Tuesday, June 30, 2015

2015.5

Wow!
How can it already be the end of June?
Can the year be half over?

Time seems to be flying by!

It looks like it will be another beautiful day in the Ozarks. It is overcast this morning and the temperature is around 70 -- perfect for enjoying coffee on the deck with my Chromebook and the chatter of the birds and squirrels.

Before the temps start to rise too much, I'll be out for a long run/walk this morning. The last day of June finds me about 30,000 steps short of my monthly goal of 400,000. I knew that there were going to be a number of days that I would be far below my daily average, but I kind of let that get away from me.

I do have music available to me through me phone, but I rarely use it. It can help to pass the time and keep the pace (I generally listen to Classic Rock), but I'm okay with quiet or the simple thoughts that run through my simple brain. I haven't been doing as much running as I had hoped for this month. A little foot pain has kept me from keeping up on the running. Walking doesn't bother me so much ... except for at the beginning of the day. Today isn't bad. Tomorrow will be a different story.

All-in-all, the first half of 2015 has been pretty good. My health remains good. Retirement is working out well. With Chris still working, we haven't done anything special in the way of travel (but that's coming!). I did manage a couple of road trips in the past few months and plan a couple more in the coming months.

Enough stalling! Time to start walking. The step counter on my phone says I'm at 458 steps for the day. Only 29,542 more to go!

Have a grand day!

John <><

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sunday Morning

There is something about Sunday morning.

As I sit here with my coffee and my chromebook, I have to wonder why Sunday morning feels different than any other morning. So far there is nothing different about this day than any other day. There is just a different feel about Sunday morning. It is a calming feeling; a feeling that everything is going to be okay. Maybe it is in the anticipation of what is ahead for the day. I don't know. I can't really explain it.

For some reason, I wanted to hear this song this morning. It's a weird song to want to hear. It's a little bit depressing. But in it, I also hear a message of hope -- that no matter what has happened during the week (or even the night before), today is a new day, a new chance, a new beginning. Somehow Sunday morning gives us time for reflection. And even though reflection can sometimes make us feel isolated and alone, somehow, Sunday morning says to me everything will be okay.

Whether you plan on attending a worship service today or just taking a Sunday stroll, it is as if you get to start over. You can leave last week behind you and begin a new week. I'm going to start my week by meeting with my friends at Hopedale and worshiping our God. I hope that you will meet with others and worship our God, as well.

Leave the events of last week behind you.
Have no worries about what the future may or may not bring.
Celebrate today!
It's Sunday!



Blessings,
John <><

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Interesting Opportunities

I know that my simple views are often a cause for concern among many of my more conservative friends.
With that in mind, I'll not debate the recent Supreme Court rulings on this forum. As a matter of fact, I avoid talking about them in the manner that most wish to discuss them, altogether.

Last night, an interesting opportunity presented itself. This is how I handled the conversation.
The conversation began with a query of what I thought of the Court's ruling that now men can marry men and how homosexuality is condemned in the Bible.
I very quickly moved the conversation from their sin and the condemnation of their way of life to their need for Salvation in Jesus. Their way of living is no more abhorrent to God than our way of living. They are not condemned because they are homosexual. They are condemned because they are sinners -- as we are.

I was able to share my belief that we all need the salvation that is provided in Jesus only.
I was able to share that we are all tasked to tell the story of God's great love for us and how Jesus died for our sin and for the sin of others.
I was able to share that Jesus didn't come to condemn the world; that the world is already condemned.
I was able to share that Jesus came to save the world.

Every once in a while, the conversation would drift back to SCOTUS decision and I did share my views on the decision, but for the most part, I was able to keep the conversation on our (humankind's) need for a Savior.

It was a an interesting evening and there were many questions about Old Testament law, the authenticity of the gospels, the philosophies of other belief systems, different sexual sins and sin in general, etc.

I believe that if we can set aside the merits or failings of the SCOTUS decision and stick to the task given to us by our Lord -- to make disciples -- we can effectively communicate the gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus.

John <><

Friday, June 26, 2015

Sisters' Weekend

Every year, my wife and her sisters have a weekend that they get together for a fun time. It's not usually a fancy get away or anything like that; it's just an annual reunion of sorts. They really enjoy each other's company, they laugh a lot and really just have a grand time sans kids and spouses.

That will be this weekend.

That means that John is on his own this weekend!

No worries, friends. I'm sure that it will be a full weekend.
Today I need to get an early start on a long walk. (That comes right after coffee and blogging.) I have managed to get a little behind in my monthly goal of 400,000 steps and need some good days to finish out the month. I have a lunch meeting with a friend and will be watching baseball and fights tonight.

Tomorrow's plan is to take a long motorcycle ride, just for the fun of it. Then there is late afternoon Cardinal baseball and more UFC fights in the evening. I'll try for another morning walk before I get started with the other stuff.

Sunday morning is Bible study and church followed by ...
... well I don't know just yet. I may just have to recuperate from Friday and Saturday by sitting and reading a book (or writing one!).

Anybody that says this retirement gig is easy is stretching the truth a little bit. There is so much to do when going to work isn't a part of your day. One of these days I may swing by the tower to see how the old gang is doing but it is almost in another world now. I know I spent a couple of decades making that trip every day, but it seems a lot farther away when you don't really have to go there. Besides, they don't even have good coffee out there if I ever do decide to go visit!

I have kept in contact with a few people through text messages or social media. Chris and I have regular dinners with one of the other retirees and her spouse. I even get to see one controller at church occasionally. But that's pretty much it.

The morning is comfortable and overcast. I haven't checked to see what the forecast is for the day. It is June and it is the Ozarks, so uncomfortably humid generally covers it.

I hope the weather is comfortable where ever you are this weekend and you are able to enjoy it! Time for a light breakfast and then I'm off for a long walk.

Be well,
John <><


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

You've Got the Rest of Your Life...

It's already nearing the end of the day and it is rare that I would begin a post at this late hour, but you will soon see that there are some things that can't wait.

I want to share three stories that I heard today. The first is fiction, but teaches a lot of truth and a big lie. The other two are true, but I share them because of the lies learned from the first story. Of the two true stories, one is a story of hope and one is a reminder of the hopelessness that exists in our world.

Here is the first. It was shared by a long time pastor friend and a great encourager.

There is a fable which tells of three apprentice demons who were coming to this earth to finish their apprenticeship. They were talking to Satan, the chief of the demons, about their plans to tempt and ruin men and women. The first said, "I will tell them there is no God." Satan said, "That will not delude many, for they know that there is a God." The second said, "I will tell men there is no hell." Satan answered, "You will deceive some that way and others who know better will agree with you but most men and woment know there is a judgment for sin." The third said, "I will tell them there is no hurry you have plenty of time to think about God later in life." "Go," said Satan, "and you will ruin them by the millions."
The most dangerous of all delusions is that there is plenty of time. The most dangerous day in a man's life is when he learns that there is such a word as tomorrow. There are things which must not be put off, for no man knows if for him tomorrow will ever come.
Prov 27:1 "Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth."
James 4:14 "Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away."

The lie is that we have lots of time. 
Oh, it is true enough that you have the rest of your life. There is just no knowing how long that will be.

The second story is about a friend of mine. He is a young man. He is healthy, happy and has a lot to live for. 
And he had a stroke.
It appears that he will be okay. But what a shock for a 30ish guy with a young child to have a stroke! It certainly is a wake up call to re-evaluate your life and your priorities. But at least he will have the opportunity to do just that. 

Not all of us get that warning or wake up call. Not all of us get an additional chance to check on our relationships with others or our relationship with God. Maybe we've bought into the lie that we have plenty of time to take care of those things later. Maybe we are living for ourselves for now and plan to live for God and others when we've finished doing the things that we want to do. 

I'm not saying that having a stroke is a good thing, but it just may be beneficial for all of us to make a quick check on the things that we hold dear.

The last story is about a neighbor's co-worker's husband. He was 38 and died of a heart attack. He gets no second chance. He gets no long life. He gets no more time. I don't know anything about the man other than to know that he is dead. 
I don't know if he provided for his family financially or not.
I don't know if he was a good dad and good husband.
I don't know if he knew Jesus as Lord and Savior and if he shared Jesus with his family.
I do know that he is out of time. There will be no tomorrow. 

I guess there is one more story.
It's your story. 

How are you fixed with God right now? If today is your last day and you find yourself standing before God, how will you convince Him to allow you into heaven? 
Jesus said, "...no one comes to the Father except by me."
Do you profess Jesus as Lord?
The Bible tells us that if you can say with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and you believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved. It is with the heart that we believe and are justified and it is with the mouth that we say it and are saved.

The truth is you have the rest of your life to trust Jesus and follow him. 
But there is no promise of how long that will be.

John <><

Consumed by the River

Yesterday, in an effort to keep fitness interesting, I went kayaking for a couple of hours on the James River.
I spent the first hour or so exploring the flooded areas at the east end of Springfield Lake before heading up river.

I was a very beautiful Ozarks' kind of morning, sunny and not too hot. The heat and humidity would come soon enough.
I arrived at the Springfield Lake Boathouse about twenty minutes before they opened so I put the time to use and managed a quick 1.5 mile walk. I saw a young deer right off and a few other critters as well. The time on the river also showcased God's wonderful creation. I probably should have taken more pictures, but I only took these two. I was out for exercise. the beauty of the river was a bonus.




All along the river (or any other river, for that matter) you see this sight; trees that line the river bank and slowly lean in towards the river. If we could examine the root systems of these trees, we would see roots that reach back towards the land and try to anchor the tree in place. But the roots that reach out for the life giving water of the river are too many. It isn't just the erosion of the soil from the moving river; it's the river itself. The tree needs what the river provides; water, nutrients, life. Eventually, the pull of the river will be too much and the tree will be consumed by the river.

This is a picture of how are life as a Christian often is. Although we turn to Jesus for life, we often cling tightly to the things of the world. We reach back to anchor ourselves to our families, our friends, our old habits and ways. But His pull is consistent. He gives us life and He gives it abundantly. His love eventually erodes away the things that we once believed important and we are consumed by Him. It is only by surrendering completely to Jesus that we give up our way, our will, and have the life that He intends for us to have.

John <><



Monday, June 22, 2015

No Place For a Culture of Hatred

A few of you have followed Out of My Hat for some time; some from the very beginning. Long time followers have seen this blog go from sometimes blatant and belligerent to the much less controversial and more thoughtful and reflective blog that it is today.

I may continue to be less controversial than in the distant past, but there are some things that shouldn't even be controversial -- they are just wrong and the people that continue to promote them are being pretty narrow minded and need to understand that there is no place in a multi-cultural civilization for such points of view.

I often lack to eloquence to state things in a way to help people understand that their point of view is poorly defended and often misrepresented as something it is not. Recently, I read an article that very clearly states why it is time for the South to put away the Confederate flag.

As is often the case, when we remove ourselves from the situation and look at it from a different perspective we can see ... well, from a different perspective. The writer (an air traffic controller) tells us his story, a story of a different symbol of oppression and his misunderstanding of its representation. In his story, perhaps we can see how powerfully the Confederate flag represents what we (United States citizens) are not.

It is reprinted here with his permission.

A statement on the power of a flag.... by Mark Rossmore
I'd like to start off by saying that I'm half-Cuban. Before Fidel Castro took over Cuba, my grandparents lived a good life there. From the pictures and stories my various family members told, they were pretty well off. It wasn't to last. My mother and her parents escaped Castro's communist revolution just as it was taking hold, leaving almost everything behind.
Fast forward a few decades to the 90's. The USSR’s history. My grandfather has passed away. My grandmother's now living with my parents and I in Miami. As a teenager, I've become a big fan of history, especially Cold War military history, and like collecting Soviet artifacts. I'm not a communist, of course, but I always liked the USSR's propaganda art. They were masters at it.
So, a family friend visits Moscow and brings back for me a large Soviet flag. Bright red. Hammer and sickle. You know the one. I'm excited and grateful. It's like a holy grail for me. I fully intend to hang it in my bedroom, once I clear some posters off the walls.
I’m sure many people associate their own grandmothers with warm hugs and love. Not me. In her classic, blunt fashion, my grandmother takes one look at this flag and snarls, "I would wipe my ass with that thing."
At the time, I really couldn’t grasp her bitterness. It was just a piece of cloth representing a now-dead regime. A relic. A piece of history.
It took me some time to understand why she was so hateful of it. Because of cruel people who believed in the ideals represented by that flag, she had to abandon everything. She and her husband had to flee for their lives to protect themselves, protect the future of their eight year old daughter—my mother. Her sisters, nieces, and nephews—all of them—also had leave it all behind and make their way as refugees, strangers in a strange land. All the others that weren’t lucky enough to get on a plane or a ship suffered under the ideals of that flag, and have suffered for well over half a century now.
Teenage me isn’t quite getting that. I leave the flag folded up, next to our couch in the living room. A day or so later, I go get it, to hang it up. It’s gone.
I can only assume now that she threw it out. Knowing my grandmother, it’s quite possible she followed through with her promise before doing so. I don’t know.
Now, in the present day, I understand how much symbols like these mean.
It is for this reason that I don’t understand the need or the desire to fly the Confederate battle flag, much less make it a part of various states’ official flags. I see it everywhere here in the South. Those who say the flag stands for “state’s rights”, “heritage”, or “southern pride”—and not for the defense of slavery—must first read the Confederate Articles of Secession. The first paragraph of Georgia’s document reads as follows: “The people of Georgia having dissolved their political connection with the Government of the United States of America, present to their confederates and the world the causes which have led to the separation. For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery.” Throughout it, it differentiates the opposing parties as “non-slave-holding” and “slave-holding”.
That flag represents that statement, and this sentiment: that one race of individuals is automatically inferior to another. That flag represents the oppression and humiliation of millions of people whose descendants walk our streets every day. It represents laws that would have made my own marriage illegal, and branded my daughter a second class citizen.
The flag is not like an artifact from the Roman Empire, representing battles won and lost thousands of years ago. The last Confederate Civil War veteran died in 1951, and the last Union veteran died in ’56, two years after Brown vs. Board of Education. There are plenty of people alive today who heard these people speak of their experiences firsthand, who heard firsthand accounts of the horrors of that war and the conditions faced by the slaves.
Those who flew the flag may have lost the war, but their battle continued long after the guns fell silent. Through insidious action like Jim Crow laws and segregation, they succeeded in keeping their boot on the Black people. Even decades after MLK and the Civil Rights movement, the damage done by those laws and mindsets persists.
Perhaps the flag’s ubiquitous presence is the problem. Of course, the flag’s associated with the fringe groups, the KKK and their ilk, but that’s not the issue. Those groups know damn well what it stands for. It’s the people who blithely display it on bumper stickers, t-shirts, bikinis, and license plates that are the problem. That is their right to do so, of course, granted by the First Amendment. It’s so common, so culturally accepted—“ southern pride” again—that its history gets diluted and forgotten, and becomes just a part of the wallpaper of life.
Think about this: Clementa C. Pinckney, the state senator who died in that church this week, went to work each day beneath the shadow of that flag. That flag idealized a short-lived country created largely for the purpose of protecting its wealthy landowners’ right to buy, sell, and treat people of his race just like cattle. The man who shot this senator proudly brandished that flag alongside those of Rhodesia and South Africa, both countries synonymous with the subjugation of Africans. That is no accident.
And yet, he was forced to walk beneath it. He had no choice. By law, the flag was mandated to fly forever at full mast, padlocked in position.
Several official state flags contain this flag. Mississippi’s contains the whole thing. Alabama’s is modeled after it. Georgia’s used to contain the flag, until 2001, when the state adopted a design that mirrors—get this—the first flag of the Confederacy.
We as a people have a choice. Do we allow states and other governing bodies to continue legitimizing this symbol of our country’s darkest aspects and—by extension—legitimizing the ideas behind it? Or, do we bring it down, move on, and try to learn from and let go of the awful past it represents?
I know where I stand. That flag needs to come down.
Whenever it does, if someone wanted to wipe their ass with it, I’d say that’s fair use of the freedom of speech.
Live well,
John <><

Friday, June 19, 2015

Summer

Sometime on Sunday morning the sun will reach its furthest point in its northward travels and touch the imaginary line known as the Tropic of Cancer and it will mark the beginning of Summer 2015!

Spring in the Midwestern US has been cool and wet. I don't know the official rain fall for spring but it seems that we have had plenty. I'm okay with the cooler temperatures. I know that the summer heat is on its way. I am spending this weekend at a kids' camp in Mt Vernon, MO and we had a great night. Fortunately, I get to spend the evening in a solo room and don't have to chaperone a bunch of grade schoolers.

It allows me to stay up late and read or write or play on my Chromebook, sleep well, get up early and not have to worry about anybody else. And it is probably best not to expose a bunch of tender minds to a grumpy and curmudgeonly Pastor John! I'm sure we are all better for the moderate isolation of the old man.

It has been a while since we've lived away from the night lights of a small subdivision and I had forgotten how beautiful the night sky can be when so many stars are visible. The universe is a truly remarkable sight!

I took a short stroll to get away from the lights surrounding the cabins and was amazed at God's handiwork!

"When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?" Psalm 8:3-4

Here is my favorite summer song. I love the pictures that the words paint in my head. You can watch the pictures on the You Tube video or you can close your eyes, listen to the words and let your mind paint the pictures for you.



Happy summer,
John <><






This is What I Do

This afternoon I'll make my way to Mt. Vernon's Baptist Hill campground for the Lawrence County Association's Introduction to Camping weekend. The theme this year is Make a Joyful Noise. My messages will be from Psalms about why we sing and shout to the Lord, and from Romans on how our whole lives should be an act of worship.

Introduction to Camping is an abbreviated session for kids that are too young to attend the week long children's camp. It is just one evening session, a single over night and a full day Saturday. In reality, my part of this weekend is pretty small. It is set up so that 1st and 2nd graders can experience camp and familiarize themselves with the grounds for a couple of years before being there for an entire week. There are many activities packed into the day and a half; my part is just to bring the messages during the two worship sessions.

Last night I received a call to preach for another local church on Sunday morning.

I'm still not really sure what ministry in retirement is going to look like, but for now this is it. I missed a couple of mission trips with church because of local jobs and I think that serving locally is going to be more of what I do than going on mission trips, either domestically or internationally. Day by day, week by week works for me...for now anyways. I have a couple of revivals scheduled for the late summer and fall, another fall event for a local church and I anticipate other calls coming in.

It works.

And in between ministry gigs I have plenty of time for personal things.
Life is good!

Be well,
John <><

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Ancient Forms of Communication

Fellow blogger Bilbo is one of the few people that still likes to communicate via the ancient art of letter writing. Yes, I am talking about longhand, pen and ink letters that are sent via the postal service.

Even letters via email have are finding their way into obscurity.

We live in an age where thoughts can be communicated instantly via text message and nearly everyone has the capability of sending and receiving texts. It seems that few people younger than forty use email as a means of sharing information on a regular basis.

Social networks like Twitter and Facebook can distribute thoughts to many people at once and text messaging can be used for individuals or smaller groups. Unfortunately, it seems that communicating with one another has somehow become less personal as technology has made its advances. Many people even prefer texting to talking.

It is odd that the same technology that allows us to communicate instantly around the globe is also the technology that is causing us to be less personal. Social networks that allow us to make hundreds of superficial contacts seem to absorb our time so that we build fewer personal relationships. Even in crowds we isolate ourselves in our tablets and phones and pay little attention to the actual people that are around us.

I think that I'll find somebody to talk with today.
And maybe I'll write a letter, too.

Wow! Conversing and writing letters! That's some ancient communicating!

Be well,
John <><