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 <><