Friday, March 18, 2011

Reverse Thinking

I shared this piece on Facebook a few days ago. It's a great piece of writing, both for its message and its creativity. Because not all of my blog readers are Facebook friends (or are Facebook friends that get my updates in their feeds), I thought that I'd post it here as well.

You may want to listen to it a second time and pay a little bit closer attention to the sentence structure so that you can truly appreciate the creative process.



Thursday, March 17, 2011

Funny Stuff

This joke was posted by my cousin on her "Friday Funnies" Facebook status.
Okay, so it's only Thursday (here) but since she lives on the other side of the globe she's right on time with her post!

Thanks, Etcha.

This is why RETIRED people don’t have any spare time!!!! 

Working people frequently ask retired people what they do to make their days interesting. 
Well, for example, the other day, Bev my wife and I went into town and visited a shop. 

When we came out, there was a warden writing out a parking ticket.

We went up to him and I said, 'Come on, man, how about giving a senior citizen a break?'
He ignored us and continued writing the ticket.
I called him an “a--hole”. He glared at me and started writing another ticket for having worn-out tires.

So Bev called him a “s--t head”. He finished the second ticket and put it on the windshield with the first.
Then he started writing more tickets.
This went on for about 20 minutes.
The more we abused him, the more tickets he wrote.

Just then our bus arrived, and we got on it and went home.

We try to have a little fun each day now that we're retired.

It's important at our age.


Monday, March 14, 2011

A Post about Nothing

As I sit this morning I'm reminded of the Seinfeld episode where they pitch a "show about nothing".  That's what this is--a post about nothing.

Okay, so eventually it has to be about something, but for starters...I've got nothing.  It could be another day without a post at Out of My Hat, (there have been plenty of those lately) but I have been inspired by my friends at the OCACW to write...just write. Of course, I doubt that they meant for me to publish the contents of my brain dump; it's supposed to be an exercise to dig your way out of a writer's block. None-the-less, here it is:

The thing that seems to be at the forefront of my thoughts lately is the movement of the Spirit at my home church of Hopedale.  It reminds me of the tsunami wave that we've heard about in the news lately.  In the open ocean it's barely noticeable; a two foot wave making it's way at an incredible speed. As it nears land fall and the ocean floor rises, so does the crest of the mighty wave. When it finally breaks and makes landfall, the force is of the magnitude that man cannot resist and can only be overpowered by it or race to avoid it.

In many ways, that's what I'm seeing at Hopedale.  To an outsider looking in, the Kids Against Hunger event our kids participated in, the girls serving dinner at the Ronald MacDonald House, the planned mission trip to Nicaragua, the sharing of a passion for helping sick orphans in China--all of these things are things that churches do and should be doing.  The thing is--they are things that WE haven't been doing.

Individuals within our church have been; that's how they've come to be church projects. But as a fellowship of believers, this is the first time that the church is really focusing on the world of people outside of our walls. It's exciting to be here; to be a part of the swelling rush of this great movement.

Although the tsunami from the Japanese earthquake did a lot of damage in Japan, it never amounted to too much as it crossed the Pacific Ocean. Sometimes it's like that.  Sometimes it is devastating; like the Indonesian one of 2004.

In one sense, it doesn't sound right to think of a movement of the Holy Spirit to be devastating. But then again, it will take a great power to break down the strongholds and traditions of men; traditions that stand in the way of the progress and power of God.  Yes, we the church--the institution ordained by Jesus, are often the greatest obstacle in path of His Holy Spirit.  That's changing at Hopedale ... and it's pretty exciting to watch it and to be a part of it!

If you live in the area and don't have a home church, I want to invite you to my church.
If you've felt a longing in your soul for something more out of life, a sense that there is a God that is calling on you; please contact me and let me share my beliefs about God and His great plans for you.
If you are not close to Ozark, MO in the US of A and need to find a church home, contact me and I will do everything that I can to put you in contact with Bible believing Christians where ever you are.

As I look back over the words of a Monday morning rant, I see that it is no longer A Post About Nothing. It has become a post about something that is very important to me and to the many people that have yet to come in contact with the Living God through one of my brothers or sisters from Hopedale.

I'll leave the title the way it stands and take away a lesson learned:  Write, just write.

John <><

Saturday, March 12, 2011

On Books

On this sunny Saturday morning, I find myself biding my time in the local Starbucks. I have a couple of hours before our monthly meeting of the Ozark's Chapter of the American Christian Writers' meeting and didn't feeling like driving home after working the mid only to turn around and head back to Springfield after a couple of hours. As long as I have a couple of hours, free wi-fi and free coffee refills; I thought I'd write a bit on some of the things that have been rolling around in the otherwise empty space in my head.

Last night, I finally got around to finishing the book I started a couple of weeks ago.  For some reason, I wasn't well focused on reading it and so, even though it was interesting and entertaining, it took me a while to get through it.  The book was Lynne Truss' book on punctuation, Eats, Shoots and Leaves. It's an fun look at the struggles that our society seems to have with proper punctuation. The joke that inspired the title is this:

A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and proceeds to fire it at the other patrons.
'Why?' asks the confused, surviving waiter amidst the carnage, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.
'Well, I'm a panda,' he says, at the door. 'Look it up.'
The waiter turns to the relevant entry in the manual and, sure enough, finds an explanation. 'Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.'


It's a good read if you're a self proclaimed grammar nazi like my daughter or a wannabe writer like myself.

I also started and finished a quick read last night: Todd Burpo"s Heaven is for Real. Though it is a quick, easy read, it has some simple but sound theology and will have you smiling at times and then pausing to clear the tears from your eyes moments later so that you can continue to read. 

Too often, we get so wrapped up in theology that we miss the simple message of the Gospel: God loves you (He really loves you!), and Jesus died for you. Leave it to the simple understanding of a four year old to keep the truth plain and pure. 
If you are a believer, a follower of Jesus; this book will affirm much of what you've been taught and clarify the simple message of the Bible.  
If you are a skeptic, or a doubter, or a seeker of truth; this book may answer some questions or give you some new things to ponder. In either case, if you have questions that you want answered, but don't want them published, just e-mail me at or comment here but tell me that you don't want it published.

As a final bonus to today's post, I want to share an mp3 download. It is a 10 minute message that was delivered by my son last weekend at a communion service at Holy Trinity Church in Chicago. I hope that you take the time to listen to it. Aaron did a great job sharing about what our response should be to a Holy God. To help you as you listen, here is the text to Psalm 99.

John <><

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Ash Wednesday

At a point long ago, it seems to me that ash Wednesday was a day of fasting in the Catholic Church. Like many of the disciplines of faith, I think that has been set aside in favor of more convenient forms of self denial. I may have this wrong as it has been quite sometime since I've been up on current traditions of the Catholic Church.  Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

At any rate, the ultimate example of self-denial comes from Jesus, Himself.  Paul tells us that even though He had the very nature of God, He set that aside and took on human flesh; the form of a servant and was obedient unto death; even death on the cross. Fasting is a way to remind ourselves of His sacrifice.

Ultimately, fasting is a form of purification. An extended fast allows the body to purge itself of toxins and use up weak or sick cells for energy. It is a rite of cleansing; a way to present yourself as purified before the Lord. I'm wondering if there will be many that fast today; not that it really matters. That decision is between an individual and their God. Muslims have a modified fast that they perform during their Holy seasons. Orthodox Jews have days of fasting. It seems that fasting has become a lost discipline in the contemporary Christian church.  Maybe we're just not into that whole self denial thing. Maybe we need to reread those words from the Apostle Paul. You'll find them here.

Have a great day.
John <><

Monday, March 07, 2011

Something Old, Something New...(sort of)

This week marks the beginning of Lent. It is a time of preparation as much of the Christian world looks ahead to the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus. Lent is not a time that is generally observed by most evangelical denominations; nor is it observed by some Protestant denominations.

Having grown up in a Roman Catholic home, deciding what to "give up" for Lent was always a matter of concern.  It's been a long time since I've observed Lent through any type of self-denial. However, while many of my Baptist friends may not understand or see any purpose in it, this year I intend observe Lent through that particular tradition.

I feel that I need to get refocused spiritually and have a strong feeling (like a compulsion or conviction) that this is what I need to do.

To remind myself of the abundant blessings of God and the plenty and prosperity that I live in:

I am going to greatly reduce the food that I consume. 
So much of the world around us starving or surviving daily on a small portion of what we eat in a single meal...or throw away in a day. I know that my not eating food that I have doesn't do anything thing to feed people that don't have food, but it does remind me that there are people that need help--people that I have the means to help. I'm not sure what my diet will look like; maybe oatmeal in the morning, something like a can of tuna or a salad for lunch, a modest dinner, no snacks...not really certain.   Even as I write this, it sounds lame...but it's a start.

I am going to take a break from drinking sodas.
Much of the world today lacks the simple basic necessity of safe drinking water. It's hard for most of us to even imagine that there are places (lots of them) where there is little or no safe water to drink.  Here, in the good old US of A, you can go to any gas station and drink the water directly from the outdoor spigot. In a land where drinking water is available everywhere you go, we often choose to pay $1 for a .5ltr bottle of water! (Think about that the next time you complain that gas is creeping up to $4 per gallon. You're already paying $8 per gallon for your bottled water!) So my body gets a break from the chemical crap and artificial sweeteners for a short time as I make the switch to plain old H2O.  For me, it just serves as another reminder of one of my many blessings that I've taken for granted.

I'm going on a Facebook diet.
I like Facebook. I've reconnected with friends from my past and am able to share comments with friends and family across the country and around the globe. BUT...I fear that social media via the internet is quickly taking the place of personal relationships in our society. I am going to restrict my Facebook time each day and make the effort to make personal contact with people and work on building personal relationships with people.

So much for the self-denial and the "don't" side of things.
On the "do" side:

I need to get back to blogging. 
I've noticed that Facebook and Twitter have greatly reduced the amount of time that many of us once gave to blogging.  With the "set in stone" number of hours per day at 24, when more time goes to one new thing, it has to come away from on old thing. Hopefully, the Facebook diet will allow me to get back to posting more often in the coming weeks.

I don't know what the effect of this exercise will be. I don't know if I'll get more focused on what's important, how I've been blessed, what I need to be doing in ministry, how to better serve my God or if it will all turn out to be a brief exercise in futility. If I do stay with it for the 40 days (it's a weird count), at the very least I'll come away a little thinner, a little healthier, with some closer friends and maybe a few more coins in my pocket.

Tomorrow is Mardi Gras--Fat Tuesday.  Guess I should take advantage of it this year!

John <><

Friday, March 04, 2011

Making an Exception: Politics Once Again

Today we are seeing the effects of the outrageous monies that were poured into the 2010 mid-term elections. It would seem that politicians are owned by the corporations that contributed to their campaigns.

As a result of the disastrous ruling by our Supreme Court in the Citizens United vs. FEC case, there was more money poured into the 2010 midterm election campaign than in all of the combined midterm elections since 1990. I do hope that you would point your friends to this blog or, at least, share the video link. When big dollars put our elected officials into office, it doesn't matter if they are Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Independent or anything else; they are owned by whomever owns the purse strings that helped to get them into office. We need to take back our democracy and return it to The People.


Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Spiritual Doldrums

When the kids were little there was a book and video called The Phantom Tollbooth. In the story, the main character gets lost in a place called the Doldrums.

The "doldrums" are actually a geographical band where there is little wind; and so, back in the day, sailing ships that found themselves in the "doldrums" might be trapped there for days.

That's kind of where I'm finding myself these days--in a spiritual doldrums.

At my church, Hopedale, there is currently a feeling of a great movement of the Spirit that is growing among the people.  It's really pretty exciting.

But personally, it's not there. I look at my own life (spiritually speaking) and think that I'm really sitting around and doing nothing.  I know that we all have our busy schedules, family issues, jobs, social networks (both real and virtual), and a host of excuses of why we keep putting our Kingdom work aside. But that's kind of the point; there are too many other things that get in the way of serving the one that we claim is GOD.

I was just reading a passage in The Gospel According to Luke, chapter 8. It fit me...and that's not a good thing.
Here's what it says:

4 While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: 5 “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. 6 Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”
   When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
 9 His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,
   “‘though seeing, they may not see;
   though hearing, they may not understand.’[a]
   11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

Did you see me? Did you see yourself?
Here is where I saw John; right in the midst of these words:  The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.

"...choked out by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature."

But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

It's odd that when we read these passages as believers, we always think of ourselves as "good soil" kind of people. I wonder what the people watching us would say. I wonder (and fear) what God would say.

Have you checked the crop lately? Mine is in need of some work.