Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Celebration is Coming

After the recent World Series Game 6 victory by the St. Louis Cardinals, I saw a comment about the great celebration that took place and a comparison to the lack of celebration among Christians when a person becomes a believer.

I certainly agree that we have become somewhat apathetic about celebrating the event of Christian conversion. I have even stated similar sentiments in the past. There should be a celebration...something more than a raise of the hand and a hearty "Amen" is most definitely in order.

However, I think that I may have something to offer in the way of insight to the casual way that we accept new believers into the fold.

If we stay with the baseball analogy and look at the Cardinals' 2011 season, we find that there were 100 wins prior to the Championship game. The regular season record was 90 wins, 72 losses. Add in three wins in the NLDS, four against the Brewers in the NLCS and the four wins in the World Series for a grand total of 101 wins in 2011. (btw, that's one fewer than the Phillies' regular season win total of 102)

Each and every win was important to the Cardinals' success. If they had one less win during the season, they would not have made it to the post season.  Each and every win had its own minor celebration. There were high fives, fist bumps, handshakes and slaps on the butt to acknowledge each win. But real celebrations like winning the World Series -- no, those are reserved for ... well, winning the World Series.

There was a big celebration on the last day of the regular season when they won their 90th game (and when Atlanta lost their 73rd game) to clinch a seat in post season play. The celebration was bigger when they beat Philadelphia in Game 5 of the Division Series and bigger yet when they beat the Brewers for the National League Championship. The on-field celebration after winning Game 6 was bigger than usual for a Game 6 victory. But then again, nobody has ever comeback from being one strike away from elimination -- TWICE in the same World Series game. But there were no celebrations to compare to the one after the win on Friday night. That win was the one that each Major League team strives for; the only one that really matters. That is the win that ends the season and declares the winners THE WORLD CHAMPIONS!

So what does all of that have to do with Christians and our lack of grand celebrations when lost souls are saved?

Well, I think that there is a realization that there is still a lot of work to be done; a lot of battles to be fought before the grand celebration takes place.
When the Cardinals won the tenth game of the season, they knew that they would be back on the field the following day, continuing towards their goal. They knew that there would be more battles; some victories and that they would suffer many losses. They would contend with injuries. Some days would be hot. Some days they would play in the rain. Some days they would be tired from a late game the night before or a long plane ride. Some days they would be thinking about personal issues and dealing with family illnesses or loss. But mercilessly, the season went on without regard to the comfort of the players.

Could it be that we sometimes focus on the work to be done and forget to celebrate the victories along the way? Have we forgotten how important each victory really is? Are we missing out on celebrating milepost victories? Maybe we have become too casual; too apathetic about the daily victories. Maybe we need to remind each other that each victory counts; that each victory is worthy of a fist bump or fanny slap.

My encouragement to you is this:
Celebrate each victory.
Remember that there is still work to be done.
Keep your eyes on Jesus and look forward to the day of His Second Coming when we will celebrate in a fashion that will make all worldly celebrations look like a simple slap on the butt!

John <><

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Better Than a World Series Win

Friday night was a super night...

...And I'm not talking about the Cardinals winning the World Series.

Yeah, that was great, but it was far from what made Friday a great day and Friday night a super night.

I got to see Hannah last night and celebrate her 20th birthday by taking her out to a late-night supper at Steak 'n' Shake (I know that's not a great place but there wasn't a lot to choose from at that hour)! We ate and had a few minutes to chat and I got to catch up on her school experiences and give her a small gift.

The dinner meant missing a few innings of the Cardinal's World Championship Game, but it was well worth it because time with her has become rare and is far more valuable than listening to another ballgame on the radio (even if it is game 7 of the World Series).

But even spending time with my favorite daughter wasn't what made Friday night a super night.

I got to spend some time at Unity Baptist Church in Fayette MO. It was the night of their Fall Festival and they honored me by asking me to come back for the second year in a row. Getting to share some magic and tell the gospel story is always good time. Being there to witness several people respond to the invitation of the Holy Spirit is an incredible experience.  There were several decisions made, both kids and adults. 8 hours in the car and a show on little sleep is no big deal when you know that you are being used to help people find the love of God and receive the gift of salvation.

It definitely makes for a super night.

The other stuff was pretty sweet, but nothing compared to knowing that the Kingdom is growing!

John <><

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Yes! I'm a Fan!

If the World Series is baseball's greatest stage, then Albert Pujols is the game's greatest performer.

Even if you are a Rangers' fan, you can't help but wonder at the Game 3 performance of the Cardinal slugger.
Last night he:

Tied the MLB record for the most hits in a World Series game (5). (Paul Molitor 1982)
Tied the MLB record for the most HRs in a World Series game (3). (Jackson '77, Ruth '26, '28)
Tied the MLB record for the most RBIs in a World Series game (6). (Richardson '60, Matsui 2009)
Tied the MLB record for the most runs in a World Series game (4). (9 others including Ruth and Jackson)
Set the MLB record for the most total bases in a World Series game (14).
Became the only player ever to hit safely in four consecutive innings.

I can't add anything to that other than to say ... WOW!


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Amazing Grace

It was only a short time after I began following Jesus in earnest; less than a full year.

During the previous summer I had made a profession of faith and been baptized by immersion at the First Baptist Church of Hammond IN.  By the end of that year, Chris and I left Northwest Indiana and moved to St. Louis.  In the spring, we became members of a small General Baptist Church in South City and that is where I began to grow up as a Christian.

I remember an evening service that took place the beginning of that first summer at Christy Park General Baptist Church.  It was the Sunday night service after a week of Vacation Bible School.  The attendance was low; the usual for a Sunday night (perhaps even lower since we had all worked hard the week before). I don't remember what the pastor preached on that night. I do remember that it wasn't an evangelical kind of message. It was more the kind of message that you would expect for a pastor to preach to a bunch of workers that needed a bit of rest and encouragement to continue in the work of God.  The service ended without an invitation of any kind; a rarity in most evangelical churches. There was a prayer of benediction and we were dismissed.

As we began to talk to one another and decide who was going to Ted Drewe's and who wanted dinner first, a stranger began to make his way from the back of the church to the front where the pastor was still standing. I remember seeing him and thinking that he was like a fish swimming upstream. We were making or way out and he was trying to get to the front. After a few moments, the pastor switched his mic back on and spoke to us.  He told us that since we had been dismissed, we were free to go; but he asked us to take our conversations to the foyer or parking lot. Then he told us that this man had come seeking God and asking for prayer and the pastor invited us to stay and pray with them.

Several went to the front to kneel and pray there. Most of us returned to our seats or sat down where we were and prayed from there.  Later we would find out that this man was legally blind and having some other personal issues. For that particular night, he felt like Satan was truly after him and ducked into the sanctuary of the church, seeking refuge from his pursuer.  As he wept over his need for God and as many prayed for him without really knowing what was going on,  the pianist went to the piano and began to play Amazing Grace.

As I listened to her play, it struck me that I was witnessing the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. I think that it was the very first time that I was aware of His Power and Presence at the moment that it was happening.  There was nothing in the message about our need for God. There was nothing about our sinful condition; nothing about our helplessness. There was no instruction, no encouragement to seek the saving grace of God, no invitation or opportunity given--and yet here was one that had come for just that purpose.

You may be thinking that this was some crazy guy that came in off the street. Maybe that description worked -- for that night. But Gerald became a part of our fellowship. His wife and daughter soon joined us, as well.  He began to grow in his new faith. The transformation that was taking place in his life was interesting to watch and be a part of in a small way.

That was more than 25 years ago.

I still think of that moment (and it generally brings tears to my eyes) whenever I hear that song. You don't hear it in its traditional form at Hopedale anymore. Now we sing the Amazing Grace: My Chains are Gone version.  I think that I like it better ... and it still brings the same memories to mind.

And I am still amazed the God chooses to love us and has provided the means for us to be reconciled from our sin through the death, burial and resurrection of His son, Jesus.

As you read this, perhaps you are sensing that it's time for you to examine your life in the light of eternity.  I know that Gerald felt that it was the devil that was chasing after him. The devil may not be chasing after you. It may be that it is God that is pursuing you.  Is He guiding your heart to come to Him?  Are you running from Him because you would rather cling to the temporary things of this life than to claim an inheritance in heaven?  Stop running from Him. He is calling to you so that you can fulfill your God-given purpose in life. True happiness; true joy can only be found in Him through His son Jesus.

I've listened to this several times as I've been writing. I pray that as you listen to it the Holy Spirit will stir your heart to come to Jesus, to share your story, to give glory to God.

John <><

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Great Night in Galena MO

I really don't like posting from my cell phone. It's not a "smart" phone (I guess that makes it a "dumb" phone) and I usually mess up some where along the way.

I'd wait until this afternoon to post this except it's just too good to put off until then. I had a GREAT time at the Galena Baptist Church.

It was the last night of their fall revival and the small rural church was packed! Kids, youth, adults--all ages filled the pews to near capacity. I had the pleasure of sharing some magic and the privilege of sharing the gospel. There were several people in each age group that made decisions to follow Jesus as Lord and Savior.  I tend not to keep a count of such things but leave the follow up to the local church. I'm pretty certain that I'll hear from Pastor William in the near future as he talks to the individuals about their decisions.

John <><

Saturday, October 08, 2011


I'm blogging from the Starbucks in St. Joseph MO, today.

I'm in nearby Maysville for a weekend Crusade hosted by the First Baptist Church of Maysville.  Yesterday, I was at Osborn schools for two assemblies and Maysville High School for one.  The school assemblies were on self esteem and making good choices.  I had the opportunity to invite the students to the 'fifth quarter' event after the football game last night and to the Crusade events tonight and tomorrow.

The Crusade events are taking place at the high school instead of the church.  Even the Sunday morning service has been moved from the church to the high school.  It's been an interesting trip so far.  The church is very active in the small community.  I think that moving events to a location away from the church is a good move for two main reasons.  First it does make an event available to people that have just decided that they don't want to go to a church for any reason, and second, it reminds the believers that we are supposed to take the message of God's love to the community rather than trying to coerce the community into the walls of the church so that we can turn our pastors loose on them!

I realize that I am not a typical Southern Baptist Evangelist in many ways. As much as I recognize that the tradition revival services (or the modern day compromise of a Sun-Wed revival) still have a place in some areas, I believe very strongly that we have to adapt our methods of presenting the Gospel of Salvation to a lost world.  If we can't get believers into Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday night services, why would we expect unbelievers to reschedule their activities for a week in order to accommodate our stale tradition?  And why would we continue to use methods that are no longer effective?

I really am convinced that each believer must come to recognize that it is our individual responsibility to share the love of God.  Our pastors have no greater obligation than we have.  It's true that they have a different platform and different calling, but our responsibility is not diminished by the work of another.

At the end of the Gospel of John, Jesus is talking to Peter about the calling on his life (and death).  Jesus' last conversation with Peter is very much like his first conversation with Peter -- "Follow me."  At one point, Peter  notices John and asks Jesus, "What about him?"

In so many words, Jesus basically tells Peter that it doesn't matter what God has planned for John. Peter's obligation is to follow Jesus.

Are you being obedient to your calling?
Are you more concerned with what others are doing and how they are answering their calling?
When was the last time you shared your beliefs with somebody?
When was the last time you shared God's love with somebody through your actions as well as your words?
Does your behavior model the behavior of your Savior?
If others were to judge Jesus by the way you act (and they do), how would they perceive Him?
Would He be a loving, compassionate, merciful Savior?
Would He be the kind of Savior that would leave the glory of heaven to die a horrible death for them?
What picture do you present to a lost world?

If you are a follower of Jesus, I would invite you to join me in sharing the!  Rather than an organized crusade with an evangelist and a big event, we will be an unorganized crusade of many dozens of individuals sharing the gospel with many dozens of individuals.

If you are not a follower of Jesus, I have good news for you.  He is following you.  He knows you.  He desires for you to know Him.  If Jesus was on Facebook, He would want to be your friend.

The Bible tells of a Great Book of Life -- Lifebook!  Jesus would love to include you as His friend.
Write, call, message ... ask.
I'd be happy to respond.

John <><

Thursday, October 06, 2011

A Tribute to the Parents of Steve Jobs

I read this on a friend's Facebook status:

Her name is Joanne ............. In 1954, she was a young unmarried college
student who discovered that she was pregnant. In the 1950s, her options were
limited. She could have had an abortion - but the procedure was both
dangerous and illegal. She could have gotten married, but she wasn't ready
and didn't want to interrupt her education. Joanne opted, instead, to give
birth to the baby and put it up for adoption. And so it was that in 1955, a
California couple named Paul and Clara Jobs adopted a baby boy, born out of
wedlock, that they named Steven. We know him Steve Jobs. . . . But:
imagine if that life had never happened.

I am not one to assume that what I read on the internet is true (even when it comes from well meaning friends) and generally use Snopes or PolitiFact to check things out. If you check this story out on Snopes, you find that there is even more to the story than this Facebook post tells.

I know that the person posting is wanting to emphasize choosing life over choosing abortion ... and that's a good thing. But I would also add that there are thousands upon thousands of children around the world that are waiting for parents to adopt them. Even in the case of the baby that would become Steve Jobs, the lawyer and his wife that had originally agreed to adopt this baby wanted a girl and after he was born, decided not to adopt him.  Another couple that was waiting to adopt a baby received a middle of the night call telling them that a baby boy had become unexpectedly available and asked if they were interested. That story is one of three life stories that Steve Jobs told in his 2005 address at Stanford's graduation ceremonies. You can read it here.

Today, I want to express my thanks to those that have answered the call to be adoptive parents.  My parents' best friends adopted two boys (and served as foster parents to another) that the kids in my family pretty much grew up with.  A little boy that was born in Guatemala and adopted by friends was over at our house last night.  A family in my church is preparing to go to China (next week!) to pick up their fourth adopted child and another young woman is waiting for the day when she will will be going to pick up her little boy.

After reading Steve Jobs' story, one can only imagine the things that these kids (and others like them) will do in their lifetimes.  Their adoptive parents give them more than life; they give them hope and allow them to fulfill the purpose for which God has created them.

While Steve Jobs did much in his lifetime that is deserving of great praise, I will let that praise be given by others.  I choose to praise the couple that chose to adopt him; the couple that was willing to give their all to keep a promise to a young woman that wanted more for her baby than she could give; the couple that nurtured a young creative mind and allowed him to make the world a better place.

To all of you that are called to the incredible ministry of adoption -- Thank you!

John <><

A child's answer to what is adoption: It's when the baby grows in your heart instead of your tummy!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Spanning the Globe

The other day I noticed that about 15% of the hits on my blog are from Germany and Russia.  Really?!  I guess that's pretty cool.

I'm not sure why I look at that stuff, maybe just because Google tracks it.  US readers only make up about 70% of the hits. Following Germany and Russia are Netherlands, UK, France, Canada, Australia and--get this--Iran! I also get regular hits from the Philippines, Indonesia, New Zealand, Mexico and UAE. Other countries (like Latvia and Andorra) also show up from time to time--no doubt, hits from random searches.

Internet Explorer is the browser of choice (54%) with Firefox and Chrome still coming in ahead of Safari. Windows is the primary OE at 85%, followed by Mac and iPhone.

Many hits come from my Facebook link, a few from other blogs that have a link to Out of My Hat.

If you're dropping in from a country other than the USA, leave a comment and let me know where you are and how you happened to visit Out of My Hat.  Actually, US readers can do the same.

Over all, the trend of blog reading seems to be dropping. Perhaps it's because there are so many blogs out there now, or perhaps, people have decided that they have better things to do than read the rantings of simple people like me.

Whether you are a regular follower, a Facebook friend or just happened to find me in a random search--Thanks for stopping by today. Leave a note or comment if you feel like it. You're welcome anytime.


Tuesday, October 04, 2011

What I Like About ... Chris

Today is my wife's birthday.
Happy Birthday, Chris.

I figured that this would be an ideal day to write a What I Like About ... post to honor Chris!

What I Like About ...

Chris is funny.  Many people never really get to the funny side of Chris. She loves to laugh. I'll admit that I don't always find the same things funny, but at least I enjoy her laughter (and occasional snort!)

In so many ways, Chris stabilizes our family.  Before we had kids, it was Chris that insisted that we find a church where we could both worship our God. After we had kids, there were many Sundays that she got the kids ready and went without me because I was working and she wasn't going to let that keep her from going to church or from bringing up our kids in church.  She has stayed home with the kids when I've been on trips for NATCA or for ministry events. She has been to a number of school programs solo because I was at work.  She loves her kids and loves being a mom.

Chris is a wonderful cook.  She seldom uses recipes; she just seasons until it tastes right ... and it usually does!  We don't cook at home as often as we used to, but I enjoyed our family meals when the kids were at home and I enjoy our meals now, at home or at a restaurant.

In a way, it's odd that we ended up together -- we don't like the same kind of tv shows or movies, she doesn't like sports, she doesn't share my passion for coffee or really spicy foods (although she eats foods that are spicy by normal standards), we just don't have a lot of the same interests when it comes to our leisure time.

We both like Ted Drewe's!

On the other hand, we tend to complete each other (more of a task for her than for me).  Where I am unorganized, she is organized. Where I am sloppy, she is neat.  I am more of a spender, she is more of a saver (although she does pretty well in the spending area, too!). She stays more focused, I tend to procrastinate.

All-in-all, Chris makes me a better me.
Happy Birthday, Chris!
I love you.


Monday, October 03, 2011

What I Like About ... Work

In the past I have written about negativity and how it drains me of positive energy.  I have mentioned that I sometimes go to great lengths to avoid negative people so that I can stay positive.  Recently, I've read that some of my Facebook friends have started deleting friends that regularly post negative comments or statuses.

To counter some of the negatives that I encounter on a daily basis, I've decided to write a series of What I Like About ... posts. I'll cover a number of things like work, home, family, friends, church, community, etc.  I invite your to share your likes in the comments section as they relate to the topic of the day.  Please keep in mind, this is an exercise in emphasizing the positive so negative comments won't be posted here and will be deleted from Facebook.

What I Like About ...

I like my job.  I've had to work for a living before (lumber yard, aluminum factory, retail sales, insurance sales). This is enjoyable enough that it's almost like not working.  For those that don't know me well, I am an air traffic controller and a proud member of the National Air Traffic Controller's Association (NATCA), the union representing controllers and many other aviation related government employees. I work in an up/down facility which means that some days I work in the tower and some days I work in the radar room. Most days, if given the choice, I'd prefer to be in the radar room. However, the tower is generally a good day, too.  There aren't too many jobs that you can get into trouble from NOT staring out of the windows! It's a little over-simplified to say that I get paid to look out the windows and watch the airplanes take off and land, but I do kind of get paid to watch airplanes take off and land.

Getting used to working with a bunch of ATCers is a bit of a trick. We all have extreme egos and believe that our way of doing things is the best way. If I thought that somebody else had a better way, I'd do it that way. While there are certainly stronger players and weaker players, as a whole the US air traffic control system is a sort of dream team. From coast to coast, we guide you safely to your destination -- day after day, every day. There isn't a way to describe the feeling you have after working a busy session.  Sometimes you're helping somebody else; sometimes you're the one being helped. The goal is to get you to your destination in a safe and expeditious manner -- every time.

At a time when government employees are being looked at as a liability instead of an asset, it can be difficult to keep a positive attitude and keep doing the job that we do at the level that we've always done it.  The flying public is fortunate that we take such immense pride in our work that we cannot do less than our best each and every time that we plug in to a position.

It's true -- I get paid well to do my job. But then, you really don't want the lowest bidder to take over a system that should be more about safety than about profit, do you?

ATC is a good gig. Like most careers, it's not for everybody.  The schedule can be difficult on family events and normal activities--we're open 24/7. I've worked a few holidays and missed out on things that other parents didn't have to worry about missing.  It's all a part of the package.

I've been told that I have a very important job. I usually respond that my mechanic has an important job. If I can't get to work, I can't do my job.  It's just my way to keep things in perspective.

In spite of the frustrations that go along with working for the government (and the cover your butt and pass the buck style of management that is the FAA), I feel blessed to have been given the opportunities that this career has afforded me.  Through serving on two different national standing committees with NATCA, I have met controllers and made friends from across the country. We (controllers) are passionate about our jobs, our families, our union, our playtime, ...pretty much everything we do.

For the past 19 years, 8 months and 27 days, it's been a fun career.


Sunday, October 02, 2011

The Week Ahead

It's Sunday evening and I'm watching the Cardinals try to figure out the Phillies' pitching so that they can tie the series before heading to St. Louis.

The week ahead will be a busy one.  It starts early tomorrow when I meet with my accountability group at 6:30. The Monday morning meet works well for us and allows a couple of the guys to get to work on time and doesn't take away an evening or time on the weekend from our families. The only downside for me is that Mondays are my day off and would be the day that I might sleep in a little bit later. On the other hand, I generally view sleeping as a waste of time so I guess it doesn't really matter.

After breakfast, I'll finally get to take the Del Sol in to have the engine replaced (again). I have this week scheduled as a week of vacation.  Tuesday is Chris' birthday. We'll probably start with dinner out on Monday night and then continue on Tuesday with a day trip to a few places that we've been meaning to visit.

I'll need to pick up the Del Sol by sometime Thursday morning and then be on the road in the afternoon/evening to make the 5 hour drive to Maysville MO for a weekend crusade at the First Baptist Church of Maysville.  My part begins on Friday morning at 10. I'll be doing two assemblies at Osborn School; K-6th on self esteem, and 7-12 on making good choices.  Then we'll move to Maysville School for an afternoon 7-12 assembly (also on making good choices). Friday night will be a 5th quarter event after the local football game.

Saturday is a fun day with a carnival like event  and a couple of magic shows. Gary Taylor will deliver the evening message for the Crusade.

The weekend crusade will conclude with the Sunday morning service.

I'll be spending the early part of the week getting things ready for the different programs. It's been a couple of years since I've done a school assembly.  I'm looking forward to it.  I would like to do more of that kind of thing in retirement. 

It should be a grand week!

John <><