Monday, December 31, 2012

Incredible Kicking Exhibition

Rather than wrap up the year with a post about the impending fiscal cliff or rant about the past year, I've decided to post a video that I saw on TV the other day that is an incredible feat of kicking (pardon the bad pun).
The ESPN program I was watching at the time (and I don't recall which program it was) featured this video and said the Norwegian soccer player is getting a look by the NFL's New York Jets.

This post also makes two consecutive months of posting everyday! It's a personal record that I don't foresee breaking in 2013...but who knows?



John <><
Happy 2013!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 Is Winding Down...

It is just past midnight on the second to last day of the year.

It's Sunday morning so I'll be in church in a few hours; I hope that you will be, too. 2012 has been a pretty good year for me. I was at four different camps this past summer and had a grand time at each of them. I served as Camp Pastor twice and showed up for a one night magic show twice. I had the pleasure of preaching in a number of churches on Sunday mornings and evenings (including a rare opportunity to preach at Hopedale), preached in a couple of revivals, did a few magic shows for kids programs or family nights and had the pleasure of baptizing one of the kids that made a profession of faith at our kids' camp!

It is such a privilege to be able to talk to kids and hear how they perceive Jesus. Their understanding of God and His love for them always amazes me. In one family at one of the camps, all three of the kids made professions of faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior at camp. That's some pretty cool stuff!

Not everything in life is always sunshine and roses. I was honored by friends when I was asked to officiate at a funeral of a family member. Funerals and weddings are rarities in my ministry and this was only the second time I've done a funeral. It was a very small, intimate ceremony on an overcast and dreary day. The venue was a little country cemetery with a small old chapel. There was no hearse, no professional funeral director, no cemetery personnel. At the end of the short ceremony, it was family members that placed the cremated remains into the prepared grave (that they had dug themselves) and buried them.

It was simple. It was peaceful. I'm glad I was asked to be a part of it.

I'm looking forward to 2013. Chris and I are going to try to make a mission trip with our church to a poor area of the Appalachian Mountains. I also expect that there will be camps, revivals, preaching and magic shows during the year, but I never really know too far in advance.

If you are planning an event and would like for me to be there, please call early. I still have that 40 hour per week gig called work!

Wishing you all a prosperous 2013!

John <><

Saturday, December 29, 2012

December 31, 2012: The end of the world as we know it!

What if...

I'm not talking about the fiscal cliff that our legislators in Washington DC are driving us towards.
I'm not talking about a doomsday scenario or mythological ending.
No Nostradamus like prediction or anything like that.

A quick time-out...

I should start by saying that this post is primarily directed to my fellow followers of Jesus. If you are not a follower, I invite you to read anyway, but you may not find that it fits your world.
On the other hand, there is plenty here that you can choose to do. The teachings of Jesus on how to live well work well for a society of any kind. The good works won't land you a spot in The Promised Land; you'll have to proclaim His as your Lord and Savior for that.
Just the same, these are good points for good living.

Okay. Back to the what if...

What if we collectively decided that we would live completely according to the teachings of the Jesus?
How would that change our day to day lives?

Most of the people I know are good people. Most of the things that we do are acceptable to do. However, acceptable and holy are very different things.

Let's start with something simple--the speed limit. If we decided that we were no longer going to willfully break the law and drive 5-10 mph over the posted speed limit, how much would that impact your morning commute? I know that no officer is going to pull you over for driving 70 in a 65 zone, but that's still breaking the law.

There are so many things that we justify by saying that everybody does it or that nobody cares. We know that they are not right (or righteous), but we choose to do them, just the same. We tell "white" lies, we download music, movies, games and more from the internet. We cheat on taxes. We do a lot of things and take advantage of the "everybody's doing it" or "nobody cares" excuse to do the wrong thing.

What if...

What if we decided that we were going to focus more on others rather than ourselves?
How would that change our day to day lives?

What if we never did anything expecting something in return? What if we never decided how to treat somebody based on the way they treat us or others? What if we really followed the "Do unto others..." Golden Rule that Jesus taught?

Is it even possible to always be nice?
Again, most of the people I know are good, kind people. Most of them are generous and willing to help a friend in need. And yet, we often judge others for their needs. We often decided whether or not we help them based on how they have treated us or how we perceive that they would treat us.
What if we just decided to do the right thing because...well, because it's the right thing?

What if each one of us decided to change how we see the world around us? What if we looked upon our fellow man as Jesus does? What if we felt their pain, experienced their loneliness, knew their frustrations and made every effort to ease their burden?

What if we realized that there is no magic in a "sinner's prayer" that we may have prayed at one time, and the only way to heaven is to truly follow Jesus? When we reach the point that we realize that repentance means that we have to change--that we have to stop and turnaround, then we can begin to follow Jesus.

So often, we keep going on our merry way and we ask God to bless us as we go. We want for Him to follow us rather than turning from our ways and following Him.
I'm guilty.

I have done those things that "everybody" does. I have justified them because "nobody" cares.

What if...

What if that all changed? What if we saw the hungry and fed them? What if we saw the lonely and visited them? What if we saw people in need and met their needs?

What if we saw the lost and shared Jesus?

The reality of Christianity is that it should change the world as we have known it.
And it should change us as the world has known us.

January 1, 2013 is just another day that marks the passing of time.
But it could be the beginning of a whole new world.
Let's get ready for it. Let's end the world as we have known it. Let's live life as we walk with Jesus, following Him all the way Home.

John <><

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Old Farmer's Almanac

I know that The Old Farmer's Almanac is one of those outdated publications that just keeps hanging on. I would guess that the information in the annual publication is available through the online site, but I've never been to their website.

On the one hand, they still have the hole punched in the upper left-hand corner of their printed publication so that you can hang it on a nail in your barn or gardening shed. On the other hand, they have mobile apps, a website and are on social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Something for everyone!

I am perusing my 2013 traditional printed edition now. Although each year's Almanac comes out in the fall, my copy has been a stocking stuffer for more than twenty years. Over the past two decades I have managed to misplace a couple of editions but have most of them since 1991.

Even before 1991, The Old Farmer's Almanac was my source of information for finding the visible planets, knowing when the principle meteor showers were taking place, watching an eclipse or finding a particular star or constellation in the night sky.

Maybe it seems strange not to have the "app" or that I haven't "liked" them on Facebook or followed them on Twitter (Actually, it's more strange that I don't have a smart phone that can even get the app!), but I happen to like the old fashioned printed edition.

...And I like the information that it contains--the regular movement of the stars across the night sky, the predictability of the planetary dance within our solar system, the effect of the moon on the tides--this is science in its purest form. The Almanac contains valuable information on plants and their growing seasons, the climates they thrive in and the amount of sun, water and warmth that they need. It is full of information and experience that has been distilled over more than two hundred years.

It is funny how some can look to science and say, "See, there is no god. It's just nature." But when I look to the heavens, when I see the life on Earth, I say, "See, there has to be a God! This is no accident!"

In case you were wondering:
On Jan. 1st, the Earth will be at perihelion--that's the closest to the Sun in its slightly elliptical orbit. We will be just 91,402,639 miles from the Sun. On July 5th the distance will be more than 3 million miles greater at 94,501,041!
Spring comes early this year as the Earth reaches the vernal equinox at 7:02am EDT on the 20th of March. The first full moon of Spring is on the 27th, making Easter Sunday the 31st of March.

I'll keep you posted as more of 2013's celestial events take place.

John <><

"We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths; in feelings, not figures on a dial." --from an 18th century edition of The Old Farmer's Almanac

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Favorite Posts...again

As we enter into the final days of 2012, I return to looking back at my favorite posts. I've already covered some favorites from early in the year and a couple of favorites from all of my posts. Looking back on 2012 I see that I didn't post very much during late spring and early summer. After that it was election politics in full swing and we really don't need to re-live any of that, do we?

If I had to pick a couple of posts from 2012, I go with these two that were widely read and are more about explaining my positions. Even though they received few comments here and only a few more on Facebook or by private message, they were shared by others and among the most read posts of the year.

They were For the Record from August (which was in response to comments about my negativity towards Christianity) and Why Pro-life/Pro-choice Doesn't Factor Into My Vote from October. If you didn't read them the first time or want to read them again just click on the link to take you there.

A better choice would be to go back to July 2011 and read this post about Unsung Heroes. It's a post about people that have quietly encouraged me by doing nothing more than being true to themselves and true to our God.

Yeah, that's a way better choice.
...And still a good reminder to look back at influential people in our lives and to examine how we may unknowingly influence those that are around us, each and every day.

John <><

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Baseball 365

Now that Christmas 2012 is past  (okay, so we still have a little more Christmas with Aaron and Jenny this weekend), it's time to talk about...!

Baseball is never far from the hearts and minds of many people. I know that for many, football is the sport of choice. But how can a real sports fan be satisfied with a season of less than twenty games? Basketball? Okay, I get it. Not bad, just too many prima donas for my taste.

In a normal off season, I say that the NFL is what I watch between the end of the World Series and the beginning of Spring Training...if there isn't a hockey game on! This year's NHL labor dispute has caused me to look for other reasons to avoid the NFL.

I'm not one of those that is wrapped up in MLB's Winter Meetings or one that gets constant updates from the MLB or my favorite team. I'm just ready for the 2013 season! The Hall of Fame* broadcaster Jack Buck understood. One of the many poems that he wrote was 365.

For those that are slightly less interested fans, pitchers and catchers report to camp on Feb. 12. That's less than seven weeks away!

Here's a link to read Jack Buck's poem.


John <><

* Jack Buck was inducted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987, the Broad Casters Hall of Fame in 1990 and the Radio Hall of Fame in 1995.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Glory to God in the highest...

...and on earth, peace among those with whom He is pleased. Luke 2:14 ESV

Merry Christmas.

Today's post is short and simple. My prayer for today is that God would grant you peace as He takes pleasure in you.

I leave you with on of my favorite Christmas songs. It is one that I have never heard played on the radio. I've never heard it sung any where other than on a collection of Christmas songs CD that we picked up sometime ago. Chances are good that unless you heard it here a couple of years ago, you may not have heard it either. It's a great song and it tells a great story.

If you want to know the story behind the song, you can re-read this post and listen to its video link.

Merry Christmas

John <><

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve

It's early in the morning on Christmas Eve and I've just finished working a mid shift at the tower. The house is quiet and I thought I'd take a few moments reading a few blogs and writing a quick post before getting a little sleep. Air traffic facilities will be staffed for tonight's midnight shift and will take special care to keep the fat man in the red suit safe as he navigates the night sky.

But more than looking for Santa, I hope that there is a greater reason for your holiday celebration.
Rejoice! Jesus is born.
Merry Christmas

John <><

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Telling the Christmas Story

Have you ever been watching a movie and then just as the whole plot that has been building for nearly two hours is about to climax, somebody comes in, sits down and asks what's happening. You are left with the task of trying to quickly explain the entire movie so that they have some understanding of what is about to take place.

Or you can just tell them to be quiet and watch the end of the movie and then try to explain it to them afterwards.

Neither of these solutions gives the person a very good understanding of the overall theme or an appreciation of the end of the movie. To really appreciate the movie, they will have to watch it from beginning to end.

The same can be said for reading a good book. Skipping around in the story or jumping to the end will certainly ruin a good story.

We Christians are the worst at telling a good story. We skip over all of the Author's brilliant foreshadowing, fail to identify key characters and subplots, and try to tell a story that took centuries to unfold in a few minutes or by sharing a few passages from His Good Book.

...And then we wonder why people don't get it!

The birth of our Savior is not a story that begins with a Roman ruler's decree that a census be taken. It doesn't begin with the appearance of an angel to a young Jewish woman. It doesn't even begin hundreds of years earlier as prophets tell of the coming Messiah.

The story of the birth of Jesus doesn't begin with God's deliverance of the nation of Israel from the Egyptians and the issuing of the Ten Commandments, nor does it begin with God's promise to Abraham. The Story even begins before the Fall in the Garden of Eden.

We have this great story to tell; one that begins even before we were created, and we love the ending so much that we skip all the way to the part just before the "...and they all lived happily ever after" part and expect people to understand the significance of the moment when God left heaven to become man; when the sinless God-man, Jesus, took on the sins of the world and the punishment for our sins that we might have eternal life.

While we're at it, let's face the reality that many Christians have never even read the entire story. We've satisfied ourselves with the highlights. We've decided that it isn't important to know the details of being a follower of Jesus, after all--we've prayed the magical prayer, haven't we? Many Christians have fooled themselves into believing that they are followers of Jesus but they really don't even know Him.

We pick the parts of the story that we love. We pick the verses that we recite to justify our social/moral/political beliefs. We pick the loving God for us, the judgmental God for others and forget that God loves the others, too, and that we will also stand before Him and be judged.

It is not an easy story. It's not easy to tell. It's not easy understand. And it's not easy to live.
We must humble ourselves before God and honor Him as Lord.

As we share the Christmas Story this season, let's remember that not everybody has heard the whole story. Let's share The Story with compassion and patience. Let's allow the Spirit of God to work as we share the Love of God. Let's remember there is more to the Christmas Story than the birth of Jesus.

Merry Christmas
John <><

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Fiscal Cliff: What does it mean to you?

Each day of December that passes moves the US one day closer to the "fiscal cliff" that was created by our own incompetent politicians.

As a Federal employee, I have been watching with job security in mind. One would think that the powers that be would be certain to keep the air traffic control facilities fully staffed and operational...and they will, at least for the time being. But across the board cuts cut, well...across the board, and we are a part of that board.

Where I have some control, I have made some changes in my thrift savings plan to protect from a huge market drop. I don't know what will happen to prices at the grocery store or the gas pump. I don't know if I'll be paying more in taxes and taking home less money. I know that I will not be affected by losing unemployment benefits or access to medical care. I know that my health insurance plan for the coming year is already determined, both in cost and coverage. I know that I am eligible to retire and have that as an alternative should it eventually come to that.

I also know that I have kids that will be facing the task of finding jobs in an already depressed job market. I know that there are many people that will face immediate and devastating consequences. I know that even a few dollars less in take home pay or a few dollars more in expenses will cause many to fall off of the delicately balanced economic tightrope that they walk every day.

How does the "fiscal cliff" affect you?

I've sent comments to my legislators (unanswered) about how I feel about their lack of input into the "negotiations" between Speaker Boehner and President Obama. When the time comes, I will work to support or oppose their re-elections based on their handling of the coming events.

Because there will be little pain for me on Jan. 1, I am not facing the holidays with a great amount of stress over the impending cliff. I sense that the same holds true for many of my friends and readers. Perhaps there are those that you know that will be greatly impacted by tax increases or spending cuts. I'm curious about the political and media hype of a "cliff" and is it really going to have a falling into an abyss kind of effect.

I can tell you that I am not looking for a bunch of posturing on the politics that appears to be driving the stalemate. I will probably choose not to post political rants in the comments here and may delete such comments on Facebook. What I am interested in is knowing how you or somebody you know will be impacted by our legislators failing to do their jobs or waiting until January do something.

John <><

Friday, December 21, 2012

December Solstice

It's been almost seven hours since the Earth past that point in its orbit where the days (in the northern hemisphere) start to get longer and the sun begins to make its way higher in our daytime sky. Having friends, relatives and blog readers that are in the southern hemisphere, it occurs to me that the name "Winter Solstice" really only describes the event for half of the Earth.

It's funny that I've never really thought about that before now. I guess the internet and regular contact with those that live Down Under and in other cultures around the world does, in fact, give one an awareness of how others see the world. Just as we look forward to longer, warmer days ahead, our friends from the south might be looking forward to some cooler temps as the sun's angle increases, the temps start to drop and they move towards their fall season.

Unfortunately, that whole radiant heat thing takes a few weeks before we really start to feel the difference. So we still have a few weeks where temps will get colder and they'll still have to deal with their hottest temps of the year. Maybe that's why the solstice marks the beginning of winter (or summer, depending on your location). I reality, shouldn't this mark the mid point of our respective seasons with greatest angle to the sun marking winter's halfway point and the least angle marking mid summer?

I actually look forward to this day and can understand why ancient cultures of the northern hemisphere celebrated it. The sun is returning to its warmer place in the sky. Pagan, Christian or simply Deist, that's something that we can all celebrate.

Sure, some will simply call it an annual event that is dictated by the science of the universe. However, I see the hand of a magnificent Designer that set it all in motion long ago. The size and temperature of the yellow dwarf star that anchors our solar system, the distance and slightly elliptical orbit of our planet, the angle of the axis that provides us with seasons and regulates temperatures to make the Earth hospitable to life, the moon that orbits the Earth providing tides to clean the oceans and circulate the waters; these things are far too complex to have happened by accident.

Saying that today is the first day of Winter is a little depressing. I rather like the idea of celebrating the first day of days getting longer and the slow return of the sun to its rightful and majestic place high in the summer sky. It really is no wonder that ancient cultures saw the sun as a god.

But I'm humbled to know that their god had a Creator, my God.
And my God has provided a way to know Him personally through His son, Jesus.
It's a good time to celebrate that, too!

Merry Christmas and Happy Solstice!
John <><

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Joy Management

Do you remember my very first post?
Maybe you should read it here. Go ahead. I'll wait.

Joy Management

It's been a long time since I've really thought about purposely spreading JOY. I'm not sure why that's the case, but it is sad that a guy that is called to share the Good News still has to be purposeful about spreading Joy.

I know that I preach about God's plan of salvation in Jesus. I know that I'm a pretty positive, upbeat guy. I know that there is real Joy in Jesus.

The thing is this; we (followers of Jesus) don't always give the idea that we are joyful people. Sometimes we are downright grumpy. Sometimes we need to renew the joy that we have in Jesus.
I was thinking that we should make the extra effort--at least for the next week or so--to be joyful and to do what we can to bring joy into the lives of those around us.

There is more than enough chaos, more than enough sadness in our world.
Sadness has its way of working into the lives of those around us. We can help by lending a hand, offering a shoulder, being a friend. We can ease a burden, offer comfort, give love.

Even though the holidays are supposed to be a time of joy, there are many that face them with dread; many that become very depressed. Sometimes the Joy of Christmas is overshadowed by the gloom of life...or death. For every family that lost a loved one in 2012, there will be a stocking that is unfilled or a seat that is empty at the table. Some will face the season alone because distance separates them from their family and friends.

Take somebody out for coffee, invite them to join your family, share your joy. You have enough to spare a little, don't you?

For the holiday season, and for the year that follows, I wish you joy.
Merry Christmas.

John <><

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

When the End Comes...

Several weeks ago I noticed a roadside electronic sign by MoDOT. It said that there had been 694 highway deaths in Missouri in 2012 and that 64% were without seat belts. Today, about six weeks later, the highway death total was at 786! That's over 15 deaths/week and if the rate holds, we'll top 800 for the year.

I mention this information because I was thinking about the December 21st end of the world event that is only a couple of days away. While many can joke about the impending doom and comment about how we are spending our final days, the simple truth is that we have no idea when our individual end might come.

There are no guaranteed number of days. While we don't expect kids to die of terrible diseases, we have had a recent devastating reminder that even children meet with unexpected death. Whether the end comes by disease, accident, illness, violent criminal activity, war or old age; the end comes for all of us. Death is a certainty of life. The question is, what have we done to prepare for it?

I suppose that if you are one of the few that believes life ends at death and the only thing ahead of us is the big dirt nap, then you might consider what legacy you're leaving behind because there is nothing else. However, if you believe that we have souls, that there is an afterlife, are you prepared to face that day?

Does the afterlife consist of heaven and hell, reincarnation or some other spirit life state? I fully expect for the world as we know it to be continuing on the 22nd. But...

The US Census Bureau estimates that there is one death every 13 seconds in the USA. That's 6,646 people in the US that will be alive on the 21st but not on the 22nd. For them, it won't matter whether we have correctly or incorrectly interpreted the Mayan calendar. They will, in my belief, meet their Maker. They will be judged according to the Law, found guilty, and condemned or they will stand with Jesus who has already paid the penalty for their guilt.

Perhaps you have never given any consideration to what happens to your soul when death comes. Perhaps you've never considered that your children could face death before you. I don't think that we need to scare our kids and I don't mean to sound like a doomsday alarmist.

But death is a reality of life and the afterlife is something that each of us must consider.

If you are a frequent reader at Out of My Hat, you know that I am available to answer your questions. My e-mail address and phone number are in the About Me section. You can comment and ask not to have your comment posted. If you are unsure of your eternal standing, if you need to know, if you just have questions--please contact me.

John <><

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Looking for Answers (and ranting about it)

I wish that I could tell you that this is going to be a well thought out, well researched post; but it's not. It's just the ramblings (or rantings) of a confused, but concerned citizen in the US in the shadow of another tragic shooting event in our country.

I know that there are those that would argue that any regulation on gun ownership is a violation of our Second Amendment rights. I am definitely not in favor of a ban on gun ownership, but recognize that we live in a far different world than the framers of our Constitution.

I believe that we can reach a solution. If extremists on the side of a total gun ban and extremists on the side of no regulations at all are unwilling to move from their positions, then we in the middle must come up with an enforceable solution. Part of that solution has to be recognition that we (as a society) can only do so much and that guns are only a part of a larger problem.

It would surprise many of you to know that I would be in favor of allowing properly trained teachers and school staff to be allowed to have firearms in schools (and pilots on airplanes, too).  I am not a hunter or outdoorsman but have purchased firearms for sport and protection. I think that I have (and should have) the right to do so. I believe that unless there are limited access points that are manned by armed guards and equipped with metal detectors, gun free zones can quickly become dangerous places. "Gun free" does not have to include the trained staff of such places.

In today's post 9-11 world, we have grown to accept the inconveniences that we experience at airports. The long lines at security, unlocked luggage, shoe removal, full body scans--all of these were met with resistance and yet put in place without political action or citizen input, and they have become a normal and an accepted part of a freedom that we sacrifice for the greater freedom of safe air travel.

To drive, you must be of a restricted age and pass a test to be licensed (and periodically renew it). In Missouri you must show proof of insurance and proof that you've paid your personal property taxes to license your vehicle. We accept these restrictions because we know that it makes for safer roads and we've  become used to them. Having laws against drunk driving doesn't prevent a drunk from getting behind the wheel and killing somebody as a result, yet we still have laws prohibiting it. We have laws restricting speeds in residential areas, stop signs at intersections and all kinds of laws that restrict our being able to get in a car and drive like a maniac. We accept these restrictions to our freedom for the greater freedom of being able to travel safely (or at least, more safely) on the roads of our communities.

In my job, I am restricted from using sleep aids at night. Residual effects might make me drowsy during the day. (I guess not getting any sleep is better than the possibility of a "might make me drowsy.") I can't take any allergy meds or other things that could cause drowsiness. No alcohol for lunch or prior to coming to work; the tolerance is far below the legal limit for driving. These are restrictions to my freedoms that I accept and you (the flying public) approve of for the greater freedom and safe air travel.

All of the laws that we have are restrictions to our freedoms. Yes, people break laws. Just look at our prisons. The USA far exceeds every other country in prison population. Just because murder is "against the law," doesn't mean people aren't going to murder. The fact that people will murder isn't a reason for us not having laws against it.

We (USA) cherish all of our freedoms. We cherish our freedom of expression so much that we've allowed pornography (with some restrictions) to fill our lives through television, movies, video games and internet. We allow violence to be a part of our everyday lives in the make believe world of video games, television and movies and in the real world of sensationalized and glorified media coverage. Sexual morality has given way to promiscuity and we are faced with epidemic STDs and countless unwanted pregnancies and unwanted kids--but those are our rights.

We seem to have forgotten that our freedoms also carry great responsibilities.
And great consequences.

Apparently, the freedom to access decent, affordable healthcare is not one of our freedoms. I recently read an article that showed our prison population to have about 5 times the rate of mental illness than the general population. I guess that we have decided to let our prisons deal with mental illness (however they might choose to do so, given their limited budgets) post crime instead of finding ways to access care that would provide help and might prevent crimes.

The reality of this rant is that I don't have the answer. Maybe that's the frustration that everybody is experiencing.
...And frustrated people tend to be defensive about their positions and offensive towards others with opposing positions.

Somehow, we need to set aside our frustrations so that we can talk. While I don't have the answer for what we need to do, I do know that not doing anything isn't working so well. I really don't want for my country, my community to turn into the kind of unstable area that we see in so many parts of the world (and even in some of our own cities) where death by violence is something that we get used to hearing about and everybody (of any age) is armed. Maybe it's already too late for that.

John <><

Monday, December 17, 2012

International Friends...

I am looking for some input from my international friends.

Many of you live in countries that have fairly strict regulations on gun ownership. How have these restrictions affected you? Do you feel more safe or less safe as a result of them? Has gun crime increased or decreased? I know the propaganda that various groups put out, but I would like to hear from you, the citizens.

My analytics show that I have regular readers from the UK, Germany, Russia, Malaysia, France, China, Australia, the Philippines, Canada and others. The right to bear arms is a foundational freedom that we hold dear. I don't think that the writers of the Second Amendment had anything like this in mind. The need for local militias is far different today than it was 200+ years ago.

I don't think that anybody in the US is willing to push for an all out ban on gun ownership. However, it seems that there is some regulation that is necessary.

A single failed attempt to detonate a shoe bomb on an airplane and now every passenger in the US has to take off their shoes to be examined prior to boarding a plane. A dozen mass murders since the Columbine shooting and nothing has been done--nothing has even be seriously proposed. The dialogue doesn't have to be an all or nothing solution.

If you live outside of the United States, I would really like to hear from you.
If you live in the US, I realize that there are arguments that range from one extreme to the other. I am less interested in your input on this post. I've heard both sides, understand your positions. It's not that I don't care what you think; I'm just looking for input from those that already live with some gun ownership regulation.

We have to do something. Doing nothing isn't working so well.

John <><

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Christmas Story You Can Share (Christmas reading)

Last week I published a post about our annual Christmas reading meeting. It was getting an abnormal amount of traffic and then I figured that people may be doing a search for "Christmas Readings" which was the title of the post.

I'm sure that they were disappointed to find that there wasn't anything there for them to use in a Christmas program of any kind. I've done two things that may help people that will be doing similar searches in the coming days.

I've modified the title to the post from last week.
And I've included "Christmas readings" in the title of this post as well as in the body of the post.
And I'll share a link to the Christmas reading that I used at our annual meeting a couple of years ago. It is another one of my Christmas favorites.

The title was Price vs. Value and you can read it here.

John <><

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Day of Silence

I'm not really not feeling like posting today. Yesterday was filled with much sadness and too much talk about the political third rail of gun control.

As I viewed the various news broadcasts, listened on the radio and read on the internet, I was surprised at how often the tears just seemed to fall from my eyes. There was no sobbing or heart wrenching emotional feelings, just tears.

A talk with a young boy about eternity was more significant than such a conversation usually is. Viewing kids at our church's live nativity was more welcome on a night after a day like yesterday. Even switching from the various TV programs covering the horrific, violent events of the day to the more civilized violence of the UFC seemed to provide some relief from the day's news.

I know that there will be little that can offer a moment of solace for many families. There will be far too many reminders of the kids that are no longer with them; clothes that are unwashed, toys that are out, scout meetings and practices that normally fill their schedules, Christmas presents that will need to be returned.

For most of us today, life goes on. For those close to the murders of yesterday, life will stand still. And even though I feel sad for them, today I won't watch, listen to, nor read of the sadness of yesterday or the debate on guns, gun control and gun violence.

You can call me a coward, say I'm burying my head in the sand or that I just don't care. I don't think that any of those things are true. I just don't want focus on something so sad--at least not for today.

Count your blessings, love your kids, be an encouragement.

John <><

Friday, December 14, 2012


As far as I can remember, it was never Mommy. It wasn't Mama or Ma.
It's always been Mom.

To Dad, it's Bebe (that's two short e sounds, emphasis on the second syllable).
To relatives and very close family friends, it's been Bebe to my aunts and uncles and Aunt Bebe to all of the cousins (and there are a bunch of them).
To her seventeen grandkids, she is Grandma.
To everybody else, she is Leticia.

Today is her birthday!

Her Facebook profile says she is 75, so I guess it is okay to post that here, too. I know that mentioning a woman's age is a tricky thing at times, but I'll go with it since she wears her age so well.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

I hope that you have a grand day.

John <><

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Bonus post: Another favorite

I've been enjoying looking for some of my favorite posts. This one is from posts with the label Christmas.
It may not actually be my favorite Christmas post, but it does have on of my favorite Christmas songs.

It's not a Christmas hymn or Christmas carol. Chances are pretty good that if you didn't read the original post three years ago, you may not have ever heard this  song...

...unless you happen to be a Jackson Browne fan.

Enjoy it here.

John <><

Feel Good Days

Ever have those days that just feel like good days? Days that simple things happen to make you smile?

Yeah, it's been one of those days...and it will carry over into tomorrow to make tomorrow one of those days, too.

It hasn't been a big deal or anything, just some simple things that happened today and some simple pleasures that I will enjoy tomorrow. First, I've been looking forward to the meteor shower tonight. The Geminid shower is generally pretty good and it's been a while since I've really been able to enjoy a meteor shower. I'll be working in the tower tonight through the peak hours so it should be pretty sweet.

Many people that enjoy watching the different showers throughout the year might be interested to know that, unlike most showers, the Geminids are not caused from the Earth's orbit intersecting the orbit of a comet. This one is caused from intersecting the orbit of an asteroid. You can read about it here.

Earlier today I made a lunch appointment for tomorrow. I am meeting a friend that I haven't seen for a little while and am just looking forward to it. I also want to share a book with him that I think he will enjoy.

Just after that, another friend called to ask if I would talk to her son about receiving Jesus as his Savior. I am really honored by this request and have set up a time to talk to him tomorrow afternoon. If you feel so inclined, I would appreciate your prayers for Jack (and for me, too).

Chris and I stopped by Hopedale's live nativity tonight. Chris had the opportunity to get to know one of our new people and one of the new supervisors from the tower stopped by with his family.

I just have to say, "It's been a pretty good day!"
And I am looking forward to tomorrow.
Saturday, Hannah will be home.

To borrow from a Christmas classic, "It's a wonderful life!"

John <><

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My All-time Favorite

My last post was time stamped before midnight so I haven't actually had a post for this day, 12/12/12. I was thinking that I miss an old blogging buddy, It's a Numeric Life. She would have had something interesting to say, I'm sure of it.

In any case, I wanted to make a quick post to cover the day as I continue to write more often.

However, I'm not really writing anything new here. In yesterday's second post, I shared a few of my favorites from 2012. Today I thought that I would share my favorite of my 761 posts. It originally ran in August of 2008, so many of my current readers haven't had the opportunity to read it.

It is about one of my favorite people so the the title One of My Favorite People is appropriate.
...And four years later, it is also one of my favorite posts, perhaps my all time favorite.

I hope that you have (or have had) a person in your life like my friend Gene. I hope that you are (and I am) that kind of encourager/mentor/friend to somebody that needs such a person. I believe that these relationships are appointed by God. Don't miss out on such a friendship.

Please enjoy reading about One of My Favorite People.

John <><

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Favorite Posts

In the past few weeks, several of my blogging friends have shared some of their favorite posts. I thought that I would do the same at some point, but it is pretty difficult to decide between my favorites and reader favorites. Some of the ones that I like have few hits or comments and others have many hits and comments even though they are perhaps more controversial than good posts.

In the end, I'm just going to look through 2012 (for now) and pick a favorite from each month.

For January
(click the month to read the post)

I'll post my favorites for April, May and June in a couple of days. If you have favorites from those months, feel free to leave a comment with your favorite post.

John <><

Music is for Everybody

I love this video. I shared it on Facebook but also wanted to post it here at Out of My Hat for those of you that are not my Facebook "friends" list.

It is a great story of bringing music to a group of poor kids. A story of building instruments out of garbage. A story of recycling materials into instruments that make beautiful music. Please watch it ...

John <><

Monday, December 10, 2012

Continuing With More Good News About the Good Guys

To keep up with the theme of good news about good guys, I want to share a bit about our group of youth at Hopedale.

Yesterday was Youth Sunday at Hopedale and our kids taught in several of the Sunday school classes, greeted people as they entered the sanctuary for service, led worship in the Neos Service, read scripture, received the offering, played an instrumental special for the offering time and a very challenging message was delivered by our Youth Pastor.

I know that I'm an extremely biased person when it comes to my church family, but I'm just going to tell you that it was a great service and a great Sunday. Our little youth group continues to grow and many of the kids are really serious about growing in their relationship with God through His son, Jesus. We have a great group of adults that give of their time to teach on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights and help with the tech stuff. It's an honor to serve with them. I am looking forward to seeing the work that God will do through these young men and women as they continue to follow Him.

Like many stories of good kids and good people, this one won't make the evening news. Most people might say that it isn't even news worthy. Maybe that's true. But it is a good story and one that ought to be told. I'm telling it here!

Great job Hopedale!

John <><

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Let's Hear It for the Good Guys!

There is a lot of good news and there are a lot of good people. Unfortunately, most of what we hear is bad news or news about bad people.

Today, I want to share some good news about good people.

Check this out:

John <><

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Christmas Readings Meeting

The December meeting of the Ozarks Chapter of American Christian Writers (OCACW) is our annual Christmas reading meeting. Member write and read about Christmas or winter.

WOW! We have some great writers.

The readings included poetry, prose, some fictional stories and many stories that were recollections of Christmases past. These stories reminded me of Christmases from my childhood and also of Christmases from when my kids were little. As you would expect from a group of Christian writers, the story of the birth of Jesus was included in many of the stories.

Listening to members share their stories reminds me that we are all living out our own stories. Whether we chose to write them down, share them by the telling of our experiences or just live them out so that others will tell our stories for us; we need to remember that we are called to tell His story as we live our own.

Thank you to all of my writing friends for sharing your stories and for always encouraging me to share my stories. Thank you for encouraging me to share His story.

John <><

Friday, December 07, 2012

Christmas Wish List

When it comes to a Christmas wish list, mine is pretty short. Chris and I have been blessed to have the things that we need and many of the things that we want. We don't have smart phones and my tablet is a cheap clone. We have a single laptop that was a cheap sale computer from a couple of Christmases past. My car is more than 20 years old.

We have what we need.

I am looking forward to going out for coffee or lunch with Hannah when she is home during her short semester break. I hope to go out for some hot wings with Aaron when he and Jenny are here for a few days. I'd be happy to give them a chance to beat me at a game of Scrabble or Five Crowns. Having them home to spend some time together as a family is enough.

It's funny how quiet the normal seems after a few days of having them here. And I'm not talking about quiet as in a lack of noise. It's more like a lack of activity that makes it seems quiet; makes it feel empty. It will be more than a week until Hannah is home and New Year's weekend before Aaron and Jenny make it. Having them here is what we look forward to this season.

God is good.
We have more than what we need.
We are blessed.

John <><

Thursday, December 06, 2012

War on Christmas

There are only a few minutes more than an hour to get a post in for today's date. I'll just make a couple of quick observations on the so called War on Christmas and the impact that has on me personally.

The War on Christmas has had no impact on me at all.

I suppose that I could just leave it at that but that really isn't my nature, so I'll add a few more comments.

First of all, the only places that I've heard about this War on Christmas is from Fox News programs, people that watch Fox News programs or people that make fun of Fox News Programs. I'd provide video links but you can get those on your own.

One has to ask the question, "Is there really a War on Christmas?"
Or is it just something to stir the anger of what should be the peaceful, joyous followers of Jesus?

Actually, I fully understand the limiting of nativity scenes or other Christmas decorations on governmental properties. Can you imagine the conservative entertainment complex's outrage if there were government supported displays for Muslims, Buddhists, Wiccans, atheists or other beliefs?

So far, nobody has restricted my rights to make Christmas displays on my own property or in my own home. Businesses seem free to make their own decisions on how to decorate their properties and how they greet their customers--Happy holidays or Merry Christmas.

I'm also wondering--Is the United States the only country that makes such a big deal about all of this or do other countries face these same issues each year?
I know that I have readers from several different countries around the world. would any of my international friends care to weigh in on the War on Christmas debate. I'm just curious.

John <><

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Black Thursday Laws

A few days ago I posted about Black Friday and what it costs us. Obviously, I'm not a fan.

Having said that, I am opposed to the law proposed by Missouri State legislators that would restrict stores from being open on Thanksgiving Day. In spite of the fact that I think it is silly to spend a holiday at the store instead of with your family, the reality is that for some people, holiday shopping is a family event.

I doubt that you will see me in a store on Thanksgiving Day, waiting in line for a great sale on a "door buster" special. However, I think that the decision to be open or to shop should be left to the retailers and shoppers. Face it, this was an experiment by the big box stores. If nobody showed up or the profits didn't exceed the expenses, it won't happen again. If people showed up and spent enough money on items other than the loss leaders, it will happen again and again.

I will say that I feel for the employees that have to work on the holiday, but I've worked the retail racket myself and currently work in a 24/7 occupation. I've worked on plenty of holidays and missed too many kids' events and family gatherings. It is an occupational hazard.

So on the one hand, we want people to spend money and have jobs. On the other hand, we want stores to be closed and people to stay home from work and shopping. Hmmm...

I think that our legislators (at every level) have plenty to do (like working on...oh, I don't know...governmental things), without passing stupid regulations on people. We can make up our own minds about when we want to shop and what we are willing to give up for a great deal.

Really? Did you think that we sent you to Jefferson City to help us figure out when to shop?
Give me a break.

John <><

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

A Few Good Men

This morning I had the privilege of meeting with the Search Team and the Administrative Team of the TriCounty Baptist Association.

I've got to say that I really enjoy serving with these men. Most of them are pastors, although there are a couple of exceptions. They allow me to serve with them as an "at large" member out of their goodness and graciousness. They each bring great strengths and giftedness to the teams in order to serve the churches of the Association.

The Search team is charged with finding the person called to serve as our Director of Missions. We are made up of several members of the Administrative Team plus one pastor that is not on the Administrative Team. After our meeting the full A-Team met for our regular meeting.

I love thse guys! They serve their churches and the Association to bring glory and honor to God through His son Jesus. They have a real heart for reaching the lost and for encouraging believers to grow in the faith. They really ache for the churches that are struggling and have a great desire to see new churches started to reach those that do not know the joy of salvation through our Lord and Savior, Jesus. I leave every meeting encouraged by their faith and dedication. Just being with them is inspiring.

If you know these guys well, you know that they are not necessarily men of great stature by the standards of our society. They are inspiring because they model the compassion of Jesus.

I hope that they will continue to allow me to serve with them.
It's pretty tough to have a bad day when you get to spend the morning with these good men.

Thanks, brothers!

John <><

Monday, December 03, 2012

Is it Pride...or Jealousy?

I know that pride is one of the seven deadlies, but it is one that I sometimes struggle with. In this case, it's not self pride; it's that I am really proud of my church and church family. I love my pastor and I brag on my church family every chance I get. Last fall I asked a visiting evangelist what he thought of my church. He responded by saying, "Now I know why you always brag on your church!"

I bring this up today because of a post by Ed Stetzer, pastor, author, speaker, church planter and President of Life Way Research. The post deals with high praise for the friendly hospitality of a neighboring church. I know that Hopedale is far from a megachurch like our neighbors, but we are a great community of believers. And when it comes right down to it, there is nothing in the article that would suggest otherwise.

You can read his post here.

Maybe I'm just jealous (another of the seven deadly sins as envy) that a guy from the Southern Baptist denominational entity Life Way, would write such high praise for a neighboring church of another denomination. Is bigger really better. I know that church planting is Stetzer's thing, and I do wish that Hopedale was into planting churches because I see that as a good way to advance the Kingdom. But I also believe that Hopedale is reaching the lost and discipling believers. We are growing and we are expanding the Kingdom.

To be fair, I'm sure that Dr. Stetzer would accept an invitation to come to Hopedale. We have hosted other denominational leaders in the past. And Hopedale is still learning and adapting and getting better at receiving people and making them feel welcome. We could learn a few things from our neighbors. If it were in my power to invite him to Hopedale, I would. But I do believe that God is guiding our pastor and our church along a path that will bring glory and honor to Him through the working of the Holy Spirit in His people. I do applaud Dr. Stetzer's Kingdom vision as he works across denominational lines to advance the Gospel. It is a mindset that we all need to have.

If you are a follower of Jesus, then we are brothers and sisters in Him. Let's take advantage of the holiday season and ask somebody what role Jesus plays in their family celebration of Christmas. His birth is only the beginning of the story. His life, death and resurrection is the main body of the story. Each of us gets to write our own ending. Each of us get to choose to follow Him, to follow another or to go it on our own.

Who is the Jesus of Christmas to you?

John <><

Sunday, December 02, 2012

First Sunday of Advent

Advent is a time to prepare for the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus. It is the time that covers the four Sundays prior to Christmas.

From the time I was a kid, Advent has been about preparing for Christmas. This year, Advent will be different. After reading this article from The Gospel Coalition, Advent takes on a whole new meaning. It makes my focus on the Return of My Lord Jesus.

The author makes some good points about living without the expectation of His return vs. how we live as an expectant believer. Remembering that He is coming again always gives me a sense of urgency about sharing the Good News of God's grace and salvation through His son Jesus.

I would echo the author's invitation and ask you to join us in skipping the "Christmas Season" celebration. By all means, celebrate Christmas and the birth of our Savior. But lets keep Advent about preparing for His coming--His return.

John <><

Saturday, December 01, 2012

December 1

Okay, so it's late in the day but still December first and I'm in for a short post. Maybe this daily posting thing is getting to be a habit.

I have been taking additional time (although not every day) to do some writing. Some of it has just been free writing kind of stuff, but some has been in story form. I don't know how long the story will end up being. It maybe short story length or it may be a little bit longer. At this point, I would doubt that it would be book length. In any case, it is nice to work on the habit of writing.

In other news that nobody really cares about, I'm back in the weight loss mode after taking a little longer than a week to indulge in the Thanksgiving holiday foods and the leftovers. Okay, I went beyond the leftovers and just indulged for a few extra days. I ended November pretty much where I ended October making the entire month pretty nonexistent as far as weight loss goes.

Lesson learned. I won't be doing the same for December. I'm sure that I'll manage a few holiday treats and a good Christmas Day dinner, but nothing like the week long binge during November. Regular exercise is going to make its way back into the program (even if it's just a daily walk) and a renewed discipline on how much and what I'm consuming. Losing just 3lbs/week in December will start 2013 at a weight far below what I've been to start the year for many years.

I haven't been keeping the daily diary of food for several weeks but think that I'll get back to it. Just writing down what I'm eating seems to help with the awareness and regulation. I'm trying not to make this whole weight loss thing too much of a chore, but want to keep the importance of it in mind as I continue to work at it.

Enjoy your Sunday.
If you are in the vicinity of Ozark, come visit us at Hopedale and join in our worship of our Lord and Savior. Neos Service is at 11.

John <><