Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Un-social Networking


Facebook is innovating and redesigning once again.
So what?

Okay. I realize that change is never easy, but is it really necessary to complain about how much you don't like something to people that can't do anything to help you.  So far, we have apparently adapted to all of the changes that Facebook has made in the past and continue to use Facebook to keep in contact with (or stalk) our families, friends, enemies, classmates -- whatever.

There are other options (although the archaic snail mail is becoming even less of one) for keeping in touch--some that actually require personal contact of some sort.  There are even other electronic options -- Twitter, Google +, My Space (I guess that's still around) and others.  I guess we are free to complain about every change that Facebook makes without consulting us, but then again -- we are also free to quit using a free product that we don't like.

So far, I haven't found the change to be a big deal.  I always set my news feed at 'most recent' anyways, so now I just scroll down a little and there it is!  Changing settings to stop receiving news feeds from particularly annoying friends is easier, updating status is about the same, recent changes to picture file access is nice -- I guess I don't see what all of the fuss is about.

Just thought I'd throw in my own unwanted opinion.  I don't pay for the service. I don't advertise on the service. I just use it -- for free -- and am happy to have made contact with many friends and family members that also use it -- for free!

For all of the efforts that Facebook has made to make their service better -- Thank you, Facebook. Keep up the good work!


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Making the Most of a Bad Situation

In a previous post I mentioned that I am faced with some serious car trouble.  I've acquired my son's old '93 Honda Del Sol.  At just under 200,000 miles, I replaced the engine with a used Honda JDM. It's been less than a month and so I'm using the 6-month replacement engine warranty and getting another replacement engine shipped.  Unfortunately, the engine is the only thing covered in the warranty and I'm going to have to pay (again) to have the engine swapped out.

Having to car share with my wife is a bit of a pain.  We're both used to the freedom that having two cars gives us.  I've been working my schedule to be able to carpool with her on the days that she has to work with minimal inconvenience and minimal leave usage.'s an inconvenience.

The replacement engine is on the way and should be here this week. The mechanic has the early part of next week set aside for me.  I'm hoping to be back in the two car swing by midweek.  I also want to take advantage of another opportunity to talk with my mechanic.  He seems like a great guy. Even though he works out of his garage, he carefully guards his family time--no work on weekends and a break to have lunch with his wife and son.  I hope for the opportunity to see if they have a church home or to ask him about his beliefs. It would seem like a waste to squander a second opportunity to talk to him.

I'm getting ready to preach at Charity Baptist this coming weekend.  I still have to figure out the car logistics as Chris generally goes to Hopedale, even when I'm preaching locally.  I might have to drive a crippled car for the day--if I haven't already dropped it off for repair.  We'll see...


Sunday, September 18, 2011

I LOVE My Church

If any of you have been involved in church ministry for very long, you are well aware of the dreaded "committee meetings" that are often many hours of wasted time.  How I hate going to meetings at church.  They have a way of just sucking time out of your life and seem to accomplish very little compared to the minutes spent discussing/debating/arguing/or just telling of irrelevant stories.

I suppose that you can now imagine how I was dreading a Sunday afternoon filled with two meetings, followed by a Sunday evening post-service business meeting.  One might think that dealing with the inefficiency of working for the Federal government would prepare me for such things, but the truth is the government could learn a lot about wasting time from most baptist churches.

However, that was not the case today!

Actually, as Hopedale has continued to grow, the staff has become much more aware of how precious time is and they have made every effort to keep things streamlined when it comes to the resource of volunteers' time. Both of today's meetings were very much worth the time spent at church.

The first was a planning meeting for next year's kids' camp.  New leadership, some changes in scheduling and policies could have been met with opposition--but wasn't.  I think that everybody was able to address some concerns, give input to possible changes and come away feeling excited about next year's camp.  In reality, this was really more of a pre-planning meeting and I think that there is a real sense of next year's camp being our best yet!  I think that we will have more kids and more parent-helpers than we've ever had.

After a short break and a side trip to Starbucks (5-shot venti Americano), it was time for meeting number two--the monthly Sunday School teachers' meeting. We have been going through The Master Plan of Evangelism, discussing how we can minister and evangelize through our Sunday school classes.  I thought that the meeting was well planned; the discussion was meaningful and helpful; and, once again, well worth the time spent at church this afternoon.

Major kudos to Rich and Ryan for making the meetings a very good use of your volunteer workers' time on a Sunday afternoon.

The post-worship business meeting was pretty much business as usual.  There were a couple of items that I think will be of great benefit to the way we are able to do ministry and the meeting was kept short (as it generally is).

I don't know if I've mentioned it lately, but I really do love my church!  Apparently, I'm not the only one as we had several people make decisions to join our fellowship today and a 24/7 promise by our pastor to be available to baptize any new believers.

How awesome is that!  If your friend/family member/coworker/neighbor makes a profession of faith at two o'clock in the Pastor Terry and he'll meet you at the church as soon as he can get there to baptize your friend.  He'll even bring church members with him to witness and celebrate their profession of faith!

In the Book of Acts, the believers were devoted to one another. They met together in public places. They ate in each others' homes.  They took care of one another. They told the story of the Gospel of salvation.

And the Bible tells us that God added to their number daily!

Pastor Terry is confident that if we will model the behavior of the first century believers, God will add to our numbers as He did in the past. I think it's pretty stinkin' cool that he is ready to be there for us (and willing to make a commitment for others to be there) anytime God calls a new believer into the Kingdom!

Did I mention that I love my church?

John <><

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Shooting the Messenger

If there is an irritant that is common to the civilized world, it must be car trouble. Since there is never a convenient time for it, and there is seldom a convenient cost for it, it continues to cover the "hate" part of our love-hate relationship with the automobile like a well-worn blanket.

I am in the unenviable position of owning two cars that are high mileage vehicles (one over 200k miles, one just under) that are both in need of some high dollar repairs.  I suppose I could suck it up and assume a car payment and buy a new or newer car rather than pour more money into one of these older vehicles, but finding the fine line where no car payment no longer balances with the cost and aggravation of repairing an older vehicle can be tricky.

This morning I returned to the auto shop to pick up my car after receiving the bad news of what it would cost me to get one of the cars back into shape.  I jokingly asked the service attendant what it was like having a job where you always get to be the bearer of bad news.  He wasn't laughing as he told me that it sucked.  He told me that most people treat him as if it were his fault that their car is in need of repair.  He said many of them get really angry at him.  He also said that very few of them are as nice about it or as understanding as I was.

I felt kind of bad for the guy...and a little ashamed of my fellowman for treating him (and others like him) that way.  I did admit to him that there was a day (fortunately, it's a day long past) that I might have been one of those people.  I know that it is not natural for us to roll over and be submissive when it comes to shelling out the big bucks for auto repairs. I know that we would rather bare our teeth and assume a defensive (or even offensive) posture.  Unfortunately, I find myself completely helpless in these situations and getting mad at the people that can help me never seems to be a good idea.

So tonight I'm sitting here with a cup of hot green tea to soothe my sore throat (from coughing from the crazy allergies in the Midwest air) and trying to figure out my options.  I've had lousy sleep for the past couple of days and my abs are sore from the coughing -- not the best frame of mind for contemplating my current conundrum.  In a way, it's too bad that an outburst at the shop couldn't have solved my problems. I suppose that treating people well is generally a good practice and the best option.  For a humorous look at anger management, you could go back and read my initial post from years ago.

Spread the JOY!

John <><

Monday, September 12, 2011


It's post #600.
600 posts isn't anything monumental as bloggers go, especially when it's been over 5 years of blogging here at Out of My Hat.  Several of the blogs that I read post on a daily basis.  Most post much more often than I do.  Several of the blogs that I once followed have faded into the cyber mist and no longer exist.  Others have taken their places as new people have started blogging and I have found new blogs to follow. I haven't taken the time to delete idle blogs from my list of "blogs I follow" and should probably clean that up...someday.

I was looking back over the previous 599 posts and looking at the most often viewed posts and the posts that received the most comments.  The second part (the most comments) is a little bit skewed since some of you now comment on Facebook instead of on the post itself.

For a short time, I was having the posts appear as "notes" on Facebook but then I really had no way of tracking how many hits I was getting.  Of course, in the grand scheme of things, I don't suppose that it really matters if anybody reads the rants of Midwest, small town boy.

This post from December 2006 is the one that has received the most hits--4,045 to date. That's a little over eight times as many as the second place post's 488 views. Most of them are at around the 50 mark with a few reaching toward a hundred hits.  Numbers dropped as I became less regular for a time and are slowly picking up with more regular posts and from linking to my blog from Facebook. Twitter has had little impact since I only have a few followers and really haven't figured out how to use it to my advantage.

I know that the large number of hits on the few posts that have large numbers are from search engines that find something that causes people to click on a link and read them.

I also took some time to read comments from the posts that drew the most comments here at Out of My Hat (again, Facebook comments were not tracked).  I found it interesting that I receive far fewer opposing comments here than on Facebook.  Apparently, Facebook friends feel more free to share their opposing viewpoints than those that post here. Posts with labels--message, religion or favorite bible stories--receive few comments.

In the five+ years that I've been rambling at Out of My Hat, I'm no closer to writing a book than I was when I wrote my very first post suggesting that it was in my future. Maybe it still is...

In any case, blogging has been a far greater experience than I ever imagined it to be. I have made cyber friends from around the world. Some contacts go beyond the comments on our blogs to Facebook friendships, personal e-mails, cards or letters via snail mail and an occasional meet at Ted Drewe's.

Thanks to all of you that have stopped by to read, share a comment or share a link to one of my posts.

John <><

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Back to Writing (and other stuff)

Today was the first meeting of the 2011-12 session for the Ozarks Chapter of American Christian Writers. It was great to see friends that I hadn't seen since April (I missed the May meeting) and to greet our new guests.  Our group continues to grow and I am always amazed and inspired by the knowledge, experience and talent in our group.

If you are a Christian and a writer, I would encourage you to visit us and see if we can be of help or encouragement to you.


I have had an ... interesting week. I could say that it was a week from hell, but there were too many good things mixed in with the frustration to fit that description well.  The really fun stuff began on Wednesday afternoon as I made way way to Holden, MO for a magic show to kick-off their AWANA program for the year.  Somewhere around the halfway point, my car started to overheat.  When I noticed the temperature rising I began to look for a place to pull over and check it out.  By the time I got to an exit, the temp started to come back down.  I assumed that the thermostat was stuck but then opened up.  I pulled over anyway and made certain that there was plenty of coolant.  Once back on the road, everything seemed to be okay ...

Except...apparently the thermostat was back in the closed position and stuck again and the temperature started climbing again.  Sure enough, it eventually opened and the temp came back down.  It was running a little hotter than usual but holding steady ... for a while.

I could bore you with the details of the adventure but I won't. Eventually the thermostat locked in the closed position and the temperature redlined. Of course, at that point I was on a two lane highway with no shoulder and no place to pull over. I found a small drive and managed to pull over.  As an added bonus, I had no cell phone coverage.  The drive led up to a new home that was under construction. Workers had left for the day. There was no power and so there was no water. However, the site was high enough that I managed two calls: one to the church to have somebody come pick me up, and one to Chris so that she could start the 2 1/2 hour drive to pick me up and take me home after the program. She was not happy about this.

Across the highway was a mobile home that was set back a little ways. I made way over there to see if I could get some water while I waited for my ride (it would be 20 minutes or so).  I guess if you're going to break down on the road, it's a good thing to break down in front of a mechanic's home.  Mike (the mechanic) came over and confirmed what I suspected.  He took the thermostat out and tried to get things back together without out it (a temporary fix) but it wouldn't seal tight and I would have to leave my car.

Mike told me I could leave my car in his yard until I could make arrangements to come and get it.  I told him that it would probably be Friday since I had a day/mid ahead of me on Thursday.  He had me leave the hood unlatched and the repairs were finished when I arrived on Friday! Nice guy, eh?

I had a couple of offers to drive me up there on Friday but ended up going with a friend from church. We had a nice chat on the way up and also had some time to talk to Mike about his relationship with God when we arrived.  We prayed with Mike, finished up a few minor repairs and drove home without further incident.  It doesn't appear that the head is cracked or anything like that, but the engine is definitely in need off some work. (sigh)

Life happens ... and leaves us with stories to tell.  Maybe Mike just needed some encouragement and Gary and I got to be the vessels that God chose to use.   Perhaps a parent that needed to hear the gospel was at the church to pick up their child and heard a story that they would have missed if I had been on time.  Maybe it was the pastor that needed some encouragement as we talked over a late burger while waiting for Chris to come get me. Of course, it could just be that John was in need of a little humility and a reminder that our plans are not always God's plans.

I'm not a big fan of coincidence.  I believe that we are guided by a Great Power and the people that we meet are often appointments of a divine nature. Even thought the week has been a bit of a pain in the butt, I'm not really too upset by anything that happened.  There were a lot of stories that began this week.  I'm looking forward to finding out how they turn out.

What's your story?
Share it with somebody.

The clock has just passed midnight.
It is the eleventh of September, ten years after the vicious attacks on US soil.

John <><

Monday, September 05, 2011

Labor Day Re-run

The following is a re-post from Labor Day 2009.  The original post generated a number of comments that had nothing to do with Labor Day and served to advance a personal agenda of a reader. It is the only time I have not posted comments from my readers.

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 <><

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Who Will Tell Your Kids About God?

This is a subject that I've been thinking about for quite some time.  I have some mixed up ideas about it and I'm not really sure how to convey my thoughts in an orderly manner.  I've decided that I'm just going to throw it out there in whatever order it comes to mind as I write (with a little bit of editing when I'm finished) and see what happens.  I know that for some of you, this may be offensive.  It's not meant to be a judgment of your parenting styles or skills; this is just one humble man's opinion on one area of teaching our kids lessons about God and eternity.

The catalyst for my writing this post at this time was a post by a preacher friend of mine. You can go read it here. It's a pretty short read; an excerpt from a sermon preached in 1738--almost 300 years ago and still as relevant as ever.  We never really think about the possibility that we may be responsible for promoting the damnation of others--especially the damnation of our own kids.

It goes back to a question that we need to ask: If we don't teach our children about God, who will?  Will we leave it up to their friends?  Will we delegate that part of parenting to the church we attend?  Will we send them to a church that we don't attend so they can learn about God?

Most of the time--knowingly or not--we will be the ones to teach our kids nearly everything they learn about God.

Our kids will learn from our actions that Sunday sports are more important than God.  Our kids will learn from our actions that "family time" is more important than worshiping God.  Our kids will learn that God isn't a big part (or even a little part) of our lives and so it isn't important to make God a part of their lives.  Even if we send them to church--when dads don't attend with them, most of them will stop going when they are no longer forced to go.  Dad's example of staying home trumps everything that somebody else teaches them from the church where you may be sending them or where mom is taking them.

Chance are good that if Sunday morning is the extent of our "godly" lifestyle, it will be the extent of theirs.  If we fail to be bold about our faith, they will not be bold about their faith. If, as parents, we choose to ignore the call of God and wander aimlessly into hell (or perhaps march boldly into hell), our kids will willingly follow us.

If you have no strong beliefs about heaven and hell, it makes sense that you would feel fine about allowing your kids to to seek God on their own; allowing them to explore the world's religions without any input or guidance from you.

Please understand that I don't want my kids to have my faith. I want them to have their own faith.  I want them to know why they believe what they believe.  I want them to be able to understand and defend their faith. I believe it is my job to give my kids the knowledge, the Holy Spirit's job to give them the understanding, and their job to follow the call of God on their lives.

At this point, you might be thinking to yourself, "John, you said you have some mixed up ideas about it, but it seems like you're pretty certain about the matter."

Okay, so here's where my thinking might start to cause some problems.

I love my church and the programs that we have for kids.  Sunday school, children's church, AWANAs, kids' camps--are all great programs and we reach and teach lots of kids the message of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus.  BUT...

Statistics point to the reality that we will lose many of these kids if we don't reach their parents--especially their dads.

Until recently, we've offered little to our young men in the way of focused spiritual mentoring.  I'm glad that it's changing, but it is changing slowly and hasn't really become a purposeful way of discipleship and evangelism.  While I wouldn't give up our kids' programs, I do believe that having them as our primary way of changing the lives of families is a mistake.  If we fail to reach the parents of the kids of our community, we are ultimately failing the kids of our community.

Dads, it is your God given responsibility to be the spiritual leaders of your homes.  Most of the time, your kids will follow you, whether you mean for them to or not.  Where are you leading them?  Are you walking with God?  Are you promoting the salvation of your kids through Jesus? Or are you promoting their damnation?

I know that there are some of you (maybe many of you) that will say that there are more than those two options.

Go ahead.
Make your case.
But you don't have to make it to me.  Make it to the Judge.  Or should I say THE Judge?  Make your case to God that you are providing your kids with more than a great opportunity to succeed at baseball/soccer/football/hockey/competitive cheer/whatever, and that you are giving them essential knowledge and a good example of how a godly man lives and follows Jesus.

Not sure how to do that?
Call me. Send me a private message. E-mail me. Send me a comment and ask that it be kept private.  Do something to secure eternity for yourself and your family.  It is time to man up and lead your family the way that God has designed you to lead.

John <><