Monday, July 30, 2012

Summer: An Early Ending

I know that the end of July isn't really the end of summer, but this year it is at our house.

Today, my girl makes her way back to college for the fall semester. Training for her new on-campus job starts on Wednesday, followed by training for the people she'll be supervising and other campus student workers. Then come the new freshmen with their orientation and finally classes. It makes the summer seem pretty short.

She is looking forward to having an on campus apartment as a part of her work compensation and at least one of us is happy that she's moving back to campus already (it's not her mom or dad). With the completion of her online summer course, she is on schedule to graduate a semester early (Dec 2013).

We had a great time at the lake yesterday, spending our last full day with her boating, skiing, tubing and just having a fun. It really is hard to believe that summer (or at least her summer break) is over.

I'll be making the trip with her today to carry the overflow of "stuff" that won't fit into her car.

Life goes on...

John <><

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Downside of Bible Study

If studying the Bible is meant to bring us closer to God, the downside is the realization of just how far away from Him we are to begin with.

As I begin to prepare materials to share with others about sharing our faith, the questions that comes to mind are: Why is this an issue? and Why aren't professing believers sharing their faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus?

I believe the reality is that we have failed to identify ourselves with Jesus. We say we are Christians but that has just become a word and doesn't really say much about who we are. Actually, it says more about what we are than about who we are. Maybe it's time for us to be more purposeful about becoming more like Jesus.

I was looking back over previous posts. There are several that give insights into the person of "John" and tell about who I am. Here are a few: Who Am I, Who Am I (again), Facebook and Random Things and Ten Honest Things About John. These post all were written within a few months. Maybe I was going through some kind of identity crisis or personal struggle. Maybe I was just having a difficult time finding something interesting to write about.

In any case, these posts make a point. Even though I do identify myself as a Christian, the posts are about me and not about Him -- Jesus.

As self-identified Christians, we have to ask ourselves if we are becoming more like Jesus or if we are content just being ourselves -- even if it's a better version of ourselves. Better versions of our old selves are not going to make great witnesses for Jesus. We may be more likely to make purposeful attempts at sharing our faith, but those attempts are going to be short-lived and mostly unsuccessful.

Why do we make sharing God's love so difficult? Why does it have to be practiced? Why do we need to have programs and classes and methods to tell people about our relationship with Jesus? Could it be that we don't really have a personal relationship with Him?

Could it be that we don't really ... LOVE ... Him?

Yes, I really did just ask that.
Check out these two statements by Jesus:

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments." Jn 14:15
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations..." Matt 28:20

Okay, so how are we doing? Are we even making disciples in our neighborhoods?

Could it be that we don't really ... LOVE ... Him?

Have you ever taken a class on how to tell people about your kids? Your spouse? Your friends? Your job? Your hobby? Your favorite restaurant? You get it, right?

We easily and quickly share the things that we like and love with people around us. There are no classes on Sharing Your Favorite Restaurant or Showing Pictures of Your Kids, yet we do these things on a daily basis.
Maybe we just LOVE ourselves and our things more than we love Jesus.

Could it be that we don't really ... LOVE ... Him?

John the Baptist was confronted by his followers about Jesus and his followers teaching and baptizing. John's response was, "He must increase, but I must decrease." Jn 3:30

Paul also wrote that we should be becoming more like Jesus. To the Corinthians he wrote, "And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit." 2Cor 3:18

If He is not increasing as we decrease; if we are not become more like Him (even a little at a time), well...

Could it be that we don't really ... LOVE ... Him?

Could that be the real reason that we need to have classes on how to share our faith?

I believe that I am called to equip believers to grow in Jesus (Eph 4:11-12), but I also believe that perhaps, our first order of business is to examine our personal relationship with Jesus.

Could it be that we don't really ... LOVE ... Him?

I think it's time for this preacherboy to fade and let real Preacher take control.

John <><

Friday, July 27, 2012


There are a lot of boycott lists out there. I was going to list companies that are currently being boycotted by somebody, but found that there are really just too many.

Some are being boycotted because of their conservative stance on social issues, while others are being boycotted because of their liberal contributions to organizations that have a liberal stance on the same issues. Some are pro-labor. Some are anti-labor. Some organizations are boycotted, some countries are boycotted.

As a fan of etymology (study of word origins), I feel compelled to share the origin of the word boycott. As with many of our words, boycott comes from a name; Captain Charles Boycott. Wikipedia provides a great background which you can read here.

So I'm curious. What companies/brands/products/organizations do you boycott because of a political or social reason? And what companies to you go out of your way to support?

I'm really not wanting any hateful, hurtful or disparaging remarks about somebody else's lists and reasons, but feel free to share your own.

Maybe you're one of those that looks for a good product at a good price and don't really care what the company does with the profits that you've helped them earn. You can just leave that comment, too.

John <><

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


For those of you (all two of you) that have been reading Out of My Hat since the beginning, today is the six year blogoversary of publishing at Out of My Hat! Happy Blogoversary!

I was recently scanning past posts and have noticed that the more controversial posts receive far more hits (and a few more comments) than other posts. Religious posts get a fair amount of hits and few comments. I haven't done any "Favorite bible stories," "funny stuff"  or "What I like about..." posts lately (and probably need to).

I know that the demographics of readership has changed over the (few) years as Out of My Hat has found its own personality. I seem to have more younger readers than in the beginning but am still grateful for my favorite curmudgeons that continue to visit and offer their view points from a perspective that other readers have not yet attained.

This is my 19th post this month, making it the second most posts in a single month. I have enjoyed writing more often and will try to keep that up in the coming months.

For today, I'm going to take the lazy man's way out and just say--Thanks for reading. Thanks for your comments. Feel free to stop by and visit anytime.

John <><

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Okay, I'm weighing in on this one...
But only because I really don't understand what all of the fuss is about.

At the risk of offending my more liberal friends, I have to wonder, "What were you thinking?"
Did this information of how the corporate leadership feels about "the sanctity of marriage" issue catch you by surprise?
Why the sudden outrage?

If you are unfamiliar with the hubabub, Here's an article about the interview that was picked up by CNN and thus began the outrage. If you don't want to read the whole article, here's the part (at the very end) that is at issue:

Some have opposed the company's support of the traditional family. "Well, guilty as charged," said Cathy when asked about the company's position.

"We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.

"We operate as a family business ... our restaurants are typically led by families; some are single. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that," Cathy emphasized.

"We intend to stay the course," he said. "We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles."

Crazy, huh?
A business that runs on Christian principles has a biblical view of the family unit.
Seriously, does that surprise anybody?

So if you don't want to support their business or you have a problem with that...what do you call it?...oh yeah...Constitutional Right of religious freedom, then don't go there. No biggie. We all chose which businesses we patronize and we all have different ideas of what makes a business a good business. I don't think that Chick-fil-A has been hateful towards any group of people.

For the record, I'm not a big Chick-fil-A fan. I'm more of a burger fan when it comes to fast food. I do like their "ice dream cone," but don't ever think Chick-fil-A when I'm thinking of a place to go to eat. On the other hand, I may stop by on Chick-fil-A Day.

Protest by boycott if you like; it's your right. Support with your business if you like; it's your right. Believe in the biblical definition of family...or not; it's your right. Just remember, it's as much my right to do the opposite.

The most silly reaction that I've read regarding the issue is the reaction of the Mayor of Boston. With only two stores in Massachusetts and no stores in Boston, this appears to be some political grandstanding that can only have negative effects. He's not going to offend those that already support him and he's not going to gain any moderate conservatives by taking the stance. He's also not hurting Chick-fil-A (although I doubt that he ever thought that he might be). Apparently he's just getting more headline time.

Okay. That's my rant for today.

John <><

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Post About Nothing

Sitting here this morning with several ideas to write about but wondering if any of them is really blog worthy.

Somewhere in the past, I remember advice from a writer's meeting -- Write. Just write. So this morning's post may not be worth your time, just an exercise in rambling.

We spent yesterday on the lake with friends. Hannah was struggling to learn to water ski. I remember the first time I attempted to water ski. The water beat me up badly. Hannah finally got up on her skis for a couple of short lived rides. She'll be sore today from the exertion and a couple of falls. She also had some fun tubing. As for me, it's been too many years since I've been on skis and I really don't feel like I'm up to it now.

Maybe I'm just being overly cautious, but this is the first summer in a couple of years that I've not had swollen knees or problems with them and I just feel like a few moments of thrilling ride is not worth the potential for weeks of regret. Today, I'm happy to watch others ski while enjoying the boat ride and applauding their work and wipeouts. I don't know if that means I'm getting older or smarter; it's just where I am these days.

All-in-all, we had a great day. Next weekend will be our last before Hannah heads back to school for some pre-semester training and orientation of the incoming freshman. The summer has really flown by. It continues to be hot and dry in the midwest and looks like that will continue for some time.

John <><

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Man Cave

I'm planning on spending the day in the basement. It's time to really get to work on putting the "Man Cave" in order. Some time ago, I started to convert Aaron's old room into my room but I haven't really put any consistent effort into finishing it.

It's time.

Putting the "cave" into order also means getting the rest of the basement in order since some things will be in the main area of the basement instead of the "man" area of the basement--a kind of man cave overflow. For example, the man cave will primarily be a place for my magic stuff and to practice magic. The TV will be in the main room of the basement along with most of the exercise equipment.

I'll still be able to watch the ball game in quiet comfort and the TV will be available for Chris to use for exercise videos. The main room will also be home to the futon and thereby the "guest room" for anybody that happens to stay with us for a few days.

Time to get to work...

John <><

Friday, July 20, 2012

If I Were the Devil

I received this via e-mail recently and thought I'd share it. The original version was broadcast in 1965 and it has been updated over the years. Leave it to Paul Harvey to share a simple observation in a memorable way.

Good day!

John <><
(click the title bar of the video to watch it on YouTube)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

When no news is ... not news!

I was trying to remember what it was like when the evening news was brought by personalities like Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley or David Brinkley? You know, back when people trusted the news anchors. With today's broadcast journalism being more about getting the lion's share of the audience (and associated advertising dollars) than about reporting news, what is presented as news is mostly spin about otherwise less than newsworthy items.

I'm really not wanting this to be a political post, but since politics is driving the news it is difficult to avoid. For instance: I'm sure there was a time when Gov. Romney's disclosure (or non-disclosure) of his tax returns was a legitimate news item. It's not anymore. As a matter of my personal opinion, it's becoming the 2012 version of the birther non-issue.

Is there anybody in the USA that doesn't know that Gov. Romney is incredibly wealthy? Is there anybody that wouldn't take advantage of every opportunity to avoid paying taxes if they had the wealth and means that he has? Is there anybody that thinks that he makes any kind of connection with the economic woes of the majority of Americans?

Why aren't we hearing about the news?

Today's "news" personalities are either spinning one candidate or the other. They are not presenting news; they are presenting the information that the campaigns are putting out. The campaigns are always trying to force us to look at the other guy and all of his faults (real or fabricated) because neither candidate has a good plan for getting us out of the economic mess that we're in.

When the primary agenda of one political party is to make sure that the President is a one term president rather than to take care of the business of running the country, we know we are in trouble. When those that are supposed to be keeping watch over the US are more interested in campaigning for their entire term of office and only willing to follow the party leadership to keep the fund raising machine running, and when the media is more concerned with highlighting candidates' mistakes and misstatements to get ratings than they are concerned with simply sharing something that resembles the truth, we are destined to have a very divided country.

Recently, I compared the red and blue state maps to the blue and grey state maps of the Civil War. Today we are red or blue with no middle ground. Maybe it's time to declare Congress as "neutral territory"; white ground (meaning middle ground and in red, white and blue; not anything racially motivated). You can run on your party's ticket and share the same philosophies, but once you hit the beltway, your only job is to run the country!

I know! I know!
...but I can dream, can't I?

John <><

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


One of the communities that we (Chris and I) visited over the weekend was the little town of Jamesport MO.
It's a small town with a relatively large Amish population (both in town and the surrounding rural area). Horse drawn buggies are common on the highways in the area. The town is a small tourist attraction that boasts some unique shops and restaurants run by the Amish people of the community.

Not all of the town is Amish and there are several different churches in the community including Jamesport Baptist Church where I was on Sunday evening. In spite of its rural location, this little church is growing as it focuses on serving the community and growing the kingdom. I was impressed by the pastor as we talked about kingdom growth. He partners with the other churches and their pastors to minister to the kingdom without jealousy over which church gets which people. We serve the same great God; let's share His love with the people of Jamesport!

Pastor Rich is also serving as the camp pastor of the children's camp that I visited on Monday night. I know that God will have a great impact on the lives of the 124 kids that are registered for the camp this week.

Chris is looking forward to our nest visit to Jamesport and is hoping to do a little more shopping and touring of the area. As it was, we had things to do in the afternoon/evening and didn't have as much time as we would have liked to see the attractions. Something tells me that a fall weekend in Jamesport MO is in my future!

But for today, work at SGF ATCT is calling.
Time to go.

John <><

God loves you!
Jesus died for you!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Ministry Partners

This morning I am writing from the home of Ted and Esther Druckenmiller. The Druckenmillers have housed us in their home over the weekend. This octogenarian couple makes a ministry of opening their home to many who labor in the work of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. Although this is my second visit to their home, it is a first for Chris.

Ted and Esther have been blessed with a wonderful life, full of international experiences to share with their guests. We have greatly enjoyed our time with them, sharing stories and life experiences. They are not bound by Christian denominations, but open their home to servants of our God. Ted accompanied us to Coon Creek yesterday morning and both Ted and Esther joined us for lunch and service at Jamesport on Sunday evening. I can't put into words the kind of encouragement and inspiration they bring.

At a time in life when many are content to look back and reminisce over their lives, enjoying the blessings and rewards of a good career and retirement; these two have committed their lives to serving the community in which they live. The volunteer at the local thrift shop, deliver meals on wheels, serve on various community committees, work with the local county museum, visit nursing homes, are active in their church and open their home as a free of charge bed and breakfast to pastors, ministers and those serving the Lord.

They are proud of their six children and all of their grandchildren. They share the stories that accompany the many items they have collected along life's journey. And they are genuinely interested in getting to know their guest and the experiences of their lives. We have had a wonderful vist with this very charming couple.

Today, we will visit the Amish community of Jamesport and visit the local shops before heading over to the camp this evening and then home tonight.

God has blessed us with a great weekend and great partners in ministry!

John <><

Friday, July 13, 2012

Shameless Self-Promotion

From time to time I check the stats on my blog to see if anybody actually reads this drivel that I write. Lately, the number of readers that stop by has dropped to the faithful few that either feel a mutual obligation (I read their blogs so they read mine), or those that haven't taken the time to drop me from their subscription lists.

These days, I post links to my blog on Facebook, Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn, but since I run pretty much the same circle of friends on each, I doubt that there is much of an impact on overall hits.

So I am wondering what may have caused the drop in readership. The first thing that comes to mind is my irregular posting habits. Yeah, apparently if you don't post anything for a month or so, people tend to quit checking on you.

Then I started wondering about the content of my posts.

I went back almost a year, reading my posts and comments. I've managed to clean up the political stuff and haven't been overly offensive or controversial in some time. I'm not sure if I lost some people by writing the more controversial stuff or by not writing it. Or it could just be that more of my posts of the past year have been to do with religion, Christianity (both positive and negative stuff), or just more things of my personal life.  Maybe there is more controversy in my religious posts than I realize, or maybe it's just not the kind of thing that people want to read about.

Since I started this blog (almost 6 years ago) for the purpose of writing and never expected anybody to really read it, I guess it doesn't really matter. But today, I also use the blog as a means of sharing my work and ministry, so I guess it does matter if people are reading--and it matters what I'm writing, as well.

I've never really been into the whole self-promotion thing. Most of my new exposure simply comes by word of mouth. At the risk of appearing to be shamelessly promoting myself, I'm just going to ask those of you that have used me in the past (and been pleased with my service) to share that with your ministry friends or school administrators. I'm also going to ask that you consider using me again, perhaps in a different way. If you have seen me at a camp, perhaps you'd consider me for a church event or revival. If you had me to preach at your church, perhaps you'd think about sponsoring a public school event or a youth rally. You may even consider writing a brief endorsement that I could use in a brochure or on one of my profile pages.

And if there has been an issue that is keeping you from using me, I would hope that you would contact me about it.

I've often said that I'm as busy as I care to be. There are those demands of work and personal life that scream for attention. But I also wonder just how busy I could be. I wonder if I'm cheating God by saying that I'm busy enough. I wonder if I'm just being lazy about taking care of things that need to be taken care of and I've let my poor habits dictate how much ministry work I can do. Maybe I've already decided that I can only do so much ministry work before I tell God that's all I can handle.

Maybe I need to re-examine our church motto for the year as it applies to my personal life.

At any cost.

John <><

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Heading North ... Again

This weekend will make the third trip this summer to the Grand Oaks campground just outside of Chillicothe MO. I'll be there to help kick off the Harrison-NGR Associations' Children's camp for 2012. I was privileged to be there for their youth camp at the beginning of June and also for the week of the Linn-Livingston Association Youth Camp at the end of June. I'm looking forward to being there again this coming week. All-in-all, this will be my fourth camp of the summer.

In addition to Monday night's program at the camp, I'll be at Union Baptist, Coon Creek on Sunday morning and Jamesport Baptist Church on Sunday evening. I have had several opportunities to serve in this area of the state and have really come to enjoy these trips. From the small country churches to the camps and college ministries, I have been greeted warmly, enjoyed great hospitality and continue to get invited back. I've always said that as much as I enjoy going to new places, getting invited to come back to a church or organization is an even greater honor.

The long drive will not seems quite as long this time as Chris will be making the trip with me. It's rare that our schedules allow for her to make these trips, so I'm looking forward to having her company and introducing her to my ministry partners in Northern Missouri.

As my exposure to different Associational campgrounds around the state increases, I hope to be able to do more camps in the coming years, serving more associations and churches. I've been to Bates Creek Camp in Southeast Missouri a few times, Baptist Hill on a regular basis, Pulaski Association Camp, as well as a few other smaller camps. I am very pleased to be able to add Grand Oaks to the growing list of campgrounds and hope to be able to serve other associations that use these facilities. I also hope to be able to serve in individual churches for revivals or special events.

Once again, I have to say that if ministry is supposed to feel like work, then this ain't ministry! Truthfully, I have such a good time that it's hard to believe that God actually lets me play and still call it ministry! There really is no experience like watching the Holy Spirit move and open the eyes of a young person so that they are able to see and sense the love and grace of our Mighty God.

To have been privileged to watch this hundreds of times over the past decade is a blessing that I am unworthy to have received.
And yet, I serve fully expecting to witness it again each and every time I am granted the opportunity to share the gospel of salvation through Jesus, my Lord and Savior.

John <><

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Let's get creative!

Recently, a writer friend of mine posted a picture on Facebook with an encouragement for people to write a one paragraph story based on the picture. There were some great stories.

My friend, Tom Blubaugh, is the author of Night of the Cossack as well as several other devotions and Bible studies. (You can read my interview of Tom and his publisher here.)  I would imagine that he has more writer friends than I do, but I know that many of my readers are also pretty creative. I thought that it would be interesting to post a similar challenge.

Here's the picture I've chosen:

Your challenge, a one paragraph story to go with the picture. You can leave it as a comment here, on Out of My Hat, or as a comment on the Facebook link.

I am looking forward to reading your stories!

John <><

Saturday, July 07, 2012


It's Saturday night, a full week after my week long youth camp. I've spent the week fighting a cold-turned-to-sinus-infection without a lot of success. The week has been one of the hottest ever in the Ozarks and I am very thankful for a working air conditioner. All-in-all, I've got a pretty good life.

At camp last week, I mentioned about the very positive effect that five consecutive days of dynamic corporate worship has on one's spiritual life. Is there a way to get that same spiritual high without the daily corporate worship? If there is, I'd like to know about it.

Even though I've missed the daily time with my God and my new friends together, I've had the opportunity to see their occasional posts or comments on Facebook and it has brought a smile to my face as I remember the time we spent together. I know that the simple ministry of presence can mean a lot to people in times of need. I've never really thought about the positive effect that a Facebook post or comment can have.

I want to mention four guys that I really enjoyed getting to know last week. They are the guys from the band Calling Glory. Go to their website and check them out. Click on store and buy and album or shirt. You can even invest in the Kingdom by helping to fund their next album.

Go to this site: You Provide the Fire, We Provide the Sacrifice and make a contribution.

This past week I've also realized just how small my world has become. I've spent most of the week at home and only worked two tower mids, but even so, my interactions with non-Christians is pretty limited. I guess I am going to have to be more purposeful about seeking out people to share the good news with. This blog is one small way to reach out, but it is uncertain just how many people it reaches. Besides, there really isn't anything like building personal relationships to the point of sharing Jesus!

It's been a good week. Time to wrap it up and get started on the next one. I'll be worshiping with my Hopedale family tomorrow. I hope that you have a place to go and friends to worship with. Ours is a Mighty God!

John <><

No More Horsing Around

Yesterday we buried our old friend, Miss Priss.
Priss was a Missouri Foxtrotter of championship bloodlines and a great horse.

Although it was Chris that took the riding lessons and made the decision to purchase her, it was Hannah that really took over ownership of her. I don't think there was any doubt in the mind of Miss Priss about who her owner was. As Hannah got busy with high school and then moved on to college, primary care fell to me.

For the past few months, Priss shared her pasture with several other horses. A week or so ago, the owners came and took them back for better pasture. As horses are herd animals, I think that a little depression from loneliness combined with the extreme heat and age overwhelmed her.

I guess I'll be posting a couple of saddles and some tack for sale in the near future.

The picture below is a young Hannah riding Priss bareback.

John <><

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Schooled ... by teenagers!

Funny, the things you can learn from kids...

I'm still thinking about the camp that I was at last week; 108 teenagers and about 108 degree temps. Having been a part of a few summer camps, I'll take the heat over rainy or stormy days every time. Most camps today have plenty of air conditioned buildings (not like the old days when I went to camp!) and there is always the pool or a lake to cool off in. But some of the things that this particular group of teens did really impressed me.

Some of them gave up their afternoon free time to go to local nursing homes to visit with the residents. One young boy actually told me that he was looking forward to it. His grandfather had passed away in a nursing home and his grandmother was now a resident in a home and he knew how much the visits would mean to the residents.

Other kids gave up some of their pool time to work around the grounds and give something back to the camp. Some stained decking, others broke down old beds and moved in new ones. Some built benches. Did I mention that it was over 100 degrees?

It's pretty easy to jump on the bandwagon that proclaims the next generation as a generation of takers or as having entitlement attitudes. But you couldn't do that around this group of young people. And they even seemed to genuinely enjoy themselves!

Great job, kids!

John <><

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Civil War

A couple of months ago, we visited the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield IL. As you might expect, much of the library focused on the Civil War. As I looked at the maps that showed the blue states and the gray states, I couldn't help but think of today's political maps that separate the country into red states and blue states.

We may not be a country that is on the verge of another civil war, but we are a country that is becoming more polarized and less civil. I think that it is time for "we the people" to recognize that we are not enemies; WE are all citizens of the same country, the United States of America!

Celebrate our nation's independence! Be safe! Be Civil!

John <><

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Preacher That Didn't Preach

Wow! Talk about your oxymoron. Most of the time you can't get a preacher to stop preaching. How rare is it that you can find one that doesn't even get started?

Last week I found myself in the awkward position of getting ready for an evening service at a youth camp but feeling led away from the message that I had prepared for the evening. It was the first full day of camp and I found the morning break out sessions to be very challenging. As a matter of fact, it was extremely unfortunate that there wasn't time in each of them to respond to the lessons that had been taught and learned.

The feeling that this situation needed to be rectified and the students needed the opportunity to respond to the messages they had already heard that day wouldn't go away. I have to say that it is hard to set aside a message that you've worked on and I often have a difficult time figuring out the direction that God is taking me. To be fair and in keeping with the theme of no masks, I have to admit that Tuesday evening's message was the one that I was least prepared for. Maybe it was God's way of letting me know that it was an unsatisfactory message or prepared in a manner unworthy of him. In any case, He took care of things.

I went ahead and opened with my "Jedi Mind Trick" (later wished that I would've skipped that, too) and then shared with the students the struggle that I had been having about preaching for the evening. So instead of preaching, I started my time with an invitation to respond to each of the morning workshops. The response was overwhelming.

All-in-all, the invitation time took more time than preaching would have. Students were talking quietly with adult leaders and praying at the altar for one another. As the band came back to the stage and brought us back to the place of worship in music, I slipped outside for a few moments. I was physically drained, emotionally exhausted. I'm still surprised at how draining preaching can be. Often times it's exhilarating. Sometimes it's exhausting. I was moved by the response of the kids -- not their response to me, their response to the Holy Spirit. I seriously doubt that there is much an old fat guy could say to these teens that would move them the way that were moved that night. Only the grace and mercy of a mighty God could do that.

It was a great week. I was so privileged to be called to be camp pastor for the week. Now to live out the challenges from the week. Yes, that's right. The challenges weren't just for the kids. They were for us, too.
Be real about your Christianity. Be "Christ"-like in all you do. Share the truth of the Bible: God loves you and Jesus died for you.

Do it.
Do it today.

John <><

Politics and Religion ... again

I know, I know.
I've covered my feelings on religion and politics in the past, posted my personal biases (never without opposition push-back and fallout), and swore that I would never do it again ... until the next time.

Apparently the next time is here.

I'm glad that I was at youth camp last week when the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) announced its ruling on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). With any massive overhaul, there is bound to be opposition. Rarely has it been the total opposition that political parties have made it today.

I am appalled at the amount of misinformation that is being spread and at the total opposition from conservatives to what was originally a conservative proposal.

As the election cycles towards its November culmination, I will be slowly but steadily removing "friends" from my Facebook news feed. It's not that I don't want to be your "friend," I just want to guard my mind and attitude from too much negative crap. Of course, you are free to do the same.

My greatest dismay comes from our religious leaders that continually feel the need to weigh in on the politics of the nation. The implication that one side is more Christian than the other is absurd. The followers of such leaders take their words as truth and feel they can openly condemn anybody with an opposing view. When will we stop expecting non-Christians to act like Jesus?

One leader wrote (in his response to the SCOTUS ruling), "The court's actions today reflect the secularization of our society..."


Since the SCOTUS is not a religious organization and the United States is not a religious government, what would a reasonable person expect the High Court's decision to reflect?

When political activities, political parties and governments become effective tools in the expanding of the Kingdom of God, I'll jump back into the fray. Until then, I'm going to urge my Christian brothers and sisters to focus on sharing the love of God and the Good News of the saving gospel of Jesus. I'm not asking you to suspend your political rants. I'm just asking that you give the God that has saved our worthless souls equal time.

John <><

Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. 2Tim 2:23-25

Sunday, July 01, 2012

More on Deception

It's weird how something as simple as introducing an artificial light source can mess up the simple navigation system of a moth. If you stop to think that some insects use the bright distant light of the sun or moon as reference points for navigation and can fly a relatively straight line by doing so, it becomes easier to see that a close light source like a light bulb or flame might cause the same insect to spiral inward to its demise.

Unfortunately, our brains are just as easily deceived when it comes to artificial shadows or shading. We use the shadows and light to determine depth and color in most things that we see. When the shadows are false or not really there, our brains act as if they are real and present us with false truths.

For example:
In the picture below, the shaded yellow square on the front of the cube is the exact same color as the brown square on the top of the cube that appears to be in the light. We "see" the light and shadow and perceive the colors accordingly. But the reality is that it is just a two dimensional picture that only appears to have a light source.

The best way to see this for yourself is to copy the picture to your computer and then open it with Microsoft Paint or a similar program that will allow you to cut a piece out and move it to over lay the other color.
You can do the same thing for this picture that shows that both A and B are the same shade of grey.

Cool, huh?

This last one (for today) is one of my personal favorites.

You can just cover the middle area with your hand or fingers (or a narrow strip of paper). By removing the shading, you can see that A and B are, again, the same shade of grey.

If our natural perceptions can be so easily manipulated and tricked into false beliefs, doesn't it also make sense that our spiritual perceptions can be fooled. When we look at the things of the world through the eyes and perceptions of a natural man, we see things as men. We need to see the world as God sees it. We need to remember that, as believers, we are new creations, new beings in Christ Jesus our Lord and we need see and act as Jesus would act.


There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. Prov 16:25

July 1, Post 1

It's July. It's hot and dry in the Midwest.
And I have managed to come down with a summer cold...

I don't think that it's allergies since the posted numbers for pollens are low in every category. It's been so dry that I don't think that molds are the problem. Whatever it is, I'm just glad that it wasn't with me last week at youth camp!

Speaking of youth camp, I may as well start my July posting quest by talking a little about the week I had at Grand Oaks camp. I was there for the Linn-Livingston Association's youth camp. We had 108 (I think) students, two adult cabin leaders for each small group and a great volunteer kitchen staff; all led by two well organized and  Spirit led camp directors. I was blessed to be called as camp pastor and doubly blessed to serve with four talented young men in the band Calling Glory, our praise and worship band for the week.

"Trade the Show for the Substance" was our theme for the week as we focused on setting aside the masks that we wear and actually becoming more like Jesus rather than just going through the motions. The students were challenged to boldly stand up for what they believe whenever they may find their faith and convictions questioned.

Our theme verse was Galations 6:3, "If any man thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself."

We started the week talking about deception; how we are deceived, how easily we are deceived and how we can even deceive ourselves. I showed several optical illusions and explained how our brains are tricked (deceived) by functioning naturally in a situation when our eyes are viewing something unnatural. I'll share some of these in the coming days.

We can also be deceived when we look at our situations through our own understanding--our natural way of seeing the world, rather than through the Holy Spirit's understanding. Proverbs 16:25 says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death."

We have to train ourselves to see things through the eyes of our Lord rather than as man sees them.

All-in-all, it was a pretty incredible week!


The ball at the top of the picture is the same size as the ball at the bottom of the picture. Even though this is a two dimensional picture, our brain interprets it as three dimensional. Therefore our brain "sees" the second ball as larger.