Saturday, November 29, 2008

Deck the Halls...

...and anybody that gets in your way of a great holiday deal!

How could this happen? How can we become so focused on a great deal that we will push, shove and trample over people to get a deal? Happy Holidays? Are you kidding me?

I know that retailers are hurting for business and that everybody is looking for a deal, but I've been to a few "Black Friday" morning events (not this year) and people are rude! There are exceptions but the rule of the day is nice guys lose the great deals. When the kids were little I would venture out for a deal on a toy and be back at home and in bed before they were out of bed! In those days, the early Friday morning spree was new and had not yet earned the name "Black Friday."

Now I would rather pay a few more dollars or wait for a later sale than to risk life, limb and a good night's sleep to try to get one of the 15 low priced items with thousands of other shoppers fighting for the same deal.

I hope that you are able to find something nice for your loved ones and that it won't endanger your life to shop for presents this year. Maybe we could all pay a little bit more attention to the Peace and Joy themes of the Christmas Season. Maybe we could celebrate the birth of a Savior. Maybe taking a little time to help somebody instead of hurting somebody would make our little corner of the world a better place.

Even as the shopping season begins, I want to wish you an early Merry Christmas!


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

What a great day Thanksgiving is. I hope that you all have many blessings to be thankful for.

Thanksgiving seems to be a day for setting aside all practical and decent eating habits in favor of pure, unadulterated gluttony! Since Numeric Life is no longer keeping us up on the statistics of life, here is a link to some Thanksgiving Day calorie consumption and how to be guilt free!

Since Heidi has been filling my head with ideas that I might actually be able to improve my health by diet and exerc..., I can't say it--the "e" word, this link is for her. A friend told me to replace the "e" word with an "a" word--activity. It's much less intimidating and sometimes more practical.

I'm actually fascinated by how different foods effect our body chemistry. Along with that, it's good to know how medicines and chemical additives effect our systems.

As I have been reading, praying and studying, I am becoming more aware of the testimony that I give with my unhealthy lifestyle and eating habits. The Bible teaches us that our bodies are a temple--a holy place. If I truly value what God has given to me, I should take better care of it. I actually think that this attitude will take me farther than a diet to lose weight attitude has in the past. I certainly don't want the stereotyped image of the overweight Baptist preacher. (God knows that we have enough of those already) But all of that is a blog for another day.

This is about being thankful.

Last Friday I made the drive to Tulsa to have dinner with my two sisters. Hannah came with me and that certainly made the drive easier. It was three hours to meet them, about three hours of visiting and then three more to drive home. It may seem like quite a bit for a short visit but we see each other so little that I couldn't pass up this opportunity. I may have mentioned that I have a great family!

Aaron stopped to pick up my parents on his drive home from Chicago so they will be with us for Thanksgiving dinner. Chris' dad is driving in from St. Louis and will be here. Aaron's girl, Jenny and her family will join us as well as a friend from church. I am working the mid-shifts on both Wednesday night and Thursday night, but thankful to have a good job and still be able to have time to share our home with family and friends. Chris, Kathi and Tracey will be preparing all of the meal and I know it will be great!

One of my co-workers once asked if Chris was a good cook. I said that I'm about 75 pounds heavier than when we got married...yes, she is a good cook! Today we eat out far more often than we should and will be cutting back some--both for better eating habits and also for some cost savings. In any case, I'm thankful that we have the choice and have more than enough to eat.

It really seems like an impossible task to name all of the many blessings that I have and for which I am thankful. I hope that you will take a few moments to reflect on the things for which you are thankful. Share them with someone you care about or write a few of them here. I'd be honored to post them for you.


Thanks to Sarah for sharing this quote:
"The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank."
- Dante Gabriel Rossetti

PS Mike, I'll still indulge in some Ted Drewe's every time I get the chance!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Who do you want to be?

The other day as I was reading through the many blogs that I subscribe to, I ran across one that I want you to check out. Jesse does a great job in this video talking about behavior modification and self improvement. I was thinking about what he said as I was reading Ken Hemphill's book EKG: The Heartbeat of God.

In his book, Hemphill talks about emulating Jesus; taking on His characteristics as our own. This is the same message that I was getting from Jesse in his video. I know that we tend to think that it is impossible for us (mere mortals) to be like Jesus. That's not Biblical teaching. As a believer, we are empowered (one of Jesse's favorite words) by the Holy Spirit--we have the Spirit of the Living God within us. It becomes a matter of whom do we serve...God or self. The Bible teaches that we can't have two masters. Our problems come when we say that we want to serve God but our actions emulate our self-serving selves.

To apply Jesse's lessons to our Christianity, decide that you want to be like Jesus...then BE like Jesus. We could change the once popular What Would Jesus Do? (WWJD) to If I were Jesus, What would I do? Then do it! Assume the character of Jesus.

In Philipians, the Paul says that Jesus gave up the characteristics of God and took on humanity. The Bible also teaches that as believers, we are to set aside our old nature (humanity) and take on the characteristics of Jesus.

As a shout out to Jesse, I'm adding a link to his blog Living Infinitely in the blogs I frequent section. Do yourself a favor and bookmark or subscribe to his site. You'll be better for it.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

An Occupational Hazard

One of the occupational hazards of being a preacher is that you tend to engage people (including strangers) in conversation. Yesterday, after visiting one of our church members in the hospital, I went to lunch with my pastor and our worship minister (we all arrived at the hospital separately but at the same time). Since it was lunch time, there was a bit of a line at the Subway when we arrived. I was going to work after lunch and was wearing my work badge which is on a American Red Cross lanyard.

The guy in front of me notices the lanyard and says that his wife works for the Red Cross in Jonesboro, Arkansas. After talking for a little while, I asked what brought him to Springfield. It turns out that he is a part of a good sized group of men that are on their way to Wichita, Kansas to help with a church plant! Imagine that! Two Southern Baptist preachers (one a pastor, one an evangelist) that just start talking to each other only to find out that they share so much in common. There is a moment of disappointment when you've engaged somebody in conversation and you realize that you are not going to get to share God's plan of salvation with them or ask them if they go to church anywhere or what they think about heaven, hell or eternity. But then you rejoice that they already know Jesus as Savior and greet each other as brothers in Christ.

If you are so inclined (and I hope that you are) please remember Pastor Ric and the crew of men that are partnering with God and the church plant in Wichita when you go to God in prayer. I know that they will appreciate your part in the Kingdom Ministry.

Meanwhile, I'll keep working on getting over this shyness about talking to strangers!


Monday, November 17, 2008

Favorite Stories

I've been thinking about sharing some of my favorite Bible stories. I'm going to share the stories along with the reasons why they are among my favorites. Some of them have been used in sermons, and I'm sure that others will be used in the future. Perhaps someday, I'll have my collection of favorites published; then again, perhaps not. For now, I'll just share them here at Out of My Hat.

I've adapted this first story from a sermon text. As I complete other stories, I'll share them with you. I hope that you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them.

Ehud, The Left-handed Deliverer

One of my favorite stories from the Bible comes out of the Book of Judges. It’s one of those stories that you never hear, never remember reading and yet it is Classic God. It has all of the elements of the stories of God’s love: man’s rebellion, God’s judgment, man’s repentance, God’s deliverance.

In typical God fashion, He chooses a deliverer that isn’t anything like what you would expect a mighty deliverer to be. God chooses the very last guy that a man would choose. God chooses the perfect guy for the job.


12 Once again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and because they did this evil the LORD gave Eglon king of Moab power over Israel. 13 Getting the Ammonites and Amalekites to join him, Eglon came and attacked Israel, and they took possession of the City of Palms(Jericho). 14 The Israelites were subject to Eglon king of Moab for eighteen years.

15 Again the Israelites cried out to the LORD, and he gave them a deliverer—Ehud, a left-handed man, the son of Gera the Benjamite. The Israelites sent him with tribute to Eglon king of Moab. 16 Now Ehud had made a double-edged sword about a foot and a half long, which he strapped to his right thigh under his clothing. 17 He presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab, who was a very fat man. 18 After Ehud had presented the tribute, he sent on their way the men who had carried it. 19 At the idols near Gilgal he himself turned back and said, "I have a secret message for you, O king."
The king said, "Quiet!" And all his attendants left him.

20 Ehud then approached him while he was sitting alone in the upper room of his summer palace and said, "I have a message from God for you." As the king rose from his seat, 21 Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king's belly. 22 Even the handle sank in after the blade, which came out his back. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it. 23 Then Ehud went out to the porch; he shut the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them.

24 After he had gone, the servants came and found the doors of the upper room locked. They said, "He must be relieving himself in the inner room of the house." 25 They waited to the point of embarrassment, but when he did not open the doors of the room, they took a key and unlocked them. There they saw their lord fallen to the floor, dead.

26 While they waited, Ehud got away. He passed by the idols and escaped to Seirah. 27 When he arrived there, he blew a trumpet in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went down with him from the hills, with him leading them.

28 "Follow me," he ordered, "for the LORD has given Moab, your enemy, into your hands." So they followed him down and, taking possession of the fords of the Jordan that led to Moab, they allowed no one to cross over. 29 At that time they struck down about ten thousand Moabites, all vigorous and strong; not a man escaped. 30 That day Moab was made subject to Israel, and the land had peace for eighty years.


Whenever I’m reading the Bible, occasionally words or phrases seem to jump out at me. It is generally because they seem out of place or unusual. I tend to accept that as a clue that there is something more to the story—something that the average reader is going to miss. That’s the case in this story of Ehud, The Left-handed Deliverer.

The words that I’m talking about are found back in verse 15. The Bible says that God gave them a deliverer—“Ehud, a left-handed man, the son of Gera the Benjamite.”

I would have expected that the Bible would name him with his father and tribe. That is they way that was done. But what about being left-handed? Is that important? It doesn’t seem to have any bearing on the story. I decided that it was worth a little looking into. What I found was that Ehud’s being left-handed is central to the story.

Even today, being left-handed is somewhat of an anomaly. Only about 10 percent of the population is left-handed. Being a lefty is not near as big of a deal today as it once was. It can even be an advantage if you are a pitcher or batter in baseball. For the most part, it is a right-handed world. Scissors, power tools, hand tools and sports equipment are plentiful if you are right-handed and harder to find (and more expensive) if you are left-handed. Writing from left to right is no problem if you are a righty and a little awkward for a lefty. Today, kids are no longer discouraged from developing their left-handed tendencies. It wasn’t always so.

There was a time when left-handedness was associated with witchcraft. To prevent children from developing left-handed tendencies, drastic measures were taken. Arms were tied down to prevent use—hands might even be broken to prevent their use and force the use of the right hand.

Still today, in the Middle East, the left hand is the hand of defilement—the dirty hand. You don’t touch people with your left hand. Without being too graphic, the left hand is the hand that you use for certain personal hygiene actions. (I will mention that toilet paper isn’t the plentiful commodity that it is in the Western world!)

In Ehud’s day, lefties were also thought to be weak. A left handed man was not allowed to carry a sword. He could not accompany his tribe into battle. That alone made him less than a man. When the rest of the able bodied men went to fight, Ehud had to stay behind with the old men, the crippled men, the boys too young to fight and the women. Ehud was the kind of guy that would get all of the jobs that nobody else wanted to do. He would have been somewhat of and outcast among his own people. I think that it shows a bit of God’s sense of humor and irony that Ehud is from the tribe of Benjamin (since Benjamin means son of the right hand).

One of those jobs that Ehud got stuck with was carrying the tribute of the people to Eglon, the king of Moab. I don’t know how often the people of Israel had to bring their tribute to the king, but I’m sure that nobody wanted to carry the money to the pagan king. So somebody gets the bright idea, “Let’s make Ehud do it.” And so Ehud gets the undesirable task of bring the tribute to Eglon, a very fat man. (We’ll get back to the fat man thing.)

The Israelites have had enough and cry out to God. They repent of their sin and God chooses Ehud as their deliverer. So Ehud makes a small sword. It’s big enough to do the job (about eighteen inches long) and small enough to hide. Ehud would have had to make the sword in secret and keep it hidden—even from his own people. They would have taken it away from him if they had known about it. He makes the sword and hides it and waits for the day that he is to bring the tribute to the king. On that day, Ehud hides the double edged dagger in the folds of his cloak on the right side. (A right handed person would have carried his sword on the left side.) The Throne Room in the palace would have been heavily guarded. A soldier would have been allowed to keep his sword as he entered into the presence of the king. It may or may not have been secured with a “peace knot” which would make it impossible to draw quickly. Nobody would have searched Ehud and nobody would have expected him to be hiding a sword.

Ehud and the delegation from Israel deliver the tribute and begin their return trip home. Ehud allows sufficient time for all of the other delegations to complete giving their tribute and then tells the rest of Israel’s delegation to continue homeward and he returns for an audience with King Eglon.

When Ehud arrives at the palace for the second time, the Throne Room is empty. He announces that he brings a message from God and is brought to the king’s private chambers. The King clears the room (apparently he doesn’t want anybody else to hear this message), and Ehud approaches to give the king the message. As the king stands to hear the message, Ehud reaches into his garment with his left hand, draws the dagger and kills the king.

Eglon must have been a very prosperous king (since he was so fat) and the fat of his belly closed in around the handle of the dagger as the point pushed out of his back. Ehud locks the door and escapes through the porch.

Now I kind of wonder about what happens next. Maybe the servants left the area and took their union mandated break when the king sent them out of the room. Maybe they went to the palace’s designated smoking area to burn a quick one while the king received this message from the Israelite’s God. In any case, nobody saw Ehud leave and the doors were locked when they returned. They weren’t in any hurry to interrupt the king because they figured that he was relieving himself. (That’s the politically correct way of saying that they thought he was taking a dump.) Note: I’ll probably have to edit that dump part. Anyways, they wanted to allow enough time for the air to clear since some poor servant (probably a left-handed one), was going to have to take care of emptying that chamber pot.

By the time they finally got around to unlocking the door and finding their dead king, Ehud was on his way back with the armies of Israel. And God delivered the Moabites into their hands and they lived in peace for eighty years.

Now that’s a good story.

But I think that there is more to it than just being a good story. I think that there is a life lesson for us. The preacher in me can’t just leave it alone. When God places a great story like this before us, I believe that He is trying to tell us something.

Up until that moment in his life, Ehud had always been considered relatively useless. There is little doubt that he had been an object of ridicule and scorn for his entire life. I can’t help but wonder what he was thinking when he felt that God had called on him to deliver the Israelites from the hand of Eglon, King of Moab. I wonder when Ehud first realized that he had been created for this purpose. I wonder if he suddenly felt that all the years of torment had been worth it because now he knew that he had been created for this moment.

I wonder how many of God’s children suffer today with feelings of inadequacy. I wonder how many of God’s children are living their lives without purpose. Far too many believers feel that they are not equipped to serve in God’s Kingdom. They think that they are too short, too tall, too fat or too skinny. They think that they can’t talk to people or that they are not smart enough. Maybe they think that they are too poor or that they don’t have the right social stature to share God’s story and God’s love.

Ehud surely felt that God had forgotten him. And yet, when the time came, he was ready to serve his God and deliver his people.

Perhaps you feel that your life lacks purpose; that God has forgotten you and that life is leaving you behind. With all of my heart, I believe that there is a God in heaven that loves you dearly. He has created you for a purpose. He has equipped you for that purpose—maybe physically, maybe mentally, maybe emotionally. The only thing that that you need to bring is a willing heart.

James, the brother of Jesus, reminds us that life is fleeting. He says that it is like a vapor, here for a moment and then gone. I would encourage you to endure. Stay with it. Your moment is coming. Love God. Serve Him. Be patient. And remember, the task before you is not for your own recognition and glory—it is for the glory of God.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Yeah, I know. It was two days ago that I met with my old friend and classmate at the Springfield Airport. It's not that the meeting didn't go well. It's more like sometimes I'm a slacker blogger. Making contact with Jeff was one of those benefits of the social networks like Facebook. It always amazes me at just how small the world has become because of the internet.

For several years now, my family has kept up with each other through regular (or irregular) e-mail updates. I think that all of my siblings read my blog, though only a few of them comment. There are other readers from around the globe. Some are friends, some found the blog through other bloggers that have posted links, some probably come from the links on my e-mail signatures and some I have no idea of how we have become virtual friends. I also have a blog link on my Facebook page.

So Jeff locates me through FB and then a few weeks later ends up with a business meeting in Springfield! It has been thirty years since we've seen each other, so the hour that we had really wasn't adequate to do much more than a brief recap of the past three decades. Jeff started in radio broadcasting when we were still in high school. I wasn't surprised to hear of some of the markets that he has worked in, or that he is now traveling the country as a consultant to radio stations.

Our little reunion ended too soon when LJ, the midday DJ for KKLH The Cave, came to pick him up. If you're a Classic Rock fan, follow the link to listen via the net. Mike will appreciate the Heartbreaker of the Day picture. Being interrupted by LJ wasn't too bad. If you look to the Air Staff and check out LJ, you'll see that she has a look that is wasted on the radio. I enjoyed meeting LJ and getting reaquainted with Jeff.

If anybody else is planning on being in the Springfield/Branson area in the near future, give me a call!


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Now Where Did That Come From?

For those that read the Bible on a regular basis, this is probably a normal occurance. You read something that you have read before (perhaps many times) but this time you see something that you've never really seen before. It's been there all along, but this time you finally notice it. It's as if the words jump off the page and shout, "Here I am! Read me!"

So this happened to me as I was reading the familiar passage from Exodus, chapter 20. This is the place where God gives the Israelites the Ten Commandments. Right after the big 10, the Bible says this...

Beginning at verse 18: When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die."
Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning."
The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.

Wow! Did that line jump out at you like it did at me?

"Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning."

I don't think that we fear God any more. Not that God wants us to be afraid of Him. He wants for us to revere Him; to understand that He is omnipotent; to know that He is greater than anything in the world. And at the same time, to know that He loves us and wants to be loved by us.

We have become pretty self sufficient today. We don't need God for much. (sarcasm intended) I mean the world has been set in motion by the Creator and will run its course. God doesn't need to intervene and we just don't need to think about God on a daily basis. Right?

Maybe it's that attitude that finds the world in its current state of moral decay--no fear of God. Not only do we not fear God, we really don't count on God for much. We are satisfied to rely on government, jobs, the market, financial institutions (all of the things that are failing today) to give us a false sense of security and a false sense of peace. When these things fail, then we worry and wonder about who or what we can trust. We fear what may become of our personal finances, our jobs, our homes, etc. But we have no fear of God.

Moses told the people that it is the fear of God that keeps us from sinning. The world certainly has given us its share of fearful things--God isn't one of them. In Matthew 10:28, Jesus says, "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." I'm not sure why we don't fear God any more. At least it would appear that we have little fear of God.

So I was wondering...when you're about to do something that you know you shouldn't do, and then you don't do it, what is it that keeps you from doing it? Fear of getting caught? Fear of God? Integrity? (you just want to do the right thing) How about love of God? You know, really wanting to be obedient.

I used to think that if at the end of time it turned out that the atheists were right and there was no God, what would be the worst case scenario for all of the Christians? That they lived a life striving for a higher purpose? That they tried that "do unto others" thing? That they taught others a way of life that was based on love? Even if the end of life is just the end of life...wouldn't it have been a life worth living?

On the other hand, what if...well I think you know the what if of the other hand.

So, do you revere God?


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

More Good News

Yesterday, Aaron received the letter that we were all waiting for--the letter stating that he has been accepted to The Moody Bible Institute for the winter/spring semester. I am so excited for him! (but I wouldn't want to be moving to Chicago in January! Been there, done that and burned the heavy winter coat!)


Monday, November 10, 2008


SPLASH is the title of the new book by Ken and Paula Hemphill. More than a book, it is a lifestyle of evangelism that fits so perfectly with my own philosophy of sharing Jesus. The acronym SPLASH stands for Show People Love And Share Him.

I have always believed that the best way to effectively share the story of salvation is to build a relationship that allows for the free discussion of eternal matters. For the next two days, Dr. Hemphill will be sharing the nuts and bolts of SPLASH with the pastors and lay leaders of the Tri-County Association of Missouri Southern Baptists.

New evangelism strategies can be expensive for churches to purchase all of the necessary training materials. The Hemphills have made this an affordable tool by putting all of the training materials online...for free. You only have to purchase the books. Even though my work schedule won't allow me to attend these training sessions (they actually expect me to show up like 5 days per week now) I'm looking forward to reading the book that Dr. Hemphill practically gave me.

I was buying some of his books and devotionals yesterday (I've decided to drop by and pick up a couple more today) and was totaling up what I had when he came over to help me. All of his books were discounted by 20-25%. I had my total at $39 plus the $7 SPLASH book. But he said just to make it $40 for the whole thing. He said that he knew that I would be telling pastors and churches about the material as I travel to churches and wanted me to have it. Nice, huh?

Looking back over my posts for the past few months, it's easy to see that I'm not your stereo typical Southern Baptist Evangelist. I'm not positive that's a good thing, it's just the way it is. What is positive is that I really believe that God created us; that He loves us; and that He has redeemed us (bought us back) from our sin. I really believe that there is no way for us to earn salvation and so we have to trust that God has paid for our souls by the death, burial and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. I believe that to be as true for you as it is for me.

A while back, I had a short conversation with an atheist. He wasn't really an atheist, more of an agnostic. He believed that there could be a supreme being--a designer of the universe, but really wanted some proof. In our conversation, it came out that he also believed that we have souls that live beyond our physical bodies--he believed in ghosts. He really wasn't comfortable talking about the possibility of places like heaven or hell but admitted that those places may indeed exist. My question/challenge for him was this: If you believe that there might be a supreme being (and you do) and you believe that we have souls that live beyond our physical lives (again, you do) and you think that there might be places like heaven and hell; then don't you think that it would be worth your time to investigate what it takes to get into one and stay out of the other?

What about you? What do you believe happens to you when you die? Is that it? You take the big dirt nap and life is over. You live on only in the brief memories of those that knew you and then...nothing? Does the soul cease to exist, the mind grow quiet when the lights go out? Against the background of eternity, the Bible says that life is like a for a moment, then gone. Have you made any plans for whatever is beyond living?

I know that there are readers from beliefs that vary from atheism to Christianity to "I believe in a god," and many in between (or outside of these). For the past few weeks, we've been open about our political beliefs. How about an open forum for our religious beliefs?

Any takers?
Be nice.


Saturday, November 08, 2008

Reading and Writing

Actually, Writing and Reading would have been a better title...but it just doesn't sound right. Speaking of not sounding right, I had the opportunity to listen to a man that pays very close attention to the way things sound.

Barclay Newman and his wife Jean were the keynote speakers at this month's meeting of the Ozarks Chapter of American Christian Writers. Rev. Newman has written Bible Commentaries, Bible dictionaries, books and children's books. He was also lead on the team of translators for the Contemporary English Version of the Bible. A big part of this translation includes translating the original text into the thought patterns and speech patterns of today. Since the Bible is a book best read aloud, how the translation sounds when read was also of important consideration.

Mrs. Newman is the illustrator for the children's books as well as the manager/secretary/agent for the business. Both were very interesting speakers and it was quite a privilege to meet them.

I think that much of the club was more interested in Mrs. Newman's information that dealt with the publishing of their books (this is a writer's club) than with Rev. Newman's Bible work. For me, I could have listened to the stories and subtleties that went into the Bible translations for the entire time. Kudos to the team that secured this month's speakers.

This evening, at Hopedale Baptist Church, I heard author, lecturer, pastor, past President of Southwestern Theological Seminary and the go-to guy on Sunday School growth, Ken Hempill, D. Min., PhD.

Wow! What a day for listening to a couple of great Christian authors. In the morning I plan on purchasing several of Dr. Hemphill's books (signed of course) since he will be at our church for the day.
I can't wait to hear what he has for us tomorrow!


Friday, November 07, 2008

Social Networks

It seems that more and more people are joining social networks like My Space, Facebook, and there are still a few on Xanga. I have an account on each of those. I never really got into the whole network thing. I signed up on My Space when the kids started, but I never did anything with it and Tom is still my only friend. I signed up on Xanga when I wanted to post on a friend's blog but had to have an account to do it.

My Facebook (FB) account was the result of an experiment testing the effectiveness of social networks in fund raising. It was brother Steve (the social minded activist) that was involved in fund raising for a Baltimore organization. The cause is Prevent and Eliminate Homelessness. So Steve recruited members to Facebook and to his cause and then was a part of the experiment raising funds through Facebook.

My Facebook account is the only one that I ever use. I'm up to a whopping 74 friends that include family and friends from school, work, church, other churches that I've visited, e-mail lists and even some fellow bloggers. I've managed online chats with a few of them, written on their walls or sent them a message. I haven't sent plants, drinks, bumper stickers or pieces of flair but have received quite a few. (I'm not sure that I understand the point of it. If I want someone to know that I'm thinking of them, I just say hi.)

Next week I'm meeting an old friend and high school classmate at the airport in Springfield. We found each other on FB and his business travels find him in Springfield every now and then. A simple FB message and reply and we get the chance to catch up the last 30 years or so. There is a link to this blog from my FB page but I don't know if anybody has found this blog from FB.

The network does have a way of making the world a bit smaller. I've reconnected with some people that I never would have and been surprised by the people that have contacted me. I know that I don't use my account to the extent that most college kids use theirs...I'm not sure that I even have an idea of the potential that I'm missing out on. But I'm having fun with it, just the same.

How about you? Any other social networkers that are readers?


Thursday, November 06, 2008

Who Am I?

As I was driving in to work tonight, I was thinking about the many comments I've heard about the election of our President-elect Barack Obama. There still seems to be a great fear in this part of the country of what lies ahead. I received one doomsday e-mail of the judgments that await our country for the election of this liberal, baby killing, anti-Israel, anti-military, false Christian, gay loving person to the highest office of our country.

The question still comes up, "How can a Christian vote for a liberal, pro-abortion candidate (Democrat) for public office?"

My question is, "How can somebody be so single minded or one faceted?" I know the moral high ground that many want to take and I don't think that there is anything wrong with a person's single mindedness when focusing on God (or whatever/whoever their god is, should it be different than mine). But in this case, we're talking about government and...well you all ready know how I feel about mixing religion and government.

I realize that I am quite the conundrum for many of those that think that they know me. The problem is that they often only know the part of me that fits into their world. I am a very multi-faceted person and most people are only exposed to one or two sides. It occurs to me that readers of this blog may actually have a better perspective of the total me than many of the people that I know personally.

So, who am I? What is it that influences my thoughts, actions, philosophies, beliefs and decisions? How does a conservative, evangelical Christian (not to mention--a registered Republican) end up supporting a Democrat? What other areas of beliefs are influenced by factors that some would view as worldly or ungodly?

I actually think that these are fair questions to ask of an Evangelist. Let me introduce you to myself. I really don't think of myself as a very complex individual. Mostly, I'm just a simple man with simple thoughts and simple needs.

First, you should know that I come from a large (by today's standards) and diverse family. Mom and Dad are both still living and still married after 50+ years. There are six kids, four boys and two girls. I'm second in the birth order. I'm also the least educated or at least the only one without a college degree of some sort. We are a great family, though not a perfect family. Of the six kids, there was one teen pregnancy, one divorce, and one blended family. Two are in the military or guard. Though we were all raised in the Catholic Church, today some are still active and devout Catholics others are Protestant or Evangelical and others are not attending church at all. We live in big cities and rural areas from Oklahoma to the East Coast. We are as politically diverse as you could imagine. But when we are together, we laugh! All in all, there are Mom and Dad, six kids, five spouses and seventeen grand kids...30 total. This alone gives me many perspectives on family and family values.

I've had several different jobs since I entered the work force some three decades ago. Currently, I have a government job. I am an air traffic controller (ATC) and have spent most of my ATC career actively involved with the union that represents the controllers...the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA). I have been a state legislative coordinator (Iowa), served on two national standing committees (Legislative and Constitution) and been Facility Representative (local president) at two facilities. I have worked in environments and conditions where the workers flourished and I have worked where the workers have dealt with tactics of intimidation and abuse of power. Labor/management gamesmanship and playing inside or outside the rules is a game that I no longer enjoy. It is a game that I can play very well, but I usually become a person that I don't really like anymore. This is my second union job. I was also shop steward at an aluminum factory and served on the union committee at that plant. Politics from a Union perspective is way different that the politics from a church perspective.

If you were to put me into a religious box, I would best fit into the conservative, evangelical Christian box. I am a Southern Baptist evangelist. I believe that I am called to preach the Gospel of Salvation by grace through faith in Jesus. I believe that we are God's creation and that He loves us dearly. I believe that He demonstrates His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ (Jesus) died for us. (Rom 5:8) And yes, I do believe that Jesus is the only way to get to Heaven. (John 14:6) I also believe that is not my place to judge your testimony. Your belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior is between you and Him.
I keep reminding myself of Jesus' teachings in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). The part that haunts me is when Jesus says that we will be judged by the standard with which we judge others. If that's the case, I want to be judged with a merciful and forgiving standard. I want to be judged in love. I didn't grow up in a Baptist church and so I don't have a lot of the Baptist baggage. I'm not going to say that you can't be a Christian and still drink alcohol or tell you that drinking is the social sin of the day. It's just not that important to me.

I'm also a dad that isn't quite sure of how to be a good dad (at least where teenagers are concerned).
I'm a husband that worries that I'm not letting my wife know just how much I love her and how much she means to me.
I'm a home owner that is absolutely lousy at home maintenance and repair and a man that doesn't know enough or care enough to work on his own cars. My philosophy in this area is: they pay me well to do the job that I know how to do; I should be willing to pay somebody else well to do the job that they know how to do.

Today, I struggle enough with John doing the right thing and I don't have the time nor inclination to make sure that everybody else is doing the right thing. I want to teach my kids to do the right thing and to make good choices.
I like being generous. I think that my kids are generous, too. I like to tip well when we go to a restaurant.
I should probably worry more about retirement and what lies ahead. This may sound incredibly naive, but I really do trust God. I mean I know that I have a responsibility to be a good steward, but I'm not going to spend a great deal of time and energy worrying.
I know that I need to live a healthier lifestyle. I even know a lot about what I should be doing/not doing and eating/not eating. It's just a matter of getting to it!
I like to read and I love to learn.
I like to tell stories. (they don't even have to be true stories!)
I like to smile and I like to make other people smile.
I'm a people person...but I also like to be left alone.
I have an ugly side; a bad temper. I really hate it when I lose control and say something that is hurtful. I'm getting better and lose it much less frequently as I get older.

Some would say that I'm getting more liberal as I get older. I disagree. I'm just less insistent that others agree with me all of the time.
Although religion and politics are often subjects to avoid, I'd gladly discuss them with anybody that would agree not to get mad about our differences.

Now you probably know more about me than anybody could possibly care to know. So if you ever have a comment, question or argument about one of my posts, feel free to discuss it here or by e-mail or phone. My contact info is in the right column.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day Prayer

Dear Readers,

It is now early on election day in the US. The day and the outcome of this Presidential election is heavy on my heart. I wanted to share my prayer with you. Perhaps, you too, would take a moment to offer a prayer for the US of A. For those readers that are outside of the US, please don't think me selfish this morning. I hope that you can recognize that a better US is best for this global society of ours.


Heavenly Father,

The out come of today's election is heavy on my heart. I know that it will be a close contest. I have already committed to pray for the winner, for our new President. Today, I would like to pray for the other guy. I don't have the foresight to know which candidate will be the winner or who will lose, but my prayer this morning is for strength and honor for the loser. I ask that you will give him a heart of humility and strength to now stand by the man that was once his opponent and will soon be his President. I ask that you would give to him leadership to lead his supporters to rally behind our nation and our new President. I pray that a nation divided by politics will unite in purpose.

I pray that our nation can leave behind the divisions of red states and blue states; conservatives and liberals; Republicans and Democrats; and serve as These UNITED States..."one nation under God." I think of how our Founding Fathers must have felt as they wrote the words to the Preamble to our Constitution..."WE the People, of the United States, ..." Their purpose, our purpose " Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Oh, that we would unite in purpose again, that we would become a more perfect Union; that we would establish justice and peace, safety and security. I know that my country has its many faults and I would ask for your mercy and forgiveness. I would ask that you would unite the people of this great nation and that the grand experiment that is the United States would continue. I ask that you, O God, would heal this nation and help us to continue to serve well in the global society. Secure us from our enemies and allow us to be a blessing and sanctuary to those in need.

Bless us this day, O God.

I ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen

Monday, November 03, 2008

I've Heard That Before

Yesterday afternoon we were talking about the outright lies that are being spread as the election draws near. We were amazed at the things that people are willing to believe without checking out the source or validity of the claims being made. Somebody made the comment (not me), "I think that overall, Democrats are more informed voters."

I've heard something like that'll come to me in a minute.

Then last night at church, I heard one man explaining to another man, how "sharing the wealth" works. It was a great explanation of the Robinhood Theory (take from the rich, give to the poor), but had nothing to do with Sen. Obama's economic policies. My bet would be that he's never read the policy (available on Obama's web site) but is just spewing forth some regurgitated nonsense that somebody else has said.

Bilbo always says, "Don't let anyone do your thinking for you." But that's not the quote I'm thinking'll come to me.

Oh yeah, now I was Karl Rove:

“As people do better, they start voting like Republicans - unless they have too much education and vote Democratic, which proves there can be too much of a good thing”


Be informed. Don't take my word for it. Think for yourself...then vote.


So much for no more political posts!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Broken Hearted

I really don't get it. This morning at church, an older man that I (and my wife) have a great deal of respect for, told Chris that he questioned our Christianity and lost all respect for us because we have chosen to support Sen. Obama for President.

Personally, I can take it. I'd write it off as a curmudgeonly old man that doesn't really know how to express his disappointment in our differences. I'd just forgive him his ignorance and move on. But it really hurt Chris. I'm in a bit of a quandary as to what to do about it, though. It seems a bit mean spirited to confront the old guy and tell him that he can say whatever is on his mind to me but to stay away from Chris. On the other hand, doing nothing is really against my nature. Somebody has attacked and hurt my wife! Normally, Chris is a tough girl and I have learned that you don't want to cross her. The judgment of her Christianity is something that I'm sure she'd shrug off (I'm sure that she's confident of what she believes), but the part about this old man losing all respect for her really got to her. She was in tears as she told me about it. She serves on two committees with this man and is already concerned about how that interaction will be in the future.

I don't understand how we are able to let such petty differences come between us. And why does it always seem like it's the ones that should be forgiving (the religious right) that are the most hateful and divisive? Another young man from our church (serving at another church now) has expressed that he has lost friends over political differences; friends that said they could be his friend if he held to those political beliefs.

I'm going to go out on a limb and make a prediction about Wednesday, November 5th.

When I get up on the 5th, I predict that God will still be on His Throne, He will still be Sovereign, the United States of America will still be my home and I will still proudly claim citizenship in both the United States of America and the Kingdom of God. The rules of love your God and love your neighbor will still be commands for the ages and hopefully a divided nation can begin to heal. All-in-all, I don't expect that my life will differ a great deal between November 4th and November 5th.

Go vote!


What an Evening!

I just got home from seeing the Honorable Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, campaigning for President of the United States. The place was packed! There was three times the number of people that turned out to see Governor Palin last week. I said that I wasn't going to post another political blog, so I won't. But I do want to say that Sen. Obama was incredibly gracious. The two times that some of the crowd started booing, he stopped them with a..."Don't boo, just vote." Other than mentioning the political ads that are meant to tear him down, he didn't say anything negative about Sen. McCain.

Whatever your

I missed telling you about part of my week in my last post. I was given an award last week. Thank you, Heidi. Heidi's blog is one that I subscribe to and one that I should pay more attention to. It's full of healthful ideas that would make me a better person. It would take a major overhaul of my current eating habits and activity levels. You know me...I'll get right on that!

By the way, I want to invite you to follow my blog. You can do that where you see the others that are following in the right column.

I've about used up all of the bonus 60 minutes I get as we set our clocks back, so I'll post now and remember the other stuff later!