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 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 <><