Monday, May 30, 2011


It's Sunday night and I'm just checking out blogging from my cell phone. I've done this once before and was wondering if everything is still set up.
I sent a test message that went through okay, so I'm hopeful that I can post short articles from time to time (<150 characters).
We shall see...
John <><

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Month Ahead

I am not one to wish my life away, hoping for time to hurry past, but I am really looking forward to the month of June.

June begins with a much needed vacation in ... yeah, you guessed it -- Mexico!  Chris and I will be vacationing alone for the first time since we've had kids.  Aaron will be in Ozark for a friend's wedding. We'll miss seeing him, but we're glad that Hannah won't be home alone. (It's hard to stop being a concerned parent, even though your kids are young adults!)

As soon as we get back, I have an evening appointment at our Tri County Association Kid's Camp.  Even though I'll miss camp this year, I get to come in on Thursday evening and share the salvation story with the kids and their families.  Then mid-June finds me at our own Hopedale Baptist Kid's Camp for the weekend of June 17-20. I am incredibly blessed to get to be camp pastor for another year and am really looking forward to having the dads participate in our Sunday afternoon events on Father's Day. Dads will get to experience the water challenges that their kids keep coming back for, year after year! (I'm hoping that we'll have some of the dads wanting to come back next year as workers!)

Tuesday, June 21st, will find me in Branson MO for the MB125 Celebration. It is a conference/getaway for Missouri Baptist pastors (and their families) that pastor churches with Sunday morning attendance of 125 or less.  I think that I'm looking forward to this event as much as anything I've ever done.  What an honor to get to give a little something to these servants of our Lord and Savior!  I'll be entertaining them after Tuesday evening dinner.  This isn't an outreach event so it will be a little bit different than what I usually do. I'll get to relax and just have a great time of sharing some magic, having a few laughs, and thanking them for their Kingdom service.

The last Sunday evening of the month I'll make a return trip to the First Baptist Church of Laurie MO for their VBS kickoff. It's always a great feeling to be asked back to a church for a second time! VBS kickoff events are always full of energy and anticipation. What a grand way to end the month!

To top all of that off, each Sunday morning that I'm able to be at Hopedale, I get to teach the senior high school boys' Sunday School class.  These are great young men that are really maturing in their Christian faith.

I'll try to keep up with the blogging. I owe a book review to author Tom Blubaugh for his recently published Night of the Cossack (It's coming, Tom. I promise!), and there are a couple of other things on my list of things to blog about.   (btw, Night of the Cossack is available for download to your Nook or Kindle!)
All in due time.

Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend. Remember the sacrifices that were made so that we can enjoy the freedoms (and responsibilities) that we enjoy in the US of A.
...And let's have a grand June!

John <><

Friday, May 27, 2011

What Happened to the Week? ...And Where Was God When it Happened?

It's hard to believe that it's Friday morning. It has been a very unusual week in Southwest Missouri.

The devastation from Sunday's tornado in Joplin has filled the news for the entire week.  It has been the topic of nearly every conversation, the subject of many Facebook posts, and the story of the Ozarks.  There are many collections sites throughout the area for donations of all kinds. Faith-based organizations are finally being let into the area to help with clean up and to start helping people recover.  The stories of people of Joplin are heart breaking.

It seems only natural to ask, "Where is God in all of this? How could a loving God allow this kind of tragedy?"

I wish that I had a good answer.

In my own mind, I can rationalize that we (as humans) live in a fallen world and have to deal with the consequences of the choices that were made by our ancestors.  I know that not all of my readers believe in the Bible and the stories of the Fall of Man or the Great Flood.  I accept that we bear some responsibility for the world we live in; the tragedies of war, the addictions of the flesh, the waste of natural resources and the changing weather patterns.

Some might call me a Humanist and say that I give man too much credit. They would remind me that God is Sovereign and that everything is according to His divine plan.

Well then, is it fair to ask:  Was it God's plan for a sixteen-month-old baby to be ripped from his mother's arms to be found dead days later?  Was it God's plan for a young bride to be left alive and alone as her new husband gave his life to protect her?  Is there a divine strategy for God to receive glory in the midst of over a hundred deaths and tens of thousands with tragically changed lives?

Does it seem lame for me to simply say that I don't know what to say?  I mean, I have those questions, too.  Is the trade off for the good works that people are doing in the wake of the disaster worth the pain and suffering that was caused by the storm?  Is there some kind of divine scale that weighs that out?

I have to be honest with you, as a preacher I'm not very good at answering questions about how God works when it comes to dealing with the wants, needs, and concerns of our day-to-day lives.  Oh, I can show you where it says that He cares for the lilies of the fields and the birds of the air and all that, but I can't explain why millions of kids (Christian and non-Christian alike) are starving or dying from a lack of food and clean water.  I can't explain why a mother with young children dies of breast cancer or a young father is killed in a war.

Could it just be that we tend to place much more value on our physical lives than God does?  Could it be that His main concern is with our spiritual life?  In the aftermath of Adam and Eve's disastrous choice in the garden and covering of the earth with a great flood, we don't find God working out a way to get them back into the garden or restoring the earth to its pre-flood state.  What we do find is God going to extraordinary means to reconcile our spiritual beings.

In the Bible, James writes that our lives are like a vapor--here for a moment, then gone forever.  Maybe we need to be more concerned with reconciling our spiritual lives with God rather than trying to lengthen our physical lives.  Maybe more money, bigger house, faster car isn't the way to be.

Perhaps you'd like to know more about this spiritual reconciliation.
Now that's something that I'd like to tell you about!

John <><

Sunday, May 22, 2011

No Napping on My Watch!

Tuesday of this week will be the day for my annual trip to the "sleep lab" for the crazy Maintenance of Wakefulness Test (MWT).

If you haven't read about this crazy test in the past (and don't feel like reading it now), I'll give you the short version.

The test is designed to see if you can stay awake in conditions that you would normally set up if you were trying to go to sleep.  They wire you up so that they can monitor your brainwaves and know if you are sleeping...even for just seconds.  Then they have you get into a reclined hospital bed, turn out the lights, tell you not to move around too much and expect you to stay awake ... for FORTY minutes!  This test is repeated three times in an eight hour period.  Between tests, you can do pretty much anything you want to do--except sleep.

During the day, you get no caffeine or other stimulants and have to take a blood test that screens for such stimulants.  According to the test standards, three consecutive thirty second periods of sleep is a fail.  According to our non-expert flight surgeon, any sleep period is a fail. But like I said, he is a non-expert in the field.

My favorite line from the above article is this:

  "Results show that from 40% to 59% of people with normal sleep stay awake for the entire 40 minutes of all four trials."

Are you kidding me? Doesn't that mean that 41% to 60% of people with normal sleep don't stay awake for the entire 40 minutes of all four trials?  It doesn't make any sense to me that you would choose to use a test that half of the people with normal sleep habits would fail to determine if I'm getting enough restful sleep with the CPAP treatment for sleep apnea. 

The regional flight surgeon could take a letter from my sleep doctor (the expert in the field) and accompanying medical records to show that my sleep apnea is being effectively treated and forgo the MWT.  However, it seems to be his mission in life to keep air traffic controllers from being able to do their jobs or, at the very least, being as big of a pain in the butt as he can possibly be.  The test will cost me a day of leave and my deductible and co-pay from my insurance. It will cost my insurance company around $1000.  Fortunately, this will be the last one that I have to pass. I could continue to work for awhile should I desire to and be able to keep my medical certification. However, this year's physical will take me to my retirement eligibility date.

I hope to get a good night's sleep tonight and tomorrow night and be very well rested for Tuesday.  I'll be on Facebook in between test times and counting on my friends to help me out as you have in the past.

Sleep well, my friends. 

John <><

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Left Behind?

So it is now just past 6 pm CDT and it would appear that:
     1 the rapture didn't happen
or 2 it happened and nobody in my world got to go.

I think that rapture is an odd word to use for the day that Jesus comes to claim His followers. It's not actually found in the Bible and I'm not sure where and when it was first used to describe the event of rescuing His followers from the impending tribulation (at least for all of you pre-trib rapture believers).

The reason that I think it's an odd word to use (and I don't really like it) is that it comes from the same root as our word for rape and originally meant to be taken or carried away by force.

When Jesus comes for those He has called, I am not going to have to be taken by force.  I'm a willing volunteer when it comes to following Jesus to heaven.  In fact, I may be crowding and pushing my way to the front of the line (assuming a celestial line is in order).  It' s a little difficult for me to set aside a lifetime of time/space dimensions and try to imagine life without such markers or boundaries.

I have to say that I'm a little surprised by some of the reaction (or over reaction) to the ridiculous claim that somebody knew the day and hour.  Hopefully, there weren't too many Christians in that group.  Having said that; from the cons and the conned, it is obvious that there are many that believe in an afterlife (of heaven and hell), but know little of how they might enter into it.

If you're one of those that thinks that there is life for our souls beyond our pilgrimage on earth, I would encourage you to try to figure things out.  If you read my survey, you may have already started to wonder about what lies beyond this life--or you may have your own ideas of what's next.  In either case, eternity is not something to be taken lightly or to procrastinate about getting settled.  I'd be happy to share my thoughts/beliefs with you.

Respond to the survey. I'm interested to know what people are thinking.  Some of you have already submitted comments and responses; some on Facebook (by comment or private message), and others in the comment section of the blog post.  Facebook comments can be read, messages or comments here will only be posted with your permission.

So tell me, if the rapture would have happened this afternoon and you find yourself still here...what would you be doing now?  Wondering what happened? Laughing at the fools that think it was a spiritual event that took a relatively small portion of the population?  Looting from the departed?  Mourning that you were left behind?

Or just maybe you would be getting serious about studying the prophesies concerning the end times to prepare yourself for the coming days.

Perhaps this bogus claim of the rapture happening today isn't a complete waste of time.  Perhaps it cause a few to take a spiritual inventory.  That would be a good thing.

On the other hand, if it is nothing more than a joke or way to make fun of the prophesies and pile more skepticism on the beliefs of Christians--well then, it caused great harm to those whose unbelief became more solid, whose hearts became more cold towards the God that will one day judge the living and the dead.

Still waiting...

John <><

Friday, May 20, 2011

Religious survey

I'm curious...

What do you believe?
And why?

I really do want you to feel free to comment and I'm not looking for an argument or debate and won't post any comments that end up criticizing somebody else's comment.  In fact, I won't post any comments that don't specifically grant permission to do so.

If you're commenting on Facebook, know those will be posted (unless you want to send a FB message) but I will delete any argumentative comments.

Theist or atheist?
Life after death or the eternal dirt nap?
Heaven and hell? Or not?
If you believe in heaven and hell, how do you get into one and avoid the other?
God follower but anti-religion?
What teachings or disciplines guide your life?
Do you find yourself putting off addressing your beliefs and living life as it comes rather than getting serious about defining your beliefs and living life accordingly?

Who is you?
Intelligent design or big bang?

I realize that I don't have a grand following and that many of you won't respond...but I want to know what you people think.  Some of you...well, I know...sort of. Others, I really don't.  My Facebook friend list and my blog readership have quite the variety of backgrounds. Though many of you are self proclaimed Christians of one denomination or another, many are not.  I would really like to get a wide variety of backgrounds and beliefs to respond.

Nothing scientific about this survey, I'm just curious.

Many of you already have an idea of my thoughts and beliefs; I'll share more of that as responses come in.
You can copy and paste the questions above, just share in an essay style, pick and choose questions to answer, e-mail me privately, even call me if you want.

No judgment.
No condemnation.
Just some free and open discussion of what we believe.

John <><

Tuesday, May 17, 2011 a Hobby

hobby (hob ee) --noun; an activity pursued for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation.

As a magician, I consider myself to be a hobby magician.  It's true that I perform at a level above the level of doing tricks for friends and family, but it is not at the level of earning a living at it.  As a matter of fact, I seldom promote myself as a magician and do little to no marketing for jobs, but still manage to have quite a few paid gigs every year.

I would have to say that I've invested in magic at a level far above the average hobby magician, but again, below the level of a true magician (professional)--especially in the area of time investment.

Some might say that since I'm regularly paid to do magic, I'm a professional magician. I disagree (and I think that the ones that promote, market, and make a living at magic would also disagree).

I have been to a number of magic conventions, workshops and lectures. I have belonged to magic clubs and subscribed to magic periodicals. These things help me to be a better magician. They are an investment of time and money, but they don't make me a magician.  Most days, I don't find myself thinking about ways to promote myself as a magician.  In fact, most days, I don't even think about magic at all. Most of the time I'm just John--husband, dad, air traffic controller, and just struggling to make it through another day.  Generally speaking, people don't see John and think -- magician.

Definitely not a professional magician.

I say all of this because I've recently been considering that I often pursue Christianity in much the same manner--as if it were a hobby.

Okay, so I may take it to a little bit higher level than your average hobby Christian. I rarely promote myself as a Christian and do little to no marketing to get jobs.  However, I do get called on to preach from time to time. I do get asked to special events and often end up with quite a few "paid gigs" during a year.

I might say that I've invested in Christianity at a level far above the average hobby Christian, but again, below the level of a true Christian (professional)--especially in the area of time investment.

I've been to Christian conventions and workshops (and committee meetings by the hundreds!), and attend regular club meetings (We hold them every Sunday, if you get my drift.), and I read Christian publications and blogs.  These things help me to be a better Christian. They are an investment of time and money, but they don't make me a Christian.  Most days, I don't find myself thinking about ways to promote myself as a Christian.  In fact, most days, I don't even think about Christianity very much at all. Most of the time I'm just John--husband, dad, air traffic controller, and just struggling to make it through another day.  Generally speaking, people don't see John and think -- Christian.

Truthfully, I don't expect to make a living as a professional Christian -- but Christianity should be my life.

When people see Criss Angel or David Copperfield, they think -- magician!
If I want to be recognized as a magician, I'm going to have to become a magician. More than being what I am, it has to be who I am.
It will take a change in attitude about myself and my surroundings. I will need to pursue magic in everything. I will need to promote myself as a magician.

In the same way:

If I want to be recognized as a Christian, I'm going to have to become a Christian. More than being what I am, it has to be who I am. 
It will take a change in attitude about myself and my surroundings. I will need to pursue Christ in everything. I will need to promote -- not myself as a Christian; I will need to promote Jesus as the Christ; the Messiah; the Chosen One; God's Son; God.

The time may come when I will work on the professional magician thing.
The time for me to move beyond being a hobby Christian is now.

How about you?

John <><

Monday, May 16, 2011

1st Week Fail

Okay, so it's Monday and I failed at my first week of three posts per week!

Actually, I'm cutting myself some slack since I've been without computer access this weekend and am still one of about two dozen Americans that are without a "smart" phone.

My weekend (continuing today) has been great--lousy weather--but an enjoyable weekend.

Saturday found us in the cold, windy drizzle of Chicago for my daughter-in-law's graduation.  She is now a Civil Engineer and one of only a small percentage of college graduates that already has a job in her degree field! (she starts today!)  Even though the weather was miserable, I'm sure that it was a fine day for all of the graduates.  We enjoyed a couple of meals with the combined families (Aaron's and Jenny's), got to see their new apartment, went to church with them on Sunday morning (I really like their church family), and just enjoyed visiting with our kids.

We're taking a short detour on the way home to stop in my hometown of Chillicothe IL and visit my parents. This morning I'm writing from the Chillicothe Super 8 and taking advantage of the few moments of wifi access while Chris and Hannah are getting ready.  Although I am looking forward to getting home, I had a wonderful weekend.  I even got to do a short magic show at Holy Trinity Church (west side) in Chicago!

And so begins the week...

I hope and pray that your week is a grand one.  Seek God this week. If you're having a difficult time finding Him, then stop looking for Him and start worshiping Him.  The Bible tells us The Father is looking for those that worship Him in spirit and in truth.  If you will just stop seeking and start worshiping; He will come and find you!

John <><

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Resurrection

A few weeks ago--actually it was Easter Sunday--a friend of mine posted this on Facebook: 

I have a pretty wide variety of friends, from very devout Christians to firm atheists- some of whom have been making zombie jokes all day today.

Personally, I'm skeptical that Jesus rose from the dead, but I respect how important today is for my Christian friends

My friend (a Buddhist) had already posted a Happy Easter wish to all of his Christian friends. 

I'm sharing this for two reasons.  First, I really like that he recognizes that we have different beliefs but acknowledges the things that are important to me (and all of his Christian friends) without feeling like it diminishes the things that are important to him.

And second, isn't the skepticism over the resurrection what really separates Christians from non-Christians?

It (the resurrection) is THE big thing in the Christian faith; not that Jesus died for our sins (He did), but that He conquered death and was raised from the grave. In the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul writes "...if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain."

and "...if Christ has not been raised,  your faith is futile and you are still in your sins."

Without the resurrection, Jesus is just another dead prophet/teacher/good man/whatever.  I really believe that we should all start out (or at least work our way back to) being skeptical about the resurrection.  I say that as a firm believer that Jesus died for our sins and was raised from the dead.  What I mean is that each of us needs to examine why we believe what we believe.  

Lee Strobel's book A Case for Christ has a good chapter on the biblical and historical evidence for the resurrection. It's pretty simple and straightforward and easy to understand.  If it's too simple, there are other books that delve more deeply into the apologetics of the resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15 makes me wonder why we (evangelicals) always seem to share about Jesus dying for our sins, but often leave out, or minimize, His resurrection.  

It is His resurrection that gives meaning to His death. 
It is His resurrection that gives purpose to His death. 
It is His resurrection that gives purpose to our life. 
It is His resurrection that gives hope...and not for this life only, but for eternal life!

Paul goes on to tell us that if there is no resurrection and our hope in Christ is for this life only, that we are to pitied most of all.

I accept that the resurrection of Jesus is an incredible thing on it's own. I accept that without a belief in an all powerful God, the resurrection is impossible to believe. One must believe in an all powerful, loving God before they can ever come to the point of accepting the grace and mercy of the empty tomb.  
Maybe we choose the crucifixion over the resurrection because the cross is a way cooler symbol than a cave or a hole dug into a rock.  

As for me:
I believe,
I hope,
I rejoice
   in a Risen Savior;
   in a Living God!

John <><

Monday, May 09, 2011


I've been feeling guilty about the fact that I haven't written in quite sometime and that my posts are getting to be quite rare.  It's not that I don't like writing--I do; or that I don't have anything to say--again, I do; it's just that I don't seem to make the time for it these days.

In fact, I barely make the time to read the few blogs that I follow and am a little bit pleased that I am not the only one that seems to be posting less often, giving me fewer blogs to read through on a regular basis.

So to alleviate my feelings of guilt over not writing, and to get over my new found compulsion to make sure that everything is thoroughly  researched and just right before publication; I'm just going to start writing. I'm not to the point of committing to writing every day yet, but I will commit to at least three times per week throughout the summer--allowing for the occasional exception due to vacation or a kid's camp away from computer access.  You may see the weekly Friday/Saturday/Sunday posts as I scramble to make my three posts each weekend, but there it is--three posts per week--feel free to call me on it if they fail to materialize.

It's Monday and I'm counting this as one for this week.  I realize that as a post, it's not much; but it is what it is and I have too much to do and a nap to take before going in to work the mid-shift tonight. The week ahead will be full and I'm looking forward to the coming weekend when we get to see Aaron and Jenny; but I owe you two more posts and I'll make certain to deliver them before next week rolls around.

John <><