Saturday, April 27, 2013

Some will win, some will lose...

...some were born to sing the blues.

These lyrics from Journey's Don't Stop Believing are going to prove true for all of the government agencies and for all of the people that are affected by the sequester cuts.

After the week of delays that resulted from the FAA cuts that caused air traffic controllers to be furloughed, our Congress has instructed the Department of Transportation (DOT) to find the money someplace else. So here's the deal in a nut shell. The FAA cuts it programs back as far as it can and still needs to furlough ATC one day per pay period (original talks were one day per week). They've cut back training (for new hires in the system), placed a freeze on hiring (in spite of nearly half of the current controller workforce being eligible to retire), and scaled back on the upgrades to the National Airspace System (NAS).

The short term impact (delays) is felt immediately but isn't even the real danger in the "across the board" cuts of sequestration. The long term consequences will have a far greater impact. But to take care of the immediate pain, Congress has instructed the DOT to find the money (from other areas) to put the controllers back to work. One Congressman said that the bill is unnecessary because the DOT already had that authority. I say it's unnecessary because Congress has the authority and responsibility to fund the FAA.

And I wonder--where are they getting the money? Are other programs being gutted (think other transportation programs)? Are other employees being laid off?

This band-aid fix might address the immediate pain, but it really doesn't do anything to address the irresponsibility of "across the board" cuts and non-management of our nation's funds or to address the gradual replacement of an aging workforce. If a third of the eligible controllers retired, the impact would be far greater than the 10% furlough that we've been facing; but we're still in a hiring freeze and the Academy is still shut down for training.

Sure, I want to go back to work. But where is the outrage over the other programs that are being cut? Is Congress only going to address the cuts that create massive social and corporate outrage? And what of the bogus fix that tells the DOT to rob one of the other agencies to keep air traffic on the job? What can you do with a Congress that refuses to govern and with an electorate that keeps putting them back in office?


That's it for today's rant.
(Ugly John is wanting out.)


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Personal Tribute

It has been several days since I've posted. Everyday I think I should write something but rarely feel like sitting long enough to formulate my thoughts into words and then put them in some kind of cohesive order that will make sense to anybody that might stop by to read them.

Today is a little bit different.
Today, I feel like I need to force myself to write.
Today, I feel like I owe it to this man that I write about.

Last Sunday morning, my Uncle "Spud" passed away. He was 89 years old.

I just want to share a few thoughts about my uncle. I know that most of you don't know him, but you probably know somebody that has some of his characteristics.

As kids, we spent a lot of Sunday afternoons at their house. Even as a little kid, I could tell that my dad really looked up to his big sister. The guy that she married affirmed his thoughts that she was a pretty bright lady. I believe that Spud has been one of my dad's closest friends for far more than half a century. In spite of the fact that my uncle always threatened to take up a collection to send my mom back to the Philippines, I think that it was his constant joking with her (and everybody else) that made her feel welcome in her new home and with her new family.

Until my aunt died more than twenty years ago, I always thought that she was the real joker in the Rohman family. Since then, I'm not so sure. And God help us all because they raised their five kids to have the sense of humor that could only come from such a devilish combination!

Our Sunday afternoons where spent playing outside (what kids did back in the day) while the big guys played cards. The game of choice was usually pinochle, but I think that other games made their way onto the table from time to time.

I was never "John" to my uncle; I was Julius. "There's old Julius," he would say when I walked in. Julius Jackson Johnson Jones if you need to know the full name he had given me. After a while, I began to wonder if he knew that Julius wasn't really my name.

He took me to a ballgame at Wrigley when I spent a week there in the summertime. He also took me golfing with his buddies. That day, I provided the humor as it was my first time golfing.

These few words cannot come close to describing my uncle. The simple reality is that pages of words could not do it. I wish that you all could have known him; could have experienced him. I'm pretty sure that you would have walked away from such an experience with a smile on your face and a happy feeling on the inside.

I know that many of my evangelical friends hold fast to the belief that each person has to come to know Jesus as Savior in the the manner that they did--a moment in time when they asked Jesus to forgive their sins and received him as their Savior. In Paul's letter to the Church in Rome, he writes that if you can confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and you believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved. He goes on to explain that it is with the heart that we believe and are justified, but it is with the mouth that we profess it and are saved.

I know that Spud believed that Jesus died for his sin and confessed Him as Lord. I know that he believed that God raised him from the dead. And I know that there will be many Catholics (much to the surprise of some of my Baptist friends) that will be in heaven, never having prayed "the sinners prayer" or walked an aisle during a revival meeting.

I know that for those of us that share this belief, there is a grand reunion awaiting! When this life--this human life--comes to an end, we will see Jesus face to face. We will stand with those that have gone before us and together we will honor Him as Lord and Savior. The hope that we have is not a "wish for" kind of hope. It is the hope of a person that looks forward to an expected future--a future with Jesus in heaven.

While I do write this to pay a small tribute to Bertram "Spud" Rohman, I also have to ask--Who is Jesus to you?
How will you enter into the life after death?
What is there at the end of this life?

If these are not things that you've thought about, I encourage you to do so. As always, if you have questions or need to discuss these matters you can contact me.

To my parents, my cousins and all of the family that shares my sorrow, I wish you peace and comfort...

...and hope.

Julius Jackson Johnson Jones <><

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Moved by their generosity...

Maybe I'm just getting a little bit sentimental or soft as I age, but tonight I was fighting back tears as the generosity of the people of Hopedale overwhelmed me.

It was a simple event; a fund raiser for our kids' camp. Last year we held our first ever "pie auction" and had our most successful fund raiser ever. This year's event (dessert auction) was so much better! I was especially moved by our senior adults that greatly supported our kids and their families by spending hundreds of dollars on cakes and pies! I know that several families bought desserts that they will end up giving away. One woman offered me a piece of pie that they bought for $90 (I think) because it was made with sugar and they can't eat it! Another man out bid our pastor for a cake by topping a $90 bid and then gave the cake to him! These are just a couple of the stories from the evening.

All-in-all, 43 desserts brought over $2000 to help pay the way for our adult volunteers and reduce the cost for kids and their friends to go to camp.

I wonder if these generous people realize the eternal implications of their giving. Every year, there are kids and adults that have their lives changed by events at camp. Over the past decade+, I've had the opportunity to serve as camp pastor at a number of camps. I've also attended many camps for a one night event.
Yes, I know that I am from Hopedale and little bit biased. Even so, I believe that Hopedale does children's camp better than anybody else.

Do we have better programs? Not necessarily.
Better worship time? Maybe; Maybe not.
Do our kids have more fun? Probably, but that doesn't make our camp better.
Do we love our kids more than other camps? We do love our kids; and God loves our kids, but He loves your kids, too. And I know that all of the camps love their kids.

So what is the difference?

I believe that our people--the people working at camp, the parents that send their kids to camp, the church that prays for camp, and the generous people that support our camp--all have a faithful expectation of the Holy Spirit of God moving at our camp.

We all know that it is not by our efforts that life changing decisions are made. Though we prepare for camp and for each day's events, it is only by Divine intervention that our lives and the lives of our young charges can be changed.

Why do have great camps with great results?
Because we fully expect God to show up and glorify His name through His Son Jesus.

To everybody that brought a dessert; to everybody that bought a dessert; and to all of the people that helped during the evening -- THANK YOU!

Thanks from me, from the camp staff and from all of the kids and parents! You are the best.
May God bless you greatly for your service.

John <><

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

A Little Empathy, Please

I hesitate to write this post. I really don't want it to be taken the wrong way.
It is not meant to be a condemnation of others. I just want to share some of the hard lessons that I've had to learn myself in order to save somebody else some of the trouble. It's been said that experience is the best teacher, but we should try to learn from the mistakes of others because we really don't have enough time to make them all ourselves. I've made plenty of them; trust me.

I recently mentioned how some of our posts can drive away the very people that we should be trying to reach. Unfortunately, I keep seeing the same types of posts and they often come from pastors, preachers or other pretty solid Christians. I'm not without a sense of humor and I enjoy a joke as much as the next guy, but there isn't anything funny about people that are living without God.

In the recent past, I've seen the story of an atheist bringing a case to court for a holiday that atheists can celebrate. The judge rules that they already have a holiday and refers to the Bible saying that a fool says in his heart that there is no God. He rules that April Fool's Day is their holiday.
I've seen the same thing posted as a sign.

There was a time in the not too distant past that I would quip that God doesn't believe in atheists. The problem with that is that God does believe in atheists--and He loves them, sent His Son to die for them and has tasked us to tell them the Good News of salvation in Jesus.

The online defines empathy as "the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another."

It could be that you don't have any atheist friends. It could be that it's supposed to be humor for your Christian friends. For some reason I keep thinking of how the Republican party keeps saying that they want to reach out to minorities but politicians keep making insulting ethnic comments. One the one hand we (Christians) say that we are concerned about the eternal lives of unbelievers, but on the other hand we say things that will pretty much insure that we'll never be able to reach them.

If you're an atheist, you're a fool.
If you're gay, you're an abomination.
If you've had an abortion, you're a murderer.

Put a little hate and judgment (or laughter and a condescending tone) in your voice as you say those last sentences and tell me if you would listen to yourself if you were the person on the receiving end. Let's try to keep focused on the end game...reaching the lost with the Good News of salvation in Jesus. Let's try not to make it more difficult for ourselves or for others to talk to non-believers about God's love.

I figure that my own words and attitudes of the past have done enough damage to the reputation of Jesus and His kingdom. While I can't go back and un-say my harsh words, perhaps I can save somebody else the regrets that come with the realization that you may bear some of the responsibility of giving Jesus and Christianity a bad name.

John <><

Monday, April 01, 2013

Not of This World...

There are passages of scripture that refer to believers (followers of Jesus) as not being of this world. In His prayer (found in John 17), Jesus says that we are not of this world. He prays to the Father to guard us from evil rather than taking us out of this world.

In Romans 12, Paul exhorts us not to be transformed by the world.

I think of these things today because I know how easily we are drawn to the lusts and desires of this world that we live in. I know that we must be diligent in our efforts to keep Jesus first in our lives and to live for Him. Sometimes the things of this world have a way of becoming idols in the life of a believer.
Here are a couple of things that I struggle with:

Baseball. I know, I know. Baseball is not a god. But it can certainly be an idol that is worshiped. I think of the time that I will set aside to watch, listen to and read about baseball in the coming months. When compared to the time I set aside to devote my actions of reading, talking about and listening to the teachings of Jesus, one has to wonder if I have a greater allegiance to the Cardinals or to my Lord.

Food. I'm definitely one of those people that lives to eat rather than eats to live. I love eating good tasting food above food that is good for me. Does it make food an idol? I don't know. Am I a worshiper of good food? Too close to call.

The reality of the situation might be that I am my own idol. That meeting my desires is what is important to me. Satisfying my lusts and desires is what I'm most concerned with.

I don't think that I'm saying that Christians can't be sports fans or a little epicurean in nature. I just know that I struggle with these things and I really want to keep things in perspective.

Just a small part of my daily struggle. Not really a first world problem, more like a not of this world problem.

John <><