Thursday, December 31, 2009

December 31

I know--it's the last post of 2009 and it should probably be something meaningful. Maybe a little look back at the year or a hopeful look to the future. But what I'm thinking right now is that in just about 7 weeks pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Spring Training Camp and the Great American Pastime will once again be underway.

Here is a little winter warm-up to whet your appetite. Grab a bag of peanuts or box of Cracker Jacks, your favorite cold beverage and maybe grill a hot dog. Then sit back and enjoy...

Happy New Year!
John <><

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Did You Know...

...that in the mid 1500's, French politician, Jean Nicot served as an ambassador to Portugal? It was there that he was introduced to a plant heralded for its medicinal value. Nicot sent this plant (a member of the nightshade family) to France where it was declared to be the Queen's herb. Jean Nicot was duly rewarded for his find by being appointed as Lord of Villemain. He also gave his name to the plant genus, Nicotiana tabacum, which we know simply as tobacco.

Along with the nicotine found in tobacco, other nightshade plants have toxic chemicals or hallucinogenic properties.. The Nightshade family of plants include henbane, mandrake, and jimson weed. Also in the nightshade family are tomatoes, red and green bell peppers, chili peppers and eggplant.

Now you know.

John <><

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Best of 2009

One of the other blogs that I frequent recently ran a "Best of 2009" by picking one favorite post from each month. I was re-reading some of my old posts and thought that I would do the same. Although these are reruns, some of you haven't been reading for that long so they may be new to you. I hope that they will bring a smile to your face, encouragement to your heart and give you something to ponder.

I do want to thank you for dropping by from time to time and reading my thoughts and occasional rants. I appreciate your comments--both here at Out of My Hat and on my Facebook notes. I hope that December of 2010 finds all of us in a happier, healthier place. I have no doubts that the coming year will be filled with both challenges and blessings. I wish you well and encourage you through the tough times and heartaches and hope that your blessings will be many.

All the best,

John <><

January--Monday Morning Observations
February--Ten Honest Things About John
March--Another Favorite Bible Story
April--Day of Silence, Day of Truth
May--It's Not About the $$Money$$
June--A Better Sermon
July--Jesus Camp Revisited
August--Pinch-hit Homerun
September--We're Number 37!
October--Random Thoughts
November--Price vs. Value
December--From a Heathen and a Pagan

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Old News--at least to Air Traffic Controllers

This story ran last week. There was video on ABC (video link in the story). Maybe you saw it. Maybe you were outraged by the wasteful spending. It came as no surprise to those of us that are Air Traffic Controllers. It was pretty much "business as usual" in the FAA. It really didn't take long for the culture to swing from working together for aviation safety (during the Clinton Administration) to the FAA dictatorship of the Bush Administration. It appears as if the FAA Management culture will take a little more time to swing back towards working together for the good of aviation during the current Administration. We do have a labor contract--at the order of the President. But getting to do what you want without accountability is a difficult thing to give up and I have a feeling it is going to be a long time before controllers place any trust in those that manage the agency.

Overall, I'd have to say that we have a pretty good management team at Springfield, MO. That's not to say that they don't have their moments of cranial rectosis, but they are usually decent enough to deal with. It was interesting that they immediately tagged NATCA (the controller's union) as the whistle blower that informed ABC News of the story. It may have been somebody from NATCA, but with an employee satisfaction ranking of 214 out of 216 government agencies there are a lot of potential whistle blowers in FAA land. NATCA members only make up about a tenth of FAA employees. There is also the nagging thing about the general public being fed up with government waste. The information could have come from a hotel employee or from a non-union member controller.

The good news is that there is hope for the future. In spite of the poor planning to properly staff air traffic facilities in the FAA, they are now being more creative in training new controllers. If you look at the graph at the end of the article, you'll see that the road ahead is a long one. I hope that our new Administrator will look to the controllers for help in shaping the system and continuing to keep the US skies the safest in the world.

I don't want to make too much of the ABC story. Like the one manager said, "What are you gonna do?" It's what we deal with on a daily basis. I can tell you this--for the most part (hey, every occupation has its weak links), the men and women that I know in the business of ATC are the very best. They work their butts off to make sure that you get to where you are going in a safe, orderly and expeditious manner.

So keep flying. The guys in the ABC story aren't the ones working the airplanes!


Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

It's just a little bit past the hour of midnight on Christmas morning. There is a mixture of freezing rain and snow falling on the Ozarks of Southwest Missouri and all will wake up to a white Christmas. Santa is making his rounds and will be returning to the North Pole for another year.
In a few hours, kids will be waking up, presents will be exchanged, families will celebrate the holiday in many ways and with many traditions. I hope that your family tradition includes remembering the birth of our Savior, Jesus.

This is one of my favorite newer Christmas songs. I hope that you enjoy it, too.

Merry Christmas

John <><

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

From a Heathen and a Pagan

A recent post on another blog labeled me as an idolater. It was said that that I am an anti-Christian, a part of the Christian counter culture and that I have a devil's worldview. Even the Christianity of those that examined me as a Deacon candidate was called into question.

I said that so that you would know why this is a fitting song to wish you a Merry Christmas. I happen to be a Jackson Browne fan and had the opportunity (many years ago) to see him in concert. It sounds as if he's also worn the labels of anti-Christian, idolater, heathen and pagan.

Merry Christmas from a "heathen and a pagan on the side of the rebel Jesus."

John <><

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Just in Time for Christmas!

Okay, I know that yesterday's post and this one aren't really considered "writing" a blog but more like just making a post. Nevertheless, it is what it is and a timely discovery for the Christmas season.

Read the article here.

John <><

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saturday Morning Musings

It's a cold and blustery day in the Ozarks. I'm reading a few blogs and enjoying my second cup of coffee after a much needed 6+ hours of sleep.

Weather forecasts give us a chance for some snow today but since they also have a fairly wide margin for error...well, I seriously doubt it. Wouldn't you just love to have a job that you could manage to be right so little and still have a justifiable reason for your errors?

I haven't felt much like writing lately. Perhaps I just need to challenge myself to put something out on a daily basis. I'm not quite mentally prepared for that just yet, but I can see that it may be coming to that in the near future. I've started on a couple of different posts in the past week but thought that I may have covered the material in previous rants. Sure enough, a quick search of previous posts showed that I had already made my rants and covered the points so I just scrapped the idea of re-posting.

I seem to be in a bit of a creative funk--not really into reading, definitely not into writing, wanting to work on some new magic but not working on anything new, spending too much time on the computer doing nothing but playing games or watching stupid videos--you get the idea. I think that I've let others bring me down a bit. That is an unusual thing for me. I guess I've let my negative guard down and it's allowed their garbage to creep into my attitude and mood.

I'm going to give myself until Christmas to to come out of it. Then I'll get busy with getting on with living and getting back to the happy, joyous John that you all know and ... well, that you all know (in a virtual sort of way). I'm sure that the coming days will be grand as we inch closer to Christmas Day. They will be busy, to be sure. Just keep things from getting too busy to remember that God loves you so much that He sent His son, Jesus, to provide a way for you to get to heaven.

Christian friends, be kind to everybody that wishes you "Happy Holidays!" and remember that just because you participate in their way of celebrating Christmas (parties, presents, decorations, Santa Claus, etc.), is no reason to expect that they'll participate in your celebration of the birth of the Christ-child.

To my non-Christian readers--I hope that the season finds you well and celebrating with family, friends and loved ones. I hope that there is a realization that there is a God that created you and loves you. He has given you a great Gift. Please don't leave it under the tree unopened again this year.

To all: Merry Christmas!

John <><

Monday, December 14, 2009

Did You Know...

As our elected reprehensitives (thank you Bilbo) debate the grand health care reform bill, we keep hearing about the magic number of 60 to keep one side from filibustering to keep the bill from coming to a vote.

The term filibuster is from the Danish word vrijbuiter and means free (vrij) booty (buit). Free booty is not a party call for college boys to invade the girls dormitories and sorority houses; it's a pirating term used when buccaneers raided the West Indies and Spanish-American coast during the 1600's. The word filtered through the French as filibuster and through Spanish as filibustero. In English, filibuster came to mean somebody waging war (an irregular battle) for personal gain. Today we know it as a way for a senator to ramble about anything at all (an irregular tactic) to delay debate and keep a bill from coming to a vote.

By the way, the words senator and senile share the same Latin root senex, which means "an old man." In the Roman Empire, they had a bit more respect for the elder statesman of the Senate than our current Senators deserve.

So as 2010 gets underway and a third of the Senate and the entire House of Representatives is up for re-election, choose your candidate carefully. The Latin word candidatus originally meant "dressed in white." Politicians seeking office made sure that their togas were immaculate to make the best possible impression. The word now means one seeking office. You may recognize the same root found in candle and incandescent.

...And now you know.

John <><

Friday, December 11, 2009

Just Thinking

Tomorrow is the monthly meeting for our Christian Writer's group. The December meeting is one set aside for members to share some of their seasonal writing. I'm going to go with the writing in a previous post pretty much as it was written here.

But I've been thinking about Christmas...the first Christmas. I've been wondering about the trip that Joseph and Mary made to Bethlehem. The thing that is bothering me is that they tried to find a place to stay in the inn. Wasn't this Joseph's home?

I think that maybe Joseph's family refused to let them stay at home because Mary was pregnant with an illegitimate child. I wonder how difficult life was for Mary and Joseph and their young child. I wonder if Jesus was made fun of as a child because of his questionable parentage. I wonder if Mary had to endure knowing that people talked about her behind her back. I wonder how difficult it was to be known as "that kind of a girl" or how Joseph was treated because of the girl that he married. Did it cost him some business? Did it cost him community status?

There are a couple of references that show how people thought of the family. Mark 6:3 says: "Where did this man get these things?" they asked. "What's this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! 3Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him.
The reference here to Mary's son is indicative that it was known that Joseph wasn't the father and that the father was unknown.

John 8:41 says, ..."We are not illegitimate children," they protested. "The only Father we have is God himself."
It's as if the leaders are saying, "We are not the illegitimate ones. You are."

Being obedient to God is not easy. It wasn't easy for Mary. It wasn't easy for Joseph. And it wasn't easy for Jesus. (By the way, don't expect it to be easy for you, either.)

And so Joseph and Mary find themselves unwelcome in Joseph's hometown and without a place to stay. In an act of complete humility, Jesus is born in a stable. God is among us. He dwells as a man among men. He provides the fulfillment of His promise of a Redeemer, and Jesus is born to die as the Ultimate Sacrifice.

How ever you tell the story this Christmas season--tell the story.

Merry Christmas

John <><

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Importance of a Dad

I am currently reading a book called Apologetics For a New Generation. In the third chapter I ran across some interesting statistics from three different studies. I have known that the influence of a father figure is important to the proper development of our kids, but these studies really suggest that the role of a dad is far greater than I imagined.

The studies were done after the tragic killings at Columbine High School. The first, commissioned by Columbia University, was to see if family structure had any impact on drug and alcohol use and if that played a part in the tendency toward violent behavior. Here are a few of the findings:

* In a single-parent home where the mother is the head of the home, a child is 30 percent more likely to become involved in drugs, alcohol and violence.

* In a two-parent biological home, but where there is a fairly poor relationship with the father, a child is 68 percent likely to become involved in drugs, alcohol and violence.

* In a two-parent biological home where the child has a good to excellent relationship with the father, a child is less than 6 percent likely to become involved in drugs, alcohol or violence.

Family structure and relationships within the family produce the likelihood of certain behaviors.

Another study was commissioned by the FBI to see if there was a profile that could help teachers, administrators and police to identify potential shooters. It's called the Classroom Avenger profile. The study of 17 previous school shooters found that they shared three main characteristics. They were all white, middle class and came from homes where the father was absent, distant or not involved in the parenting process.

The final study that was mentioned was commissioned by Johns Hopkins to identify contributing factors to five diseases or conditions--mental illness, hypertension, malignant tumors, heart disease and suicide. After 30 years of studying 1,377 subjects, they found only one common link among these conditions--a lack of closeness to ones parents, especially the father. Stress is the key. Those that grow up in a loving, nurturing home are better able to deal with stress. The relationships in their families, especially with fathers, equip them to handle the stresses that can cause these debilitating conditions!

I found these things to be interesting and worth sharing.

By the way, I love being a dad (most days).

John <><

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Great Toys!

I saw this while doing a little bit of Christmas shopping. The label says "Hall of Fame Toy Pack." These toys--Crayola Crayons (8 color pack), a Duncan Butterfly Yo-yo, Silly Putty and a Slinky--most definitely belong in the Toy Hall of Fame!

John <><

Saturday, November 28, 2009

An Invitation

I know--the last thing that many of you need is one more blog to read. But since I have a new one that I'm following, I wanted to share it with you.

Bible, Baseball, Burgers and Bar-B-Que--it sounds like something that I'd write, doesn't it? Actually, it's written by my son, Aaron. In the About Me section he writes, "I like the Bible. I like baseball. I like burgers. I like Bar-b-que. The number of things I like more than these four "B"s can be counted on one hand."

I'm looking forward to reading the insights of a young man that is preparing for the ministry. I'm a bit jealous that he gets to more ball games than I do. I don't mind that he's a better (and more adventurous) bar-b-que cook. I share in his quest to find the ultimate burger and look forward to hearing what he is learning from the Bible.

Follow along with me and see what kind of blog this becomes...

John <><


Friday, November 27, 2009

A Gift For the Holidays

This morning, Black Friday in America, I will avoid the mass madness of the gift hunting crowds and give a gift to some very needy person. During the holidays, those that have cancer will continue with their chemo treatments and will continue to have a need for blood platelets. Many people that are having surgeries will need blood, and the accident rate from the many highway travellers will be on the rise as well as the associated blood need. Unfortunately, it is also a season that donations often drop.

It's an easy give to give. Take a few moments over the next few weeks and stop by your local Red Cross or local blood bank. A unit of platelets will take an hour or so, a unit of blood will only take a few minutes.

John <><

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


While the date, time and place of the first Thanksgiving can be debated, and the thanks that we give can be to our God, to some imagined being or to no one in particular (yes, even atheists celebrate Thanksgiving and give thanks--although I'm really not sure that I completely understand this); it should be noted that when President Lincoln made the declaration that the United States would set this day aside to give thanks, it was to give thanks to the Almighty God that had blessed and watched over our country.

We had been embattled in a great civil war. Many of our young men had given their lives on both sides of the conflict. And yet, our country--these United States of America--had endured.

This is the proclamation that set the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day. (It was changed to the fourth Thursday in 1941.)

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

-- Proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln, 3 October 1863.

John <><

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Price vs. Value

It's odd how some things can cost little and yet have great value and other things can be very expensive and mean little to us. I guess it's because the price is set by the seller and the value is set by the receiver. Perhaps I find myself dwelling on these things now because it's the time of year when we are all looking for great deals at the stores and the stores are gearing up for the really big sales on "Black Friday" and leading all the way up to Christmas.

Each December, the Ozarks Chapter of the American Christian Writer's Association has a Christmas/Winter reading meeting. Our regular monthly meeting becomes a time for writers to share a Christmas or winter themed story/poem/prose that they have written. I didn't participate in last years reading (although I did the monthly devotion using this story) but have decided to write something this year. Of course that means having to write something for Christmas...

As a procrastinator of great reputation, it goes against my nature to begin this writing project so early--the meeting isn't for another three weeks. But I have this idea that is already rolling around in my head (and there is lots of room up there for things to roll around!). I wish that I could just say it rather than having to write it down--kind of like the way I preach. Once I've read the Scripture, studied the background, organized the thoughts in my head and said it to myself over and over, I generally preach from the overflow of preparation and trust in the Holy Spirit's guidance, using few (if any) notes. It's just like telling a story.

So I still have to put this together in order to get it onto paper, but here are my thoughts on the price of the Greatest Christmas Gift verses the value of the Gift:

In my heart, I know that all of Christendom celebrates the birth of the Christ-child on December 25th, hence the name Christmas. I know that we also think of this Child as God's great Gift to mankind. Today we know that this Jesus, born in Bethlehem, will one day become the sacrificial lamb and shed His blood on our behalf. At Easter we will think of the suffering and sacrifice that the man-Jesus endures in our place. Somehow we always miss the sacrifice that the God-Jesus made at His birth. Maybe it's because we see it with the eyes of the receiver of the Gift. Let's try, for a moment, to see the Gift through the eyes of the Giver; to recognize the cost of this great Gift. I think that we may find the sacrifice at the birth of Jesus was a far more costly gift than the sacrifice at the Cross. Of course, they both go together. One without the other is of no value to us.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul wrote that Jesus, having the nature of God, set that aside and took on the nature of man.

Think about that for a moment. He lowered Himself from the High Throne of God to dwell with humans--as a human! He set aside the characteristics of God and took on the characteristics of man. In a moment He went from being Omnipresent to being confined to the finite boundaries of the human body. The once Omniscient God would have to learn as a child learns. And the All Powerful, Omnipotent God of the Universe would become utterly powerless. He would experience hunger and be unable to feed himself. If he wanted fed, he would have to cry. If he was cold, he would have to cry. When he soiled himself and needed to be changed, he would have to cry. (It's kind of hard to think of Jesus with a dirty diaper...I wonder if it stunk?) If he just wanted to be held by his mom...God would have to cry.

It boggles my mind.

I know that the thirty plus years that Jesus spent as a human are nothing in all of eternity, but to Jesus the man--it had to have been thirty long years.

If we can tell how much a person cares by the gift they give--the thought that goes into it, the cost to the giver, the time and preparation, the presentation--then we can know that God loves us. Paul writes that "...God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

I think that we could also say that God demonstrates His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ became one of us. He was perfect and without sin but became sin for us. He took our punishment--our death-- so we can live.

There is never a question about the cost of a gift. Oh you may be able to find a bargain or haggle with the seller over the price but once the gift has been purchased, the cost doesn't change. that's a different story. The value of a gift is determined by the one receiving the gift. How much do you value the Gift of Christmas? Will you set it aside and not give it a second thought? Will you want to take it out and show it off? Will you be willing to share it with others? Would you be willing to just tell somebody of the wonderful Gift that you've been given?

I know that it's bad form to inquire of the cost of a gift. So let me just tell you--your gift was expensive. What you do with it; how you value it, is up to you.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Merry Christmas,

John <><

Friday, November 20, 2009


I heard this Bible verse used earlier this week-- Psalms 109:8. It was used in reference to President Obama and was used by a pastor in a meeting of mostly pastors. As usual, I just hung my head and shuddered at the ignorance that seems to pervade otherwise intelligent beings and moral men and causes them to say the most stupid, hateful things.

Sadly, these things aren't out of their own devotional readings of the Scriptures, but come from the loud mouthed radical right that are more interested in political victories than in the promotion of righteous behavior and the "love your neighbor" parts of the Bible. As stated in this video, I should have said something to call attention to the incorrect and hateful use of the Word of God.

Please, Brothers in Christ, let us not allow this kind of misuse of God's Word to continue. It's not funny. It's not holy. It's not right. And it's not what Jesus would do.

John <><

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I have mixed feelings about posting this link. On the one hand, it's embarrassing (we're not all like that). On the other hand, it's kinda funny.

Anybody that's gone to church for any length of time or listened to a variety of preachers, has heard somebody take some Scripture out of context and build a sermon around it--but this guy really takes the cake!

John <><

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sharing the Joy of the Holidays (yes I said Holidays)

It is the Holiday Season! Already we have received numerous catalogs and sale ads that proclaim, "Just in time for the Holidays!"

Along with all of the wishes for "Happy Holidays" and "Season's Greetings" come the seasonal complaints from Christians that that are offended by the use of "holiday" instead of Christmas. We'll say things like, "It's not a 'holiday tree' it's a Christmas Tree." We'll protest and boycott stores that have "holiday" sales but feel good about getting a good deal at a "Christmas" sale. I know that I've posted of these things in the past.

This year I want to offer a new alternative to the usual complaints:

How about we just smile and say, "Thank you...and I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!" We don't have to be smug or condescending. We can (and should) be absolutely sincere in our wish for there happiness and well being. At some point we're going to have to face the fact that WE are the minority--and we shouldn't be surprised. Jesus told us that road to destruction is broad and the way is easy. He also said that the road to life is narrow; the way is hard and few will find it.

How about we just share some love this year? What if we become peace makers and men (and women, of course) of goodwill? What if we bear glad tidings of Good News? I think that we could have a great Christmas Season and maybe help somebody else to have a truly meaningful Christmas, too.

There may even be an opportunity for a quiet moment and private conversation that you can ask somebody, "Why do you celebrate Christmas?"

Don't be surprised if you hear that it's a time for celebrating with family and friends or that it's mostly for the kids or any other reason. You may even run across somebody that celebrates the pagan holidays surrounding the winter solstice.

You can put them on the defensive by telling them that they're wrong and that the real reason for the season is the birth of Jesus or you can just tell them that the reason you celebrate is to recognized that "...God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
You can ask them, "Who is Jesus to you?" Listen to their answer. They are not wrong--you didn't ask them, "Who is Jesus?" You asked them to tell you who Jesus is them.

You can even ask if you can tell them who Jesus you.

I know that not all of my readers are Christians--some don't even believe in God. To all of those that do not celebrate this season as a recognition of the great love that God demonstrated in the little town of Bethlehem (and later on the Cross at Calvary)--I wish you a happy holiday season. I truly wish that you and your loved ones enjoy the time that you have together and the festivities of the season. I also wish you a peaceful and prosperous new year. And it is my prayer that you will come to know the God that loves you and the Savior that died for you.

To my Christian readers and friends--Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Go and tell the story. Tell it in your homes. Tell it in your churches. Tell it to your friends. Tell it to your neighbors. Over and over, tell the story: God loves you...and Jesus died for you!

John <><

Just for Fun

I picked this up from my blog-friend, Mike. While the title of this post says Just for Fun, there is plenty of truth here so pay attention!

Guys Rules For Women
At last a guy has taken the time to write this all down. Finally, the guys' side of the story. We always hear "the rules" from the female side. Now here are the rules from the male side. These are our rules!

1. Men are NOT mind readers.

2. Learn to work the toilet seat. You're a big girl. If it's up, put it down. We need it up, you need it down. You don't hear us complaining about you leaving it down.

3. Sunday sports. It's like the full moon or the changing of the tides. Let it be.

4. Shopping is NOT a sport. And no, we are never going to think of it that way.

5. Crying is blackmail.

6. Ask for what you want. Let us be clear on this one:
Subtle hints do not work!
Strong hints do not work!
Obvious hints do not work!
Just say it!

7. Yes and No are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question.

8. Come to us with a problem only if you want help solving it. That's what we do. Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.

9. A headache that lasts for 15 months is a problem. See a doctor.

10. Anything we said 6 months ago is inadmissible in an argument. In fact, all comments become null and void after 7 Days.

11. If you won't dress like the Victoria's Secret girls, don't expect us to act like soap opera guys.

12. If you think you're fat, you probably are. Don't ask us.

13. If something we said can be interpreted two ways and one of the ways makes you sad or angry, we meant the other one.

14. You can either ask us to do something or tell us how you want it done. Not both. If you already know best how to do it, just do it yourself.

15. Whenever possible, please say whatever you have to say during commercials.

16. Christopher Columbus did NOT need directions and neither do we.

17. All men see in only 16 colors, like Windows default settings. Peach, for example, is a fruit, not a color. Pumpkin is also a fruit. We have no idea what mauve is.

18. If it itches, it will be scratched. We do that.

19. If we ask what is wrong and you say "nothing," We will act like nothing's wrong. We know you are lying, but it is just not worth the hassle.

20. If you ask a question you don't want an answer to, expect an answer you don't want to hear.

21. When we have to go somewhere, absolutely anything you wear is fine...really.

22. Don't ask us what we're thinking about unless you are prepared to discuss such topics as baseball, the shotgun formation, or golf.

23. You have enough clothes.

24. You have too many shoes.

25. I am in shape. Round IS a shape!

Thank you for reading this. Yes, I know, I have to sleep on the couch tonight. But did you know men really don't mind that? It's like camping.

Enjoy the weekend--

John <><

Friday, November 13, 2009

Now What?

Last week a man found himself in court because of a Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) offense. It wasn't his first. The judge fined him and took away his driver's license. The very next day, this same person gets drunk and then gets behind the wheel of a car. He drives (at about 80mph) into traffic that is stopped. The young man that was in the car that was hit suffered severe head trauma and after a few days was removed from life support and died.

Perhaps there will be a day when the young man's family will hear of a life that was changed from the organs that were harvested from their loved one--sight from his eyes, a better quality of life from his kidneys or life itself from his liver or heart. Today there is just grief and the unanswerable question--How did this happen?

It is now obvious that the drunk driver cannot be allowed the freedom of choosing to break the law and driving drunk. He needs to spend the rest of his life without access to a car. I don't care if he gets drunk everyday ... in prison--but he needs to be sentenced to life in prison for taking this innocent young life.

My heart breaks for the family and friends of both of these men, but especially for the ones that will be burying their loved one this weekend.

John <><

Life is short and we have no promise of a tomorrow. If you were to find yourself standing before God today, and He asked you, "Why should I let you into My heaven?" --How would you answer? Could you give evidence of a perfect life?

The Bible tells us that we've all sinned and that the price of our sin is death--eternal separation from God. The Bible also tells us that God has given us a gift: Jesus has paid our debt--He died for us. To accept this gift of eternal life, you must believe that Jesus is Lord and profess your belief before God and man. As always, if you have questions or wish to discuss these things, my contact info is in my profile.

Monday, November 09, 2009

'Til Death Do Us Part

Last night there was a wedding at our church. It was not the first marriage for either the bride or the groom. This is not a judgment on them or on anybody that has been through the tragedy of divorce...just John thinking out loud (so to speak).

In the morning service, we heard of four couples that celebrated anniversaries this past week. A young couple--their seventh, and the twelfth for another couple. Then came an older couple celebrating number 50 (sorry guys, but if you're celebrating number 50, you're an older couple!) followed by friends celebrating number 62!

Wow! 50 years together! 62 years together!

What is it that allows one couple to remain faithful for all that time--to continue to love one another and stick it out through the hard times, and others to set aside their lifetime promise? I'm not wondering about why people get divorced--those reasons are often obvious. I'm wondering why (or how) people stay married. Is it as simple as keeping a promise? Is it as simple as loving and forgiving mistakes? 62 years--there had to be many times that this couple could have given up on each other and society would have shaken its head and went on without a second thought.

I wish that I could say that it's because they are committed Christians (they are), but we've all known committed Christians that get divorced--even ordained ministers. Is it just that that generation had different moral standards? Maybe, but divorce in nothing new (we find it in the Bible). I wish that somebody would share the secret of a successful lifelong marriage. I know that it can't be simple...or easy. If it was, we would all have long successful marriages.

Chris and I are at 28+ years...a far cry from 62. If you have a comment to help us make it the distance, please share it.

To the Langstons (50) and the Georges (62)--I tip my cyber hat to you! Congratulations to the four of you and my God grant you many more years together!

John <><

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Paybacks are a ... Blessing

It's been almost two years since I wrote a post about a friend that went out of his way to help my son when he had some car problems and was away from home. Today it's time for payback.

It will come as no surprise to those of you that have been reading for a while--I'm a big fan of intercessory prayer. I believe that God hears us and honors our prayers when we pray for one another. I also believe in name dropping. Just as I would desire that you pray for me by name, I think that there are benefits when I pray for others by name.

For example: you may often include in your prayers a prayer for our military personnel that are fighting overseas. I think that this is a worthwhile prayer--but I'm sure that if you have a friend or relative that is deployed you would mention them by name. I know that many Christians have a list of people that they pray for on a regular basis. If you are one of those people (or if you would like to start a daily prayer list) I have a couple of names for you.

Justin and Jarrod Bridwell are sons of my friend, Brian. They are both Marines that are heading to the Middle East. I know that Brian and his wife must be extremely proud of their sons. I also know that they will be praying hard for them over the coming months. Here's the thing--I've already told Brian that his boys will be in my prayers. I'm asking you all--my blog readers and Facebook friends--to put them on your prayer lists as well. It's a small thing to ask of you. It's a small thing to ask of God. It's a big thing to Brian and his family to know that there are many Believers presenting the names of Justin and Jarrod Bridwell before the throne of God every day. If you have family in the military service that you would like for me to include in my prayers, feel free to post their names in a comment.

For my friends in the USA, we live in a great country. We owe it to our service men and women to honor them with our prayers. All of them have somebody at home that misses them and worries about them and is waiting for their safe return. So if you think of it, when you offer up a prayer for Justin and Jarrod, remember their mom and dad, too.

John <><

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Something New for Halloween

My Pastor friend David posted this link a few days ago. A book burning. Talk about your church Halloween gimmicks! These folks have some misguided ideas about the translation of The Bible. Actually they have some misguided ideas about the translation of any book and the dynamics of our language. I don't doubt that they are followers of God, but they are under a false sense of what is an accurate translation if they still believe that the best English translation for today's English speaking people was done 400 years ago.

You would think that if they wanted the true and undefiled Word of God that they would only accept it in its original language (a la Islam and the Qur'an) , yet the writer of the web page admits to not knowing either Hebrew or Greek. Apparently they don't believe that the Holy Spirit is still able to help men to translate the Word into the language of the times and that gift ceased with the writing of the King James Version.

In any case, this is book burning's finest hour--the burning of Bibles that don't meet with their approval!

John <><

Friday, October 30, 2009

Something Different

Today I had the wonderful privilege of entertaining a small group of senior adults at The Fremont in Springfield MO. The Fremont is a retirement community that has a regular guest on certain Friday afternoons. This was the second time that I've been asked to come and share some magic. (It really is nice to be asked back.)

Since the venue for these folks is more intimate than I'm used to performing in, I decided to use some of the effects that I really like but never get the chance to perform. I love close-up magic. It is the magic that I enjoy watching. It is the magic that I most appreciate the work and skill of the performer. Unfortunately, it is also the type of magic that I never get to perform. Since I don't normally have the venue to perform close-up magic, and since it really does take a LOT of practice to perform it well--I never spend the time practicing to performance level skill.

For today, I chose a few simple effects and worked them to be able to wow my audience. I hope that they had as much fun as I did! I'll need to work on some more close-up effects and develop some venues for performing. I don't know that it is something that I would use as a ministry opportunity--I would just like to find a venue to perform some close-up stuff. After all, shouldn't a magician be able to perform anytime, anywhere?

Gotta go practice...

John <><

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Random Thoughts

Wow! It's been a little while since I've posted anything here at Out of My Hat. I'd say it was because I've been busy, but that isn't completely true. I just haven't felt like taking the time to write something worthwhile. I'm not saying that this is anything that is really special--in fact, it will just be some random thoughts that I have yet to formulate into a post that might someday make sense.

My ministry year is coming to a close as far as revivals and magic shows. I'll be in Seligman MO tomorrow morning, Kansas City on Monday and Tuesday for the Missouri Baptist Convention and Shady Grove MO on November 1st. I also have a magic show at a senior adult community on Oct. 30th. It has been a busy year and I am greatly encouraged by the opportunities that I've had this year. I've learned some things about people, churches, myself and about God.

I'm not sure, but I think that God laughs at me on a regular basis. He surprises me and He keeps me humble. There are times when I feel like I've preached a strong message and see no response and other times when I feel that things went so poorly...and people come to trust Jesus as their Savior. Some churches really surprise me with their generosity and God has used others to keep me humble and remind me that it's not about the money. It's not about me, either. It always has to be about Him. It has to be about His great love for us and about the Redemption that is available only through His Son, Jesus.

I'm starting to realize that He has given me a real gift when it comes to working with kids. I don't know why. I'm really not all that fond of the little buggers. I get the feeling that a summer schedule full of kid's camps is in my future--retirement is not that far away. I have never marketed to the Baptists Associations for summer camps and this year I did three as camp pastor, one for a single night and turned two down due to scheduling conflicts. I was asked to preach at more revivals this year than in the past and continue to be invited to Associational Evangelism Conferences.

This air traffic gig is really starting to get in the way of my personal life and personal ministry!

On to other thoughts...

I'm trying to lose some weight (again). Two different ways and two different weights. The first is from the realization that we carry around a lot of unnecessary garbage in the way of guilt, anger, hate, frustrations with others, etc., etc. I'm doing my best to set all of that aside. While it hasn't done much to reduce my waistline or my actual weight, it has helped my spirit to seem lighter and we really don't need heavy spirits or heavy bodies.

The healthy sibling of the family is lamenting his own weight gain and physical condition and made a personal commitment of 28 days to eat better and exercise. I decided to join him (along with our younger sister) and have done well in the first week with the eating part. I knew that the exercise thing wasn't really going to happen for me but have decided to increase my activity level by not using the elevator at work. For reference--the tower cab is on the 7th floor, the break room on the 6th, the NATCA office the 5th and the radar room is on the 4th floor. With twenty stair steps between floors it makes it 120 stairs to the tower cab. I've been making it a point to go outside or to the base building on my breaks and have made four trips up and down the stairs each day last week except for once when I left early to give platelets at the Red Cross. I don't know if I've lost any weight yet but will check tomorrow morning. Guess I'd better take care tonight as we go out for dinner with friends.

I'm starting to feel more driven to writing but so far, that's all. I have yet to actually write anything much less submit it for publication. Perhaps in 2010.

I still need to work on new magic effects and expand the types of venues where I perform. I think that will increase my options when I retire and besides--it's fun.

Okay. That's it for now. I'll try to better in the coming days. Thanks for stopping by.

John <><

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ministry Blues

I'm a little bit down these days. I know that "Revivals" are supposed to elevate--revive--our spirits, but that hasn't been the case in the past few weeks. I've become depressed at the state of our churches and am wondering why we even bother with doing "church" the way that we are in the 21st century.

Our churches are more like clubs, We even have memberships! We haven't made them exclusive (not officially) and generally make membership simple (and meaningless) to attain, but we do gather in our safe little holy huddles and maintain a cloistered division between us and the communities that we live in.

We have set aside the command to make disciples and have contracted that duty to our vocational clergy. If the church isn't sharing the Gospel, it must be their fault. That's what we are paying them for. Unfortunately, according to the Bible, the job of the pastor/teacher/evangelist is to equip the followers of Jesus to share the Gospel with the world around us. I guess that we are not doing a very good job.

In fact, we seem to have complicated the Christian lifestyle beyond what we can manage on a day to day basis. We have program after program on sharing our faith. We move from the latest and greatest program to the new and improved latest and greatest program. When something seems to be working well for a period of time, we get tired of it and want something new--something different. Teaching programs has replaced teaching the commands of our Lord. We are very busy at doing nothing that has an eternal impact--but at least we're very busy. And while we work at our programs, people are going to hell.

It's not supposed to be this hard. The Jews had 613 Laws that they were to follow. Some were "do" laws. Some were "do not" laws. Jesus made it simple. When asked which of the laws was the greatest, Jesus said that the greatest law is to love God with everything that we have (Deut 6-5). Then He gave them a bonus--the second greatest law: Love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18). He said that the other 611 laws (as well as everything from the Prophets) are based on these two.

Jesus didn't leave us with a program to share our faith, He left us with a command to share our faith--no Share Jesus Without Fear; no FAITH; no Drawing the Net; no Monday night visitation programs--just a simple command to make disciples. Go make disciples--students. Teach them to obey the things that I've taught you. Don't worry, I'll be with you. (Matt 28:19-20)

Could it really be that...simple?

I challenge you (again). Tell somebody, "God loves you. Jesus died for you."
Do it today.

John <><

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Blogging from the Southwest

Yes, I know that it has been well over a week since I've posted. For a good part of that, I was just too busy. But other than that, I've just been in a posting doldrum kind of state. Oh there is certainly plenty to blog about, but I'm trying to keep things uplifting and positive. mention here of the dismal way that the Cardinals finished out their last few games and just looking forward to the post-season play that begins this week. I know that they will be great with all pitchers feeling strong and everybody doing their part in the field and at the plate. Go Cardinals!

Chris and I are wrapping up a quick weekend getaway to Las Vegas. We arrived Friday afternoon and will be leaving early tomorrow morning. Today (10/4) is Chris' birthday.

Friday night we saw the Criss Angel show BeLIEve! It is one of the areas Cirque du Soleil productions and lived up to the mediocre reviews that it has received. Not much Cirque in the production and unfortunately, not much magic, either. If you're planning a trip to Vegas and want to see a magic show, Lance Burton's show at the Monte Carlo is good and Mac King has a great afternoon show at Harrah's. There are others that I haven't seen but would recommend trying them before the Mindfreak show at the Luxor. As for the Cirque du Soleil shows, this doesn't really qualify as a true Cirque production...go see one of the others.

It's funny how you can travel half way across the country and run into people that you never run into at home. Such was the case Friday night when we ran into our eye doctor and his wife at the Criss Angel show. Their seats were closer to the front but off to the side. He said that they could see much of the behind the scene stuff that the audience is not supposed to see. This is a bad deal for magic. I mean--we all know that there are trap doors, cables, wire's, mirrors, yada, yada... but nobody is supposed to see that.

Years ago, when I was working at one of Kirby Van Burch's magic stores, I had the privilege of watching several of his shows from backstage. I always told people that it was a made for television quality production...every night. Kirby took great care to block out any seats that might provide an audience member with glimpses due to bad angles. I would have thought that the Criss Angel producers would have done the same. Though the show was good entertainment, I felt let down from both the perspective of a magic show and a Cirque production.

Saturday we didn't have any plans and just enjoyed a leisurely day in Vegas.
Sunday we spent the day at the Grand Canyon. It was a cool day and very windy. They said the temperature at the west rim was about 55 degrees (F) and the winds were around 50 mph. They canceled the helicopter rides and there were no aircraft flying around the canyon due to the winds. It also made getting close to the edge a bit more exciting. All in all, it was a good day.

One thing that we did different on this trip to Vegas was staying in a hotel off of the strip. We're staying at The Residence Inn less than a mile from the strip and they have shuttles that go back and forth from The Mandalay Bay every 30 minutes. Since we are not gamblers, this worked out well for us. We have a much bigger room, breakfast, quieter atmosphere and still have easy access to the strip and airport.

Well it's an early flight in the morning so I'll wrap this up. I'm off work tomorrow (10/5), work Tuesday and Wednesday, then I'm off to New Hope in Holden MO for a Thursday through Sunday revival. I'll be back in Springfield for a Saturday morning American Christian Writer's meeting then to Holden for the evening service. Gonna be a great week! Hope that you have a great week, too!

John <><

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Remember When Conservatives Were...Conservative?

I know that it really irks some people that I would call myself a "conservative." This is because we have very different ideas of what "political conservatism" really is. Certainly, there are many that are old enough to remember the conservatism of the 60's and 70's, but many of today's conservatives are too young to know what real conservatism is. Today's conservative is more defined around a political party and is absolutely intolerant of other ideas. There is no middle ground for today's political conservative. Political parties have taken on a battle stance with a winner-take-all mentality and it has caused great swings in the make up and control of the ruling bodies in our country.

I remember when a "conservative" wasn't defined by party; when there were conservative Democrats (there still are) and conservative Republicans(?). Conservatives were for fiscal accountability, moral sensibility and social responsibility. Unfortunately, today neither party has representatives nor platforms that reflect this type of conservatism. Everything has moved to the extremes--radical right and liberal left. The extremes are so far apart that one blogger refers to the middle as a vast wasteland. A conservative Democrat is seen so far right of the far left that he is abandoned by his own party. A conservative (by the standards of the '70's) Republican is seen too far to the left of the radical right and they are also abandoned by the party. Yesterday's conservative has become today's moderate and is (for all practical purposes) an independent in a two party system.

I believe that the vast majority of Americans find themselves somewhere in the middle without a voice in Congress.

The book The Death of Conservatism is now on my list of books to read. I don't know much about the author, Sam Tanenhaus, but sense that he is farther to left than I am and perhaps gives a much more liberal slant to this topic than I have. However the topic (as well as this interview) intrigue me. I believe that the conservatives of the '60's and '70's no longer exist as conservatives. The values of those conservatives have been hijacked and morphed into unrecognizable ideologies of a radical movement. When you have 30 minutes, visit the link and watch the interview (thanks, Mike).

My other title for this post was Here I Am, Stuck in the Middle With You.

John <><

Monday, September 21, 2009

Putting Our Past Behind Us

I had a great weekend! I spent Saturday afternoon at Perche Baptist Church, just a little bit north of Columbia MO. It's been a while since I've had the opportunity to visit with my friend, Pastor Cole.

Cole is a great guy, but he pretty much stinks at "washers." Washers is a game that is similar to horse shoes, but much more portable. There are different variations of the game and Cole used the excuse that he was used to a different style pit. If I had been throwing as badly as he was, I would have faked an injury or used a similar excuse, too!

I hope that everybody had a great time. I know that I did.

I drove back to Springfield to meet Hannah and her boyfriend at Buffalo Wild Wings for UFC 103. The fights were just starting when I arrived. I enjoyed some good food, fight night and got to pay for their date, too!

Sunday morning I was up and on the road for Bakersfield to wrap up the Revival meetings at the First Baptist Church. It's always hard to gauge how congregations respond to the urging of the Holy Spirit. I do believe that many made genuine commitments to examine their Christian walks and to make the necessary changes to become more like Jesus and to tell the story of God's great love.

All-in-all, I put 667.5 miles on the car in the two days--1,113.6 for the week (Sunday-Sunday).

But that was last week's glory and there is much to do ahead of me.

This will be a similar week. I'll be just a few miles farther down the road from Bakersfield at Bethel Baptist Church in West Plains MO for a Wed-Sunday Revival. Because of work, I'll have to make the 200+ mile round trip at least three times and will probably make it four. Such is the way of things. I am looking forward to my time there and to seeing a former coworker. I am hoping to find that he is enjoying his retirement immensely and highly recommends it to anybody that is eligible! (2 yrs, 3 mos, 15 days)

I hope that the week will find you enjoying God's great love. If you find yourself in need of some encouragement or prayer, feel free to contact me by comment, e-mail or phone (info in my profile).

Remember--God loves you and Jesus died for you!

John <><

Saturday, September 19, 2009

On Health Care Reform

I haven't weighed in on the Health Reform debate too much...for a number of reasons.

I definitely believe that our system needs to be reformed. #37 in the world ranking for health care is simply unacceptable.

I am NOT in favor of one mega-bill that is going to fix all of our health care problems and can't understand why the "smart" people think that this is the best way to address the problem. (Perhaps it is because they see "problem" when, in fact, they should see many "problems")

I think that several smaller bills, each focused on one area the system, would be easier to write, read, pass and enforce.

I think that Americans, in general, need to change our attitudes toward good health. We need to look to more healthy lifestyles and preventative care rather than looking to the medical/pharmaceutical industry to fix us once we've messed up our own bodies by our poor living habits. I know that you can't put that into a bill, but maybe some incentives to live healthier lives could find a way into a reform bill.

I read this CNN News article the other day and find that 45,000 deaths in the USA that are contributed to people not having insurance and fearing the huge medical bills is appalling.

I cringe when I hear people suggest that decent health care is a privilege and not a right. Apparently, some people think that you should have wealth, status or make some contribution to society before you deserve health care. (funny that they are often the same people that fear the non-existent "death panels" that would determine your worth to society)

I wish I knew the answer. I wish that Congress knew the answer. The one thing that I think we all know is that there has to be some change. It really is time to set aside the politics and work towards a solution. People should not have to choose between bankruptcy and medical attention.

Sorry for the rant...

John <><

Friday, September 18, 2009

Work Related

The run-off election for the president of the National Air Traffic Controller's Association (NATCA) and the Central Region vice-president is over. I have to say that I am very disappointed in the results for our national president. I wish Paul Rinaldi the best but will have to do some real mental gymnastics to overcome my fears that we are in for more of the mediocre (at best) leadership that we've experienced for the past few years. Sorry, Ruth. I know that you must be disappointed and yet I also know that you are all NATCA. Thank you for your service to the membership.

As for the Central Region...congratulations to Kevin Peterson and condolences to Andy Heifner. This was really a no lose situation for our region. Both of these guys are excellent and I'm sure that they will both continue to serve in their own ways. Kevin--let me know how I can help.

The next big item...Contract Ratification. Soon we'll know if the membership voted to ratify the proposed contract. Thanks to the team for their work. I know that the arbitrated parts are disappointing to us and I'm still trying to figure out how the arbitrators got from from their scathing comments of the FAA to using the imposed work rules as a base in their arbitration decision. I think that we'll see a great number of grievances as we enter back into some oversight of management and get away from the management style of there are no rules except the ones we make up. I also think that Kevin will be right in his element as he deals with these issues and represents us at the regional level. I hope that the FAA will get back to working with NATCA on system modernization so that systems will actually work when we try to bring them online.

In spite of its shortfalls, I submitted my vote to ratify the proposed contract. If you're a NATCA member, I hope that you will also vote for it.

John <><

Sunday, September 13, 2009

An Oxymoron?

I want to preface this post by saying that it is primarily directed to my Christian brothers and sisters. Feel free to read it or skip it as you please. Just remember that I'm making the assumption that I am writing to fellow followers of Jesus.

Oxymorons are those strange combinations of contradictory words that we often use.

Things like: That tastes awfully good or She's pretty ugly.
There are the standard jokes like: Military intelligence or happily married.
Some have become so common that we no longer think of them as oxymorons--virtual reality or the unbiased opinion.

We often fail to recognize them in our daily conversations (unless you're a linguistic sort of guy like Bilbo). Here's one that I keep running into--it's one that most people wouldn't consider to be an oxymoron. (Okay, so I may be the only one that does and my wife thinks I'm silly for mentioning it.)

Christian World View.

You also see it as Christian Worldview.

Don't get me wrong here. I recognize that Christians should see the world from a different perspective, but I see a Christian view of our world as a better option. A Christian view and a World view are opposites.

The Christian World View seems to focus on setting Christians apart as the High and Mighty, self-righteous, defenders of all that is Holy authority on Earth. The Christian World View tells how we should view the economy, the morality, the philosophies, the media, virtually every aspect of our world--from a biblical perspective. I find this very complicated and have a hard time with other people telling me how I should think about all of these different issues. I don't need somebody to tell me why the world is wrong based on a Scripture text.

I think that I can simplify the whole matter for all of you Christians that are struggling to figure it all out.

I think that it is much simpler to view the world as...lost. We shouldn't be surprised that an ungodly world acts in ungodly ways. The Bible says that we are like travelers in a foreign land. That this land is not our home. Our citizenship is in heaven.

When I look at the task of changing the laws and practices of this world to reflect a Biblical perspective, I am overwhelmed. It seems like an impossible task. I think that it is enough of a challenge for me to find just one person to disciple in the teachings of my Savior Jesus. If that one person would learn to make personal decisions based on the teachings of the Bible rather than on the laws of man I would count it as a victory.

If each one of us would find a person--just one person--to disciple in the coming months, wouldn't that have a greater impact than all of the videos and articles on Christian World Views that are directed at Christians and do nothing to address the lostness of the unbelievers? Isn't that the command that Jesus gave us? "...go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."

It seem as if the world has had a far greater influence on the Church than the Church has had on the world. We've adapted to the world by drawing up our own laws of how we are to act (and judge one another according to those laws) rather than following the grace and mercy of our Father in heaven and the teachings of His Son, Jesus. We've become an organization rather than the Bride of Christ.

Changing the laws of our world will not change the hearts of the people living around us. Only God can change their hearts. Shouldn't our purpose be to bring the love of God and the Good News of Salvation to the world around us.

Jesus looked on the world with compassion. He saw fields ready for harvest but there were too few workers. Aren't we supposed to be looking with His eyes?

Yesterday, I challenged the members of the First Baptist Church of Bakersfield MO to tell at least one person that God loves them and Jesus died for them. I made it easy. I gave them this out. I told them that all they have to do is say, "The preacher at our church Sunday said that we have tell at least one person 'God loves you and Jesus died for you' and I picked you."

Are you up for that challenge? If you are a non-Christian and still reading, I want you to know--God loves you and Jesus died for you. For the Christian reader, you have the same easy out that I gave to the church in Bakersfield--just say, "I read this blog and the guy challenged us to tell at least one person 'God loves you and Jesus died for you' and I picked you."

Make the world a better place--tell somebody about Jesus!

John <><

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Who Am I (again)?

I got to thinking this week about the person of John that different people see in different settings. I wrote about this some time ago--hence the "again" part in the title. As much as we might try to be the same person on a consistent basis, we are different in each setting.

To the people that I work with, I'm John-the air traffic controller. They know about other aspects of my life, but I'm primarily a controller in their eyes. To the many churches that invite me as an evangelist, I' evangelist. Some know that I have a full time job, some don't. To the kids, I'm primarily a magician and a story teller. Overall, I've always thought that my personality is pretty consistent from one area of life to another.

Recently, I've started to wonder about that. I've noticed a difference in people when they are able to hide behind a degree of anonymity. For example: One day this past week, as I was driving on one of the many rural highways in southwest Missouri, a car pulled out in front of me. The highway speed limit is 55 mph. There was one truck close behind me and then nothing behind him. Now, I didn't have to slam on my brakes to keep from hitting this senior gentleman with the handicap license plates, but I did have to brake to the point of dropping (quickly) to about 30 mph to avoid rear ending him. While honking the horn and loudly voicing my displeasure at his disruption of my nice cruise home, he simply looked at me in his rear view mirror and held up his hands and shrugged his shoulders as he slowly inched his way up to about 50 mph on the two lane highway with just enough traffic and just enough hills to keep me from passing him.

I'm not sure if his gesture was and act of contrition or if he was taunting me. In any case, I eventually calmed down and had to kind of laugh at myself. If this had happened coming out of our church parking lot and was one of our senior adults, I would have stopped if necessary and waved to them as I allowed them to go on their way. Why shouldn't I allow the same gracious behavior to this gentleman that I don't know. Or why would I allow this stranger to anger me so easily. Is it as simple as he doesn't know me; I don't have to actually confront him; and so I am going to allow myself to be rude and hateful?

I'm thinking that if I would have hit the guy, I probably would have made sure that he was all right and NOT blown up about him pulling out in front of me. Sometimes, personal confrontation has a way of tempering my emotions. I've noticed that I am much more likely to be rude over the phone than in person. If people know me, I'm more likely to try to be the person that they know (you know, the gentle spirit, kind and loving guy, etc.) rather than the ugly guy that lurks beneath.

Perhaps, that is part of the problem that we have in our society today. It is easy to be anonymous. We isolate ourselves in our cars. We text instead of talk. We read and comment via the internet. We send unwelcome e-mailings to the masses. And we forget that good manners and not-so-common courtesy is for all occasions--not just when we are face to face.

There are many that read this blog that I know and that know me. There are many more that I will never meet outside of this virtual blog world. I know that some of you are atheists and some are not. You come from different faiths--Evangelicals, Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, and others. Some are politically active--as conservatives, liberals and moderates--and some are not. Some of you have few choices when it comes to politics as you come from many different countries and political systems. Some of you are very young and trying to make your way in the work world. Some of you are retired. The point is--we are all different. And being different (or having differences) is no reason to be rude to each other.

When I come to my senses after an episode like the one with the driver pulling out in front of me, the first thought that I always have is, "I wonder if I'll ever run into that person at a church where I've been asked to preach?"

It's a disturbing thought. It puts me in a place that gives me an ineffective testimony. Rudeness never inspires dialogue. Do you think that this old man would ever pay attention to anything I have to say should he recognize me as the guy that was yelling at him on the highway?

I know that some people are easier to love than others. I'm probably not one of the easiest...but God loves me, just the same. And He loves you, too. And He calls on me to love you.

So, if I try to be more lovable (that's to make it easier for you and the people that are around me), would you agree to trying to be more lovable for the people that are around you? I have a feeling that a little respect, some good manners and some common courtesy would go a long ways toward making our little corner of the world a better place.

A long time ago, I received this comment on one of my posts. The first part quotes something I wrote followed by the comment:

"Whatever your political affiliation may be, we must remember to pray for those that set policy and practice for our country. The Bible tells us that all authority on Earth is given by heaven."

We *must*? I am an atheist. Are you one of those who believes that the only moral authority is that which comes from the Bible? If so, we have no starting point from which to discuss.

I responded with another post. My virtual atheist rarely posts comments anymore, so I don't know if he still reads or not. He doesn't post on his blog often and hasn't had a feed to subscribe so I only check in on him on occasion. I just added him to my Google Follower, so I should be notified when he posts. In any case, we became virtual friends for a while and even shared a couple of e-mails back and forth. For some reason (and I'm really not sure why) this is a guy that I think I'll get to meet someday. My first instinct was to respond with a wise crack like "God doesn't believe in atheists." I'm glad that I didn't...and I hope that he still reads from time to time.

One of my favorite passages of Scripture is found in 1 Corinthians, chapter 9. Paul writes:

19Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

In between the insignificant posts on what goes on in the head of John, I want to return to telling you that God loves you and sent His Son, Jesus to die for you. I won't pretend to be Paul, becoming all things to all men. But I will try to keep the dialogue open so that we can discuss heaven and hell and how I believe that you can get into one and stay out of the other. With all of my heart, I believe that the only way to heaven is to trust your eternal soul to Jesus.

As always, we can discuss your questions privately or publicly, via email or comments, or you can call me or send a text message.

Still struggling to be more like Him,

John <><

Monday, September 07, 2009

Labor Day

I hope that you are one of the millions of Americans that have an opportunity to celebrate Labor Day with family and friends. On a normal Labor Day, I would be at work with thousands of other men and women that are watching the skies. Since I am still waiting for medical clearance, I get to enjoy the beautiful Ozark's day at home.

Too often we take for granted all of the benefits that we have because of the victories of the Labor movement. In the Ozarks, labor unions are not well thought of and often blamed for all of the economic woes of our country. The people that complain about unions fail to realize that their 40 hour/5 day work week is a result of a battle won by organized labor.

Here are a few others:

-minimum wage
-paid vacations
-paid sick leave
-paid holidays
-health benefits
-Family Friendly Medical Leave
-overtime pay
-a safe working environment
-compensation for on the job injuries
-freedom from harassment

These are a few of the many battles that have been fought and won by labor unions. If you think that your employer would bless you with these benefits on their own--you're wrong. Our working conditions in the USA have evolved over the last 120 years from 12 hour days, 6 days per week with no benefits and no security to what they are today. The right to safe working environments is taken for granted today, but many miners, factory workers and others suffered brutal accidents or death before safety in work places became the standard. Even our highways are safer because of the actions taken by the Teamsters.

However you spend your Labor, I wish you a great day. Support Labor. Celebrate Labor.

John <><

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Who/What Do You Trust?

I'm not a real big fan of Glenn Beck, especially since he's gone over to Fox News. I think that his candid observations of government and life have taken on the slant of his new employer. He was less offensive before, but still able to point to our government's faults and society's weakness.

Last night, I was killing some time while Chris was shopping and picked up a copy of his book, An Inconvenient Book. I'm sure that there are many areas in his book with which I will disagree. However, the last part of his introduction is one that I truly like and want to share with you.

He writes:

Putting your trust in people to do the right thing, especially those people to whom we've lent our power, will almost always result in disappointment. That's why you have to put your trust in things that are everlasting; things that won't ebb and flow with the times or change their core values based on some poll.
Things like our Constitution and our Creator.

The words contained in our Constitution, while written by our founding fathers, come directly from God--as do the rights they grant us.
Read them. Know them. Believe in them.
When everything around us is crumbling,
they will be our only true guide.
I guess that what I've learned over the last year is really something that I've known all along: The best way to solve whatever problems we face and keep America great is by putting our trust in God, our faith in the Constitution, and, most importantly, neither of those things into the people we elect.
Or...we could just sit back and hope for change. The choice is yours.

Truthfully, there is a fine line between too much government and too little. As a society, we have social responsibilities. Of course there will be things that are labeled as socialist--it's the nature of social beings.

Our society has to make room for those that excel and prosper. We (I) certainly don't want a society that discourages achievement and the pursuit of a better life. Prosperity needs to be encouraged. Prosperity makes us a better society.

On the other hand, our society needs to take care of our poor, sick and needy people (Jesus teaches this, too). Just as there are differences in being too lazy to work and unable to work, there are differences is being wealthy and being greedy.

Unfortunately, the "too lazy" have made it hard for the unable and the "greedy" have given the wealthy a bad name. Greed and laziness are both anti-social behaviors (and anti-Christian behaviors).

I want to challenge you today--have a social mind set. I'm not telling you to be a "socialist." Just be aware that we live in a society. Some people need our help. Some people help us. We are in this together...and we have to make it work. Our kids are counting on us.

John <><

Thursday, September 03, 2009

What Do You Do When the Other Side is Reasonable?

I was never a big Ted Kennedy fan. I certainly wasn't a Kennedy hater. I was (an am) pretty neutral when it came to the late Senator Kennedy. I was pretty shocked to hear many of the post death comments that came from people--especially the Catholics that were glad that he is dead and have hopes of him burning in eternal torment. Sen. Kennedy certainly took a different stand than the Catholic Church on some issues. Differing opinions on social/moral issues shouldn't rate the eternal death judgment from others...I think that Judgment stuff still falls under the heading of "Things That Jesus Gets to Do"--at least for those that are of a Christian persuasion. As far as politics are concerned, the Senator was pretty good at reaching across the aisle in efforts to hear the arguments from the other side.

One of the other blogs that I read posted this link to the text of a speech that the Senator gave in 1983 at Liberty University. (yeah, that Liberty University--Jerry Falwell's) You Tube has a clip from that speech. I include it here to entice you to read the text.

John <><

Monday, August 31, 2009

Living in a Vacuum

I love living in the Ozarks! The climate is moderate through all four seasons. The landscape is beautiful with hills, rivers, lakes and beautiful skies. The people are pretty down-to-earth folks (though not necessarily pretty folks) that (for the most part) love their families, their country and their God (although I'm not really sure what order to put those in). If I were to pick a downside of living in the Ozarks, it would have to be the lack of diversity. We are a pretty pale section of the American population. Of course, there are many that would argue that this is a good thing...I disagree. It gives us a pretty narrow view of others and breeds all kinds of prejudice and misunderstandings of other races, nationalities, religious beliefs and cultures.

I grew up in a small town that was (and still is) a lot like Ozark. In all of the years that I lived there, there weren't more than a few African-American families that moved into town...and they never stayed for long. We had plenty of families with Mexican backgrounds...but that wasn't the same (or as bad) as being black. All in all, my sixties childhood was spent with white kids, white families in a white town.

I am surprised (and thankful) that I have had to overcome as few prejudices as I have. Hopefully, my kids will have even fewer.

That is a challenge when you consider that our part of the Midwest is pretty much white, middle class America, located in the middle of the Bible belt. Although we are taught to love our fellow man (friends and enemies alike) in the Bible, it is easier to deal with what we don't know by maintaining a defensive posture and expecting the worst from people than by opening our minds and hearts to a different way of thinking, acting or living. The hispanic population here is pretty invisible (by their choice). The Asian population is growing and the African-American population is still considered a suspicious minority.

There is a part of me that has difficulty with the changes that are politically correct--African/American vs. black, Asian vs. oriental, Hispanic or Latino vs. Mexican or other Latino Cultures. But I really need to make those changes because I don't want to unknowingly offend someone. It should be our goal to learn about and understand the cultures that are living around us and not to speak about them out of our ignorance and hatred.

There are certainly cultures that have evolved with (and value) a purity in their race or culture. That is not the case in the United States. We are a country of immigrants. We are a blend of cultures. We have many different religious beliefs. We are a nation with many different backgrounds and origins...including the Native Americans that were here before the rest of us. We are far from a pure race. But we are Americans. I believe that our differences are part of what makes us the greatest nation on Earth. (Yes, I still believe that we are the greatest.) The people of the United States are free to come and go as they please. We travel from state to state, leave the country for vacation and business and have very few restrictions. If we want to move to another country, no one will stop you.

Though we have overcome many of the prejudices that have caused problems in the past, we still cling to others. If you are gay or Muslim (or a Democrat), you can expect to be hated in the Ozarks. Some still cling to racial prejudices (and hatred) that is very unbecoming for those that claim to be upstanding Christian citizens. In many communities, it is still the "good ol' boy" network that rules. I am often surprised by the prejudicial garbage that I still hear coming from otherwise decent people. Perhaps it is a result of living in the vacuum of the Ozarks.

I hope that as my kids grow up and expand their worlds, that they will learn about other cultures and beliefs. I hope that they will make friends and experience foods and traditions from others as well as sharing their own heritage, traditions and beliefs. I think that there is more than enough hatred in the world. It's time for us to share some love...or at least some tolerance.

John <><

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

MWT Fail

In spite of the success at the first two Maintenance Wakefulness Tests (MWT), today's test was a failure. The tech monitoring the test told me that I fell asleep for just over two minutes during the second test period. I don't recall dozing off, but that's what the test showed.

They tell me I have to wait a week before I can test again so I'll be off of the boards for another week. Sacre Bleu!

My sick leave balance is pretty low so I'll have to take advantage of my manager's generosity and spend a few days doing administrative stuff. Tomorrow I'll spend my day of sick leave and make the trip to St. Louis with some buddies from church and we'll take in some Cardinal baseball, the obligatory ball park dog, a few White Castles and the after ballgame trip to Ted Drewe's. The problem with only having four tickets is choosing just three friends. I think my pastor's disappointed that he missed the cut...maybe next time.

Anyways, I'm looking forward to a great day.

John <><

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Real Trick

After viewing yesterday's post about a young man using a magician to help with his marriage proposal, I was thinking to myself--"The real trick isn't the proposal--it's keeping the marriage together."

For as long as I can remember, the failure rate for marriages has been around 50%. Half of all marriages end in divorce. It doesn't seem to matter if you get married in a church or at the court house. It doesn't seem to matter if you are younger or older. About half of the time marraiges end in divorce.

The reasons vary--money, infidelity, career moves, family problems (in-laws), etc. But the reasons for divorce are often overcome by couples that find a way to stay together. I imagine that if half of marriages end in divorce, there are many more that are void of love but the couples stay married because of kids, religious beliefs, traditions or not wanting to admit failure and suffer the shame they would feel before their families and friends.

So what's the trick? Is there a secret to a successful marriage? How do you know that you want to spend the rest of your life with that one person? Do we still think of marriage as a life long commitment? And if not...well how do you know when it's over? How do you reach the decision that I'm not going to love you anymore? How can somebody knowingly do something that will hurt the person that they've committed to love forever? And how can the offended person choose not to forgive the person that they've loved--faults and all--to this point?

How can one person just walk away and leave another person totally devastated? It would be so cool if I could tell you that putting God at the center of your marriage is the answer. But there are people that don't believe in God that have successful marriages and there are very religious people that can't seem to keep it together.

What is the secret?

In a couple of weeks, Chris and I will hit the 28 year mark. One might wonder why we ever fell in love to begin with. I love baseball, she doesn't like any sports. She's a handwashing neat freak, I'm a slob. She watches Jon and Kate + eight and The Duggers, I watch NCIS and CSI. We are as different as night and day. If I think about it too much, it scares me. In another year Hannah will graduate from high school and we will face the empty nest...another critical (and often final) moment in the life of a marriage.

I know that one might think--twenty-eight years seems like a pretty successful run. But what if we don't make it to thirty-eight? Can you say that we had a successful marriage for 30+ years and then...? Is it really a success if you don't take it all the way?

Sure, I could tell you how the street magician amazed the audience and helped the young man pull off a very memorable proposal...but I would rather tell you how they might beat the odds and enjoy a lifetime of loving one another.

What's your secret?

John <><

Wow! I just noticed that this is post #400! Thanks for reading!