Friday, March 30, 2012

Do Not Turn to the Right ... Nor to the Left

Several weeks ago, I wrote a piece titled Christian Right. Christian Left. And whatever happened to just following Jesus?

I've been thinking about that lately and wanted to share some more thoughts on it.

On Facebook, I follow the group The Christian Left. I wouldn't really consider myself to be a member of "The Christian Left" because I seem to have some pretty strong opposing views. I can say the same for "The Christian Right" (if such a group can be defined). The thing that got me to thinking about this again was a phrase that I heard several times this past weekend. Actually, it was more than a phrase; it was a command.

Since I had about twenty hours of driving last weekend, I spent much of the time listening to The Bible. At the end of the Book of Deuteronomy and the beginning of the Book of Joshua, there are words similar to these that appear on several occasions: " not turn aside from any of the words that I command you today, to the right hand or to the left..."

Do not turn to the right, nor to the left.

I'm not saying that following the commands of God are easy. But I think that convoluting the Word of God with the desires of man makes things very confusing. Christians ought not be at odds with one another over many of the things that we seem to be at odds over. I know that each side points to the Scriptures to defend their stance on the issue at hand, but how can the Scriptures be used to defend both sides?
The simple answer is that they (the Scriptures) can't.

Do not turn to the right, nor to the left.

Maybe it would be better if it were easier to follow God's commands and harder to follow our own desires.
Maybe it would be easier if it we really cared about others like we care about ourselves.
Maybe following God would be easier if we would quit listening to the rantings of politicians and pundits and searched our hearts for the guiding wisdom of the Holy Spirit.
Maybe we could realize that when we have to spend so much time and energy to convince ourselves that we are doing the right (correct) thing, we probably are not.

Do not turn to the right, nor to the left.

What if we decided that politicians were not going to guide our conscience?
What if we decided that news broadcasts were not going to guide our conscience?
What if we decided that religious leaders were not going to guide our conscience?
What if we purposed in our hearts to read the Bible and pray for understanding and we would let God and God alone guide our conscience?

Do not turn to the right, nor to the left.

If you lived in a godless society (and you probably do) and the government of that society was not a religious party kind of government (and it most likely isn't) whose values are reflected in the laws of the land, how would you go about putting an end to the evils of the land?

If your desire was to bring about an end to the 3,500+ abortions per day in the USA and you couldn't change the laws to make abortion illegal, how would you do it?

If your desire was to put an end to sexual promiscuity and pornography but couldn't count on help from the government to get it done, how would you do it?

If your desire was to feed the hungry, provide clean drinking water to poor communities and give medical care to the sick without the aid of the government, what would you do?

Are we, as Christians, powerless to impact our society without the aid of a godless government?
Has somebody shortened the arm of our God?
Should we be fighting among ourselves over which social issues need government intervention and how that needs to come about?

Do not turn to the right, nor to the left.

It would be easier if I could say that I hate politics...but I don't. I think that good politics is stimulating. I think that the differences and diversities of the many peoples of the United States are what make us a great nation. But we have to learn (or in our case, relearn) to listen to one another. The government shouldn't be run by the biggest bullies or the richest kids on the playground -- but that's what seems to be happening.
And yet, that matters very LITTLE in the scope of my quest to be obedient to God; to follow His commands.

Do not turn to the right, nor to the left.

One of my blogging buddies commented on the original post, "... I think we just heard from the Christian center."

Would you care to join me? Can we make a difference by following the commands of God? 
"Go...and make disciples..."


Friday, March 23, 2012

St. Baldrick's Update (#3)

I just made the final installment of the SGF ATCT contribution to the St. Baldrick's Foundation for the 2012 shave the head fundraiser. The facility made their goal and so I guess I'm locked into getting my head shaved with my nephews this weekend.

I really do want to say thanks to everybody that made a contribution. I know that the boys are very excited to have exceeded their $1500 goal by more than $300! Even though they're not quite to $2000 (which is what I told them it would take for me to join them), I'm going in for the  head shaving anyway. I am really proud of them for doing this again this year and stepping up to help other kids that are in need. Just a couple of weeks ago they learned one of the kids that has been coming to their house for religion classes has been diagnosed with leukemia. Participating in this year's event will be much more personal than in years past.

Later this morning (after a couple of hours sleep) I'll begin the journey to meet them for the Saturday event. I plan on dinner with my folks tonight and then with Aaron and Jenny on Saturday night. Sunday I'll make the long drive home to push the weekend total driving to around 1100 miles (1770 km). Since I'll be spending most of the weekend hours behind the wheel, it will probably Monday before I post the pictures here and on Facebook.

For anybody that would still like to make a contribution, you can do that here. Just click on the "make a donation" link and follow the prompts.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Facebook Friendships

Last night I was looking at my list of Facebook friends and wondering where they all came from. Right now my profile says that I have 544 Facebook friends. I have a whopping 38 followers on Twitter and an astounding 9 connections on LinkedIn. I have about 60 friends in circles at Google+.

Most of my Facebook friends I have actually met. That makes sense. It's actually odd that I have a great number of "friends" that I haven't met and many that I haven't seen in a very long time. Most of the "haven't seen in a very long time" friends are classmates or friends from my hometown of Chillicothe IL. Some are relatives or friends of the family.

How does one end up with so many friends that they haven't met?

For me, a lot of the "friends I've never met" have come from the Blogosphere. My blogging buddies come from all over. Most of them are in the US, but many are not. I do follow blogs of people that I know and have actually met, but I think I have more blogger friends that I haven't met--but would really like to meet. Maybe a world tour to meet by blogging friends would be cool. Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Indonesia, UAE, South Africa, England, Mexico, and even Iraq. Also the east and west coasts of the US as well as the southern states, the mountain states and the Midwest. And I might as well include Canada and visit the friends that we met while on vacation.

Several of my blog friends turned Facebook friends are no longer blogging. I think that Facebook has some how managed to siphon off the daily minutes once given to blogging and trashed them in the great time sucking black-hole of Facebook.

Many of my friends are Air traffic Controllers that I have met through my active days of working through NATCA. Some of my ATC friends I haven't actually met but we share many mutual friends and a common career.

And there are a great many friends that I have met through ministry activities, camps, preaching, conferences, etc. I have some friends that are friends at the recommendation of a mutual friend. We've never actually met and yet we are "friends" just the same.

With so many friends from so many sources, I was wondering...are there rules for what is acceptable when soliciting friends or (perhaps more importantly) when accepting or ignoring friendship requests?

For example:
I never solicit friendships from kids.  I don't even solicit friendships from the youth students that I teach. I get requests from kids that have been to camp or VBS or some other church function.  I generally accept these requests but don't usually subscribe to their updates.
As a general rule, I don't solicit friendships from women. I have women friends--family, classmates, churches, etc. Some of the blog friends are women. And I'm sure that some of them did receive a friend request from me, but not too many. Like I said, "As a general rule..."

So, what about you?
Any rules that you follow for friending or un-friending?
What about rules for commenting or subscribing to a friends status updates?
Any rules on messaging/chatting, etc.?

I would love to hear your feedback.

John <><

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

St. Baldrick's Update (#2)

With only a few days before the Friday deadline, SGF ATCT is getting very close to reaching its goal!
I want to thank everybody that has already made a contribution to the St. Baldrick's Foundation to support my nephews' efforts to raise funds for research for a cure of childhood cancers. With just a few more donations, I'll be joining the boys for a head shaving event on Saturday.

In addition to the local Air Traffic contributions (including staff and administration), we have also received donations from a supervisor that hasn't even reported to the facility for assignment, an AF technician and the elevator maintenance guy that was in the facility and saw the notice.

Some of my NATCA friends from other facilities have made contributions, as well as family and church friends. I know that you will all get a thank-you from the boys. I want to make sure that you know how much I appreciate it, as well. If there are still Facebook friends, Twitter followers or regular Out of My Hat readers that would like to make a contribution, you can do that here. Just click on the "Make a Donation" link and follow the prompts. I know that there are many places that you can (and do) give your charitable dollars. For those that have chosen the St. Baldrick's Foundation for this event--Thanks!

John <><

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Some Stories From Children's Camp

Tonight was a great fundraiser for our Hopedale Kids' Camp. I am truly humbled by the generosity of the people of Hopedale. And true to form, the people with the big hearts and generous spirits are the ones that don't have kids that are of the age to go to camp. Come to think of it, most of their grandkids are past the age of going to kids' camp, too. But they recognize the value of teaching kids about our God and Savior and so they invest in the next generation of Christ followers.


As a way of affirming the work that goes on at kids' camp; I thought that I would share a couple of camp stories. I should begin by pointing out that kids' ministry would not be my first choice in Kingdom work. You can read this post from five plus years ago for some insight as to how I ended up in this unusual predicament.

But these stories, these testimonies of the work of the Holy Spirit, are enough to open the eyes of this doubter to see the hand of God where there is no other explanation. I know that the changes that have taken place in the lives of the kids (and their families) have been far greater than what a simple man like me can take credit for. Here is one of my favorites:

Several years ago a father approached me the week after camp. He said that he had to tell me what happened to him on the way home from picking up his son.
The Sunday that we were in camp, there was a missionary from Haiti at our church. The missionary was there to explain what they were doing with the money that was coming from the people of Hopedale. Most of it was going to feed the children that were coming to the mission school. For most of the kids, the freshly baked roll with peanut butter that they received in the morning and the beans and rice that they got for lunch was the only food that they ever ate. Many of them didn't eat over the weekend. They waited until they went to school on Monday for their food. The parents of one of our kids were both lamenting the fact that their son was missing this presentation. They knew that their son had a heart for kids that were less fortunate and thought that he would have gotten a lot from the presentation of how our gifts were impacting the Kingdom work in another country.
The dad came to pick up the son that evening. On the way home, the young boy announced that he was going to be a missionary. He told his dad that Mr. John had told them that God even speaks to kids and sometimes lets them know what he wants them to do when they become adults so that they can start to get ready for that calling. Confidently, he told his dad that God is calling him to be a missionary.
The dad told me that he had to pull off the road. His eyes had filled with tears and he could no longer see to drive. While he and his wife were wishing that there son could hear the missionary speak, their son was hearing the Spirit of God call him to the work of a missionary.

That was several years ago. They have moved to another one of the many small towns of Southwest Missouri. I ran into them recently. Though the young boy's venue of sharing the gospel may be changing a little bit, he is still active in pursuing the call to reach the world with the gospel.


Now that's just good stuff!

I'll share more of these stories as we draw closer to June.
I want to add--one of the reasons we have such a great kids' camp is that we have a great children's department. Our kid's workers are super. They love the kids. They love telling them the stories of the Bible. And they love encouraging the kids to share the stories with their friends.

Hopedale, you guys are the best!
Thanks for your service!

John <><

Five Day Challenge

As I sit sipping my morning coffee, I can't help but think that the very real possibility exists that at this time next week I'll be sipping my morning coffee with a shaved head. Here's the post if you're not sure of what I'm talking about.

On the one hand, my co-workers are still a little short in their quest to see me with a bald head. It's possible that the only bald John they'll see is the photo shopped pic that one of them came up with to inspire a little generosity.

And on the other hand, the boys are still a little bit short of their goal so I may get off the hook that way.

And on the other hand, everybody may come through with the contributions to make the shaved head a reality and it could be "Bald John" that's sipping coffee next Sunday Morning. If you would like to make a contribution to the St. Baldrick's Foundation and help the boys reach their fund-raising goal to help with research for childhood cancer, just click here first and "make a donation" next. Every donation helps, even $5 or 10 will get the boys closer to their goal.

There are only five days between now and when I'll need to be on my way to Chicago for the event. I'm asking my readers--all of you, not just the ones that know me personally--to help out. And if you do know me personally, through church, work or ministry, then perhaps I could encourage you all the more to make a contribution. To date, only a couple of readers have made contributions (along with several co-workers). How about helping the boys to help other kids and encouraging them in a life-long habit of selflessness in helping those that are less fortunate that themselves?

SGF ATCers, you still have work to do. You're less than 2/3 of your goal! Other NATCA friends, how about it? Can I get a few of you to make a contribution?

Five days. 5:30-1:30 tomorrow followed by four mids. Then I'm off to visit the folks after the Friday morning mid, on to Bolingbrook Saturday morning and Chicago to see the kids Saturday night. The only question is will I be visiting the kids as a baldy or not?

Time to get ready for church. Praying for all of my pastor friends. Preach hard, brothers! Preach hard!


Friday, March 16, 2012

Intercessory Prayer

Last Sunday morning, Dr. Burris preached a message on prayer. I've been thinking about it this week as several of my pastor friends have expressed needs that they or their churches have. My thoughts have been more about our need to pray for one another and how we end up in the situations that we find ourselves in from time to time since Sunday's message.

I also feel compelled to mention just how cool it feels to bring a friend's name and need before the Mighty God of the universe.

I know that some of my readers may never give a thought to spiritual warfare. Some of you think of anything spiritual is an imagined concept of a weak mind. I happen to believe that spiritual warfare is a very real thing and is being fought out in battles all around us. Some of us are injured in the process and there are souls that are won and lost. Eternity hangs in the balance. Even many of my Christian friends rarely give a thought to the battle that rages in the spiritual realm. But it is real and we should intercede for those that are on the front lines of the conflict.

I am going to have to admit some ignorance. I really don't understand why God would listen to the request made by one like me. If He is sovereign (and I believe He is), then how is He influenced by the urging of a mere human? If He is omniscient (and I believe He is), then He already knows of my need or the needs of my friends before I ask.

And yet, Jesus tells us to pray.
In fact, Jesus leads by example and prays for his followers...then and now. Yeah, that's right. Jesus prayed for us! Somehow I'm guessing that the prayers of Jesus have a little bit more weight than my own petitions.

On the other hand, the Bible says that we are joint heirs with Him. Perhaps God hears our prayers as a parent  listens to the innocent petitions of his child.
(Memory interrupts here and I see a very young Hannah holding my face with both hands and looking directly into my eyes to make sure that she has my full attention.)
Maybe it's like that. Maybe we need to come to God with the innocence and urgency of a child with an important petition; important enough to hold His face in our hands and share our need (or the needs of our friends).

I also have to admit, that although I enjoy praying for my pastor friends, I am somewhat disturbed by their needs. In three different situations, Satan is working through members of their churches to destroy the work of the Holy Spirit through the men called to lead as pastors.

How is it that we can get so puffed up with ourselves that we would presume to overstep the biblical guidance to honor our pastors and respect those that have ordained to guide us? Can pastors make mistakes? Yes, they can. Going to them to discuss differences is way different than going around them to create division.

If you are a church member, I want to urge you to guard your pastor. Guard him with your prayers. Guard him with your voice. Speak up for him if he is being attacked. Defend him when called to defend him. Offer to go to him with a brother that feels the need to confront him on an issue.

The battle rages on.
Souls are the currency of a spiritual war.
Eternity hangs in the balance.

John <><

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Weight Loss (slow and steady), Lent Week 3 and Other Notes

Three weeks into Lent and the benefits of more healthful eating habits are quite evident. Two of the biggies for me have been no fast food and taking the stairs instead of the elevator at work. I can now make the 80 stairs to the fifth floor sign-in station without being too out of breath and no longer avoid the occasional trip downstairs for some fresh air on breaks. (Week 1 I never went downstairs on break because it meant having to climb the stairs when it was time to go back to work!)

Although I haven't completely shunned junk foods, I have cut back on them quite a bit. To be sure, I've had some doughnuts, cookies, candy bars, potato chips, etc., but rarely snack between meals now and have only had seconds at a meal once in three weeks. I've cut back on the afternoon sodas (and associated caffeine) and I think that is helping me to get a more restful sleep. In addition to all of that, I believe the one day per week, 24hr fast is a good healthful practice and I've used it to get back on track after a less disciplined weekend. The end result is that I've lost 15.8 pounds in the same three weeks.

I do realize that Lenten sacrifices aren't supposed to be about personal benefit. However, Christians often refer to the body as a temple and quite frankly, most of our temples are in great states of disrepair. For the most part, we feel pretty comfortable talking about five of the seven deadly sins. Those are the ones that are your sins and we tend to lie about them being our sins (Incidentally, while telling lies is definitely wrong, it's not on of the seven deadlies.) Gluttony is not one that we want to talk about because it's pretty hard for a guy that's 50 pounds overweight to talk about gluttony without a bit of shame. And we don't talk about sloth because we're not really sure just what that is but we think it has something to do with being lazy but is probably more than that (it is) and...well, it's just easier to avoid the possibility that we might be guilty of that one, too.

Back to the temple thing...

I'm just trying to clean things up a bit; be a better steward of the physical body that God has given me. I'd like to take these simple habits and make them a part of my normal routine well beyond the dates of the Lenten calendar. It is my hope that after six weeks, they will be habits and will just come to be the way I eat. I do expect that the rate of weight loss will slow as I continue to lose weight, but hope that it will continue to drop off until I reach a more healthful and maintainable weight.

I've also managed to restrain myself from controversial political posts and comments over the past week or so. It's funny how I can post some things that I see as relatively neutral but are received with anger or as misrepresentations of the truth. (sigh)

As always, thanks for your comments and encouragement. I appreciate the anonymous comments as much as I do the ones that identify the reader.

John <><

"Beware the Ides of March."
On this date in 44 BC, Julius Caesar was assassinated in the Roman Senate.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Why do I go to church?

If you are a frequent reader of Out of My Hat, you already know that I am a follower of Jesus. Most might simply say that I am a Christian, but I feel that the term has become too generic in its meaning and is often misused and misunderstood.

This post is purely a sharing of my heart and is not meant to be an offense to anybody. It is certainly not meant to be critical of other believers. I just want to share the reasons that I go to church ask why others go to church. To be fair, the reason for this post is some confusion (on my part) over a recent sermon that I heard. I know that several pastors/preachers read Out of My Hat and this is not meant as a critique of their messages. I'm just wondering why we do church the way church.

Why do I go to church?

The simple answer is that I go to worship.
I go to worship my God.
I go to worship my God with other like-minded believers.
Together, we worship our God.

That's pretty much it.

It may sound strange to hear a preacher say this, but I don't go to church to hear a good sermon. I go to church to worship.

On most Sundays, I would be happy to sing praise and worship songs for an hour! I would be happy to stand before my God, praising, thanking, worshiping in song or prayer ... and then going out to lunch with some friends, never having heard a preached message.

To be honest, the structure of our services often confuses me.
It would appear that our services today are structured to center around "The Message."  Maybe that's the way it is supposed to be. Maybe the "You get out of church what you put into it" mentality of actually getting something out of church is how I should view the whole worship service.

But to my way of thinking, worship is about giving; not about getting!

If our purpose in going to church on Sunday morning is to get something from the experience, are we going to worship God or are we going to exploit His good nature and see what we can get from God? Are we coming with open hearts to meet with Him and honor Him as God, or are we coming with open hands to receive gifts and blessings that we somehow think we deserve because we managed to show up on a Sunday morning.

Two very different attitudes.

Time for a story break.

Back when my kids were young and we were pretty new members at Hopedale, there was a man named Gil Mitchell at our church. Gil was a friendly, white haired man that had a stick of Wrigley's Spearmint chewing gum for every kid in church on every Sunday morning, every Sunday evening and every Wednesday night. The kids didn't have to ask Gil for a piece of gum, they just had to show up and Gil was there with gum.

They might say, "Good morning, Mr. Gil!"
Gil would say, "Good morning, sweetie," (it didn't matter if it was a boy or girl, it was 'sweetie') and give them a piece of gum.

Sometimes a child would come up when Gil was speaking with somebody. The child would just wait patiently until Gil reached into his pocket and, without a word exchanged between them, handed him/her a piece of gum. A quick "thank you" from the child and off they ran!

In a simple way, I think this story gives us a picture of God. I'm not implying that the kids worshiped Gil. I'm just saying that they never had to ask Gil for a piece of gum. They knew that just being around Gil (in his presence) was enough to get them a blessing. That was just the way Gil was.

And it is the way God is. It is His nature to bless His children. When we gather for worship, it is the nature of God to bless us. When we stand before Him giving thanks and praise, it is the nature of God to bless us. He just can't help it. He wants to lavish His love on us. And I know that the blessing often comes as He speaks to us through His Word. But part of me really wonders why we need so much sermonizing about His Word.

Is it so unclear that we need countless commentaries and a degree in biblical studies to understand it? Is it really necessary to listen to a preacher read a few verses and then expound upon them for 30 minutes or so? I know that sharing some cultural background and historical notes can give better understanding to the Word. And I know that learning what the Bible has to teach us is important.

Is that why we go to church?

When a sermon turns to social issues or becomes about government oppression of (our) religious freedoms, I tend to turn off and feel a little bit cheated. If sharing persecutions is to encourage us to pray for one another or to realize that we're not alone; that's okay. We need encouragement and we need to encourage others. But if talking about the banning of crosses or other religious symbols or activities on public lands is to incite anger and outrage, what good is accomplished?

When will we stop expecting a secular society to behave like followers of Jesus?
And when will we, as followers of Jesus, stop behaving like a secular society?

I really believe that our time of corporate worship is for God and God alone. I don't think that He should be expected to share that time with mothers (on Mother's Day) or fathers (on Father's Day) or veterans or country (on any of our patriotic holidays). He is God and should have all of our worship.

Our church activities on Sunday mornings will not change laws or governments. They are not meant to.
Our church activities on Sunday mornings will not change lives. We are powerless to do that.
Our church activities on Sunday mornings will not even change us until we are willing to give ourselves as living sacrifices to our God and Savior.
Our church activities on a Sunday morning will never convince a lost world that they are living lives contrary to the will of God. Only God can do that.

The world has more than enough messengers of gloom and doom.

We have been chosen as His messengers of Hope.
We have been chosen as His messengers of Truth.
We have been chosen as His messengers of Life.

And so my message today is a simple one:

God loves you.
And Jesus died for you!

John <><

Friday, March 09, 2012

The Way. The Truth. The Life.

From time to time I feel the need to make this very clear to my readers and friends. I have a number of friends that are not followers of Jesus. I truly appreciate my readers that have different religious beliefs and yet choose to read my posts anyway. I do want to maintain a dialogue that allows us to freely share the things that we each believe.

However, a couple of things have prompted me to write this now--a letter from an atheist to the Christian Left Facebook page, and a conversation with an unbeliever.

It is important for you to know that even though I accept that we don't all have the same views on God, Jesus, heaven, hell, afterlife and a host of spiritual things; it doesn't mean that I think that there are many ways to heaven or that all religions have eternal value before God.

A friend recently commented that he could talk to me and I wasn't like other Christians that were always wanting to tell him that he's going to hell if he doesn't believe in God or in Jesus as Savior. I told him that I wanted him to know that he could always talk to me and I would do my best to answer any questions that he might have. But I also told him that it was important that he knows that I also believe that ... well, that he's going to hell if he doesn't trust Jesus as his Savior.

In the Bible, Jesus says, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

And I believe that. With all of my heart, I believe it.

Regardless of your beliefs, you are welcome to stop by and read my posts. You are welcome to disagree with me. You are welcome to leave comments or ask questions.

And if the Holy Spirit is tugging at your heart and you are not sure of how to respond, you can contact me by comment, Facebook message, e-mail or phone.

John <><

Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

It's a simple question.
It's too bad that the answer doesn't appear to be quite as simple.

At the risk of stating the obvious and simultaneously offending both sides of an argument, sometimes we need to stop talking long enough to really hear what the other side is saying. We have as much of an obligation to make sure that we are understanding the other guy as we have to make sure that they understand us.

For example:

Let's look at the mandate that employers or insurers are required to provide benefits that go against their beliefs; in this case, contraceptives.

One side sees the issue as a religious freedom issue; the other side sees it as a women's health issue. Since these are very different perspectives, it is no wonder that they can't come to a solution. Personally, I think that the Catholic Church or any other religious organization has the right to decide that they are not going to provide for benefits that are contrary to their beliefs. And employees (or persons eligible for coverage) have the right to choose not to work for them or attend their schools.

The President's solution that insurers would provide the benefits at no cost to the employer (Church) or the employee was faulty in that the insurers are not going to provide the coverage for nothing; they're in business to make money, not give it away. Addressing the problem from the employees side without consideration to the insurer's needs doesn't help any more than the Church ignoring the desires of its employees. It seems reasonable to me that the three parties involved (Church, insurer, insured) should be able to work something out and the government isn't really needed here. I do realize that the persons eligible for coverage aren't always employees and don't always have an organization or union to negotiate for them, but their desires can still be addressed.

Is it unreasonable for the employer to negotiate for the insurers to make optional coverage available at a cost to the insured?
Is it unreasonable to understand that if you choose to work at a Catholic hospital or University (or attend a Catholic university) certain things won't be covered and you accept that as a condition of employment (or enrollment)?
Is it unreasonable for the Catholic church to recognize that not everybody that is eligible for coverage is of the same faith and may have some different needs and expectations than members of their own faith?
Is it unreasonable to try to understand an issue from another person's perspective rather than always insisting on our own way?

Why is it that when what you want infringes on my rights, I'm outraged; but if what I want some how infringes on your rights, that's just too bad for you?

It seems as if our society has digressed so far that we no longer want to live as a society. We are no longer the United States of America. We are now either red states or blue states. We don't want ideas from our political adversaries (because we know that they will be stupid ideas) and we don't plan on compromising on any of the ideas that we have. We have decided to hate one another rather than to help one another.

Our politicians make outrageous claims and promises of how they will represent the people and then only take care of the people that have the money to keep them in office. I used to be very much opposed to term limits. I'm not anymore. Today, I believe that limiting terms will also limit corruption. I really wish that my senators would represent Missouri, my congressman would represent my district and businesses that don't directly impact our state would be unable to "buy" their loyalty.

Media outlets, religious leaders, even celebrities, are all trying to convince/compel/coerce you into voting the correct way. They'll beat up and belittle one side, and praise and worship the other. There seems to be little loyalty to the truth (unless we're only talking about the stuff that each side chooses to believe as truth).

Ugh! November 6 seems like such a long time away.
It going to be a long year...


Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Lent: Week 2

Ending week 2 of Lent has had some grand benefits. I have continued to take the stairs instead of using the elevator at work. I've even added some trips (intentionally) downstairs on breaks. I am continuing with a day of fasting (actually a 24 hour fast) each week. I have been carefully avoiding any over indulgence. I have only had seconds once in the two weeks and have had no desserts. I've also given up fast food. The biggest thing with that is not stopping for a breakfast sandwich of some kind on the way to work in the morning.

I have fallen a day behind in my Bible reading; more from not reading the full day's amount for each day rather than from skipping a day. I have been much more purposeful in talking about church and spiritual matters in the workplace or with people that I encounter in other situations.

I'm thinking that I also need go back to a political silence on Facebook. While I don't mind sharing my views, I do realize that they often incite some fairly intense debate. So much of today's political environment is about "I'm right and you're dumb." Unfortunately, that often makes its way into otherwise civil people's discussions, as well. It is generally more subtle than politicians and pundits, but there, none the less.

So, about the benefits...

The Bible reading has been the subject of a couple of discussions at work. That's good stuff.
It also reminds me of some of the grand things that God has done and reminds me of his faithfulness still today. I think that it is through the Bible reading that I'm feeling led to be a kinder, more gentle John and less inspiring of political discourse as long as it continues to be unreasonable and divisive.

I'm less winded when I get to the top of the stairs which means that the pauses to catch my breath before actually entering the breakroom or work areas (where people might make fun of the overweight, out of shape, fat guy) are getting shorter. I've also managed to lose a few pounds (11+).

I realize that this post is mostly for me; a place to journal for my own benefit. I've considered that actually publishing this post is a bit like long faces of the fasting Pharisees. In part, it is to remind myself of what I've committed to doing and in part to see if there is any worthwhile point to it. I don't view God as a god that takes pleasure in our suffering, but I do think that the humility that comes from submission is a good thing to have before The Great and Mighty One.

Here's some Good News:
God loves you
...and Jesus died for you.

Share that with somebody today!

John <><

Monday, March 05, 2012

Let's Do Some Magic!

It's just five short weeks until Easter Sunday!

I'm pretty excited about getting invited to Forest Park Joplin for the Easter Sunday children's program. The really good thing is the opportunity to share at a new venue and for a different church. The challenge will be the amount of time that I (1) need to fill and (2) need to keep the kids' attention.

A one hour magic show is a long time for kids.
Heck, a one hour anything is a long time for kids. Their attention span just isn't that long. I have found that you can keep kids entertained for longer; you just need to find a way to reset their attention span at a point before you lose it. Once it's reset, you're good for another thirty minutes or so.

I'm going to design a program that runs about 30 minutes, breaks for a brief (but planned) interlude and then finishes with another 20 minute set. That will mean two opening effects (the first one stronger than the second) and two good closing effects.

An additional challenge will be that there are two services and apparently some kids will be at both services. Do I keep the two services identical or do I change a few effects for the second service?
I'm still trying to decide on that.

There are a couple of routines that I haven't used in quite some time that I would like to use for this event. I'm glad for the five weeks to work on them and plan a program that includes them. It's going to be fun!

In addition to the Sunday at Forest Park, I have a date to participate with the Missouri Baptist Convention at the Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland MO on April 21st for the Weekly Series Spring Opener. This will primarily be a walk around event which is outside of my usual type of performance. I've only done a few walk around venues in the past (and really enjoyed them) so I'll also be preparing for this event.

I am glad to have the opportunity to expand my experiences and hope to do more of the walk around types of venues. Both of these upcoming events should be a blast! Sometimes I think that it is unfair to call this kind of service ministry. Shouldn't ministry be more like work and less like fun? I'm am truly blessed to be able to have fun for the Glory of God!

John <><

Thursday, March 01, 2012

St. Baldrick's Update

After only a few days there seems to be a little bit of local interest in getting to see John with a bald head. Siblings have made donations that are higher than their previous donations and co-workers are ganging together to try to raise $300 of the additional $500 needed to push the boys up to the $2000 mark; donations and commitments are already coming in.

I'm hopeful that some of my church friends will also add a few bucks towards the cause. And I'm sure that my follicle challenged friends (that I may have teased at one time or another) will want to have their moment to get back at me and toss 20 bucks or so in the pot.

If you need to read the original challenge, you'll find it here.

Maybe a few of our relatives that have reconnected through Facebook will encourage these young guys to continue in their community endeavors as they are already working to help people that face challenges far greater than their own. All you have to do is click on the link here, then on the "make a donation" and you're on your way.

There may even be a few classmates or NATCA members that have dealt with childhood cancer (or any cancer) and want to take part.

I make no promises about doing this again next year. This may be your only chance to see me with a shaved head (unless nature steps in). Next year it may have to be Uncle Steve!

Give early! Give often!

John <><