask myself, "How did I miss this?"

The masks!
At some point it occurred to me -- they appeared to be like everyone else!
Was everyone wearing a mask and hiding their hurts?
Isn't church supposed to be a place where we can be free of judgment and open about our struggles?
How is it that church people feel alone, suffer alone, and add loneliness to their lists of hurts?

I had a recent conversation with a young man that spoke about the false relationships found in churches. One of his complaints about churches was that people seem to care, but you know that they really don't.

It has been said (and usually attributed to Plato), "Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

A friend recently told me that I was the only one on a ministry team that ever called to ask, "How can I pray for you?"
I think I need to do that more often and for more people.
In life's battles, people need to know there are others that will stand with them for a while; that they are not alone. They need to know that there is a place of rest; a sanctuary -- even if only for a moment. And they don't have to share the details of their journey if they don't want to. I just want them to know they are not alone -- You are not alone.

My contact info is available.
You can send me a message via comment. I moderate comments so just mark it as personal or mention that you don't want it posted. I know I'm just a guy at a keyboard in a virtual world, but even so -- You are not alone!

John <><

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Religion and Politics

Over the years, I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "I don't know how anyone can call themselves a Christian and vote democrat!"
Most of the time, the basis for the statement has been a singular issue that gets put into the broader context of morality. I have, on numerous occasions, defended both my politics and my religion.

Even recently I have been accused of letting my politics influence my religious beliefs.
I can assure you that the opposite has always been true -- my religious beliefs influence my political views.
It has only been in the past couple of decades that I have shifted from a moderate republican to a moderate democrat. I'm really more of a moderate independent with libertarian leanings (but let's face it, that's a moderate democrat by anyone's standards). That shift has come from a growing compassion for others and economic responsibility based on my religious beliefs.

Now, turn about is fair play. It is time for Christians to explain how they use morality as a yardstick and vote for the morally repugnant people that are in office as republicans.

I'll wait.

John <><