Saturday, July 23, 2016

Chicago!

It has been a hot, humid week to be visiting the Windy City!
No worries, though. I still managed a long walk yesterday. Even though it was near midday, I was able to find quite a bit of shade on one side of the street as I walked.

Aaron and Jenny were working yesterday (Friday) and I had decided to leave the motorcycle parked until it's time to leave, so it was walk, uber or public transportation. Since they live in the city and where I wanted to go wasn't too far, I chose walking. Google maps put the Twisted Spoke (a biker bar that Aaron recommended for lunch) at 3.3 miles. That was past my afternoon destination but not too far. I enjoyed a seared tuna steak sandwich with arugula and a few fries. It was very good!
Then it was back out into the steamy outdoors for the 1.5 mile walk to the United Center for the UFC Q&A with the women's straw weight champion and the weigh-in show for tonight's fights. Aaron joined me for the weigh-ins and then we drove to pick up Jenny.

We had dinner at Rocky's, a sports bar near the White Sox ballpark. I stayed with a healthy choice and had a grilled chicken Mediterranean salad which turned out to be a huge plate of food -- enough that I skipped the ballpark dog at the stadium!

This morning we will go to one of my favorite food places in Chicago, The Haymarket Pub. I really love the Riot sandwich. On their weekend brunch menu, they have a Morning Riot which is one of my all time favorite brunch or breakfast items.

This afternoon we'll hit the UFC Fan Village and then the early prelims. This fight card is a pretty light card after a couple of the cancellations. There are still going to be some good fights and the co-main and main events should be really good match ups. It will be a long day, but a very good day!

I'll probably get my steps in. It isn't that difficult in the city. Walking would be my primary mode of transportation if we lived here. I would probably walk more at home if it were more pedestrian friendly. Of course, home is more biker friendly!

I am lovin' my time with the kids!

Time for brunch!

John <><




Thursday, July 21, 2016

On the road...

This morning finds me blogging from my parents living room sofa in Metamora IL.
We are waiting on coffee and dad is reading the morning paper -- yes, one of those people that still likes to read and actual paper-- and I am on the Chromebook. Mom is in the bedroom saying her morning prayers (hopefully extra prayers for her son traveling by motorcycle this week!).

This is my first motorcycle road trip.
Yesterday I rode a little over 400 miles -- most of it on the Interstate. It was hot enough that there weren't too many other riders on the roads. I only counted a couple of dozen in the 400 mile trip. Only 3 other riders were wearing jackets of any kind and only one other rider in Illinois wore a helmet (no helmet law, here). The one that did wear a helmet was also one of the jacket wearing riders.

I found that wearing a wet, athletic tshirt under my vented jacket works pretty well in keeping me at a comfortable body temperature.

My butt managed the long ride well, in spite of my stock seat. The biggest fatigue factor for me was from my right arm/hand. I have driven many miles in a car without cruise control and will say that riding without a cruise control cycle (or a throttle lock) is a similar kind of thing. Maybe cruise control will be a feature on my upgrade cycle.
Only a hundred miles today, then I'll park the cycle while in Chicago and make the trip home on Monday. I may decide to get off the interstate and wander through a few more towns on some state and US highways. Part of staying on the interstate was to avoid potential rain showers. I'll be checking that out for Monday, as well.

After breakfast with the folks, I'll ride to Bolingbrook and visit with my brother, Mike and his family. We'll have lunch together before I ride the rest of the way to Aaron and Jenny's.
White Sox baseball on Friday
UFC fights on Saturday
Dinner with my sister, Mary and her family on Sunday
Long ride Monday

Yep, it's going to be a great weekend. I expect to eat some good (not necessarily good for you) food and enjoying time with the kids. The UFC Fan Village outside of the United Center will be hot (heat index is forecast to triple digits) and we may limit out time there -- or not. I'm sure that I'll have a Chicago dog at some point and other sporting event fare at the ballgame or fights.
Like I said -- it's going to be a great weekend.

I can't say that I've missed the RNC -- I mean, I've missed it but I haven't missed missing it. You know what I mean. I think the media blows most things out of proportion and is more interested in getting people to watch/read/follow than they are in reporting the actual news. I'm also pretty sure that the DNC will be the same way and I doubt that I will follow it any more closely.

The TV news programs are on in the background and it sounds as if Sen Cruz has stolen most of the evening's coverage and that a rather good speech by VP candidate, Gov Pence, is being ignored by the media. That's too bad. I doubt that I'll take the time to listen to it this weekend, but I think I'll keep it mind and listen to it later. I haven't been a Pence fan, but then again, I haven't really been much of a Pence follower. Other than what came out over Indiana's Religious Liberty law and the following fallout, I really couldn't tell you much about him. I'm thinking that if Trump were to win the Presidential election, his Vice President will have more to do than other vice presidents. The Donald appears to be the kind of guy that likes the camera and the limelight but I doubt that he'll be doing much of the actual work of a president.

Oh well...

Let's get this day underway!

John <><


Monday, July 18, 2016

WARNING! Political Post Ahead!

With the political conventions finally getting here and more and more news surrounding the upcoming November elections, it is difficult to remain silent.

Although I will continue to try to keep from being too harshly critical of the politics of others here, most of what is in the news this week just boggles my mind.

When Ronald Reagan changed political parties from Democrat to Republican, he said that he didn't leave the Democratic Party; the Party left him. That's pretty much how I have felt about the Republican Party over the last decade or so. I'm still registered as a Republican but haven't really voted that way since GWB's first term.

I don't think that Donald Trump is bringing the party back to what it was. I'm not sure where he fits.
I know part of the attraction to him is that he is not a politician and doesn't fit within the current GOP mold.
But, WOW!

Most of the anti-Hillary crowd talks about her lies and say they can't trust her but then go support a guy that lies and isn't trustworthy!

As for me, I find myself in pretty much the same predicament as most of the US.
The Democratic Party is moving more to the left than I'd like and the Republicans have long ago moved too far to the right. I am not happy with either of the presidential candidates. I am not a fan of voting for the lesser of two evils (and won't approach my vote that way), but would rather vote for the person that I believe will be the best President of the United States. I may actually vote for a third party candidate.

If you're still with me at this point, I'd like to point out that the real power for writing the laws that we are governed by lies with our Congress. All 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for election and a third of the Senate is. I really believe that it is time to get rid of the career politicians in Congress. I feel that most of them are owned by their campaign contributors. I won't be voting to re-elect either of my Missouri reps to Congress this year.

As I have said in the past, the parties seem to be ruled by the extremes and nobody is representing the middle. Getting things accomplished through compromise is a sign of weakness, while gridlock is something that both sides seem to take pride in. Both parties seem only interested in meeting party goals and neither party is interested in what is best for America.

There was a time when I believed that each party just had different ideas of how to accomplish what was best for our country. I no longer believe that. I believe that our current political parties are only out to please the largest campaign donors and care little about what is best for our country.

To my evangelical religious readers that have always used their religion as their litmus test for voting for a particular candidate -- if you vote for Donald Trump, you forever lose that as a reason for casting your vote!
Vote for him if you want, but understand the consequences.

We are still a few months away from our November 8 elections.
I encourage you to study all of our candidates for all of the offices.
Choose the ones that will do the best job -- for the United States of America.

I am going to approach the coming election
--not as a Democrat
--not as a Republican
--not even as an Independent
I am going to approach the coming election as a citizen of this (already) great country and vote for the citizens that I believe will best serve The United States of America.

(end rant)

John <><

PS As always, be kind in your comments.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Good-bye, friend. I'll see you on the other side.

Today we went to a memorial service for a man from our church. As I listened to the many kind things that were said about him and how he lived his life serving others, I had to wonder -- what will people say about me?

I honestly can't think of a single time that I have heard an unkind word in regards to this man.
People often use the phrase -- loved by all. With Jim, it really fit. He was always asking (and genuinely interested) in how Aaron and Hannah were doing. He insisted on going to Hannah's wedding even though he wasn't feeling too well on that day -- only five weeks ago. His wife suggested that she go to the wedding alone, but he insisted that he wanted to see Hannah get married.

Later that night, he was in a lot of pain.
In the days to follow, they found spots on his liver and lungs, and later in his brain.
Hannah's wedding was on June 10th. Less than a month later (July 7), our friend died.

There were people of all ages that came to pay their respect and to offer comfort to his family.
Jim lived well and truly loved God and served others in so very many ways. He served as a Deacon in our church and was always working around the church and taking care of the building. He will be missed by everybody that knew him.

For those of us that share the belief that Jesus is Lord and Savior, the day was a celebration of joy as much as it was a memorial service.
I have to admit -- I'm a little jealous of Jim.
I doubt that there will be as many people or as many great things said when it comes my time to go.
Of course, I still have some time to work on that.
But I'd better get right on it! None of us is guaranteed a tomorrow.

How about you?
Are you ready to meet your Maker?
How will you be remembered?
Jim will be a remembered as a man that loved God.
He will be remembered as a loving husband, father, grandfather and friend.
I believe that I am better for having known him.

Maybe I'll have some time to work on how I'll be remembered.

God loves you.
Jesus died for you.

John <><

Friday, July 15, 2016

Back at home!

Well I am back at home!

I'll have a few days before hitting the road again and heading north for the UFC Chicago Fights. I am looking forward to the fights and to visiting with Aaron and Jenny. Right now I have plans to make a stop in Metamora, but that could change depending on my baby sister's plans. I think she is planning on being in Chicago the same weekend. Getting to see her may mean a single day's ride home. I might have to leave a day early and stop to see my folks on the way up. I need to be home Monday night due to an early morning Dr.'s appointment on Tuesday.

On of the nicer things about being at camp is the little bit of isolation from the rest of the world. I did have my phone and Chromebook and I had plenty of time to peruse the 'net at night, but I also enjoyed not really keeping up with things during most of the day.

This was also a good week to at camp when it comes to watching baseball. Since the first part of the week was the All-Star Game break, I didn't miss a single Cardinals' game and will be home tonight to watch their first game since last Sunday. Timing was just right!

As I mentioned before, this was a smaller camp and not as well organized as some. However, there were some really good key people in just the right places and God worked things out in spite of our interference. I think I heard the number of campers at 54. Nine kids made new professions of faith and committed to follow Jesus! There were also re-dedications -- including one of the adult leaders!
It has been a good summer of kids' camps but I am glad that it is over. I am looking forward to relaxing for the remainder of the summer.

Have a great weekend!
John <><

PS - As an added bonus to being back home, my 21 Gun Salute sampler package of 21 cigars from Thompson Cigar Co. arrived and was waiting for me!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Be afraid; be very afraid -- or not!

*heavy sigh*

Sometimes I don't know what else to do.
I heard comments today (from a retired pastor) about being afraid of what is to come in the days ahead for our country. Don't get me wrong -- we should deal with the coming election season with great concern, but one of his fears is that we (I guess was supposed to be included in his fear) won't be able to get Obama out of office!
He said with all of the racial tension and riots (?), President Obama could declare Marshall Law and then we couldn't get him out of the White House.

One of our young campers told me that he had a dream last night about ISIS. He didn't seem freaked out by it or anything. In fact, I don't think that he knows much about ISIS other than they're "bad" people.

Last spring, I remember a fiery sermon on the evil that faces our country (ISIS), about a president that is soft on Islam, and about the fear that we should have in America.

What?
What?
And again -- WHAT?!

What I don't understand is -- aren't Christians supposed to guided by a Spirit of Faith, not a spirit of fear?
Is fear mongering how we lead people to Jesus?
Has hatred become our way of life?

I got to hear the "I'm not prejudice. I have lots of black friends." line today. It was right before a discussion (with somebody other than me) about the Korean group that will be at camp next week and how "different" they are.

*sigh* (again)
Sometimes it is difficult to find Jesus when talking to Christians.

John <><

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

PCBA Camp, Day 3

It's the afternoon of the third day of camp and it is storming outside. It is a real plus that this camp ground has a nice indoor area for recreation. Most camps do not have indoor facilities like a gymnasium. This one has both a gym and an indoor pool!

Because there is the rumble of thunder and the occasional flash of lightning, the pool is still off limits. Hopefully, this system will pass before the afternoon is over and there will be time for swimming.

For now, the girls are in the chapel and the boys are engaged in an exciting game of dodge ball ... and the place is beginning to smell like -- well, like a gymnasium full of sweaty boys!

I was going to go into town for a bit this afternoon and enjoy an iced coffee at the local Starbucks, but opted for sitting in the gym and blogging from the stage while the kids play. Even though it is a little bit noisy, it isn't a bad atmosphere and the noise fades in and out as the game intensifies and then they reset and start over.

Other than the fun and games of camp, things seem to be going well on the spiritual lines as well. I have talked to several kids that have made professions of faith and a couple of the boys have a great cabin leader that seems to be well suited to ministering to young boys. The juniors (youth leaders) are doing a great job of working with the kids, as well. Although the camps seems to be unorganized at times, there are still good things happening.
Tomorrow morning, I'll be having breakfast with a few of the association's pastors. It will be a nice way to start the day.

There will be no long walk today because of the rain.

I'm a little high on my calorie intake so I'll have to be careful when it comes to dinner. Bacon for breakfast has a way of elevating the calorie count rather quickly!

All-in-all, life at camp isn't too bad.
Even so, I'm glad to have reached the halfway mark.

John <><

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Camp; Day 2

Day 2 of the Pulaski Association Children's Camp.

Day 1 is in the books and seemed to go well. This is not as organized as the other larger camps that I have been to and they said that attendance is down quite a bit this year. There is no doubt of the genuine care and concern for the kids that are here; there just seems to be a lack of care and concern about the details and organization associated with running a children's camp.

I think in the long run, the love for the kids will win out and it will be a good camp. It is a young camp. By that, I mean that a lot of the workers are pretty young. That has both advantages and disadvantages. I know that having younger people helping with camp (teens) has a far greater influence over kids when it comes to serving Jesus than having a bunch of older people (parents, grandparents) working. If it is cool for teenagers to love Jesus, then it is okay for the kids to love Jesus. With us old people, it's just one more thing that we're telling them they have to do.
I always find that camps that have a good number of youth workers are generally successful camps.

On the other hand, the natural leadership and organizational skills can be lacking. If there isn't good guidance, it can be like having two camps at once -- one for the youth and one for the kids. The youth workers need to realize they are here as workers, not as campers. There is always plenty of work that needs to be done that they probably never thought about when they were here as campers.
So far, everything seems to be going well. We'll see how the kids are today, after having spent their first night at camp.

Tonight's message will deal with deception and how we often fool ourselves into thinking that we are doing okay on our own. I will use some optical illusions to show how easily we are deceived by our own eyes and brain. Then I will talk about how we also let our spiritual selves be deceived by looking at the world through human eyes rather than through the eyes of God.

It looks like it's going to be another beautiful day here on the Springfield Plateau.

John <><

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Another week; another camp.

Tomorrow begins a week of kids' camp in the Pulaski Association. It is the sixth camp I've participated in this summer and the last one on my schedule.

It has been many years since I've been to the Pulaski camp and the last time I was only there for a one night event. This year I will be serving as camp pastor.
It is nice to get to be serving in the Pulaski Association. I've been going to their winter evangelism conference for many years but have only been asked to serve in a couple of revivals or other events. It may be that I've finally aged into the stereotypical age of a traditional evangelist. I still don't feel like a typical Southern Baptist evangelist (that's not meant to be a good or bad thing, it is just the way it is), but I'm retired now and have the grey hair to fit the normal perception.

Overall, it has been a pretty decent summer of ministry. I don't know it that will continue for the next few summers or not; I still think there are probably younger, better qualified people to serve as children's camp pastors.

I expect it to be a typically hot and humid week for mid-Missouri in mid July.

When it is summertime hot, I feel like I should be on a sunny beach.
When it is cold out, I feel like I should be on a sunny beach.
Yeah, I'm ready for a getaway.

I'll get a Chicago trip in a couple of weeks. It's not exactly a beach getaway (although there is a nice beach along the Lake), but it will be nice to see the kids and go to the UFC Chicago fights with Aaron.

Have a great week.
Enjoy the summer.

John <><


Saturday, July 09, 2016

Making a Difference

If you are a follower of social media (and who among us isn't to some degree?) then your feeds have been full of terrible news, judgmental memes, bigoted stories, and political garbage in the past days.

I have read a few of the articles, "liked" a few of the posts, and ignored most of the politics. But in the end, one still has to ask, "How can I make a difference?"

I've come to believe that Facebook posts do little to change minds and usually just raise anger, arguments, and animosity. I'm pretty sure that the same can be said for blogs like this one. Over the years (10 in just a couple of weeks!), I've lost a good number of followers due to disagreeable posts.
I suppose that's okay. I've come to the conclusion that my writing is for me and don't really expect it to change anyone's mind.

Mostly, we read to affirm our positions rather than to educate ourselves and change our opinions. Eventually, our feeds are full of people that we tend to agree with and free of the people that we don't agree with.
The problem with that is -- nothing changes.

Not being much different than others, I have also stop following many people.
Oh I have a fair share of people that disagree with me over a fair share of topics, but I have stopped following the ones that continue to post hateful, hurtful, or just plain stupid things that tend to place people into large categories of people that are easy to dismiss as irrelevant.

So, back to my question...
"How can I make a difference?"

I'm going to really try to stop using labels that generalize and start listening to people.
I know that I don't fit very neatly into most labels. I must assume that others don't, either. If you've not been reading Out of My Hat for very long, here is a post that talks about my conflicting labels. It includes links to several other "selfie" posts.
When I can (not on Facebook), I will engage people and ask for explanations on how they came to their point of view. I may even challenge them about their sources or information, but I'll try not to argue with them. I will try to learn from them and I need to be open minded enough to change my way of thinking, if the information warrants it.

If asked, I'll give information on how and why I have my perspectives.
Realizing that most people are looking for affirmation of their positions and not looking for debate or a conversion experience, I'll go slowly until I can make a better judgment of the conversation. I'd rather give them an easy out than get into a pointless argument.

And I'm going to encourage people to hate less and to love more.

Let me ask you a question --
"How can you make a difference?"

Feel free to share your answer in the comments.

John <><