Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Just thinking...

Plenty of thoughts rolling around in my head without any type of organization this morning. I don't know if I should write them down now or wait until they have some sense of order.

I feel like I should write something--mostly because I want to develop a habit of writing more often. Since today is December 31, it seems natural to reflect on the past year and to set goal for the next one. I am no longer a big "resolutions" kind of guy, but I do have a few things that I would like to accomplish in the year 2014. Most of them have to do with just being a much better John--healthier (working on it), kinder (whatever!), less critical of others, more disciplined (in too many areas).

How about you?
Any New Year's resolutions?

As for reviewing 2013, it was a good year. I think I learned a few things about myself last year. Nothing that was real earth shattering; just stuff that helps me understand me a little bit better. Maybe I'll write about some of that in another post--maybe. Most of what I learned about myself wasn't great stuff, so maybe not.

I guess I'll get things organized in my head before really writing about them.

For now--

Happy New Year!
Party safely!

John <><

Saturday, December 28, 2013

What Happens in Vegas...

Let's face it; there are no secrets. Walking through the airport, there was a sign that said, "Deny. Deny. Deny. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas."

I wonder how many people come to Las Vegas hoping to be somebody else. I wonder how many people are seduced into doing things that they would never do in their "real" life.

For us, it's nice that the kids are old enough that Vegas works for us. Tonight some of us will take in the Beatle Mania show at the Mirage while the rest of us take in UFC 168 at the MGM.

Yesterday, we walked a lot and just took in the atmosphere of the strip. It's Hannah's first time here. We exchaged Christmas gifts with the kids and enjoyed the family time. I'm not sure what's on the agenda for today. For now, all are still in their rooms while I enjoy my quiet time (relatively speaking) and a cup of coffee.

Once again:
It's a good day to be John Hill.

John <><

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Healthy Living for 2014

I know that it's still a few days until we turn the calendar to 2014 but I'm already thinking about how I might be improving my health in the coming months.

I end 2013 with much better dietary habits and with some semi-regular exercise habits. I am sleeping better (and more) than I used to sleep. I need to be more regular with my exercise and a bit more diversified. Working on that.

Overall, I feel pretty good. November and December have been rotten as far as diet and weight loss go. I'll end the year at -30 pounds (the same place I ended October) from the beginning of June. I'd still like to drop some weight but hesitate to set a number. I'm really hoping that I'll know when it feels right. I'm guessing another 15 pounds or so.

I do have other health oriented plans for '14. I do want to plant the garden that we never planted last year. I also want to cut back on how much meat I eat in the coming year.  I hope to spend more time in the kitchen preparing more meals at home and eating out less often. I plan on purchasing more produce from the farmers' markets and less from the big grocery stores. They say that eating healthier foods isn't a lot more expensive, but it does take a bit more work and more time.

I'll keep you posted as the year progresses.
Wishing you a healthy and prosperous year in 2014.

John <><

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Quiet Time

It's late evening on Christmas night and I am enjoying a little quiet time. We've had a nice, but quiet Christmas Day. Our big gift to ourselves this year is an upcoming trip to Las Vegas as a family. Today we exchanged some gifts, had dinner with the Tice family, and pretty much took it easy. I managed an afternoon walk but didn't really do anything noteworthy on this Christmas Day.

I thought I'd go ahead and get a jump on my Thursday post. I really am thankful for the quiet moments in a day. I'm using this time for writing. Sometimes it is time for thinking; sometimes for reading; sometimes for praying. Sometimes it is for doing nothing other than resting this tired old brain of mine. I like the time when there is nobody to talk to me; nobody to interact with. Most people don't really see me as an introvert, but I think that I possess definite introvert characteristics.

I hope to make better use of my quiet time in 2014. I hope to take the time to recognize the good work that others are doing. A short while back, a woman paid me a very nice compliment along with a thanks for what you do conversation. It was quite the pick me up! I want to share that feeling with others. I do want to encourage good behaviors by recognizing and acknowledging them when I see them. I also want to reward random people with random acts. Several times in the past month I've paid for coffee for the car behind me in the Starbucks drive-thru. It's not a big deal; never more than a few bucks. It's just something generous.

I know that generosity might go farther some place other than a Starbucks drive thru, but it is what it is and you can choose to give your blessings where ever you choose. These are some of the things I think about during my quiet times.

I hope that you make quiet times for yourself, too. I often use the half hour+ commute as a quiet time. Most of the time the radio is off and it's...quiet! It's not the ideal time, but it is something.

I really do relish my time alone. It seems like such a rare thing in our otherwise very busy lives.

Sometime today...Be quiet!
You'll thank me for the small moment of peace.

John <><

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

Weighing in on the Duck Dynasty Debacle

I know I'm going to regret this. Maybe I'll come to my senses and delete it all after I've typed it out and purged it from my system, but I doubt it. Coming to my senses in a timely fashion is not how I roll.

I should begin by saying that I am not a fan of the show. It is not a "reality" show and I don't get the whole watch somebody's make believe life and believe that these are their real personalities and this is their real life. I don't watch any so-called reality shows. I have seen this show and can't say that I find the backwoods ways or day to day life stories to be entertaining...at all. I really don't get the attraction.

As to the interview comments, freedom of speech, banned from the network, products removed from stores, Facebook fan pages and all of the other fallout--really? Why does anybody really care?

Some guy that has a cult like following says something and somebody else doesn't like it and reacts.

As a guy that has never really learned the lesson of keeping my thoughts to myself, I can tell you that words have consequences. There are lots of regrettable words in my past...and plenty of words that could have been said in less offensive tones. There are words that were never said in anger that were taken in anger. There have been wasted words, words that had no positive impact. While I am not at all ashamed or shy about what I believe, I've also found that it isn't important that everybody needs to know what I believe.

In the case of the GQ interview; I find it hard to believe that any party was unaware of the potential controversy. The question; the answer; the response and the media attention all seem a little bit contrived to me. GQ will sell a record number of issues. Duck Dynasty and Duck Commander products will be flying off of the shelves. A&E will either gain or lose support from equal numbers of people on either side of the controversy. Duck Dynasty followers will watch the show--on A&E or any other network. All in all, it is a grand marketing scheme that is better than anything anybody could have planned--unless of course, it was planned and everybody is reacting as anticipated.

Whether it's real or not, please--get a life outside of the world of the unreal lives of television characters.

I don't believe anybody is being persecuted for their religious beliefs. I don't believe that anybody has had their rights of free speech infringed upon. A celebrity said some things that are controversial in our society and is suffering the consequences. It happens every time we give undue credence to the words of a celebrity. Personally, I think we have a pretty messed up society that chooses to get its wisdom/theology/social policies from people that are pretending to be something that they aren't.

Okay. That's it. Really it's just my little rant. You are free to comment (and I know many of you will) even though I really don't care to read some of the rants that are sure to come.

But one thing I have learned--words have consequences.

John <><

Why am I Here?

This question was recently asked by my cousin and friend (cousins by the good fortunes of birth, friends by choice). I suppose that it's a question that we all ask from time to time.

It could be that we find ourselves wondering about a particular situation that we find ourselves in (too often the case for me) or it could be a reflection of our impact (or lack of it) in the grand scheme of life in the Universe.

For me, the first is often the consequence of choices that I've made along the way. Not always bad choices; just choices that lead me to a place that I didn't expect to be and a place that leaves me to wonder, "Why am I here?"
The more colorful question is more like, "Where am I going and how did I get in this hand-basket?"

It seems to me that the situation events are pretty easy to figure out. On a small scale, we can deduce how we got to a place and even what our purpose in being there might be.

On the grand scale, "Why am I here?" presents a much greater challenge.

Truthfully, my insignificant existence has no bearing at all in the grand scope of the universe. But just as truthfully, it was never meant to. I know that we all want to do great things; to leave a name, a legacy that people will remember long after we are gone. Unfortunately, not many of us are created to do great things on the scale of universal significance.

It is also true that we are placed in positions of having subtle influence in the lives of those around us and often times, we are in a position to make significant impact in the life of an individual person. Whether a moment of subtle influence or significant impact, you may encounter that person today! You may in one moment be wondering, "Why am I here?" and in the next moment you encounter somebody in desperate need of a simple smile or a friendly gesture.

Maybe we need to be more aware of the opportunities that present themselves to us; more purposeful in our efforts to give meaning to our lives and a little joy to others. Perhaps we need to recognize and acknowledge the people that have made an impact on our lives; to thank them for simple smiles, the words of wisdom, and moments of comfort. It could be that we are the answer for the moments that they ask, "Why am I here?"

As I write this post, I can't help but think of the times sitting around my cousin's home singing songs or being entertained by music. I remember going to plays and musicals. And there have been more recent memories, too. Social networking has allowed me to reconnect with family and friends; allowed us to share our joys and our struggles; allowed us to rejoice together and to pray for one another; and given us an answer to the question, "Why am I here?"

John <><

Sunday, December 22, 2013


It's hard to believe that "selfie" made the Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year. It beat out twerking!

The good news is that I'm not going to be twerking for you today. I am, however, going to post a selfie. Not the traditional kind of cell phone selfie pic; but a less conventional kind of Christmas selfie.

I've decided to give myself a Christmas present this year, one that will benefit other people as well. I know that it's a few days before Christmas, but everybody loves an early Christmas present, right?

The Christmas present that I'm giving to myself this year--my Christmas selfie--is forgiveness!
That's right, everybody gets a clean slate.
To be fair...it's not everybody; if you've earned my respect by your good character and great integrity, you get to keep that. Also to be fair...it's not exactly clean; human that I am, the past is hard to erase completely.

But here's the deal: I am carrying no grudges or bad feelings about anybody into the new year. I'm not going to say that everybody is my new friend or that I now trust all of the people that I didn't trust before, but I will give everybody the gift of a fresh start. I'm going to try to be a more forgiving person throughout the new year and figured this would be a good way, and a good time, to get started.

I realize that most of the people that might benefit from this Christmas selfie probably don't read Out of My Hat. I haven't decided if I need to tell them that I am forgiving the past and giving them a fresh start (some might not even realize they've earned my scorn and distrust), or to just do it and let my new attitude toward them be the evidence. That may vary from person to person.

I hope that you will consider that Christmas should be the season of forgiveness and fresh starts. All of humanity was given the gift of a Savior that offers forgiveness and fresh starts. Maybe you will join me and give yourself the gift of forgiving others for Christmas. Maybe we can all be more forgiving in 2014.

Merry Christmas!
John <><

Saturday, December 21, 2013

It is winter!

Early this morning, just before sunrise in the Midwest USA, the Earth crossed that point in its orbit around the sun and began its journey back towards longer periods of daylight and shorter periods of darkness (at least for us Northern Hemisphere people) each day.

I'm not a big fan of winter (and it always seemed a little weird that the shortest day marked the beginning of winter rather than the mid point), but winter is here, none the less. Weather on this first day of winter is trying to present itself as winter like with rain and temps hovering around the freezing mark. It looks like we will have pretty mild days for the week of Christmas.

Most of you that have been reading Out of My Hat for some time know that I marvel at the complex design of our universe. I love watching the regular celestial events and hearing of the irregular ones like solar flares and colorful auroras. I like reading about passing comets and asteroids and learning about new discoveries in deep space. It boggles my mind that there are people that also marvel at these things but deny the existence of a great Creator.

For me, the marking of the seasons and the passing of time are a reminder of the order of things and give evidence of a Creator. There is nothing random about the design of our world. It is too complex, too perfect to be accidental.

Happy Winter Solstice!
Spring (and baseball season) is just around the corner!

John <><

Friday, December 20, 2013

Some days are diamonds...

This was a good day...and wrapped up a good week!

Late on Monday I checked my voice mail and had a message from a man that wanted to talk to me about evangelistic opportunities. Because I picked up the message as I was ending my work day (it was nearly 11pm), I waited until Tuesday to return the call.

I have to admit I was a little disappointed when I found out that he wasn't interested in booking me for an event; he was interested in finding out more about being an evangelist and feels God's leading in that direction. After the initial disappointment, I started to get excited about meeting him for breakfast. I was remembering many years ago when I asked an evangelist to meet me for breakfast to ask about the same things.

This morning was that breakfast meeting.

I left our little meeting feeling great! It was exciting and energizing to see a man that is really seeking and finding that God really does have a mission for him. It was encouraging to hear of his doubts and how God is working around and through those doubts. It was a grand way to spend a Friday morning.

All-in-all, it's been a pretty good week: no hassles at work, a few frustrations with banking, cars, kids, cats, etc., but nothing major or out of the ordinary. I did get back to a little bit of exercise and ate a little better. I had a few decent conversations (not your everyday, meaningless drivel) with people. I got to read about some great kind acts and share some good stories.

I even made a couple of good decisions! (More about those later.)

Now the weekend is here and Christmas Day is less than a week away.
I have a good life!

John <><

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Thursdays are for Thanksgiving

I have some great friends! Admittedly, I don't have a lot of friends, but the ones I have are the best.

They tolerate my quirks and love me just the same. They are encouragers, comforters and helpers. They are my friends and I am their friend.

Today I am thankful for my friends!

John <><

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Caught being nice!

At the beginning of the month I posted about sharing some of the nice things that people do for one another. Yesterday a young first grade teacher shared on of those moments and it was truly the kind of feel good moment that could bring a tear to your eyes.

It seems that there was a young boy in her class was needing shoes as his feet were sticking out of his current pair. One of his classmates told his mom about the boy, the mom contacted the teacher and provided a new pair for the boy but didn't want it known where they came from. When the teacher gave him the new shoes, the boy began to cry. The teacher asked why he was crying and the boy told her it was because he had never had a new pair of shoes!

Kudos to the young classmate that shared the need with his mom. Kudos to the Mom that met the need. And thanks to Ms. Ross for sharing the story so that we can all be blessed and encouraged by it!

John <><

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Career Move...or not?

I wrote the following about a week ago but never posted it. Since writing it, two things have happened:
1) I decided not to bid the job and
2) The bid is now out.

If you are a controller considering a career move into management, I'd encourage you log into your My FAA web page and check out the jobs section for the bid. It says temporary, not to exceed a year, but as with most of those bids, I'm guessing a good supervisor can move to a permanent position without competing. If you are already a supe and want to move to the Queen City of the Ozarks...well, here is your chance.

As it is, this is not going to be the way I wrap up my ATC career.
Good luck. The bid closes on the 26th.

Here is the post (originally written 12/9):

I don't know if this is the right time and place for this post or not. As I begin to write this, I'm not even certain that I'll ever get to the "publish" button. It may just turn out to be a way to help organize my thoughts. If you are reading this now, well I guess I'm coming out with a statement that I am considering bidding on a temporary supervisor's job.

Yeah, it's a little bit crazy and I'm really not sure that it's what I'm going to do. The bid isn't out yet but it should be coming out soon. I've been weighing the +s  and -s of the gig and can't say that they come out with anything definitive in the way of an answer. There could be a little bit of monetary reward, but I'm pretty comfortable with my present income so that isn't a great incentive.

My initial thought was that there is no real benefit to me, so why should I? The problem in the decision making process is that I'm trying to grow beyond the "me" world. Is everything always about "me"? Are there other valid considerations? Is there a benefit to others? If so, who benefits and do I have any responsibility to them?

One of the items in the minus column is giving consideration to my years in NATCA and what effect a supervisory position would have on some of the relationships with controllers around the country and especially with those that are here at SGF. I don't generally give a lot of consideration to what other people think of what I'm doing and so it's not a huge factor; just something to consider. Are those changes in relationships worth a 1 year gig as a temporary supervisor?

Actually, I can easily come up with a lengthy minus list (and have). The problem is in coming up with a plus list. I'm not convinced that anybody would benefit from John Hill as supervisor. And maybe I'm not the person to make that assessment. Do I throw my hat in the ring and let management take it from there?

As it is, I've had members of management and fellow controllers encourage me to bid the slot. I'm pretty certain that opinions vary a great deal on both sides of the labor/management coin.

One thing that is in the plus column (temporarily anyway)...
There isn't a bid out (yet) and so no decision has to be made!

John <><

Wasting time

How often do you waste time?

Wasting time can come in lots of different forms and in varying degrees of wastefulness. Ranting on a blog, reading rants, scouring Facebook for the latest pics and updates, watching meaningless TV shows, playing online games. We can always make our excuses for not doing what we need to do and do the things that are less productive or unnecessary.

As a procrastinator of the highest level, I've found that one can waste time and still manage to appear to be productive. Sometimes not doing the thing that needs to be done in favor of anything else is nothing more than just plain old wasting time.

So what important things to you put off while doing things that are unimportant?
What are your go-to excuses for not doing what needs to be done?
Are they good enough to really work or do they only work because you allow them to work?

We can even waste time and put off important conversations by engaging in small talk and avoiding meaningful dialogue with people that we encounter on a regular basis. A recent testimony by a missionary friend in a foreign country made this very clear. While she had determined that the conversation she was having was not leading her to talk about Jesus (the real purpose of their visit), another member of the party reminded her that Jesus was the purpose of the meeting and asked when she was going to ask their host about Him.

Sometimes we miss those opportunities because we haven't made the decision that we are going to ask about Jesus, and sometimes it's because we decide that the time isn't right (even though the time has nothing to do with it). I have to admit that this has been me...most of the time. I need that friend to whisper the question, "When are you going to tell them about Jesus?"

Maybe I just need to pay attention to the voice in my heart that asks the question; the voice that is drowned out by all of the noise of the world around me--around us. It's a little depressing to look back at 2013 and see all of the time and opportunities that have been wasted. If 2014 is going to be better, I'm going to need your help. I'm going to need you to be the friendly (but insistent) voice that asks the question, "When are you going to tell them about Jesus?"

I'll pass on my gentle reminders to you, as well. We can work together to stop wasting precious time and make sure that people know that God loves them and Jesus died for them.

John <><

Friday, December 13, 2013


A short time ago I posted about unplugging from the virtual world a little more often. In that post, I included a statement that wasn't the brightest thing to post in such a public forum. It wasn't meant as an indictment of anybody in particular or of the facility in general. It was meant as general indictment of how attached we have all become to our cell phones, tablets and virtual umbilical cords.

Apparently, the comment upset a number of people and became a topic of conversation at work. For some reason, it was easier to talk about me than to talk to me. I am glad that somebody finally brought it to my attention. As I re-read it, it was easy to see how it could be taken (and misunderstood) by people at work and by people outside of work. I have changed that part of the post.

I'm a little surprised by some of the people involved. However, I guess I'll just make the change and let it go. I am obviously too unapproachable to talk with about something that may be offensive or misunderstood.

C'est la vie!

John <><

Winter Writing

Ugh! It's Friday!
Okay, Friday is a good thing--but tomorrow is our winter reading meeting at the OCACW meeting and I haven't written anything. I may just have to check back at past writings and use one of them. I actually may still write something...or if the weather continues through tonight, we may not meet tomorrow.

In either case, I do need to write.

An afternoon project on a wintry day.

It would appear that Southwest Missouri is not going to be the place for viewing the Geminids meteor shower this year. I believe that overcast skies are in tonight's forecast. Sacre bleu! I do love watching a good celestial event in the night sky!

I hope that many of you have the skies and desire to view one of the best annual meteor showers. Get out around 2am, bundle up and watch the sky!

Break time is over. Back to work...talking to plow trucks instead of airplanes today. At least it pays the same!

John <><

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Elixir of Life

It may seem like a waste of a good Thursday post to write about being thankful for a simple cup of coffee, but it is my blog and I get to write about what I like to write about and be thankful for the things that I choose.

It's easy to understand why early morning thankful thoughts might be about a good cup of coffee. However, coffee provides more than a physiological pick me up. It provides time to prepare to face the day. Later it provides me the time to sit with a friend or my daughter and converse over a hot cup with a little cream. The time it takes to prepare and enjoy a good cup of coffee is relaxing, therapeutic.

I've learned to taste coffee rather than to just drink coffee. The flavor subtleties of a light or medium roast can be very enjoyable. I'm not a flavored coffee fan. I enjoy coffee--black, no sweetener. Sometimes I add a little cream. I make my daily quart of espresso Americano  with a stove top espresso maker and hot water. I may have a cup at work (K-cup) but usually have tea at work (less caffeine and easier to keep fresh).

I didn't set out to be a coffee snob; it just sort of happened when I realized that most store bought stuff is stale (and tastes stale) from way before it ever made it to the shelf. The thing about drinking good coffee is ... well, it's good!


John <><

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Walking in the winter wonderland...

Yeah, not so much on the walking in the snowy neighborhood.
It looks like I'm back to the exercise bike for a while. Actually, I've gotten pretty bad about sticking to an exercise routine so I'm trying something else to shake things up a bit. I've been meaning to add some weight training into my routine to help build some strength in my arms and core. My legs are in pretty good shape strength-wise from hauling around my fat butt for the past few decades.

Exercise program for today will be shoveling the driveway...again, and then hitting the circuit training on the weight machine. Outdoor temperature is 5 degrees F (that's -15C to my international friends). Weight machine is in the unheated garage. Hopefully I'll be warmed up from the shoveling!

Well, I've had a cup of coffee. Guess it's time to get after it!

Have a grand Tuesday.
Be kind to somebody. Share a smile or a cup of coffee.

John <><

Sunday, December 08, 2013

The Weather Outside is Frightful!

One would think the cold temperatures and the snowy landscape would be enough to put me in the Christmas spirit.
Yeah, well so far it hasn't happened.

I'm not all "bah, humbug" or anything; I'm just not in the festive holiday kind of mood. Maybe getting some decorations up would put me in a holiday mood. Maybe not.

I think that I'll make the effort to talk about Christmas more this week. I think that I'll be asking people about their family's Christmas traditions. Maybe in finding out about how different people celebrate the holidays, I'll find a little of the Christmas spirit awakening in myself. I'll begin by asking my readers.

What are your family holiday traditions?
Christmas Eve services? Midnight Mass?
Christmas candies and cookies?
Holiday Ham?
Open presents on Christmas Eve or on Christmas morning?
Special Christmas breakfast?
Travel to see family? Stay at home?

I am really interested to know how you and yours celebrate the season. Please take a moment to comment here, on Facebook, Google+, Twitter or LinkedIn.

What holiday are you celebrating and how do you do it?

John <><

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Thankful for mobility

Even down to one car, I am thankful for our vehicles. Chris' car is in need of a replacement engine. Even so, it's something we can do. We have friends that are helping with transportation or loaning us a vehicle when needed.

Inspite of our troubles, we are blessed.

John <><

Monday, December 02, 2013

The month in review

Holy smokes! It's December!

It feels like I'm heading back to work after a long weekend. Although many of you have had a long weekend, mine has been pretty normal as far as my work schedule goes. Maybe it was having Hannah home last week, or maybe the Thanksgiving dinner or maybe it just feels like I've been off work longer than normal. In any case, I'll be back talking to airplanes in just a couple of hours.

November was not a good month on the fitness/weight loss front. I didn't ride as much, walked a little more and started working on some upper body and core strength. On the weight side, I managed to keep it together and steady for most of the month, but blew it over the holiday and with visiting relatives on Saturday night. I end the month a couple of pounds heavier than I started it. Sacre bleu!

No worries, though. I don't think that getting back on track will be a big deal. I did some work in the garage yesterday to make my weight machine/dust collector more accessible and plan to start using it along with the exercise bike, outdoor bike and walking. Still looking to dip below the 220# mark by the end of the year.

Other than the weight thing, I had a great November!

I started with a ministry gig with my old friend in sunny Florida and ended with a weekend revival in the frozen reaches of Northern Missouri. I got to do a little magic, do a little preaching and had a great time doing both!

And December started off with being able to preach the Neos service at my home church of Hopedale! I live a favored life. God is good!

I hope that you will take some time this month for a little self assessment. I plan on looking at the past year to see where my successes and failures have been; looking at my present state to assess weaknesses and strengths; and looking to the future with a plan to serve God by serving others. The end of December brings more than a look back for a monthly assessment. It also brings about occasion for an annual check-up and evaluation.

I think that beginning each month with a plan to assess the month at the end makes for a better life during the coming weeks. As much as I hope that you had a good November, I truly desire that you have a great December. I know that holiday plans will occupy much of your schedule and many of your thoughts. Be a blessing to one another.

Live well.
John <><

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Beyond Thanksgiving

Well it is now December!

It is hard to believe that the year 2013 is winding down and nearly over. It seems like it was just yesterday that everybody was preparing for the end of the world (or at least the end of the Mayan calendar) on 12/21/2012.

This year's big year end fears come from retailers that complain about the short shopping season, Obama haters that rail against the Obamacare roll-out and poor performing website, doom and gloom economic forecasters that would have us believe that the best economy in the past decade is somehow a bad thing or a host of any other negative, fear-generating prognosticators that seem intent on creating drama and disaster where none exists.

The daily "I'm thankful for..." posts on Facebook will come to and end and we can all go back to our normal routines that don't require us to come up with something to post about something for which we don't usually give a second thought.


I say let's keep on being thankful!
Let's look to 2014 with hope instead of fear!
Let's share our hope and our happiness with those that seem to be in darkness and despair.

Let's have an attitude of gratitude that is shown in everything that we say and do.
Let's emphasize the peace and goodwill theme of Christmas rather than the greed and capitalistic part.
Let's treat one another well each and every day.

...And let's share those moments on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.

If you feel awkward about sharing something nice that you've done for somebody, share about somebody that did something for you or somebody else. Let's keep our eyes open for the good things that people are doing...and let's share that and encourage others to join us in living with the attitude of gratitude.

Thanksgiving shouldn't be confined to a month...or a day!
Good will shouldn't be confined to a season.

I'm going to be on the lookout for those that are being nice. Schools or kids' camps often have awards that are something like "Caught being good" awards. That's what I'm looking for!

Be kind.
Be generous.
Get caught being good.

John <><

Thursday, November 28, 2013

An Attitude of Gratitude

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

I like Thanksgiving.
I like the food of the day.
I like the family traditions of the day.
I like that it is the unofficial beginning of the Christmas season.
I like that it is unique to the US of A.

I just wish that the attitudes of thanksgiving were seen more often during the other 364 days of the year.

Over on Facebook, friends are posting daily things for which they are thankful--one a day for the month of November.

It is a little sad that we really seem to need this holiday to remember and focus on the things and the people for which we are thankful.

I am going to resolve to be more thankful; to express an attitude of gratitude as often as opportunity allows.
I am going to declare that every Thursday (not just the fourth Thursday of November) is a day of thanksgiving.
I am going to create a new label for my blog posts called "Thursday is for Thanksgiving" and regularly post items for which I am thankful.
I am going to invite and encourage you to join with me in this quest to always exhibit an attitude of gratitude.

Today I am thankful for all of you that spend a few of the precious moments of your day to read Out of My Hat from time to time.

I am thankful for the internet connections that I have made through this blog and for all of my fellow bloggers that are a part of my little blogging community. I am encouraged by your writing and by your comments.

To all of my USA friends and followers--Happy Thanksgiving!
To my international friends and followers--be thankful, today...and everyday (but especially on Thursdays!).

John <><

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What are you reading today?

Sometimes I find it interesting to see what people are reading about. I also find it a curiosity when people are reading some of my past posts.

One of my all-time high posts gets a few hits on a regular basis. It has a pretty cool graphic on just how much a trillion is and has had a few more hits this week.

I'm not sure why this post-Christmas post from a couple of years ago is getting hits this week, but it is.

My all time high hits post from seven years ago will start getting more hits as it does every X-mas season. If you want to check it out, you'll find it here.

I was recently reading some of my past posts as well and ran across this gem from a few years ago. It's a pretty good read (if I do say so myself) for a lead in to the Christmas season.

Have a great day.
Share some good news with somebody.
Be a blessing to those you encounter.

John <><

Saturday, November 23, 2013

What's your story?

We all have a story.
We all are a story.
We are a making of all of the things in our past.
Sometimes we have to move beyond our past.
Sometimes we have to embrace our past.

I don't think that we should ever really hope to forget our past. It is what has made us what we are. To forget those experiences, even the bad ones, gives us less information to understand the person that we have become.

At the revival service tonight, a young man is coming to share his testimony. He is a reformed drug addict. I am looking forward to hearing how his relationship with Jesus has changed his life. But I also want people to know that you don't have to have a "saved from drugs/alcohol/prison" kind of testimony to tell people about what God has done for you.

We all have a story.
Your favorite salvation story should be your own.
Tell your story. It's the only one that you have.

Some people think that if they grew up knowing Jesus, they have a boring story to tell.
Not true!
What a wonderful story to be able to say that your family has a heritage of following Jesus. So many people grow up in families that simply don't know God or have made the choice to walk through life on their own. So many have pasts that they would rather forget. So many are living lives that are filled with guilt and shame from their pasts.

Please, share your story of blessing!

People need to hear how God has blessed you. He blessed you so that you could bless others with your story. You owe it to HIM to share your story.

I know that I write often about telling your story.
It's important.

People need to know that they (like you) can have a personal relationship with God through his son,  Jesus.

John <><

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Trying the Tablet Post...again

Once again I'm going to try to use my cheap Andriod clone tablet for posting to Out of My Hat and for general use when a phone is just too small. For the most part, I have abandoned this cheap imposter because...well because it is a cheap imposter and my phone works well most of the time.

However, the larger size does make reading and writing less of a chore and so I will work at getting used to it again and trying to adapt myself to this piece of technology. I do like the convenience of the tablet and should probably go ahead and spend the money for a decent Android tablet or an iPad. I think that I would stick with the Android since my phone is one and I am still a PC guy.

I have a keyboard folder/carrier for the tablet which makes writing easier. I am guessing that it would work just as well with an actual Android tablet. My biggest problem with making the purchase is that I'm just to tight to spend the money on technology that 1) I don't really need and 2) will be out dated moments after I buy it.

I mentioned last week that I was going to "unplug" more often. Yesterday I left my phone at home (unitentionally) and nobody even noticed. I didn't miss any calls. Nobody got excited that I didn't return any messages (Okay, so I didn't have any). Nobody complained that I hadn't updated my Facebook status or re-tweeted earth shattering news from the world of Twitter.

I will say that I have had some great conversations (you know, actually talking, listening, interacting with real people) over the course of the past week. It might be true that this virtual world has great potential for reaching the masses or people that are far away, but it is truly lacking when it comes to real relationships.

Just an observation.

Maybe it's just as nice not to be missed...humbling, but nice.

John <><

Monday, November 18, 2013

More Weather-related Devastation

Late last week I received a message from one of my cousins (on my mom's side) about the frustration he feels in helping the people of the Philippines. There is so much damage from the super-cyclone and getting relief supplies to those that need them is difficult. People that have survived the storm are faced with dehydration and starvation.

I know that there are many organizations (including the Missouri Baptist Convention--MBC) that are sending people and aid to the island nation. As far as I know, all of my relatives are safe.

Yesterday, terrible tornadoes swept through the Midwest and did great damage in the small town of Washington IL. Washington is just a few miles from my parents. While the storms knocked out the power where my folks are, they did far greater damage just a short distance away. I did a google image search for washington il tornado and got this.

I imagine that we'll (MBC) also be sending teams to Central Illinois. I wish that my schedule was free enough to allow me to go serve on these teams. It feels pretty helpless to sit back in comfort while others are struggling to survive the day. Sending money seems like such a small thing. My prayers are for safety for the crews that are serving to meet the needs of the victims of these disasters; for great blessings to be returned to them for their sacrifices; and for comfort and peace to those that have been affected by the storms.

John <><

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Writing from the Bible

In response to my weekend post about unplugging from the virtual world, I received a note from my kid sister that maybe I'd spend some time to work on a commentary of a story or some verses from the Bible.
It's not a bad idea and there is certainly lots of material from which to choose!

To look at some of the Bible stories that I've already posted about, I did a quick search by checking the label "Favorite Bible Stories."

Wow! There is some good stuff in there!

I think li'l sis may be on to something. I do need to do some more of that kind of writing. If it weren't for the simple fact that I've never had any guest writers, I'm not sure that I would recognize all of that stuff as mine. It's amazing what one can do when we just get out of the way and let the Holy Spirit be our guide. It's too bad that John getting out of the way is a really big problem most of the time. It is a daily struggle to look beyond John's desires and see what I might do to bring glory to God and honor His will.

At the core, I'm just as narcissistic as the next guy. I rarely consider the "big picture" and tend to only focus on what is good for John. I recently shared a quote from one of the guys I follow on a couple of different social venues. It said, "Good leaders do the right thing even when it's the hard thing. That's what makes them good leaders." --Ed Stetzer

Here's to doing the right thing--even when it's the hard thing!

John <><

PS. Look for more "Favorite Bible Stories" in the near future

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Photo Blog

Nature can be weird.
These trees are in my back yard.
One is a beautiful orange and yellow, one is still green and one is brown with dead leaves that will cling desperately to its branches and fall a few at a time for the next several months until the new spring growth finally pushes out the leaves that manage to stay attached throughout the winter.

(The green tree in each pic is the same tree.)

John <><

John Hill: Unplugged

I'm not really going to disconnect from the virtual world, but I am going to connect less often. I've managed to leave my phone behind (not always on purpose) several times in the past few weeks and find that I get along very well without it.

When it's handy and I'm bored (which is fairly often) I have the tendency to just pull it out and connect to Facebook, Twitter, Blogger or whatever might feed my boredom at the moment. I try to remember to leave my cell phone in my locker or backpack (or turn it off) when it's time to get to work and I find that the world gets along well without my input and there are very few people that actually call or text me with any urgent business during the day.

I have observed what others have found in studies...that we are less engaged with the people that we are with when we have our cell phones. It's happened to me, too. Chris and I might be at a restaurant and sitting across from each other, each on our own phones. I've seen tables of several people that all have their phones out and are not engaging in any interaction with each other. I really think that we have become a less polite society because of the way we treat one another on our social network of choice. It is so much easier to be rude and nasty to one another when we don't have to face one another. Unfortunately, we get so used to the rude and nasty us that it has become our way even when we do speak face to face.

I'm pretty sure that nobody is going to notice that I'm spending less time on Facebook or Twitter. That's kind of the point. We have all become so narcissistic that we actually think other people value our opinions! I'm not going to vanish into the virtual world anyway. I am just going to give it a much lower priority in the day-to-day, moment-by-moment events of life.

Until I connect again, be well.

John <><

Hopedale Today!

It's been a few weeks since I've been at my home church of Hopedale Baptist and I am looking forward to this morning. Unfortunately, I'll be teaching during both sessions and will miss the worship time with my church family. Some days just call for service. 

Just remember that service is also worship. It may not be shouting or singing praises to our God, but it is worship, none-the-less. 

Worship God today.
Worship Him every day.
Worship Him in all you do.

John <><

Saturday, November 09, 2013


We all have a story to tell.
We are all living a story.
Sometimes it's easy to forget that our lives are simply stories that need to be shared.

It's certainly true that not every part of our life is a thing that needs to be shared, but we are natural story tellers and most of us love to hear a good story, as well.

Last weekend I had an opportunity to do something that I rarely get to do--walk around magic! Most of what I do in the way of magic would be considered "stand-up magic" or "parlor magic." It's a rare thing for me to get to do anything in the way of "close-up" magic and to have that kind of intimate relationship with my audiences.

One of the fun things about "walk around" magic is that it generally consists of ordinary things that you can carry in your pockets or that your audience has in their purse of pockets. You are also able to do the same few effects repeatedly as you move about and simply find a new audience!

Each mini show is done for a very small group of people and becomes personal as you are right there--talking to them or their close friends! I knew that my walk around audience included a good number of Haitian people. I also knew that magic has a special meaning to many Haitians as Voodoo and magic are a part of their religious culture. I remember a friend that used to do mission work in Haiti told me that he was always very careful about using "magic" because he was thought to have special powers. He generally did very simple effects and often revealed the "secrets" to show them that it was only a way to share his stories.

In the course of the afternoon, I found myself sharing a few simple effects with a small group of young Haitians. The moment wasn't any different than any of the other brief mini shows...at first. However, in only a few short minutes I was completely surrounded by young Haitians, demanding to see more. I really felt that I was being pressed in upon as everybody wanted to see, wanted to be closer, wanted to be the next person to participate. In retrospect, maybe the little mentalism effect wasn't the best choice. Mentalism is hard to explain away as slight of hand and has a way of appearing a little bit more like real magic. During that effect, one young man (obviously a popular guy and a bit of a leader in the group) began to speak in their native Haitian Creole. His repetitive words sounded like a chant or incantation. It kind of freaked me out. I know that he could have simply been saying something like, "I don't believe it. I don't believe it!" or "How is he doing that? How is he doing that?"

In any case, a few effects before moving on is the standard practice and it was time to move on! I think that they were all intrigued enough to attend the show that was held at the end of the afternoon. I always hope that the "story" I tell is remembered more than the way that I tell it. The story is of God's great love for us and of the great gift of salvation that He offers to each one of us.

What's your story?

John <><

Friday, November 08, 2013

Still Working on the Weight Loss...

It's one week into November and one week closer to 2014!
Over on Facebook, people are using the month of November to reflect on the things for which they are thankful--one for each of the 30 days. I've opted out of this little exercise, not because I can't think of thirty things that I'm thankful for, but because I'd rather opt out of any kind of exercise!

If you keep track of such things, you might already know that my personal exercise program has diminished a bit as the fall weather has set in. Actually, the weather has less to do with it than plain old laziness! I did manage a little time on the exercise bike, but with baseball in the off season, there is less reason for spending time in front of the TV and so exercise time has suffered.

On the bright side of that exercise coin, even though I've managed little time for exercise and haven't been super diligent about diet, I've managed to hold weight for the time being. I think that I'll do a one week "push through the plateau" effort next week and hope to drop a pound or two. I'm still looking to start January at 218 or less. That would be -40 pounds since the first of June.

So, I'm curious...
What are your most effective ways to lose weight?
I know that many people are big fans of Weight-Watchers. Some prefer other diet programs. Some use shredder kinds of exercise programs. There are thousands of marketed ideas on how to lose weight.

What works for you?

Please do share your thoughts and ideas.

I think that the exercise program for this weekend is going to be raking leaves! A couple of my trees have dropped all of their leaves while the oaks will be littering the yard throughout the winter and into the spring when the new growth finally pushes out the last of the dead leaves. Ugh!

It's Friday! My mid-shift is coming to an end and after a short nap it will be time for the weekend to begin. Enjoy your weekend. Smile often. Be well!

John <><

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Telling the Story...again and again

It's been hard to find the time and the words to write about this past weekend. I know that the events of the weekend and the exposure to the community of Belle Glade FL has had its impact on me. Any one of the small "good" events from the weekend was more than enough to out weigh the air travel debacle that preceded the weekend.

There are many things on my mind and in my heart to write. I'm going to just free write the thoughts as they come up. My advance apologies for the unorganized fashion. I seriously doubt that I'm going to go back and re-write or organize them later.

Belle Glade's First Baptist Church is pastored by a friend of mine. I've probably learned more about real ministry from Pastor David than from anybody I know. His love for the unchurched of any community and his burden for motivating the people of our churches to meet their needs is the real deal! While there are those that would say it is not a good thing to be so transparent about your feelings and emotions, it is his transparency that lets everybody know that he is genuine in his motivation to serve the community.

I can't begin to tell how much I enjoyed our conversations over the weekend.

There were areas that reminded me of my ministry trip into Eastern Kentucky last summer; areas of extreme poverty and an oppressing feeling of despair. It's almost as if there is just too much to do to be effective in meeting the needs. For every need met, there are still many that are unmet. There is far too much for one person--or even one church--to do. I hope that we were able to provide a moment of escape for the people in need. I hope that we were able to provide them with a day of fun. I hope that they heard our message of hope.

It is a little disturbing that such poverty exists in this land of plenty. It is greatly disturbing that the divide between the "haves" and the "have-nots" is growing so large. I am truly thankful that there are some very generous "haves" that make ministering to the "have-nots" possible; but we need more. We need the financial resources, but even more so, we need people that are willing to work. I thank God for lessons of love that are being learned at Belle Glade's FBC!

Knowing that there is much work to be done in the area of service gives me more reason to look toward retirement. I've seen plenty of good ministries that people are doing, but feel poorly equipped to get one started myself. My gifts don't fall into the areas of organization or structure. I pretty much need to be told what needs to be done. I guess my eyes are not tuned to seeing the needs that are right in front of me--something else to work on!

Sometimes I think it's funny how we do "mission" work. We took a group of people from Hopedale to Eastern KY to repair homes, teach kids and minister to the people of the area--working through local ministry groups. A youth group from Houston TX came to Southwest MO and did the same kinds of things for the people of this area--working through the local churches. I'd be willing to bet that there were church groups that traveled to the Houston area and did ministry in their backyard, too.

Is it just more glamorous to go do missions work? Do we think that missions work in our area needs to be done by outsiders? How much more could we do here if we didn't spend the time and resources to travel?
I know that there are times when we need to go; places that need our help, but are we going at the expense of the people in our own communities that need help?

Over the past several weeks I've had the privilege of witnessing pastors from different churches talking to people about Jesus after my part in their events. It is an incredible blessing to see that the Holy Spirit is moving in the lives of the people that come to these events. I don't know how many have been truly changed. I don't know if there were professions of faith. I don't know if people have been motivated to share the gospel of salvation in Jesus. I try not to worry about the numbers. I try to stay focused doing what I've been called to do--tell the story!

God loves you.
Jesus died for you.

John <><

Saturday, November 02, 2013

A Not-so-random Act of Kindness

These young boys have learned lessons in life that many of us have missed. In this story, they teach them to all of us...


John <><

The Joys of Air Travel

Just a quick note before I head out to the airport for another attempt at flying to Florida for tomorrow's events at Belle Glade Baptist.

After working a mid and getting very little sleep yesterday, I was back at the airport in Springfield to catch a morning flight. However there was going to be a slight delay while they fixed a mechanical problem with the plane. This wasn't a big deal for me. I had plenty of time between connections and I would much rather fly on a plane that is running properly than have problems in the air. It's not like you can just pull over and make adjustments on the way!

Thirty minutes turned into a couple of hours (changed my connecting flight) which turned into a couple of more hours (changed it again) which eventually turned in to a cancellation. The American Airline agents on the ground were very helpful and (for the most part) the would be travelers were understanding. No compensation for missing a day in Florida; hotel accommodations for those that needed them. All-in-all, it was a very long and unproductive day.

Today, I get to try again! At least I had a good night's sleep!

Enjoy your weekend. I plan to enjoy mine, whatever the circumstances are!

John <><

Friday, November 01, 2013

Smile! It's November 1st!

How is it possible that it is already November? Has 2013 flown by and 2014 is just around the corner?

Well here's the brief November plan for the "be a better John" project:

I want to keep after the weight loss but realize that it is coming off much more slowly now. I did manage to make my October goal of 225, which was only a 5# loss. Keeping in mind the slower loss rate and the coming holidays, I'm setting the very modest goal of 7 more pounds by the end of the year. That will put me at 218 which is -40 pounds since the beginning of June. Schedule and cooler temps have kept me from riding as much as I want. I'll need to be more focused on getting in my exercise time.
As a bonus, I am finding clothes in my closet that I haven't worn in a long time that fit me again! On the downside, losing 30 pounds of insulation has narrowed my comfort level when it comes to temperature and I find myself feeling a bit chilled more easily. I guess I'll be able to put a couple of those sweaters that fit again to good use!

I have a couple of school assemblies coming up at the end of the month. My goal is to incorporate some of the new stuff from my recently acquired business into my presentation. These assemblies are a part of a weekend revival in Bethany MO just before Thanksgiving.

Later today I'll be boarding a flight as I head to the sunny south for a weekend at Belle Glade's First Baptist Church for their Harvest Blowout! I am looking forward to working with Pastor David Stone again and honored that he would call on me for this event.

I expect that these will be my last two events of 2013. I will probably make an appearance at our senior adult's Christmas dinner, but I doubt that there will be anything else. I do have a couple of things already on the calendar for 2014 and am looking forward to a busier year.

I really do need to work on being more of a people person. I've never considered myself to be an introvert as I am quite comfortable with people when put in that situation. However, I am really beginning to realize that my preference is to keep company with very few people. The extent of solitude that I enjoy isn't exactly what I would call a Christ-like attitude towards people in general.


More work to do to "be a better John" in November. Perhaps today's travel adventure will provide an opportunity to brighten somebody's day!
I hope that the adventures of your day will provide you with an opportunity to lift somebody's spirit. A kind word, a cup of coffee, even just a smile might be all it will take. Let's just see how many smiles we can encourage today. If the thought of making somebody smile makes you smile, then I've got one already!

Since I don't know if you follow this blog from Blogger, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or another site, where ever you are, leave a comment and share your smiles and your shared smiles.

John <><

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A very quiet day...

I love the sound of quiet.

Today is a nice quiet day. There is work to be done to prepare for tomorrow's trip, but it's still a quiet day. After working the mid and getting a little sleep, I'm catching up on laundry and enjoying a cup of coffee while doing a little social networking.

I'm again reflecting that I don't see many people  or have many direct contacts that give me the opportunity to talk to people about important things and hear their ideas on life, love and whatever drives their inner self.
Outside of the program last night (around 50 kids plus a good number of adults) I only talked to a hand full of people yesterday--today will probably be even fewer.

I saw this e-card posted this morning and thought, "That is so me" (except for the woman's silhouette)!

Still working on that "be a better John" thing. It's a chore!

John <><

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

New and Improved (not so much)

Phone blogging this morning. I don't real care for it, but it is the way of the times. Maybe my slow adaptation to the handheld virtual world is a small sign of improvement. Maybe not.

I wrote about being a better me a couple of days ago, but I'm really not sure of how I can measure my progress. I can say that I am a healthier me since I have achieved my October goal of reaching 225# by this morning's weigh in at 224.8. That's minus 5+ for the month and minus 33 since June 1. But that doesn't necessarily make me a better person.

So how do you measure yourself to see if you're a better person? By the things you say? By the things you don't say? By the things you do? Or by the things you don't do?

Even though most days are good days to be John Hill, I'm finding that being a good John Hill is a lot of work!

John <><

Monday, October 28, 2013

Photo blog

Sunset from SGF Tower
John <><

Weekly Improvements

Just a quick Monday morning post to fulfill my self-imposed writing obligation.

First off--Happy Birthday to my baby girl. She is no longer a baby but a wonderful young woman! I'm glad she was able to get to come home for the weekend!

I am really looking forward to the week!
Early day at work today (by that I mean 1pm-9pm instead of 3-11), earlier day tomorrow followed by a Gordon Lightfoot concert with Chris on Tuesday, an evening with my friends at Cedar Ridge Baptist Church on Wednesday and a weekend gig in South Florida!

It's a good week to be John Hill!

However, I really want to concentrate on the area of personal ministry; not the professional ministry of going to churches for hire, but the personal contacts we make every day. I am constantly reminded of how small my world is and how few people I actually meet each day. Because of my odd hours, I rarely see my neighbors. I see the same few people at work and...
...and well, that's about it. I make contact with one or two friends from church or friends in ministry, but not much else. I guess I'm going to have to overcome that anti-social side of my personality if I'm going to move in an area of personal ministry.

This week I'm also going to really focus on being a more positive influence. I'm going to work to lift others up. Rather than ignoring negativity when I encounter it; I'm going to counter it with positive words or acts. That will be tough since my tendency has been to ignore it.

At the end of the week, I hope to be a better John than I am today.
How about you? Feel like being a better you by the end of the week? Let's come back and compare notes next week. See you then!

John <><

Friday, October 25, 2013

Preaching, Teaching and Entertaining

I don't think there is anything that gets me pumped up more than the opportunity to share the message of God's love. It doesn't matter if it's an opportunity to preach from a pulpit, teach in a classroom setting or small group, or sharing the story through magic--it is an incredible high to get to tell people about God and His great love!

By the end of August, I thought I was pretty much finished for the year. I haven't really marketed myself when it comes to preaching revivals and am generally slow through September, have a few dates in October and pretty much finished by November (except for an occasional Thanksgiving event). But all of a sudden I had a couple of September dates and my October started to fill up with preaching at Hopedale on the 18th, travelling to Milan MO on the 19th to preach a one-day revival event on the 20th. This was followed by a evening event for a small group Bible study in Springfield on the 22nd and a Kids' night event on the 23rd in Galena MO! We have a mission trip meeting on Saturday night the 26th. I'll be at Cedar Ridge Baptist on the 30th and have now booked a weekend event at a pastor/friend's church in South Florida for the first weekend of November!

I have also booked a weekend revival back in Northern Missouri for the weekend before Thanksgiving--Friday, Saturday, Sunday events at the church plus two school assemblies on Friday!

Sometimes I just stop and look towards the heavens and ask, "God, what is going on?"
I go from nothing to something nearly every week! It's pretty crazy, but it is so much fun!

I hope to use some of my new material in the school assemblies. Right now I don't think it will be the exact program that I bought, but I will eventually work towards it being pretty close. I think what I'd like to do for now is begin with what I've been doing and incorporate the new stuff a little at a time and build into the rhythm of the new show. Once I get that established, it will be time to look at hanging up the headset and moving beyond the ATC world.

Sometimes I wonder about how much marketing I should be doing--or should I just continue to leave it all in God's hands? He seems to keep me as busy as I can really stand most of the time. I struggle between being a good steward of my time; marketing the gifts He has blessed me with and just having the faith to know He's in control. I don't want to confuse faith with laziness and end up missing opportunities because I wasn't faithful in promoting the work that glorifies Him.
Know what I mean?

I was pretty excited yesterday after booking two weekend events for November. I get excited about it as I write about it. I can't wait to start putting things together for upcoming events.

This will be a full weekend.
I hope that your weekend will be filled with joy! Do something nice for somebody. Share it here if you want to. I would love to hear about it!

John <><

Monday, October 21, 2013

Back to Characters

A short while back I initiated a new label for my blog with a post called Characters. I wanted to get back to that and write about some of the people and characters that I encounter. These Character posts might be about people in general, specific people, or behavioral tendencies that some people possess.

One character that I don't encounter often enough is my baby sister. I really love that girl. I know that she really isn't a "girl" any more. She's a woman. Although she'll always be a girl to me, I'll do my best to refer to her as the woman that she is.

When I see a mom that I can tell really enjoys being a mom, I smile and I think of her. Being "Mom" to her kids is what she really loves doing and being. I love getting texts or messages from her asking about the night sky. I love that she sits out in the cold with her oldest daughter to watch the late fall meteor showers. I love that she loves to laugh.

Li'l sis is incredibly mission minded. She sees needs and works to meet those needs. We have very different views when it comes to politics, so we just don't talk about that stuff much. She has always been a fan of her oldest brother. I don't think that there is any meanness in her. She has a gentle spirit, a strong will and a giant heart. I could go on and on but I think you get the idea that I am also a fan of hers.

I'm not sure why I started these character posts with her; maybe it's because she sent a friend to see my show last night in Milan MO and was on my mind this morning. Did I mention that she's a fan of mine? Thoughts of my little sister are good thoughts to start the week right.

Makes this big brother smile!

John <><

Making Lists

I am not a list maker. I know that there are many people that can only function if they have a list. Some people make lists for everything. I have a supervisor that makes lists. I think the first item on her "To Do" list each day is "make lists".

I won't say that I never use a list. I use a list when I'm packing for a magic show. I even use a list during the show. But that's pretty much the extent of it. I could probably benefit from using a few more lists. I think there is a measure of satisfaction that comes with completing a list.

The only reason I'm thinking about lists this morning is because of an article I read on one of the many blogs I follow. Whether you are a list maker or not, you might like this article. I like the two daily lists that the author talks about here. I'm thinking that I may give list making a whirl and use these lists to get me started.

I have to admit that the first list, the "If I could live today over again I'd..." reminds me of the movie Groundhog Day. You get to live the day over again and right your wrongs as they happen...sort of. I also like the positive aspect of the second list--"The things I get to enjoy today" list.

Even if it was "The things I get to do today" it would have a feeling of anticipation of what the day hold for us. But "The things I get to enjoy today" really makes the events of the coming day something to look forward to experiencing.

How about you?
Are you a list maker?
Wanna try these two lists with me?
Think of the benefits...no more blah Mondays, for one! Now we can make our lists and look forward to getting this week going!

John <><

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Milan MO

That's MY-lan MO for those of you that would  want to pronounce it as the European city Milan. In Missouri we try to keep all things Midwestern.

In any case, I'm typing on my laptop, using my Galaxy S-3 for internet since the small hotel wi-fi is a little bit lacking in its ability to provide my room with decent service.

I've taken the day off from exercise and will make up for it during the week. I also treated my self to a piece of pie (pumpkin) at the church luncheon earlier today. I'll probably skip an evening meal and make the drive back home on an empty stomach. A little bit of balance for a long day.

As always, my sermon always reminds me that I need to be more dedicated to living a life that is reflective of my Lord and Savior, Jesus. Preaching the word has a way of speaking to the speaker as well as speaking through the speaker. I really enjoyed my morning at FBC Milan and will be back there in a little bit to share the Salvation story with a little bit of magic.

It still amazes me that God would choose such an unworthy vessel to carry the message of His love. It really is a blast to share in the different venues that I am called on to preach, teach and entertain.

However, I must remember that I am also called on (as you are) to share the gospel in the every day settings of life, as well. My work place and my neighborhood are as much my mission fields as the places where you find yourselves are your mission fields. We are all to talk about and share His great love.

So let us press onward! Paul says that we need to put the past behind us (I think the great Lion King philosopher, Pumba also said that!). Forget our failures. Forget our accomplishments. Put the past behind us and press on toward the prize of the upward calling in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So let's do that. Let's bring hope to the hopeless. Let's be a positive ray of light in a dark and negative place. Where there is gloom and doom, let's share joy and peace. I am challenging myself to counter every negative comment and attitude that I encounter this week with something positive; to counter every frown with a smile; to counter every bit of darkness with a little bit of light.

...And I'm inviting you to join me!

How about it? Any takers?

John <><

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Keeping it Positive

It's about time to start putting things together for my trip to Northern MO. I still need to manage an hour or so on the bike before I go and I'd like to stop by the afternoon activities at Hopedale before getting on the road.

I've had fun the last few days as I have been more intentional about being nice to people. Generally speaking, I'm usually friendly and smile at strangers that I pass or say "Good morning" or some other greeting. I've been trying to go the extra mile by taking their shopping cart back for them or engaging them in a brief conversation, pay them a compliment or just trying to be nicer than I usually am.

It's definitely easier with people that I know than with strangers, but I am discovering that I really don't have a great circle of people that I interact with regularly. I see the same people at work (only a few), the same people at church (generally weekly and again, relatively few), the same few people at the irregular stops during the week (gas, coffee, store, etc.) and we interact politely but not significantly.

I want to have a greater impact than the passing moment of "Have a nice day." I want to offer an act of kindness or encouragement. I think that most of our encounters with people are really non-encounters or neutral encounters. They neither add nor take away from our days. We have all had encounters with negative people (or maybe been the negative person in an encounter) and those have a way of bringing you down just a bit. I wonder what it would be like if more of us made the effort to be a positive person that adds a little life to the people we encounter.

As a part of my "Be a Positive Influence" effort, I'm going to dial back the social media a bit. For the most part, it can be pretty draining with far too much negativity. I've been working on that anyways as I see that we are becoming less social when it comes to the people we actually meet with and more about social networking with people that we never really see. As for those times that I do use Facebook, Google+, Twitter or LinkedIn, I'm going to try to keep it positive.

I'm inviting you to join me in my "Be a Positive Influence" campaign. The goal is to go an entire day without a negative comment and replace those moments with something positive. It can be a kind act or a kind word. It can be deciding not to share a divisive post and sharing something inspiring or uplifting. If you're in and want your family and friends to join with us (maybe your favorite negative person), share this post with them and encourage them to join the effort.

Have a great weekend.
...and Be a Positive Influence!

John <><

Friday, October 18, 2013

It's a Good Weekend to be John Hill!

I am really looking forward to this weekend!
Tonight begins the Celebrate 125 festivities at Hopedale Baptist Church. I am blessed to be preaching the evening "Tent Revival" service. Put on a jacket at come on over!

There are more events tomorrow morning, afternoon and evening.

I'll miss the afternoon and evening events as I make my way north to Milan MO for a one-day revival event with two morning services and one evening service at First Baptist Milan.

Three days; four services. It's a good weekend to be John Hill!

Okay, the nine hours in the car won't be the highlight of the weekend, but it's not too bad and I really don't mind it. I'll miss some of The Cardinal's Game 6 tonight, but that's not a big deal. The hotel where I'm staying tomorrow night has wi-fi so I'll be able to watch the UFC 166 fights. I'll need to get my miles in on the exercise bike today and tomorrow because Sunday will be an off day. I'll try to get a long walk in on Sunday afternoon. That will be good before getting into the car for the trek homeward.

...And to make the weekend even better, I start getting paid again when I go to work on Monday!
I also have local shows on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Looks like it's gonna be more than a great weekend; it's gonna be a great week!

Be kind to one another this weekend. Offer an encouraging word, buy somebody a cup of coffee, just listen to somebody tells their story.

John <><

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Freedom of Speech

It is a right guaranteed to all Americans by the First Amendment to the Constitution.
Sometime ago, I mentioned that while have that right as an American citizen, I have also surrendered it as a Christian. I am no longer free in Christ to say whatever I want to say.

Too often, people are abusing the right of free speech to say some very hurtful things. Too often, people are abusing the right of free speech by saying false things. Too often, people are just wasting time and oxygen by say things that have no value other than to give somebody and inflated opinion of themselves.

What would happen if we all decided to use our Freedom of Speech for good?

Last Saturday a woman at our writers' club went out of her way to pay me a very nice compliment. It was a simple acknowledgement of something that I do in our meetings that made an impression on her. It was very kind of her to tell me and gave me a little lift.

I was thinking about that throughout the weekend. On the one hand, it was a small gesture. But on the other hand, it had a kind of super-power quality to it. It immediately lifted my spirits and it made me want to do the same for somebody else. You probably encounter people everyday that are doing nice things or doing a particular job well, and yet they seldom receive any recognition for their efforts. Truthfully, they probably don't do what they do for the recognition...but that doesn't mean that we can't encourage them anyways.

I've tried to make it a practice of recognizing good customer service on the phone. If a representative has been polite and helpful, I usually ask to speak to their supervisor. It can make them a little nervous until I explain that I just want to tell somebody what a fine job they are doing!

There aren't too many people that read this blog anymore. I attribute it to infrequent posts and that people don't want to read the ramblings of a mere curmudgeon in training. Between the religious conservative friends and the politically liberal ones, I've managed to offend just about everybody at one time or another. The people that still come back here are a bit of a puzzle--non-religious to atheists along with a few tolerant conservative evangelicals, political liberals, moderates and conservatives (although I don't think too many far right readers are still around), readers of all ages including young women and curmudgeonly old men  (although I think that most are close to my age). I have managed to keep a number of international readers as well as a few that just stop by as random readers.

But what if just the few of us decided to use our free speech to lift somebody's spirits this weekend? A kind word of appreciation or encouragement can go a long ways sometimes. We can be a mini-force of word warriors with a mission of bringing smiles to the weary world. It may not seem like an extraordinary thing but it is far beyond the ordinary for most people. Isn't that what makes something extra ordinary?

Use your freedom of speech to be an extraordinary person today. And if you think this is a good idea, share it with your friends. This may turn out to be an extraordinary weekend for a bunch of people!

John <><

Monday, October 14, 2013

And I Just Had Lunch With Him...

This morning I'm wondering why my pastor didn't bring up the topic of his Sunday morning sermon while we were having lunch on Friday. It seems to me that it would have been a lot easier to just discuss it over lunch than to have to prepare and preach a message to me.

He preached on the servant attitude of Jesus as Jesus took on the role of the lowest household servant when he washed the feet of the disciples.

When you put that together with my Bible reading (which has me in Colossians) and I read about doing everything in word or deed in the name of Jesus and whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not for men; well, I just have to sit back and figure out just what am I doing and am I living for me or for Jesus?

Am I really okay with doing what I want to do and having my way while the needs of others are not met? Is it okay for me to leave that work to somebody else because it's not something that I want to do? Is more of John and less of Jesus in me the way that I want to live?

I just hate it when I realize that I've been self-centered and need to make a past wrong right.
And it seems to be happening far too often.

Still struggling daily...
John <><

Sunday, October 13, 2013

I Get to Work Today! (Too bad it's only for an IOU)

A rare Sunday when I get to go to work!

Normally, I have weekends off. I am happy to give up the Sunday premium pay to have the day off and it works well with the occasional call to preach somewhere. Today, I'll be trading days off with a co-worker so that she can keep her plans of a weekend off, in spite of the government shutdown.

As "excepted" employees, air traffic controllers get to continue working. There is still no budgeted money to pay us so we are working for an IOU. Unfortunately, there is still no clear decision on whether or not we will get paid for any leave. We only get the IOUs if we show up--no sick days (bet you really feel good about a sick controller working your flights), no vacation days.

A little creative shift swapping will allow a co-worker to keep her scheduled time off without risking the non-payment of used leave. So many have helped me in the past that this is pretty much a no brainer.

I know that I will eventually get paid for the time that I'm working.
And I know that we'll be able to take care of our bills in the mean time.
But I also know that there are many people that will be in severe hardship due to the lunacy of this government shutdown.

Please take the time to call/write/tweet/email your elected representatives and allow us to do what we've been hired to do with proper compensation.

On the bright side...the Cardinals have the day off so I won't have to miss a game--until tomorrow night when I am normally schedule to work (for nothing).

John <><

Friday, October 11, 2013

Good News (in spite of the government shutdown)

When my family first moved to the Springfield area, we set up our banking accounts at The Postal/Federal Employees Credit Union. Several years ago the Credit Union made the change to a "community" credit union and a name change followed. It is now BluCurrent Credit Union.

I give you the brief history because this particular credit union still has a large number of postal and federal employees; members that are being impacted by the antics of our elected reprehensatives in DC. In order to keep us federal employees from defaulting on our mortgages, car payments, credit cards, etc., and to allow us to put food on our tables, this little credit union is offering no interest loans in amounts that are based on our regular payroll deposits to its members. These no interest loans are expected to be paid back in lump sums once the shutdown has ended and we receive our pay.

I think that is pretty darn cool!

It sure relieves a lot of the stress that would normally accompany a short term furlough for many or working for an IOU as air traffic is currently doing.

Roses for BluCurrent.
Thorns to our legislators!

John <><

Thursday, October 10, 2013


Recently, I've become more interested in the tactics people use to get what they want. There are the passive-aggressive types that subtly manipulate, the quiet encouragers that also work subtly to achieve their desired behavior. There are negotiators and bullies and plenty of people that fall in between the extremes.

Some of the passive/aggressive types can be very effective until they appear to be whiny and some of the bullies can be likable enough until it's you that they are bullying. Some people are very effective in inspiring particular behaviors; others...not so much.

I imagine that each one of us has our own favorite (whether we know it or not) method of getting what we want from other people or trying to bring them around to our way of thinking.

I think I'll add a new label to my posts and address different characters from time to time--not tonight, though. I've taken on a new project that will stress my pea-brain as I read through The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.


John <><

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Back to Work--Diet and Exercise

So after doing well in September, I gave myself a few days off. A change of schedule and no mids last week cut down on my biking time, as did my baseball adventure with Aaron. The trip and the kids being home for the weekend hit the diet in a negative way, but not too badly.

I'm going to look for 80 miles this week. I put in 20 this afternoon for my highest single ride total. I've also added some dumbbell work, push-ups, body rows, free squats and stretching. I've toyed with the idea of trying running again. Even though I've dropped 25 pounds and that would be a good thing for my knees, I'm still not convinced that I want to take it on. I do want to run (I'm not sure why), but don't want to risk the injury. I'm hoping that the bike work and free squats are building some joint strength. I think I'll wait for another 5 or 10 pounds to get serious about running. I may try a little light work just to see how it goes.

In any case, it's back to the diet and exercise. Here we go again.

John <><


I'm talking about convicted in the sense of having been sufficiently impressed with the guilt of my own bad behavior.
Don't you just hate it when your Bible reading takes to a passage that points out your own poor behavior. Man, I really hate that.

Today I am reminded that dealing with the poor behavior of others is no excuse for our own poor behavior. We are called to be better than that; to deal with poor behavior with grace. We are to be representatives of Jesus; Ambassadors of the Cross. We are not called on to tolerate or condone bad behaviors, but neither are we to be hateful or hurtful in our calling it to the attentions of those that are the offending persons.

One of the things that has brought these convicting thoughts to mind is the invitation to preach at our Celebrate 125 event at Hopedale on the 18th. It's difficult to preach God's Word when you haven't dealt with your own demons.

For those that might be praying people, I do solicit your intercessory prayers as I seek the wisdom and grace to become more like my Savior and less like myself. Another John once stated that he must become less while Jesus becomes more--a good attitude for this John, too. As a matter of fact, it's a pretty good attitude for any follower of Jesus.

John <><

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Rainy Days

It is a rainy Saturday morning in the Ozarks of Southwest Missouri. There are scores of little guys playing football in the rain and all of their families watching the muddy little guys.

Hannah is off visiting with a friend. Aaron is working on some studies while Jenny is getting things ready for a friend's wedding. Maybe the rain will end and the sun can come out before wedding time. Chris is working and I'm getting ready to head out to help a friend move...in the rain.

It's a nice steady rain, no thunder, no wind. My guess is that it's a cold rain. Oh well. The front is supposed to bring in more seasonable temperatures for the coming week.

Although the government continues in "shutdown" mode, the vote to grant furloughed workers back-pay should take place soon. They should be made whole and paid for the time they should have been working, but if you're going to pay them anyway, what's the point of having them off work and the government shutdown? Our illustrious legislators do some of the dumbest things. They claim to be fiscally conservative and yet they waste more money doing stupid stunts to make political points.

Time for me to get going to help some friends (yes, I have a few). Just heard the first thunder of the morning and the rain seems to be getting heavier...timing is everything, right?

Have a great Saturday!
It's a good day to be you.

John <><

Friday, October 04, 2013

"It's a Good Day to be John Hill"

Yesterday was a grand day. I was pretty pumped up about making the drive to St. Louis to meet Aaron for game one of the Cardinals'/Pirates' post-season series. So much so that I might have been a little more annoying than usual to my co-workers. In spite of getting up at 2:30am, working an 8 hour shift and then driving to St. Louis, I was in a pretty good mood. So much so that I told the supervisor that she couldn't hurt me for the day. She could leave me on position all day, make me train AK the whole time, or spend the day doing eLMs courses!

At some point, AK came up with the line, "It's a good day to be John Hill."

The day ended about 23 hours after it started. Cardinal win, good seats (free), good dinner, great time with my son. It was a good day to be me.

Most days are pretty good days to be me...at least as far as I'm concerned.

I hope that today is a good day to be you. I think that our own attitudes towards the diverse situations we face make the biggest difference. Sometimes, just realizing that our issues aren't as bad as the issues that others deal with is enough. I hope that you can deal with who you are today. If you want to come hang out with me, I'll be at BWWs on Battlefield this afternoon to watch the Cardinal baseball game (with Aaron). Come on down.

It's another good day to be John Hill!

John <><

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Government Shutdown

Just a quick note on this second day of our government shutdown.

Yesterday, I sent a tweet to my Congressman challenging him to donate his paycheck to charity as long as there are Federal employees that are furloughed. I am going to make the same challenge to my Senators.

I am asking all of you to do the same.

John <><

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

October 1

It's the first day of the government shutdown and I'm working on manipulating my schedule within the confines of a furlough to get the time off that I want. It's kind of a pain in the backside, but I'm not too bad at working the schedule and not too unhappy if I actually have to show up for work. All-in-all, I've still got a pretty good gig.

Weight-wise, September was a very successful month! I start October at 230.6 pounds. That puts me at losing nearly 28 pounds since the beginning of June (258.0). I hit the last two weeks pretty hard as far as diet goes and also managed to up the output (exercise) a little bit. I'll keep up with the better eating, but will bring my intake back up to a more sustainable level. I hope to continue with the exercise, but that is truly the more challenging part of health and weight management. I'm not going to make big plans for a big loss in October. I'll be happy with a pound or so per week and would like to see 225 by the end of the month.

Have a great October!

John <><

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Quiet Sunday Afternoon

It's now early evening after a very quiet Sunday afternoon.
I spent the early part of the afternoon watching the Cardinals become the National League team with the best record for the season and securing home field advantage for the Post-Season. I was also keeping track of the American League Cleveland Indians and am pleased to say that they (and my high-school friend's son) are in post-season play, as well!

Chris is out for the day, so I just did a little channel surfing after the game and found Moneyball--a great movie to watch on the final day of the regular season.

I need to get on the bicycle or exercise bike and put in a few miles, but I really don't feel like it. I'm within a half pound of losing 25 pounds, perhaps by Tuesday, Oct. 1. I imagine that I'll put in a few miles before the night is over. I need to keep a little discipline in my schedule. I managed 40 miles in three nights last week. Maybe I can try for a few more miles this week.

In reality, I find the diet discipline to be a lot easier than the exercise disciple. Maybe it has to do with the time commitment to exercise. In addition to more healthful foods, I've managed to cut out the diet sodas. That's just about trying to keep the chemical crap out along with fewer processed foods and less sugar. I know that I should be feeling a lot better--less weight, more exercise, better diet--but I really don't feel much different. It seems that I've always been that way. More sleep/less sleep, caffeine/no caffeine, over-eating/fasting--it never really seems to make much difference in how I feel or my overall energy level. Day to day, I still feel like the same person.

I am thinking more about healthy choices--what I eat, when I eat, etc. I skip exercise as often as I decided to "get'r done" but still think about it when I make the decision to skip--I don't know if that's good or bad, but it is a step in the right direction.

Last week, I wore two shirts that I bought about three and a half years ago. At the time I bought them (at a season end clearance sale) I figured if I lost a few pounds, they'd fit well. Instead I slowly managed to gain about twenty pounds and they hung in my closet (along with several other shirts and slacks that no longer fit) until a few days ago.

Okay--enough of putting off the inevitable exercise. Well, almost enough--first the Sunday call to the folks, then the bike.

Sigh. The life of a fat boy that's trying not to be...

John <><