Sunday, September 30, 2007

Blogging Habit

I've found that I have been returning to several blogs on a regular basis. I've decided to add these to the Blogs I Frequent section in the right column. If you join me in reading them, you'll find a small community of writer/readers among many of them, plus a couple of others that I've found to be interesting, informative or amusing.

I'm not yet willing to admit to becoming a blog junkie, but I do look forward to reading these pretty much on a daily basis. If you find yourself returning to any of these pages, leave them a comment and tell them that John sent you. I'm sure that I'll see it, too.

Even though I know these bloggers only by what they have written, they have become my blogging friends and it is a pleasure to introduce you to them.


Saturday, September 29, 2007

In Memory: Austin Brooke

I spent Saturday afternoon at the funeral of a young man that was killed when he was struck by a car. Austin and his mom had gone to our church several years ago. He was stationed at Camp Pendleton in southern California and was serving in the Marine Corp. His unit was scheduled for deployment overseas. Austin, at just shy of twenty years old, leaves behind a wife and eight month old son.

The death of one so young is a stark reminder of just how fleeting life can be. Several young Marines made the journey to accompany Austin's body back to his home and a Missouri base sent a few more. A motorcycle group that calls themselves "The Patriots" were also in attendance. The Patriots were there as escorts and guards in case of protesters that have been making funerals of service men and women a stage for their anti-war demonstrations.

Although it has been several years since Austin has attended our church, Pastor Terry was asked to officiate the service. Terry brought a message of comfort and of hope from the words of the Bible. Chris and I went although it has been a while since we have seen Laurie (Austin's mom). It is difficult to know what to say or how to offer comfort at such a time. Laurie raised Austin as a single mom. It was always the two of them facing life together. I can't begin to imagine her loss. Laurie has remarried, has step children, a daughter in law and a grandson. Her life is far from empty...and yet the void that exists today, will be impossible to fill.

I would ask that you take a moment to remember Austin's mom, Laurie, his wife, Leota and his eight month old son Shawn in your prayers. Treasure and remember to pray for those close to you and be prepared for this life to come to an end. The Bible says that life is like a mist; yours, mine, all those that we love.


"What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes."
James, brother of Jesus

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Good Night

Oh my! It has been a week since my last post. My apologies to the faithful few that read these ramblings. It has been a fun and a busy week. I managed to take in the last home game of the 2007 season in St. Louis with Aaron. It was a bit more complicated that originally planned.

Aaron drove to St. Louis on Friday and then caught the Amtrak to Chicago to visit Jenny and check out her school (IIT). His return to St. Louis was for around 12:30 Sunday since the original game time was 1 pm. The start was moved to Sunday night since ESPN thought that the Cards might still be in the race and choose this for their Sunday night game.

I worked the Sunday morning mid for a friend, got off at 6 am, slept a couple of hours and then drove to meet Aaron about 1 o'clock in St. Louis. We made the trip to Ted Drewe's and then back to the ballpark to kill the afternoon and wait for our friends to arrive and the gates to open. When the gates opened at 5:10, the boys (Aaron and Ryan) went to Aaron's usual spot down the right field line to watch batting practice. Aaron got his sixth bp ball in four games.
John and I watched the boys for a while, then made our way to our seats and waited for the boys to join us. The Cards managed a great bottom of the ninth comeback to close out the 2007 home season.

By the time we hit White Castle in Wentzville MO, it was well past 11 o'clock. I followed Aaron back to Columbia College and used the showers in his dorm. At 1:30, I was back on the road towards Kansas City for a 7:30 am retirement seminar. I stopped along the way and grabbed a couple of hours sleep at a rest area and arrived at the hotel meeting room at around 7. I managed the morning session just fine. The afternoon session was a bit harder to keep focused. A full tummy and no sleep was taking it's toll. We ended at 3:30 and I followed fellow controller, PC, to LC's Barbecue. Good eats!

By the time we cleared the KC evening traffic and were on our way home, I stopped for gas and decided that a short power nap was in order. Thirty minutes later I was back on the road for the 3 hour drive and arrived in Ozark around 9 pm. It was only Monday night even though it seemed like I'd been gone several days. It was hard to believe that only 36 hours had passed since I left home on Sunday morning. As you can imagine, I slept long and hard on Monday night--10 pm to 10 am, with only a couple of brief interruptions!

Then, checking blogs, I found this post. Yikes! I guess I'd better start paying more attention to my sleep habits (or lack of them).


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Post 9-11 Posts

There has been a number of "Remembering 9-11" posts in the past week. I would like to encourage you to read The Day America Went to Church by church planter/pastor and friend, David Stone.

Part 2 deals with the Sunday immediately following 9-11, and Part 3 with the Sundays that follow after that.

David captures the feelings of a country and gives a perspective that a young pastor had then and the struggles of a young church today.

The country's turning to God in times of crises and the apostasy we find just a few years later is told over and over again in the Old Testament stories of Israel. We are poor students of history when we make the same mistakes; when we fail to surrender completely to our God and hold on to our stuff (our ways) for when better times return.

Hope you'll forgive the blogging by proxy, but I doubt that I could have said it as well.


No Thank You

I'm not sure when it happenned, but somewhere along the line people have stopped saying "thank you." More and more I've noticed that "Have a nice day" or "Have a good one" has replaced the simple "Thank you" at most businesses.

I've noticed that I am often the one saying thank you instead of the clerk that just waited on me. I'm not sure why. I know that I've handed them some money for service or swiped my debit card and then when they give me my change or receipt, I say, "Thank you." Am I thanking them for my change, my receipt or for them being there so that I can come in and spend my money? It's more likely that it's just that I was taught to be polite and when somebody hands me something I reply with a thank you.

Maybe business owners, managers and bosses have forgotten to tell their employees that they represent the business and when someone chooses to patronize their business over a competitor's, they are to thank them for choosing to spend their money with them. I think that common courtesy has become somewhat of an oxymoron. Courtesy is becoming less common in a me centered society.

I'm not sure if there is any real solution here other than for me (and you) to be courteous. I could be like my dad and respond to their "have a nice day" with a "your welcome." It makes a minor point but usually falls on deaf or ignorant ears.

In the end, I'm going to let this one go. It's pretty small in the grand scheme of things. I just needed a place to vent. That "Golden Rule" thing stands in the way of rudeness and retaliation once again.


Monday, September 17, 2007

Blog Church: No Religious People Allowed

In a few recent posts or comments from my blogging friend Bilbo, I’ve noticed something that I’m not sure that I like. I should say that I’m not offended in the least because I’m sure that no offense was intended—and it’s not the first time that someone has said a similar thing. The thing that was said was a reference to being a religious person.

I am not particularly fond of religious people. For the most part, I find them to be a bunch of self-righteous, self-serving, arrogant, holier than thou hypocrites.

One atheist friend once started to ask me a question by saying, “You’re a religious person...” I quickly interrupted him with an, “I am not!”

I know that when people say, “You’re a religious person,” they generally mean to say that you have a strong belief in God, heaven and hell, and a set of rules for salvation, redemption, or whatever it is that your religion believes in. I can accept that—but I still hope that I don’t come across as being religious.

I don’t even like calling myself a Christian. If being a Christian is to be Christ like, then I am pretty sure that I am way off of the mark. The Bible says that believers were first called Christians at Antioch. Those that believed in Jesus as the Christ (the Messiah) simply called themselves disciples of Jesus or followers of the Way. As disciples, they studied what Jesus taught. As followers, they tried to live according to His commands. They didn’t go around proclaiming, “I AM LIKE THE CHRIST! Yes just call me Jesus Jr. or better yet—how about Christian? Yes, I like that. Call me a Christian!”

How arrogant is that!?

I think that the main problem with the church today is that the people are...well—too churchy. They have become religious. They are today what the scribes and Pharisees were in Jesus’ day. They are more interested in tradition and rules and showing others how they are not following the church rules than in telling them that God really exists and really loves them.

I’ve been considering starting a kind of blog church. Not a church blog, there are already hundreds of those. A blog church. A place to study what Jesus taught (teaches if you’re of a more religious bent). You can come and read, ask questions and participate or (like in a real church) you can be invisible, reading, studying, taking and hopefully growing a bit as a person. Maybe growing as a Christian, becoming more like the Christ.

The posts (sermons if you like) would be largely from what Jesus teaches in the Bible. After all, I am a disciple of Jesus. What would you expect? Besides, believer or not, you’ve got to admit, He teaches some pretty good stuff! As a church, we would be limited in how we can see to each others needs (ministry). Community (fellowship) would also be limited by what we can accomplish on the web. The primary function would have to be teaching (discipleship). That might actually work as a way to make evangelism Good News! And we would refrain from being religious. The primary purpose would still be to point people towards God (worship).

So, what do you think?
I would really like for any readers to weigh in on this one. Do you think it is a worthwhile endeavor or not? Would you want it to be on this page or on a separate blog? If this blog changed to a blog church, would you quit reading it? Or do you think that this blog is already teaching the occasional lesson without being too religious? I look forward to your input.


“They will know that you are my disciples by the way you love one another.”
Jesus of Nazareth

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Did You Know...?

Did you know that when baseball was a day game, baseball diamonds were oriented so that the batters would not be looking into the afternoon sun while at the plate? Most diamonds were laid out with home plate on the west part of the field and centerfield to the east. A left-handed pitcher would throw with the hand from the south side of the pitcher's mound and from this we get southpaw for a lefty!

Friday, September 14, 2007

"You Think it's Hot Here?" Part 2

Okay, so Part 1 was actually over on "A Stone's Throw" several weeks ago. David was writing about some quality marquee sayings that are seen in front of some of the friendliest churches around. I ran across another vintage saying while driving across Missouri last week.

"Almost Saved is Totally Lost"

Wow! It might as well say, "Come on in, you filthy heathens! You're welcome here!"

Why do we draw these lines in the sand? Somehow I think that this might be one of those cases that Jesus might be pointing out the 2x4 in our eye. Jesus always welcomed those that the religious establishment seemed to shun. It seems that most of the time that Jesus talked about judgement and condemnation, it was to the religious establishment. To the people searching for God, he talked about mercy and love. I'm always amazed at the sensitivity of Jesus to the needs of the people that came to Him. They came with their wants, He took care of their needs.

Once, a man with leprosy came to Jesus to be healed. I know that Jesus could have healed him with a word, a thought, a wave of the hand. But the Bible says that Jesus did more than just heal the man. The Bible says that He touched him. I wonder how long it had been since he had been touched by another human. He was an outcast. When walking among people, he would have announced loudly, "Unclean, unclean." Everyone would have moved far away from him. No one would even touch his clothes. What do you think that he was thinking the very moment that Jesus touched him? With a simple act of compassion, Jesus said, "You're not an outcast to me. You're not an outcast to God. You are a child of God. You are important to God."

I don't know why we get so puffed up about ourselves. The Bible clearly teaches us that we are no better than anybody else; that our righteousness in like filthy rags. If the only good thing that we have going for us is Jesus, how does that make us more important? It only makes Him more important!

Just so that my conservative, fundamental friends don't think that I've gone soft on what the Bible teaches, let me clarify a few things for you:

I believe that we will all be judged for our sins.

I believe that we will all be found guilty and fall short of God's standard.

I believe that the sentence for our shortcomings will be eternal death and separation from God.

I believe that Jesus has paid that price for us and (if we choose) in Him we have eternal Life.

I do not believe that it is my place (or the church's place) to help God judge mankind.

I do not believe that God wants or needs our help judging the nations.

I do believe that God wants for me (and you) to point others to Him; to demonstrate that He is a loving and forgiving God and that He can make a difference in your life today. If God was only a God for the dead; if eternal life was just what happens when this life ends; then it would be difficult to convince anybody that they need to know God today.

There is a statement in The Baptist Faith and Message that says eternal life doesn't begin when you die. It begins the moment that you trust Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior. People that are searching for God, need to find God today. People that are content to go their own way, need to know that there are other options. We each choose; our way or His way. Our job is not to judge. Our job is simply to show the Way.


"I have come so that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."
Jesus of Nazareth

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Remembering 9-11

The anniversary of the great tragedy has come and gone. I've read with interest the posts from Bilbo's Random Thoughts and the perspectives of a Pentagon employee. I also read this speech that was given by Main Bang author, John Carr.

These are my own memories of that day. In September of 2001 I was spending one of my days off from the air traffic control tower playing magician at Branson MO's Silver Dollar City (SDC). SDC is an 1880's theme park. In keeping with the time period, employees don't wear wrist watches, button down collars, tennis shoes and other apparel that is not time period appropriate. Included with the time period radios. None of the shops have radios. Throughout the day we heard bits and pieces of what had taken place, but most of the tourists were on vacation and not listening to the news or they were on their way to the park early and once inside...well, no radios.

By the time I arrived at home on the evening of the 11th, I had heard quite a bit on the radio(it's a 30 minute drive). Once home, I found out that the kids had seen these images repeatedly throughout the school day. They were 9 and 12 at the time. Chris and I decided that they had witnessed enough mayhem for one day and opted to leave the TV's off for the rest of the day. It was not until the morning of the 12th that I actually saw the unbelievable footage of the twin towers collapsing and the carnage that followed. I heard about the heroic work of my fellow ATCers as they cleared the nations skies of thousands of airplanes in a matter of a couple of hours.

Life changed that day. We changed that day. The world felt much colder. The world seemed more cruel. The world was less safe.

By the time I returned to work on the 13th, there were no airplanes in the skies. True to the paranoid nature of frontline supervisors, we staffed every available position with controllers and were on limited breaks...even though there were NO AIRPLANES in the sky! Security around federal facilities changed...for a while. We had a guard shack put up by the entrance to the tower. It was staffed with a rent-a-cop that didn't even have a phone, much less a gun! They installed a security gate and cancelled the guard, but the gate was never operational until the day it was taken down as construction changed the entrance area. Now we have a brand new, non-functioning security gate! We have parking stickers for our vehicles and management posted a notice for us to make sure that we actually displayed them when security would be visiting the facility.

I have a friend that is a magician and a federal law enforcement officer. Last summer he travelled from Miami to St. Louis for a magic convention. He was allowed to carry his sidearm on board the aircraft but had to leave his toothpaste behind! It was over the three ounce maximum size!

It seems that if we're not going to take security seriously (and the FAA is not), then let's stop pretending that we are. Why go through the motions of generating this warm fuzzy feeling when it's all a farce? At least let us know that we are not any safer today than we were on 9-10-01. The President's Homeland Security is a joke. It has turned into a government spy ring to spy on Americans. It has little oversight and fits in nicely with the stats from this Numeric Life post.

It's a little strange that six years after the incident, I am a little less trusting of my own government. I am extremely disappointed in a President that I voted for (once) because I believed him to be a man of integrity. Now I am certain that he would lie to Ms. Barbara if he thought it would make him look like a tough guy.

For the most part, I don't concern myself with the big picture. I'm pretty content to work on my little corner of the world. I'd like to make it a world that is a pleasant place to live. I just wish that the big picture was a better place for my kids.


Saturday, September 08, 2007

Breakfast at the "Fort"

I just finished a late breakfast at the Fort Davidson Motel and Reastaurant, the "Fort" as it is called locally. Even though I sat by myself, I had a rather enjoyable time.

It was raining outside (a steady downpour with occasional lighter spells) and the news was on in the background at the restaurant. Sporting news was talking about the breaking Ankiel story, the weather was talking about Gabrielle and her impact on the coast and the real news was about Bin Laden's latest tape as we approach 9-11.

As this was going on, I watched a couple of dads and their young boys finish their breakfasts only to stand outside and wait for the rain to let up a bit. One of the dads ran out to the pickup truck, grabbed a plastic bag out of the bed, and ran back to where the others were waiting. In the bag were two newly purchased hooded raincoats that the boys put on. Then the four of them dashed to the truck. When they pulled out, I saw the trailer that was attached to the truck. It was loaded with four four-wheelers! The rain has stopped now and I'm sure that they are having a blast!

I also eavesdropped on a table conversation of a older woman and a younger man. The man was probably in his forties and had called his mom to take her to breakfast at the "Fort." I had a chance to speak with her as they were leaving. I'm pretty sure that her son knew just what he was doing. I could tell that it made her day to have him come by and take her out to breakfast. In our short conversation I found out that her husband that had served in WWII was killed a few years ago in a car accident two blocks from their home. I found out that her granddaughter (this son's daughter) worked here at the restaurant until she had a baby just a few month's ago. The little one has a hole between heart chambers and is being fed through a tube until she gets strong enough for surgery.

A couple of other families came in and a small group of women were eating together. It was a pleasant reminder that the news in the background is really just that--background. In the foreground we have life. We have family and friends. We care about each other. Though we may have our own burdens, we rarely have to face them alone. We stand together. Dad's get wet so that their boys don't have to. Sons take moms out so that they're not alone. Friends spend Saturdays together and everybody prays for little babies that have health issues and offers hope to the parents.

The food was good and I enjoyed the time. But something tells me that it was just another Saturday for the patrons of the Fort. This is how they do life.


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Pilot Knob

Tomorrow morning I'll make the journey eastward across the southern part of Missouri to the small town of Pilot Knob. Pilot Knob was the site of a little known Civil War battle. I've toured the area of Fort Davidson before and will be staying across the highway at the Fort Davidson Motel.

I'm looking forward to being at the Arcadia Valley High School in the afternoon to talk to the students about making good choices. Actually, I understand that the Middle School will be there as well. This can be be a challenge because of the age difference. In the past, I've used it to my advantage by pointing out the differences in freedoms that the high schoolers have over the younger students. As we grow older and demonstrate responsibility with the choices that we are allowed to make, we get more freedom and have to make more choices.

An example might be something as simple as bedtime. When we are starting out in school, parents usually set and enforce a reasonable bedtime. At that point, it is the parents that have the knowledge to best determine how much sleep their child needs to do well in school. By the time they are in high school, most of the students probably have the freedom to determine their own bedtime. They understand the consequences of staying up late and the effect that it will have on their school work.

They'll be making choices about who they will be friends with (and they'll be judged by the actions of their friends).
They'll make choices about their health: Do I want to smoke? Do I want to drink? What about trying some drugs?
They'll decide about a job and about how they will spend their money.
They'll challenge the law by the way they drive--and may pay higher rates of insurance because of it.
They'll make choices about sex. Some of these consequence can change your life--or take your life!

Even as adults with careers and families, they'll have to make choices every day just like you and I do.

I believe that they can make those hard choices now--when there is no peer pressure, when they are removed from the excitement of the moment, when they have the time to consider the consequences. A decision about smoking, drinking, or doing drugs doesn't have to be made when everyone around you is smoking , drinking or doing drugs. If you've made the decision beforehand, then all you have to do is tell them of your decision. Consequences are rarely given proper consideration when the moment is upon us.

If you've decided not to be sexually active now, making that clear before it becomes an issue is easier. If you know that you'll be in a position where your choices may be challenged, you can choose to avoid those situations and avoid those "friends."

We'll have some fun with magic. They may learn a little about magic. And they'll get to make some choices. Unlike real life, I'll have some control over the choices they make. Trust me, I'll make sure that they make the right choices. Unfortunately, I won't be there to help them with the important issues of life. It's not like they'll be on their own, they'll have plenty of help. But choosing good counsel, well that's another choice...isn't it?


"Do not be deceived. Bad company corrupts good character."
The Apostle Paul to the Church at Corinth

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Happy Anniversary

Happy Anniversary to us!

It was 26 years ago that I married the love of my life. How she's managed to put up with me and stick by me is a testament to her stong will and love.

Happy Anniversary, Chris! I love you.


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Intentions vs. Actions (a stolen topic)

A recent post on Random Magus bore the same title and generated a lot of comments. It is a topic worthy of discussion and a hate to respond with a post that is longer than the author's original. (unless we're talking about David Stone's blog, then I feel free to rant!)

If you've already read Random's post, then you can consider this my response. If you haven't, go ahead and read it. I'm sure that you'll enjoy reading the responses as well.

Side note: I've added this link to the Blogs I Frequent. You'll find posts that vary from thought provoking to humorous, some that are challenging and all that are expressed with a creativity that I've come to enjoy.

We have asked these questions often in our society. How many times have you heard it asked, "Does the end justify the means?" "Can we do whatever we want to do as long as the result is admirable?" "Is there a wrong way to do the right thing?"

In the Old Testament there is a great story of the Israelites bringing the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem. The Ark has been held by the Philistines and because of the trouble it brought to them, they have shipped it back to the Israelites. They placed it on a cart along with guilt offerings and sent it on its way. The Ark made its way back to the land of the Israelites. Later, when the Israelites where ready to transport the Ark back to Jerusalem, they built a new cart and began the journey home. On the way, the cart rocked on the rough road and when the priests touched the Ark to steady it, they were struck dead by God.(1Kings 6, 2Kings 6)

This was a case of pure intentions to bring the Ark back to the Holy City but they were disobedient because they did not follow God's law for transporting the Ark of the Covenant. Right intent, wrong action. Doing the right thing the wrong way.

In the Book of Amos, the Israelites have fallen away from God. They are no longer following His laws for living, yet they continue with the ritual sacrifices at the Temple. God recognizes that these actions are not real worship. He says, " I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listed to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never failing stream."

In this case, they were doing all of the right actions but the intent of their hearts made their actions meaningless.

Clearly both actions and intentions are important to God. As for the question, "Who is to be the judge?" I'm comfortable leaving that job to God. As I've grown older (and perhaps a little wiser) I've started to pay more attention to the part in the Bible that Jesus says that the measure by which we judge others is the same measure by which we will be judged. It makes me want to be as tolerant, as forgiving and as gracious as I can be. I hope that others (both in this life and as I stand before the final Judge) might judge me with tolerance, forgiveness and grace.


"A good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and throw into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them."

Jesus of Nazareth

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Labor Day

It is late Sunday as I sit to write this post. Many of us in the US have spent today with friends and relatives celebrating the last holiday of summer. Tomorrow, banks and government offices will be closed, schools will dismiss classes and many other American workers will have the day off. I'm not sure that there is another country that has a holiday quite like Labor Day.

Labor Day is a day set aside to honor the accomplishments of the American Worker. Growing up as the son of a self-employed businessman, Labor Day was a day that wasn't alot different from most other days. As an air traffic controller, tomorrow will be a pretty typical Monday and I'll work my normal Monday 3pm to 11pm shift. But I do think that it is a holiday worth mentioning and wish that more Americans realized that the great gains in employee benefits, wages and working conditions came at a cost.

In today's USA, the perception of Labor Unions has diminished to that of a nuisance to employers and a drain on the economy. The Unions and the working people of the United States are being sold out as companies continue to ship our jobs overseas and across our southern border where they can pay a fraction of the cost for labor. Today's workforce in the US is becoming more and more service oriented and we are much less of a manufacturing workforce. It is a rare product that bears the label, "Made in the USA."

Though my father was never a Union member, I'm thankful for the hard work and the example of a good work ethic that he set for me. As a past member of the International Assciation of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, District 9 (AFL-CIO), and a present member of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (AFL-CIO) I am proud to be an American Worker and a part of Organized Labor in the US.

I hope that you have an extended weekend and can enjoy the day off on Monday. And if your country celebrates a day like our Labor Day, I'd love to hear about it.

John Hill (SGF)
National Constitution Committee
National Air Traffic Controllers Association

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Another--Did You Know?

Did you know that merchant caravans once travelled great distances to bring products from far away regions? They would trade/sell items that were unavailable to local merchants and purchase items that were plentiful to be sold elsewhere. The caravan merchants didn't like selling to individuals because individuals rarely wanted to buy an entire lot of an item and the merchants didn't want to divide a lot. They wanted to sell to the local merchants who would then divide the lots and sell to the individuals.

These caravan merchants--the ones that would only sell whole lots of an item--were known as wholesalers. And the local merchants that bought the items by the lot(or by the gross) were called grossers. Today's variation is grocer!