Tuesday, October 06, 2015

My life on a Tuesday in October...

It's a Tuesday afternoon and I am killing time in a Buffalo Wild Wings away from home. I made the early drive to Richland MO for tonight's revival meeting to have lunch with a ladies' group at the church. Now I am just waiting until the evening for tonight's service.

For all practical purposes, tonight is the close of the regular revival meetings. I'll be back tomorrow, but it will be a family night and magic show kind of service. It will be dinner and a show and there will be many guests in attendance. I am really looking forward to it.

I am also looking forward to tonight.
Sort of...

It is a strange feeling as an evangelist comes to the close of a series of meetings. We leave and often never hear of nor see the results of the time we've spent at a church.
We plant seeds, we water, we cultivate; but we often don't get to see the harvest.
And sometimes we harvest where we have done none of the work.
It can be difficult to maintain the heart and attitude of a servant and laborer, trusting God to be glorified in our simple words and deeds.

I hope that my brothers and sisters at FBC Richland will continue to share the simple statements of "God loves you," and "Jesus died for you."
I hope that they will ask the question, "Who is Jesus to you?" and share the Jesus that they know.
I hope that talking about their faith becomes as easy and natural as talking about their favorite sports team, restaurant or any other part of their life.
I hope that the Kingdom will continue to grow as they glorify God by lifting up the name of His Son, Jesus.
I hope.

These folks are not that far from home and I will see some of them in the spring at the Pulaski Association Evangelism Conference. I am looking forward to a good report.

But let's face it...
...life goes on.

It is far easier to fall back into our old patterns than it is to establish new ones.
If it is our habit to engage in small talk and never delve into more serious topics of life, death and eternity--well, it is what we will probably continue to do.
If we have lived with a fear of exposing ourselves by sharing our deeply held convictions, then a preacher's words over a few short days will have little effect when it comes to a life altering experience.

I think that there are many of us that claim to be Christians that do a pretty poor job of living out our faith on a daily basis. Often, it takes all of our energy just to endure the day and the struggles and challenges that are a part of our day -- every day. We are challenged to endure our own day and have little time to worry about other people that cross our path. In truth, they are often obstacles rather than people to be considered. If they have problems and struggles (and they do), they'll have to find their own ways to deal with them. We can barely manage to deal with our own.

Somebody else will have to tell them that God loves them.
Somebody else will have to tell them that Jesus died for them.

But what if nobody else does?
What if God has placed them in your path so that you can tell them?
What if sharing God's love with them is your intended blessing for today?
What if their struggle is worse than yours?
What if you are their relief?
...and they are yours?

Be a blessing to somebody...today.
Offer a kind word, a helping hand.
Tell them, "God loves you. Jesus died for you."

Be the bearer of Good News!

John <><

Saturday, October 03, 2015

The Dark Side

You know that the dark side of the moon isn't really always dark, right?
We just never see the far side from our vantage point on Earth.

The moon has a unique characteristic in that its rotational period (spinning on its axis) and its revolutionary period (the time it takes to orbit the Earth) are the same. That means that the same side of the moon always faces towards the Earth. At the New Moon phase, the far side of the moon (what we refer to as the dark side) is in full sunlight. We just can't see it! The side facing the Earth is now the dark side.

I was thinking about how we sometimes refer to ourselves or others as having a dark side, a side that nobody sees. But really, the dark side comes into full view of the sun on a regular basis. While we can keep a part of ourselves hidden from others with the same perspective, we cannot hide ourselves from ourselves (with an inward perspective) nor can we hide ourselves from God (who sees from afar).

For the most part, I try to be pretty transparent. However, I am also very much aware of people and their harsh and often misplaced judgments. I think that it is often best to keep some thoughts and things from certain people. As I have mentioned before, I am not a very trusting person and there are few people that know me really well. I've learned that it isn't important that everyone knows what I am thinking all of the time, especially when I'm thinking that they're stupid, ignorant, self-centered, narcissistic morons. (Yes, I have my own harsh and sometimes misplaced judgments.)

So yeah, I have an unseen side. I call my dark side Ugly John. Most of the time he shouts (or whispers) to me from the far reaches of a dark dungeon where I try to keep him locked away. It's better that way.

I wonder about some people. I tend to believe that they have no really dark side. They seem to be genuinely nice people that are in complete control of themselves and their emotions at all times. Is it possible? Or do they also have a dark personality locked away in a deep, dark dungeon?

We probably all know people that need to lock away their ugly side. It would seem that their ugly side is in control and has their good side locked in away in a dungeon (or perhaps a tall tower). It's like they always show their dark side and we never see the good!

What do you think, my reading friends? Do you have a dark side? Or is it more of a what you see is what you get personality?
What about others?
We might agree that there are people that are always ugly, but are there people that are really always nice?

John <><

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Hmmm...Retirement plus Part-time work?

For some time now, the FAA has been transitioning away from government employees for many staff jobs (like training) and hiring training personnel from a contract employer. Before I retired, my manager had suggested that when the SGF-ATCT (Springfield MO Air Traffic Control Tower) staff person retired, he would probably be replaced by a part-time contract worker. (Most of them are retired controllers.) I think he was hinting that I might want to consider that.

Well, yesterday he retired.
And today (apparently) a job opening was posted for the contract position.
And I had two different people call me to tell me about it -- just in case I am interested.

Before I retired I had indicated that I might be interested in such an arrangement. Now, I am not so sure.
The thought of having to get up at a certain time to be at work -- even just a couple of days per week -- doesn't really appeal to me. However, I'm not entirely certain that I want to dismiss the idea completely just yet.

Money isn't really an issue (although, who couldn't use a little more of it?), so that isn't going to be a driving factor in my decision. Personnel at the tower is pretty much equally split between people I'd like to see regularly, people that I'm indifferent about seeing and people that I really have no desire to see. I guess it will come down to finding out exactly what is involved and whether or not I think that it will be worth the compensation. The only way to really do that is to go through the process. 

Under normal circumstances, it would probably only be about 8 hours per week. However, there is a lot of training at SGF right now so it may be closer to a full time position for a little while. But it would be all weekday hours, no nights, no weekends, no holidays. 

Maybe I'll have to think about it for a little while.

John <><

Friday, September 25, 2015

This is not my home...

I had this thought while thinking about our recent trip to Mexico ... This is not my home.
And it came with some interesting observations.

While we were in Mexico, some of the shops had bilingual signs in Spanish and English. Even the small shops made the effort to accommodate English speaking patrons. In the tourist shop areas, it was pretty mixed between those that spoke very little English to those that had a pretty good grasp of the language. One vendor we spoke with listened to American music to help him learn the English language!

In my home town in Southwest Missouri, many stores also have bilingual signs in English and Spanish. However, I doubt that there are many people that work in the stores that are bilingual or that it is much of a priority to make accommodations for Spanish speaking customers. To be fair, it isn't much of an issue here.

At one small shop in Mexico, the worker (that didn't speak much English) went a couple of shops down to bring someone that did speak English (the guy that listens to American music). Nobody told us that we needed to speak "Mexican" if we wanted to shop in their country!

It's true, we were visitors in Mexico; tourists. We had some money to spend and they wanted us to spend it with them, in their stores. It was good business for them to speak English. But it is also true that it was beneficial for us to be able to speak a little Spanish. Even though I had some expectation of being able to find someone that spoke English in a foreign land, I also knew that I might need to be able to speak a little Spanish or at least find some way of being able to communicate with the natives of the land.

At one point, I found myself in a conversation where I was speaking in my broken Spanish while a Mexican man was speaking in his broken English. We were both trying to make ourselves be understood in the other's native language. At one point, he mentioned that it was easier for him to understand my English than to understand Chris' English. She said it was because I did the accent better, but I have a thought.

Because I do speak a little Spanish (Chris does not), I understand a little bit about how the sentence structure differs and try to construct my English accordingly. I also try to refrain from phrases that we understand to mean something that a foreigner may not understand. (For example -- in one conversation, Chris used the statement, "I'll have to keep that in mind." You and I know that she meant, "I need to remember that." I'm not sure that the Mexican did.)

I was thinking that speaking in a different language is more than understanding words and knowing vocabulary.

...And that got me thinking...

...As Christians, we often say that this is not our home; that we are merely travelers in through this world; that we belong to another...and we speak a different language.

Okay, so we speak the same language but that doesn't mean that we are being understood or doing a good job of communicating what we are trying to say. As with most things, in order to best communicate what we are trying to say, somehow we need to understand what others are actually hearing.

Those that believe differently than we do, generally have a completely different perspective than we do. Did you know that Muslims believe in Jesus? It's true that their understanding of who Jesus is may be different from our belief, and that's where the problem comes. We speak of Jesus as Son of God/Savior. They hear Jesus, wonder worker/prophet.

Others may not believe in God at all. We may need to discuss God from scientific perspective...and we should be able to.

Too often, Christians find themselves in the position of the American in a foreign country that believes if you speak English  s l o w l y  enough and LOUDLY enough, eventually they will understand you. We continue with the same message in the same way and no one understands. But rather than try to find a different way to communicate, we just grow frustrated and talk more loudly until we write them off as hopeless and move on to our next frustrating encounter.

If we are going to consider that we are as pilgrims in a foreign land, then we also have to consider that we may have to form our conversation differently if we expect the natives to understand our message.

I always challenge fellow followers of Jesus to share the simple message that God loves you and Jesus died for you, but that is really just the beginning. It is only meant to be a launching pad for a more in depth conversation about who Jesus is and what He has done for us. Let's be sure to consider the thought process of unbelievers as we share His message of Salvation.

John <><

Thursday, September 24, 2015


Recently I had the occasion to share my views on friendship with ... well, with a friend.
I know that we all have our own ideas of who our friends are and who considers us to be a friend.

For this post, I checked the Dictionary.com definition of friend. You can check it here.

I tend to use the first definition and am probably a little heavy on the area of personal regard. There just aren't that many people I hold in high esteem or have a lot of personal regard for. I think that most people either have a lower threshold for the personal regard status or perhaps, they are more likely to use definition number 3 when considering friendships, using people that they are on good terms with or are not their enemies.

I like to explain my views on friendships this way:

Choosing friends is a very personal thing. We all get to choose our friends with little input from others. You can't refuse to be my friend anymore than I can demand to be yours. Some people consider pretty much everyone they know to be their friend (the #3 definion). I tend to be at the other extreme and have precious few friends. Most people probably fall somewhere in between.

Along with getting to choose our friends, we get to establish the parameters of our friendship. For some, friendships tend to be very casual. Others would go to the ends of the earth for their friends. Again, most probably fall somewhere in between the extremes.

Of course, in today's world there are those that fall into the #6 definition ... friends on social networks.

While I tend to be a hard judge when it comes to choosing friends, I tend not to worry at all about whether or not someone considers me to be their friend. I am sure that there are people that consider me to be their friend and I do not share the idea that they are my friend. By the same understanding, I know that there must be people that I consider to be my friends that probably don't think of me as their friend.

We only get to control what we control, and not what other people control.
Consequently, acts of kindness and thoughtfulness towards our friends should never be expected to be returned or reciprocated; those actions are not in our control. If we act kindly so that others will return the kindness, then we become more manipulative than friendly.

If we are only nice to people so that they'll be nice to us, are they really our friend?
If they are only nice to us out of a sense of obligation, are we really their friend?

There are people that I respect a great deal and hold in high regard that I don't consider friends because we don't have a real personal connection. Think along the lines of a professional respect (def. #2). I may only interact with them as pastors, church members, controllers, etc., but not have any other kind of life connection.

By the definition #3, I have lots of friends (I think)!
By definition #6, I have fewer friends than I once had.
By definition #1, (sigh) I am a pretty lonely man.

By the way, people don't have to be our friends for us to be friendly. We should always try to be friendly...even if we aren't friends!
How we treat others says more about us than it does about them.

John <><

Monday, September 21, 2015

Pro-life/Pro-choice: It's not as simple as you think.

I know that I could get into trouble on this one, but I'm asking you to hear me out before you make your judgment.

The simple fact of this very controversial issue is that one side isn't listening to the other side. Each side frames their argument from a completely different perspective so that when side A looks at side B's argument through side A's perspective, it makes no sense and they call side B stupid, selfish, and what ever other names will degrade their moral character and intellectual level.

Pro-lifers say that life begins at conception and think that pro-choicers are stupid for not recognizing that. In their arguments, pro-lifers will say say things like, "Of course it's a human life! It's not a dog or other animal!" While that is true, it is not the basis for a pro-choice person's decision.

In the end, the argument (and the disagreement) comes down to -- At what point does the unborn embryo/fetus/life/baby have the rights of an individual person?

Some argue for the moment of conception and others for the moment of birth. The Supreme Court ruling puts it somewhere in between those two. Even in the Christian world it can get pretty controversial.

It wasn't until after the SCOTUS ruling in the 70s that most religious organizations formulated a stance against abortion. In the 50s and 60s, the stance was pretty much a pro-choice stance, giving over to personal conscience and belief. Only the Catholic church has remained constant in its life begins at conception stance.

Some say that birth control that does not prevent conception (contraceptives) but prevents pregnancy is abortive in nature and should be illegal or that certain employers that believe that way should be exempt from providing those methods of birth control. Some say that according to Leviticus 17:11, the life is in the blood and since science shows us that that doesn't happen until about day 17, IUDs, Plan B pills and other forms of birth control should be okay.

But again, the question goes back to -- At what point does a human embryo/fetus/unborn baby have the rights associated with a sentient being?
Is it at conception?
Is it at birth?
Is it an answer that can be derived from science?
If it is a theological answer, can it be one that can be proven and be one on which we as a society can agree?

There are Christians that read the Bible very literally and still manage to disagree on this issue. Many theologically sound followers of Jesus read (in several places, beginning in Genesis) that life begins with breath, that the life of a person is inspired by God when we draw breath--when we are born.

I know that the issue isn't going to go away.
I also know that it isn't (or at least shouldn't be) a political issue.
And I know that there are a lot of very strong feelings on both sides of the issue.

While some want to be left alone to make their own decisions based on their own beliefs, others want to speak on behalf of the unborn and represent the right to life that they believe the unborn have.

Which ever side of the issue you are on, lay out your case and know that the other side needs to hear your perspective and you need to frame your case so that they can understand it from their point of view. Believers need to know that unbelievers don't have a biblical set of values and even other believers may read the scriptures with a different understanding. Unbelievers need to know that religious beliefs are deeply ingrained and often permeate every aspect of a believers life.

When the simple reality gets to the point that nobody is going to change anybody's mind, then perhaps it is time to accept that and move on. I have many friends on both sides of the issue. The sad truth is that the pro-choicers do a much better job of laying out their arguments than the pro-lifers and the non-religious pro-choicers are often easier to get along with than the hardline religious right to lifers. Most of the time, the argument "That's just what I believe!" doesn't go very far in providing an adequate defense of your beliefs.

We can certainly push for a ban on funding to organizations like Planned Parenthood, but on what grounds? They are performing legal medical procedures that we happen to disagree with. Let me repeat that -- They are performing legal medical procedures that we happen to disagree with.

By the way, it's worth noting that there are both pro-life Democrats and pro-choice Republicans.

As I said in the title -- It's not as simple as you think.

Here, on the blog, I can moderate comments and try to keep it from getting ugly. If I post it on Facebook (like I usually do) well, I'm trusting you to be civil. You can feel free to link to it if you choose and then make your comments on your own timeline.

John <><

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Matheny Manifesto

It may seem surprising to many that I'm not a big reader.
I like reading, but I'm not real fond of reading fiction and I sometimes have a hard time finding different nonfiction books that I'm willing to stay with to the end. I picked up a book to read on vacation and grabbed another one off of my bookshelf to read when I finished the first. It's a good thing! I made it through the first in no time and feel compelled to share it with you.

The Matheny Manifesto: A young manager's old-school views on success in sports and in life
It's written by Mike Matheny and Jerry Jenkins.

For those of you that are baseball fans, yeah, it's that Mike Matheny.
For those of you that are Cardinal fans, whether you like him as a manager or not, you've got to admire his character and integrity.
For those of you that are thinking, "I'm not interested in reading a book about baseball or a book written by a jock," this is not that book.

A few years ago, Mike Matheny responded to a group of parents that asked him to coach their kids' baseball team. He responded by writing them a letter -- a five page letter, calling a meeting and reading them the letter.
The letter went viral. It was all over the internet. There were links to it on Facebook, Twitter and everywhere you can imagine. It became much more than a letter to a small group of parents and became known as The Matheny Manifesto.

His philosophy on coaching baseball was to teach lessons of character and lessons that would help the boys in life as well as to teach a love of the game of baseball.

I would say that the book is a good read for anyone.
It is a must read for parents of kids in sports.
It is a must read for coaches of kids.
Really, it's a good read for anybody that is a parent and it is written so that even kids that are involved in youth sports will gain much from reading it.

It's about life.
It's about developing personal character and integrity. It's about respecting others and respecting yourself. It's about guarding your reputation and controlling your emotions. In many ways, it isn't about baseball or coaching at all. It's about parenting and growing up.

It's about shifting from the showboating, smack talking, win at any cost athletics (or living) back to playing the game well for the love of the game and being good sports -- win or lose.

The Matheny Manifesto
Get it.
Read it.
Live it.

John <><

Monday, September 14, 2015

If I Were a Rich Man...

It's Monday morning and I have had a very good night's sleep in my own bed.
I am sitting on my own sofa, with my own coffee, typing on my own Chromebook in my own home. The sounds I hear through the open windows are birds, bugs and tree frogs rather than the ocean waves upon the beach. It's about 60F (15.5C) and feels like fall is fast approaching.

The lawn needs to be mowed and there is a huge pile of vacation laundry to take care of. I took a pork roast out of the freezer last night because there is no buffet nor restaurant that I can just walk into and out of for dinner tonight. I'll have to make a store run today for some fresh produce to go with our roast.

Although vacation was wonderful and I could get used to living this life in that place, this is the place and this is my life.
I'll get out and walk through my town today.
I'll have a chance to speak with my neighbors (maybe).
I'll prepare dinner in my kitchen and eat at my table.

It seems like a pretty simple and humble life...
...and it is -- in our culture.

But to have a home the size of our home for the two of us, to own two cars and a beat up old motorcycle (plus bicycles), to have a freezer full of meat, canned goods in the pantry and the ability to buy fresh produce as we need it, to have internet service at home (or in my pocket on a smart phone) or just to have the ability to be able to relax with my Chromebook or a real book -- is a grand luxury that many do not have.
When it's hot outside, our home is cool. When it's cold outside, our home is warm.
To much of the world, we are stinking rich!

When leaving a normal tip at a restaurant can equal the server's daily pay -- well, it's no wonder they think we are rich!
Maybe it's time that we stopped looking at those that have more and feeling like we don't have enough and start looking at those that have less and realize how rich we truly are. What would happen if we stopped trying to get more and started trying to give more?

Last week I saw a small team of men working to remove a downed tree next to the road ... with axes!
It was 90F (32C) and humid and they were taking turns with axes--not chainsaws, axes!
I saw a man edging the lawn around the hotel walkways with hand clippers instead of a gas powered weed eater.

We (in the US) sometimes view the Mexican people as lazy and think that they come here for the handouts. I think that they are very hard working and come here for the opportunities. I do think that the problem of those that are here illegally needs to be addressed. I spoke with one Mexican man (that has been here legally many years ago) that sees the number of illegal immigrants as an embarrassment to the Mexican people. He agrees with Donald Trump that they need to be deported! Even though he agreed that the Mexican system is very corrupt and getting legal documentation to get into the US can be very expensive, he sees that as a problem the Mexicans need to deal with and correct rather than skipping it altogether and crossing the border illegally.

I have talked with Mexicans (in Mexico) that have been to the US both legally and illegally. I see that the biggest hurdles to coming legally are the money and the long wait. Because there are so very many that want to come to our great country for the many opportunities that are here, those corrupt officials (and they are all corrupt) both accept and demand large amounts of money to move people to the front of the line and process the documents  necessary to cross legally.

The man that I spoke with about the corruption agreed that there is also corruption in the USA but said it is different in Mexico. He said in Mexico it is all out in the open. Everybody knows that it exists and it is a way of life. People in positions of power expect people to pay for service and the people know that to get anything done, it will cost them. The more money you have, the faster you are taken care of. It's like that here, too, but here it is more under the table and open bribery is frowned upon.

In any case...
Today I'm going to chose to be thankful for the riches that I have and not be covetous of the things that I don't have (Except for a bigger motorcycle. I reserve the right to want a bigger motorcycle!).
Be thankful for the things that you have and know that many people consider you to be rich!
And you probably are!

John <><

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Adios, Ixtapa!

We are sitting in the lobby of the Sunscape Dorado. We have had our final walk on the beach, dip on the pool, checked out of our room and have a short wait before heading to the airport.

Although the stay was short, I think Chris is ready to be home with her cats and her normal routine. I could stay and find a new routine!

I think that a third trip to Ixtapa will probably find us at a different resort, perhaps closer to the marina or maybe in Zihuatanejo. Also, we may prefer an all adult resort.

Actually, I'm ready for a new routine at home. The past month I took some time off from walking and exercise. It's time to start back at it. I really need to get started earlier in the day with my routine. Early exercise seems to set the energy and mood for the whole day.

Also, I've decided that my Spanish is horrible! If we are going to continue to travel to Spanish speaking countries, I really need to learn the language. I had a good time speaking with another guest at the hotel. He was a Mexican wanting to practice his English and I needed to practice my Spanish. So he spoke in broken English and I spoke in broken Spanish. I think we both enjoyed it.

It's been a good week.
St. Louis tonight.
Home tomorrow.
Life goes on.

John <><

Friday, September 11, 2015


Fourteen years ago today, I was at work...not work as an air traffic controller, I was working on my day off at the magic shop in Silver Dollar City. I was not one of the unsung controllers that did the unthinkable that day as they guided 4000+ flights to land at unscheduled airports and cleared the busiest airspace in the world (without plans nor procedures) in less than two hours.

I was in a mini-time warp. To keep with the time period theme of Silver Dollar City, there are no radios anywhere in the park. They don't even allow employees to wear wrist watches as they weren't in existence at the time of the park's setting.

We had heard from our guests some of what was going on in the real world, but most of them were on vacation and hadn't really heard, either. By the time I got home that evening and found out what had taken place, the search and rescue efforts were underway and Americans from across the country were glued to their TVs. I found out that the kids had been watching much of the coverage throughout the day at school and so we made the decision to keep the TV set off for the rest of the night. At 12 and 9, we felt that they had seen enough for the day.

It wasn't until the following morning that I saw any of the video of what had taken place.

Looking back from today, the thing that I remember is that in an instant, we became the UNITED States of America!

On that day, there wasn't a white America nor a black America. There wasn't a Christian America and a non-Christian America. There wasn't even a rich America and a poor America.
There were Americans in need and there were Americans helping. There were allies from around the world sending aid.

WE had been attacked by terrorists.
WE were united in our resolve.
WE acted as one, The United States of America.

For many months after that day, there was a sense of patriotism that was for all of us. It wasn't conservative patriotism nor liberal patriotism. It was more than a love of our country; it was also a love of our fellow countrymen.

Many people turned to God -- seeking answers.
Many turned away from God -- asking "Why?"

I wonder...
Do we need a common enemy from outside of our country in order to stop fighting among ourselves?
Do we need chaos in our lives to bring about order in our government.
Do we need a responsibility so much greater than ourselves in order for our government representatives to quit acting like a bunch of fighting, irresponsible schoolyard bullies and actually do the jobs they've been sent to do?

I am distressed that we can call today Patriot Day and yet be a country that is so divided.
We are red states and blue states.
We are conservatives and liberals.
We are religious and non-religious.
We are rich and poor.
We are a nation that fights among ourselves.

How is that patriotic?

If you want to remember something about this day and this country, remember this:
We are the United States of America.
Millions of people in the world want to live here and have the blessed life that we have.
Anyone that wants to leave is free to leave...but few make that choice.
Some hate us because of our freedoms and they fear us.
They will choose to attack us again because our love of our freedom is something that they cannot understand nor tolerate.
We must prevail.
We are the United States of America.

John <><